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Back in School, Thanks to You

The Gambian school year has begun, and our Gambian team is busy making sure that the more than 400 students we are able to help this year are back in school.

Our Back-to-School fund-raising campaign was tougher than usual this year; perhaps because there are so many worthy causes seeking support these days, perhaps because GambiaRising may seem to have a broader funding base and therefore our needs seem less urgent.  We have, of course expanded the numbers of students we promise to support as our base expands, but this year we will have to slow our growth rate to be sure we don’t out-strip our ability to keep our promises. 

Nevertheless, we will support more students this year than last, and all of them were at risk of dropping out, (or had already until we intervened), without our support.  What makes this possible, of course, is the loyalty and consistency of our donors, who stand behind the promises we make, and back the hopes that our students slowly begin to have for a better future.

Haddy Goes Back to School

I will be in The Gambia next month, and plan to bring back lots of stories about the brave kids that your generosity is enabling to change the arc of their lives.

But let me not wait to tell you about one of them: Haddy O. Touray.  When Haddy’s father died, after a period of struggling, her mother re-marrird so her family could be supported.  And while this did give her and her daughter a place to live, her new husband refused to pay for the schooling of the daughter of her deceased husband. So Haddy dropped out of school.

In this situation, one thing leads to another, and Haddy’s family then decided that since she was not in school, she should be married.  They picked her a husband.  And that’s when Haddy called on Ebrima Sanneh, a neighbor who is also a coordinator for GambiaRising in the village of Sinchu Alagie.  Ebrima remembers what is like when your father dies; that is the point at which he got one of our first scholarships back in 2009.  So he helped Haddy fill in an application for support to stay in school, and took it to our National Coordinator Father Moses Drammeh.  And when we finalized our budget last week, Father Moses was able to approve support for Haddy.

And so, last week, with our support, Haddy went back in school, beginning 10th grade at Nusrat Senior Secondary School. Ebrima made a very short video of Haddy to introduce her to us: https://youtu.be/IMvg-iMvCVIHadd

Marnie's (and Sariba's) Story

As a contrast to Haddy’s story, I also need to share a less-happy story that one of our Board members, returned Peace Corps volunteer Marnie Kleinsmith-Florin, posted on Peace Corps/The Gambia’s FaceBook this week:

Hi everyone, I have a story to share that I'm sure all of you can relate to.

Sariba was one of my best friends in my village. When she was 12, her father died and her family ran out of money. Sariba's brothers had already finished school and her sister was almost done. They decided to let her sister finish school, but pulled Sariba out and forced her to marry. Today, Sariba's brothers work as engineers, one in the US and one in Gambia and her sister is a principal in Kombo. Sariba, on the other hand, lives upcountry, has 10 kids and spends almost every hour of her day doing physical labor. I often think about what Sariba could done with her life if she were allowed to finish out school.

Unfortunately, I can't turn back time for Sariba, but you and I can help make sure what happened to Sariba doesn't happen to her children and to other young Gambians.

We all know how important education is and most of us RPCVs are now in a position where we can do something about it. For just $5/month, you can help keep a child in school and break this cycle of poverty. If aren't yet a monthly donor, please consider going to GambiaRising.org and donating whatever you can. Thank you.

- Marnie

I met Sariba last year, after Marnie introduced her to us and Kebba Sanyang enlisted her to be a counselor for the girls we have enrolled at Bansang Senior Secondary School.  Since all these girls are living away from home for the first time and going to a very large, new school, we wanted them to have someone to talk with at the school.  Sariba is always available, because she works at the school.  As a sweeper.

The difference between Sariba and Haddy's stories is stark.  Every time we send a thank you note for a donation, we say "Thanks for changing their life."  These stories are what we mean when we say that.

Thanks so much for changing so lives with your support.

Mike McConnell
Managing Trustee

1500 Park Ave Apt 503
Emeryville, CA  94608