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It is hard to imagine what it must be like for a Gambian mother to tell her daughter (or son) that they need to drop out of school. That they can't go with many of their friends who go off each morning in their uniforms, carrying their books. 

Most often, this mother was married young, had no education herself, and hoped that her children would have a fate better than hers. She knows that school is far from a guarantee of such a life, but she knows that lack of school is a guarantee against it.

GambiaRising still has much to do, because far too many young Gambians still do not start and/or fail to complete school. But it is the New Year, and thanks to our donors (now several hundred strong), the tireless work of our volunteer Gambian team (now 13 strong), and our team of 4 volunteer tailors making uniforms, it is a good time to celebrate those young Gambians who today have the most precious of gifts: hope. They have uniforms, school books, and their miscellaneous study fees are paid. Several dozen of the most exceptional are even at Gambia College, GTTI, or the University of The Gambia (UTG), studying to be teachers, nurses, accountants, or learning a trade (one young woman is studying bricklaying, another auto mechanics). These are the leaders of tomorrow's The Gambia, and all of them will have better lives because of staying in school, growing up without pressure to marry or earn a living. 

We will tell more of their stories throughout the year, but today, I want only to show you just a few of the faces of those who our donors are giving this chance to.  First off, some of the new students, newly back in school, who had dropped out or had never started school until we offered help:

Aji, grade 9

Amie, grade 11

Adama, grade 6

Oumie, grade 11

Muhammed, grade 11

Fatou, grade 4

Awa, grade 7

Adama, grade 7 

(Awa's twin sister)

Abdou, grade 11

Adama, grade 10

Abdoulie, grade 1 

Abdoulie's sister Kaddijatou, also grade 1

Aminata, grade 10

Dominick (age 22), grade 10

Hussainatou, grade 7

Matarr, grade 7

Fatou, grade 11

Jellen, grade 10

Fatou, grade 11

Kumba, grade 10

Foday, grade 10

Rohey, grade 10

Edrisa, grade 4

Yassin, grade 10

Mariama, grade 6

Ramatoulile, grade 7

Barham, grade 1

Fatoumata, grade 1

Aminata, grade 7

Fatoumata, grade 1

Isatou, grade 1

Fatou, grade 1

Kassim, grade 10

Continuing Students - Staying in School

We were thrilled to have new donors join us this year, as well as increased donations from some current donors; that is what enabled us to enroll more than 100 new students like these this year.

Our program is simple: if you work hard and your family's circumstances don't improve, we will provide the support for you to continue through at least 12th grade.  So that is where we START each summer: with the determination to find a way to keep supporting in the coming school year, every student to whom we made this promise in the past.  Our Coordinators not only handle getting uniforms made, supplies purchased, fees paid, but also documenting the students with photos and videos.  Here are the faces of just some of the hundreds of students continuing in school this year with the support of our wonderful continuing donors:

Fatou, grade 10

Hussainatou, grade 6

Mariama, grade 5

Aji Oumie, grade 11

Abdoulai, grade 4

Adama, grade 4

Abdouraman, grade 8

Adama, grade 6

Amie, grade 9

Baboucarr, grade 5

Adama, grade 2

Amie, grade 12

Aram, grade 9

Awa, grade 7

Paabi, grade 7

Awa, grade 8

Fala, grade 9

Abdoulie, grade 8

Alhagie, grade 2

Faddy, grade 5

Amie, grade 8

Bubacarr, grade 6

Fatou, grade 5

Awa, grade 8

Fatou, grade 3

Ebrima, grade 7

Awa, grade 11

Amadou, grade 2

Sirra, grade 6

Saneba, grade 12

Hawa, grade 3

Tacko, grade 5

Buba, grade 12

Aminata, grade 7

Fatoumata ("Efo"), grade 12

Damang, grade 8

Alieu, grade 4

Aminata, grade 4

Binett, 2nd year, UTG

Diminga, grade 11

Marie Noel, 4th year, UTG

Allasan, grade 12

Bintou, grade 4

Bambo, grade 4

Kaddijatou, grade 6

Isatou, grade 4

Mariama, grade 8

Kumba, grade 8

The difference that our donors' support is making in these young people's lives is hard to over-state.  This is what their mothers know when the come to plead their case to our Community Coordinators, because it is precisely the chance that they never got.

To our donors: for changing the course of their lives, let me speak for them to say "Thank you" from the bottom of our hearts.

And to those who haven't joined us (yet), I promise that whatever you can pitch in will work miracles.

Here's to an even-better 2019.

Mike McConnell
Managing Trustee

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