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The first job of GambiaRising is to keep our promises to the students we are supporting. In any developing country, but especially one with a tourism component to the economy, too many promises are made, then forgotten, when vacation memories fade. 

We promise a student that if they work hard and their circumstances don't change, we will support them at least through 12th grade. We know that most don't believe that at first, but over time, we can visibly see the difference in attitude that they have, as they realize that they are going beyond where anyone in their family has gone (and for the girls, certainly further than any woman!), and they begin to think differently about what their lives might be. They begin to trust, begin to hope, and begin to feel agency.

So that we can keep our promises, we in turn count on donors who understand the power and consequence of the promises we are making, and whom we hope will stand with these brave young people year after year. 

Students such as:

Maimuna.  Maimuma’s father abandoned his family in the upcountry village of Sinchu Sambuldu. She was only started school late with help from her elderly grandmother, and was going to drop out seven years ago when the School Management Committee appealed to GambiaRising for support. With that support, she is now in 9th grade and near the top of her class every year.

Awa. Awa’s father had died, and she was not going to school. But she is from the same village as Maimuna, and when her mother heard about GambiaRising she asked the school how to contact our Coordinator. With our support, she started 1st grade at age 9. This year she is in 6th grade.

Mariama. From a poor family in Fula Bantang, Mariama dropped out of school after 4th grade. When someone from the school visited the family and asked if she could return to school if she had support, she returned, and now is part of the 12th grade class at the new St. Therese’s Senior Secondary School being built in Fula Bantang by GambiaRising donors.

Cecilia's father has not been able to work for some time due to health problems. Her uncle is an alcoholic and has abandoned his family; the two families live together and struggle, even more after her aunt died recently. But with our help, all the children are in school. We began supporting Cecilia in 6th grade. This year, she is in 12th grade, doing very well, and determined to go on to college next year.

It is always complicated for us to budget when most of our funding decisions have to be made when school starts in September. (That makes monthly donors invaluable, and repeat annual donors too.)

We can't yet know how we'll finish this December, but we are confident enough, and have enough new donors, plus several donors who increased their donation, that we have started accepting new students. Nearly all of these have been out of school, so getting them back in the classroom was vital. Let me introduce you to just a few of them:

Fatoumata was born out of wedlock and her father is not interested in her.  When her mother married another man, she sent her to live with her grandparents. Fatoumata is 9 years old and has never been to school. In October, we offered help and she started 1st grade.

Korka came to our Coordinator in the upcountry village of Chargel to say that his family has barely enough to eat and can’t pay for schooling for a boy whose hand has been amputated. “Disability does not mean inability,” he said.  We agreed, and with our support, Korka is now back in school, in 9th grade.

When Aminata’s parents divorced, her uncle agreed to provide shelter for her and her mother but not to provide for Aminata's education. So she started attending the local Islamic daara. After one year on our waiting list, we were able to support her return to public school this year, and Aminata started 7th grade this October.

Amie’s mom died when she was a toddler and her father left her with a guardian who was soon thereafter divorced herself. Amie is 12 years old and had never been to school. Her guardian came to us to ask for help, and Amie just started 1st grade.

Aja has been raised not by her parents, who she does not know, but by a guardian. The guardian, a widow herself, has struggled just to feed her family, and Aja had not been in school for more than one year when our support enabled her to start 9th grade this October, at age 18.

When Fatou’s father died in 2011, her mother struggled to keep her in school, but she managed to do so through 6th grade. Then Fatou dropped out. This year, with our support, at age 15, she went back to school and just started 7th grade.

Alhagie’s father never married his mother. Finally she married another man, who refused to aceept her first son and Alhagie was sent to live with relatives.  At age 8 he had never been to school until our support allowed him to start 1st grade this October.

When Fatou was a toddler she was sent to live with a relative of her mom; she does not know her biological parents. Her guardian is married to a man with three wives and who is unwilling to pay to educate Fatou. So at age 8, she had never been to school.  Until this year, with our support, she started 1st grade.

When Awa's parents separated several years ago, her mother moved to stay with her brother, who supported both his and her families by driving a taxi. When he became too ill to work, Awa dropped out. She is now 16 and hasn't been to school since 7th grade. But with our support, she went back this year, to 8th grade.

Adama and Awa are twins. On January 6th, they will turn 14.  When their parents divorced, their mother took them with her  to live with their grandmother. And they dropped out of school.  Until we were able to offer support; they started 7th grade in October.

Several dozen of the students we support were referred to us by current or returned Peace Corps volunteers (RPCVs), who in turn raise the funds to support their nominees. Haddy is one of these. She is an excellent teacher, but without a Bachelor’s Degree, her career (and salary) was limited to the lower grades. Thanks to an RPCV who mounted a campaign to fund her scholarship, she just enrolled at the University of The Gambia.

Omar is 18 and in grade 9. His family is from the Upper River Region but have moved to the Kombo area near the coast. With support from returned Peace Corps volunteers who knew his family when they were serving in The Gambia, Omar has stayed in school in Basse, and hopes to become an architect when he graduates from senior secondary school.

Thanks to the tireless work of our Gambian team (now up to thirteen strong), working without pay, our donated funds are being used to do the most good possible, ...by helping the most students we can with the funds we raise. (This year, many of the uniforms we supply to students are even sewn by volunteer tailors - we buy only the cloth.)  It is astonishing how great a change can be made in a young Gambian's life with only a few dollars of support. Our hope is to keep expanding the number of students we can support by: 1) building a network of donors who stand with these students year after year, and 2) expanding the number of donors who join us. 

To everyone who has been part of GambiaRising this year, thank you from the bottom of all of our hearts. We have much yet to do, but I am sure the many hundreds of young Gambians whose lives are completely changed by the chance you have given them would want me to tell you how grateful they are, and to wish you the happiest of holidays.

And if you haven't joined us yet this year, please do; it's not too late to change some lives.

Please Donate 

Thank you.

Mike McConnell
Managing Trustee


1500 Park Ave Apt PH 503
Emeryville, CA  94608-3578