Above: a Christmas beach party
Phil and Joan Feller visited the Gambia twice this year. Phil reports:
When Joan and I visited the school in the Spring we found an abundance of teachers assisting the 45 pupils who were in regular attendance.
We were delighted to find that the teacher training at the Gambia College now includes spending time with disabled children. The student teachers at the school had an impressive enthusiasm to teach.
It was soon apparent that they were a great benefit to the pupils with each child receiving more intense attention. In the past, when a teacher was absent, there was no cover and children often sat idle in the classroom. We observed that, with the additional teachers, the children spent more time playing sport such as goal ball and other ball games on the goal ball court.
Mariamma Drammeh is a teacher at the GOVI school in Kanifing on the outskirts of Banjul in The Gambia. She is also the president of the youth wing of the Gambian Organization for the Visually Impaired (GOVI). She was born in May 1983.
This is her story:
Life as a visually impaired person has being a challenging factor for me. I wasn’t born as a visually impaired, I got eye problem at the age of 10 which affected my vision and caused my impairment.This was a worry to me as a young girl and my family in particular.
Muhammed Krubally is the first visually impaired person to become a magistrate in The Gambia. Phil Feller commented: "This is an amazing story". It is a truly inspiring story not just for visually impaired children in The Gambia but anywhere in the world.
This is Muhammed Krubally's story -
Yes, I am the first Visually Impaired Magistrate in The Gambia according to record.
I was born in a village called Sankuleykunda. I am a Gambian by nationality. As visually impaired, at the age of seven, my humble parents sent me to Primary School in order to acquire education. Having started lessons at the school, I began to encounter numerous problems in coping with various lessons by virtue of my visual impairment.
I would like to thank you all for being members and sponsors over the years. Without your kind donations the GOVI Resource School for Visually Impaired Children would not have been built and maintained, nor the children fed or been provided with uniforms, shoes, sportswear and other items (for a full list see the end of 2012 Reports). I hope you will be willing to continue your support and I thank you again for all that has been achieved over the years.
Looking back over our two visits to the Gambia in 2013 - ten days in May and three weeks in November and December - the year was a mixture of satisfaction and disappointment. (Above - left Lamin Saidy, with his son Modou, and Phil and Joan Feller. Lamin is the charity's representative in the Gambia.)
There was satisfaction because the school was still progressing with the numbers of pupils and trainee teachers increasing, but unfortunately the focus of the school was drifting. Ali Sallah, the head teacher, was often away ill and the many tests to try and find the cause had been inconclusive. I can only wish that he soon recovers from whatever ails him.
The school garden from 2012 to 2013 had been a great success providing a large variety of crops. These augmented the children’s meals as well as some being sold for cash. The money for the seeds was provided by Seeds for Africa.
News from the only school for blind and visually impaired children in the Gambia:
At long last the children at the school have somewhere to eat their food other than in the classrooms or squatting on the floor of the verandah. This charity has paid for a Bantaba to be built beside the school with tiled surfaces which are easy to clean. The children are already using it although it will not be opened officially until Phil and Joan Feller visit in November. The charity has also paid for the repainting of the kitchen, the toilets and the front of the school. Phil commented: “Once again Lamin Saidy has come up trumps and worked very hard.”
Lamin Saidy reported that his son Modou is doing well after his heart surgery and can attend school again.
Ernie Fitt was one of those who supported the Friends virtually from the beginning of the setting up of this Charity.
Ernie was a man of modest means but a heart of gold who contacted me after a hearing me chat on Radio Norfolk about the Gambia and its only school for the blind and visually impaired. He had a fantastic recollection of people and remembered me from 20 years before when we first met. I unfortunately did not remember him.
He wished to make a small donation which he did again and again whenever he had a little to spare or a small win on this and that. Joan and I visited him when we could at his home in Yaxham, Nofolk and chatted to him many times on the telephone. As he did not have a computer he relied on the Eastern Daily press for news about the school - and then he required a full update. For the last few years he suffered from ill health and with his usual wry sense of humour informed me that he was now getting a disability pension. “A bit daft giving me more money when I can’t get out to spend it,” he commented.
