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The School Year Begins, and We're Taking Some Risks

Schools began opening in The Gambia last week.  30% of our funds now come from monthly donatios, which is such a blessing. The rest comes from donors who donate once or twice a year.

And so, when the first hurricane hit, we were worried. When the second hit, we were alarmed. By the time the third had come, along with two earthquakes and continuing political turmoil, we knew we had to re-think our approach to budgeting.  

By the time schools were ready to open, we had received 50% of the funds needed to meet the needs of our students for the new school year. That, plus the 30% coming in monthly, was probably amazing, given the circumstances. But we were still short. We knew some donors prefer to donate at the end of the year. But taking that into account, we were still short.

At the same time, we had nearly 100 students on our waiting list. For most of these, the head of the family was a woman who hadn't herself had a chance to get an education. Her husband had died, become unable to work, or had divorced her and abandoned the family. In more than one case, their husbands had been successful enough to raise the money to try the "Back Way" to Europe ...but have never been heard from since.

Many of these women know fiercely what it means not to have received an education, and they are determined not to let the chance slip away for their kids.  But when they don't know how they will feed their family that night, they can't do it without help.

So we had to make a choice. We could bet on the future generosity of our supporters, or we could say "No" to these kids.  

We chose to say "Yes".

The "sort" we made was this: if you were not in school last year, we'd say "Yes" for this year.  If you were a girl in danger of being married, we'd say "Yes" this year so you could stay in school.  If we were certain that for some other reason, you would not be in school this year if we didin't provide support, and that might lead to your never going back, we'd try to find a way as well. 

And then between now and the end of the year, we'd try to find new donors, and hope that those who were with us last year but had not renewed would re-join us.  

Where did the missing funds come from?  We buy school uniforms and supplies up front. But we can pay school fees and tuiition by term. So now we've got til January to get the funds we need for January. 

That's where you come in.  No one donor can close the gap we have. But if many people each did what they can, we'd have the funds we need. It's a little like voting; it may seem like one vote can't make a difference, but if everyone feels that way, disasters happen. And when just $5 per month can ensure that two kids can start school, or $15 per month can ensure that a teen-aged girls stays in school instead of getting married, the stakes here are really high.

Now, let me show you why we decided to say "Yes". Let me introduce you to just some of the young Gambians who went back in school last week. Only one of them was in school last year.

I thope you'll agree we made the right call to say "Yes" to them. And I hope you'll act now to do what you can to help them. You can literally name your own amount, and make it monthly if you wish. And you can materially change these and other young Gambians' lives.

Mike McConnell
Managing Trustee

GambiaRising Charitable Trust
1500 Park Ave PH 503
Emeryville, CA  94608

Aji is back in school, in 10th grade.

Modou is 13 and has never been to school. He's now in 1st grade.

Aminata is 11 and has never been to school.  She just started 1st grade.

Maraima is back in school; she just started 9th grade

Her sister Fatoumata is also back in school, in 8th grade.

Isatou just started 1st grade.

Abdoulile is 11. He's never been to school before.

Aminata dropped out after 6th grade.  Now she is back in school, a proud 7th grader.

After "sitting" for the last school year, Binta is back in school, going to 5th grade.


Binta's brother Cherno is back in school, in 9th grade.

Fatou is back in school, in 5th grade.

Jabel has been in an Islamic daara in Senegal but came to The Gambia to get an "English" education. He's 20 but just started 7th grade.

Maimuna is out of school and being pressured to marry. At age 21, we're sending her back to school, in 12th grade.

Nafisastou is Maimuna's sister. She's 15 and nearing marrying age too.  But she is back in school, in 6th grade.

Fatoumata, Maimuna and Nafisatou's sister, is also back in school, in 3rd grade. She is 11 years old.

Jarra's mom left her with relatives and went back to Guinea-Bissau to re-marry. We helped Jarra board in Bwiam and start 10th grade.

Jainaba is back in school, in 6th grade.

Nene is 13 years old and has never been to school.  She is 13 years old and just started 1st grade.