ON Friday, April 6 ten students and four teachers set out from Portlaoise College to travel to Gambia. The group consisted of fifth year students Michael Cairns, Carly Connolly, Mark Geoghan, Valerija Karkota, Daniela Lubiscakova, Klaudia Malec, Glen Higgins, Viktoria Kazlavskaite, Jessica McDonald, Marina Savin along with teachers.
They arrived safe and sound in their destination and prepared for a busy week ahead. The group did and saw many interesting things on their trip, including meeting some friendly monkeys, visiting local craft markets and local monuments.
They travelled to a nursery school and some students were reduced to tears from the reception they got. “They were so happy to see us. We played some games and carried out lessons we had planned. One girl in particular stood out for me, she came over to me and started to touch my hair with a fascinated look in her eyes. I really enjoyed playing the games with them and giving them a gift each,” said one of the Portlaoise students.
The group also travelled by boat viewing the local scenery and wildlife, as well as visiting a monkey park and the beach.
The group had an arduous journey to visit a local school, travelling by jeep, boat and bus. They arrived at the school to a magnificent welcoming party including 300 children, parents and teachers.
“They put on a performance for us and showed us their traditional African dance. We were given a tour of the school and we then played games with them. We left books, colouring pencils and other resources in the school. We then travelled to a slave colony in Georgetown. It was so interesting,” said the students of the experience. On their last day the group returned to the nursery school to give them the rest of the resources they brought, as well as visiting a hospital.
While there were moments along the journey that were eye opening with regards to the depth of poverty in Gambia, it was an incredibly enjoyable and worthwhile adventure for the group.
Now they have made a link with both schools, they hope to visit these schools again and to bring further resources with them over the following years.
The group thanked local businesses, the local community, parents and students for all their support in making the trip possible.