Can you imagine what your life would be like if each morning when you woke up your parents told you to walk for about 4km and back to collect water from the well in the village before you had breakfast or a (cold) shower? And then you had to do the same thing a couple of hours later and then again after lunch? And probably before you went to bed. And you would have had to do this since you were about 3 years old?
It's hard to imagine isn't it, but it is the reality for many children in Africa and other continents across the world. As you are reading or listening to this, there are children right now, walking towards wells to collect water that is not clean, potentially carries malarial mosquitoes and other causes of poor sanitation. How lucky are we to be able to turn on a tap and for clean water to come out? Can you imagine only ever having cold water come out of your shower? Most people in Africa have NEVER had a hot shower.
The village of Gunjur in The Gambia that you have just so generously helped, have only had mains running water for about 18 months. Prior to this the water pipes only came up to the edge of the village and so everyone had to use the wells. There was no choice. However, there is now the possibility of having water come to your house or business through mains pipes, but it costs the equivalent of 3 months wages to have it put in and it takes the water company about 8 months to get the job done and so that is unreachable for most families. So, the walk to the wells 5 times a day continues for most children and will continue throughout their whole lives.
Project Gambia have been working in Gunjur for many years and we've been helping a group of 6 Preschools come together to make sure that the children aged 3-6 years old who attend have a great learning experience. During 2017 we've been helping to build a new Preschool; Lanwarr Community Preschool. It is located in an area of the village that is not currently serviced by a Preschool. The children who do attend their current nearest Preschool walk on their own approximately 5km each way every day. This journey is not only a long one for little legs, especially where many children do not own a pair of shoes or sandals, but it is a hazardous one as they have to cross a main road which is very busy with lorries transporting sand from the local quarry. This is made more difficult in the extreme heat and during the rainey season when movement is severely restricted and so these children have a sporadic attendance at Preschool.
For many families, the distance and the safety worries are things that stop them from sending their children to Preschool at all. They requested that a Preschool was built near their home compounds which would be easier and safer to access and prevent their children walking 50km a week to Preschool. This was one of the reasons why Project Gambia built the school at Lanwarr. The other reason was that the oldest man in the village, the Imam (the head of the religious community) gifted the land to the community with a proviso that it would only ever be used as an educational facility for the community. He is very old and his health is failing, but on the day of the opening ceremony he said that his dreams had come true and all that was left for him was to hear the voices of children playing in the school. You'll understand now why we are keen to get the school opened for children soon.
Project Gambia heard that there was an open well in the grounds of the new Preschool and that tragically a small child from the neighbourhood had drowned in it last Summer. We acted immediately with some funds that we had and put in a bore hole, solar panels, pump and tank and secured the well. For the first time, the site had running water.
But there was more work to do and this is where your generosity, care and consideration come in and have made this magic possible. One of the things that the education and building inspector has rightly demanded is that in order for the Preschool to open, it has to have toilets- separate ones for boys and girls. Project Gambia have raised funds for toys and educational equipment for the Preschool and were thinking about how we could raise the funds for the toilets. When we heard that you were going to take on that challenge, we were so touched and delighted. The Management Committee of Lanwarr Community Preschool were informed and they celebrated with joy. A helping hand across the continents has been so very welcomed.
Thanks to you and all of your brilliant fund raising efforts, thinking about water and how precious it is and how it might be to live without water on tap so to speak, you have now made it possible to build the required 6 toilets and handwashing sinks so that the school can finally open it doors to the local children. If we can do this quickly, the Imam will hear children in his school; his remaining dream will have come true.
We hope that you feel proud. That you recognise what an amazing thing that you have done for somebody else less fortunate than you. Thanks to you the youngest and the oldest people in Gunjur are going to be very happy.
We thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
Trustees of Project Gambia and the Lanwarr Community Preschool Management Committee