Upon my recent visit to Gambia, I have learned many things. Not only have I learned skills (such as communication skills and organisational skills), but I have also learned to have a greater appreciation for the things I have. Gambia is like a completely different world to us; there is no free education in Gambia, and children struggle to own something as simple as a pencil. It was for this reason that we wanted to help the people of Gambia, and took over as many supplies as we could possibly gather. The most rewarding part of the experience for everyone has to be seeing the smile on a child's face when you give them something that you know will be cherished for a long time. The children who attend school are extremely lucky, and giving them their own book or pen means a huge deal to them. Many of us here forget how privileged we are, and we do tend to take a lot of things for granted. After my visit to Gambia, I now see just how important an education is. Children are literally dying to have an education there, sometimes sacrificing food for lessons at school. However, although these children have nothing, they are all extremely generous. We saw children at school breaking off bits of their food to give to the children who had nothing (even though they themselves might have been in need of every bit of food they could get).
Another thing that surprised us was just how happy the people were. Every single person we walked past greeted us with a smile and wished us well – something that would never happen in our normal day to day lives. Something as simple as this makes all the difference. If there was one thing I'd like to have brought back with me, it's the way that everyone treats each other as family. For a lot of people in Gambia, family is all they have. They depend on each other to bring home food or money. The kind of life they live is extremely tough. Children may have to sweep their compounds before going to school, or they may have to help their mothers in the women's garden. The work they do is not easy either. In the women's garden, almost all of the women are working with babies strapped to their backs whilst they pull water from the well, or water the crops. They do this work in blistering heat for hours every day! Although it is extremely hard work, it's the only way they know and, really, it's the only way to survive. If the crops fail, the women will be without food and money, which is exactly what their families need. Not only do the women provide for their families, but they often also provide for the people in their compound (and there are a lot of people in a compound).
Aside from all of this, Gambia itself is very interesting and it has a lot of things that we do not have, for example: The folklore and medicinal treatment. Although their medicine may not be as effective as ours, it still does a pretty good job for what they have. Most of their medicine comes from the Baobab tree and plants found in the area (especially plants found in the Bolongfenyo nature reserve). In terms of the folklore, Gambians completely believe in evil spirits and witchdoctors (some even believe in dragons!), which is not something people really believe in here.
Overall, my trip to Gambia is the greatest thing I have done, and I'd definitely urge others to go!