Just recently Ernie’s nephew informed me that he had passed away, aged 86, and that I was to say a few words at his funeral. Ernie did not forget those school children in the Gambia for he has asked that the collection as his funeral should be shared between two charities - one of which being The Friends of Visually Impaired Children in The Gambia.
Goodbye Ernie and thank you to a good friend of the Visually Impaired Children in The Gambia.
Ps - Do remember that if you book your holiday in the Gambia by clicking on The Gambia Experience at the bottom of this page five per cent of the total price you pay will be donated by that company to this charity.
For Phil the highlight of the visit in May was taking Modou and his father, Lamin Saidy, on a fishing trip. Modou was very active and healthy after recuperating from his operation - and was delighted to catch a nice Ladyfish which he cooked himself for the family's meal that evening. Below: Phil and Modou with the Ladyfish.
For all who have supported and have taken an interest in Lamin Saidy’s son, Modou we were glad to report that he continues to do very well since his heart operation at Aswan in Egypt during Easter 2013. He was back at school and taking additional studies on Saturdays as well as enjoying cycling and being a young man.
During our visit in November 2013 Modou and his mother travelled to Dakar in Senegal for his first major check-up. After they returned Lamin, Modou, Joan and myself went to the MRC Hospital (Medical Research Centre) where the report was read by Dr Suzanne Anderson. She had supported Modou throughout his illness and liaised with The Chain of Hope who sponsored his operation.
Dr Anderson was very pleased with the report and arranged for Modou to have the required antibiotics which he will need for the foreseeable future.
Above: Students at the school learning to plant out seedlings.
The year was marked by two sad losses. On Tuesday, February 21, Ebrima (18), the son of Lamin Saidy, our charity’s representative in the Gambia, passed away. He had been ill for some time and Lamin was about to take him to a hospital in Dakar, Senegal, for treatment.
And in September we sent out condolences to GOVI following the death of its chairperson, Mohamed Kora, who had worked tirelessly for so many years on behalf of the blind and visually impaired in the Gambia.
Phil Feller (chairman of the Friends) reported after a visit in the Spring:
When Joan and I visited the school in April we were sad to find that not only was the cupboard bare but there was no electricity. There was just a small bag of beans in the food store because the rice and other items promised by World Food Aid had not yet arrived. Thankfully those were delivered before we returned home.
When Phil and Joan Feller arrived in The Gambia on November 18 the Goal Ball court was not only completed but ready for the official opening. It was virtually two years to the day that that they had received an invitation from Tony Wright, then the MP for Great Yarmouth, to attend a reception hosted by the UK Parliamentary Football Club at Portcullis House in London. At that reception they received on behalf of what was then the Friends of GOVI (now the Friends of Visually Impaired Children in the Gambia) a cheque to help develop sports facilities for disabled children in Africa.
David Pointon was the chairman of FGVI in 2010.
Chairman's Report December 2010: Another year gone and the work has continued. I must say thank you to several people: Lamin Saidy who, as ever, has given his time and effort unstintingly and unselfishly to keep the Gambian side operating smoothly and monitoring our interests extremely well; Phil and Joan Feller for their tireless efforts in all the charity’s activities; Frank Whitfield for keeping our bank balance healthy and sorting out the money; Carol Haynes for providing us with and maintaining our superb website; and last but not least Pip Land for her help and support.
All those involved with the charity make it effective in fulfilling our aims and objectives which are primarily supporting the blind children and young people in the Gambia. So on their behalf I add my thanks to you all.
The head teacher, Ali Sallah, is very grateful for all the donations which have been made to the Govi Resource Centre by the Friends of Visually Impaired Children in the Gambia and others this year. In November he pointed out that the Centre was the only special school in the Gambia for blind and visually impaired children and so needed more specialist equipment including tactile toys. He especially thanked the Friends and other groups and individuals who have donated items, including the staff and students from Stoke-on-Trent Youth, Play and Outdoor Education Services and Glynis and John Howard who visited the school at the end of November. Above: Momodou Lamin Njie and Binta Drammeh in the Nursery Class playing with a musical toy.