12thof July, finally. I arrived to The Gambia and my dreams came true. I turn on the phone; 6 messages and 14 unanswered calls – mother. I was just in one of the poorest African countries, where the healthcare system is not the best, there is a different culture, religion, I saw and met other volunteers only once before that, besides that, I had a suitcase full of notebooks and colouring pencils, books. The majority of my clothes and things, which I was planning to take with me I had to leave at home due to the baggage weight limitations. I really do not know why they panic so much at home. Before anyone else calls me, I quickly reply to the messages: “Everything is OK”.
The other volunteers were already in The Gambia for one week and I cannot wait for them to explain everything to me, where and how we will work in school and what is the process of the school lessons. Even today, I do not know why I had the feeling from the very beginning that I made the right decision and that travelling to Africa will imprint deeply into my memory. I waited a long time for a trip like this. I expected only good experience, to meet new places and people; I was willing to give my all at working in the school. I have been thinking for a long time about joining a group of volunteers. I have searched and searched, but no organization inspired me completely. When I finally started to follow the “Kids are the world” organization and their Facebook page Travel as a volunteer, I decided in just two days that I want to be a part of all that. I remember Nika wrote on Facebook that she is collecting school supplies and all sorts of means for children in The Gambia. I immediately wrote to her, asked for her number and her availability to bring her a whole bunch of things and some money for the children. Already the following day I wrote to her that I made all the arrangements with Urša (coordinator for volunteers)… and that I too am coming to Africa!
My first day of school went by with a lot of interest. The kids are smiling and loving. They really love hugging, but they do not know gentleness and are often rough. Children in The Gambia are always smiling and full of energy. I was surprised by how rarely they cry. They were very grateful for the food and school supplies.
On the wall are written rules that are applicable in the school. I especially liked the first rule “Smile like the sun”. This sentence reminds me of my trip. A country of amazing people, country that gave me so much. Everybody lives in poor conditions but they are actually happy. The Gambia amazed me especially because I saw how people who live in increased scarcity but know how to be satisfied and happy, because they know how to be happy for small things. People help each other a lot more and spend more time with each other.
With Musa and the girls, we were also discovering The Gambia and its culture. We saw many interesting things. With a great company like them, you are never bored!
In the time of my visit, I decided to become a sponsor to one of the kids. With only a few euros you can help someone a great deal in a poor country like this. Therefore, that is how Francis became my protégé. I decided that I would help him enable a primary school education so he can make a living for himself later on and that he too can live a decent life. When we met each other, Francis was hiding from me and would not even look at me, but his parents kept smiling at me. I later found out that he saw a white woman that close for the first time in his life and apparently, we, white people, are terribly scary.
The hardest part of the trip was the goodbye. Thanks to Urša who started the project and with it enabled all of us to get to know this part of the world. To discover The Gambia as a volunteer gave me a lot more than to discover it as a tourist. I enjoyed meeting the locals, because with them you can taste the real African culture and life. I recommend such an experience to just about anybody. I hope that one day I too will go back because this country has left me with many beautiful memories and changed many of my views on the world.
– Allegra Švagelj