LIGHT IS LIFE! It was a day that we will never forget! The first phase of solar light installation – the project initiated by Yerro Saidy and his brother, Mohammed Saidy, Alkalo of Kerewan Samba Sira village – was successfully implemented!
Very little time has passed from an idea of installing 100 solar lights to its realization, and all the credit goes to donors who once again quickly and in large numbers responded to our request to support the project.
Special thanks go to Mr Kenan Bajrić (and his family), who initiated the action in Europe and was the main donor. In addition to donating for the lights, he also contributed for the meals for all the villagers and guests that took part in the celebration of the milestone event in the history of the village.
Thanks also to Tina Mele, our sponsor and active volunteer, who contributed a large part of the donations collected for the solar lights.
The day was an unforgettable experience for our volunteers and donors who witnessed the solar streetlight installation process, and it was a historical day for Kerewan Samba Sira and its residents. It is impossible to describe our feelings from the moment we informed Alkalo, the head of the village, about successful completion of fundraising to the moment when the villagers, together with the village chief and important guests, symbolically participated in the installation of the first solar lights.
Preparations in the village and in the city were carried out in anticipation of the historic event for the village. While we carefully analyzed the offer of solar lights on the market, looked for a suitable provider of poles and welders, arranged for transport, installation, organization, etc. in the city, preparations for our arrival were also underway in the village. Children, women, men; everyone wanted to be a part of this event. They organized a cleaning action, prepared a program for the welcome, young boys dug holes for the lights, prayers for the donors were held every day in the mosques, and a place under the tree was prepared for the first introductory meeting at the primary school. In short, the project further strengthened the village where members of two ethnic groups (tribes), Fula and Mandinka, live together in harmony.
On Friday, April 28th, 2023, members of the Volunteer Trails organization in The Gambia, My Gambia team members and the team of volunteers embarked on a solar streetlights installation journey to Kerewan Samba Sira, a village almost 300 km away from the capital. About 5 km before the village, we were greeted with a magnificent reception that none of us will ever forget. The villagers welcomed us with motorcycles, cars, music, and dance and accompanied us all the way to the village, where the whole village was literally waiting for us on the road. With smiles on their faces, open arms, drumming, and plenty of dance under the hot sun (it was 46°C that day), we could truly feel the gratitude and joy of the villagers, who were experiencing it because of the solar lights project.
The welcome meeting was marked by gratitude to donors and project implementers. Important guests emphasized the importance of the project for the development of the village in their speeches and expressed their thanks through prayers to all those who contributed and donated. It was a magnificent and historic event, especially for the village chief who recently took over the role after his father’s death and his brother Yerro Saidy, whose emotions at the thought that their father was no longer with them on this day completely overwhelmed them at one moment.
The school principal welcomed the idea of having volunteers at the Kerewan Samba Sira Lower Basic School with open arms. The village kindergarten will also be included in our volunteering program.
Traditional breakfast (mono) was served to volunteers in special dishes made of calabash (bottle gourd) and with utensils that were also carved from it.
After the introductory meeting, we went to the point where we symbolically installed the first solar light together with important guests and villagers. This was a moment that will remain in the memories of all those involved, volunteers, and guests.
The day continued with a traditional lunch – Benachin at Saidy’s, followed by a visit to the rice fields and the Stone Circles. Due to the intense heat, we rested under fans until the evening program. We couldn’t even take a cold shower because it was so hot in the village that all the pipes were overheated, and the water in the water tanks was literally hot.
Before dinner, members of the football academy visited us because our sponsors, Darja and Rafko, had donated some soccer balls.
For dinner, we were served another traditional dish – chicken Yassa. Then we went to celebrate under the solar light. Representatives of both ethnic groups prepared a cultural and musical program, which also included the Kankurang (a traditional mask belonging to the Mandinka tribe). The musicians of the Fula tribe created a memorable atmosphere with an instrument called “reati,” which is similar to a violin. It was unforgettable, fun, and interesting.
The next day, part of the group continued exploring the countryside, wildlife, history, authentic villages, and their way of life. The other part of the group stayed in the village, where they witnessed the completion of the solar light installation, visited the football academy, and conducted several interviews with villagers about the evening or the night when for the first time, the village was not completely dark, depending only on moonlight. Their words and prayers did not leave us indifferent. Excitement, happiness, and joy shone in their eyes.
In the evening, we celebrated under the solar lights again, and the villagers showed their enthusiasm, happiness, and joy through dance and music, as is customary in Africa.
REACTION OF OTHER CITIZENS
During our visit to the village, we received a request to provide solar street lighting for 22 neighbouring villages in the region. After sharing photos on social media and local platforms, there is not a day that goes by without receiving at least one request from residents of other villages who would like the project to be implemented in their villages as well. Although we initially wondered why the villagers had initiated the request for solar street lighting, it is now clear to us that if we truly want to help without imposing our beliefs and opinions, we must listen to the locals and their needs. And such a response from neighbouring villages and other residents of The Gambia is a sign that, together with the villagers of Kerewan Samba Sira, we made the right decision.
Since the village is quite large, some streets are still without lights. Also, the distances between the lights are too great to claim that the village is fully illuminated, so we urgently need to collect enough funds to install an additional 150 lights. The villagers pray every day that we will succeed in collecting enough for the second phase.
In addition to the renewed request to support our project, we cordially invite you to join us in The Gambia and experience the implementation of the project with us. No one can describe the feelings you will experience at this event. Although we know that donors do not expect anything in return, we believe that the joy, happiness, and prayers of the villagers are the most beautiful gifts that donors can receive from people who may never be able to financially repay them. And yes, charity is something that brings benefits and a sense of happiness to everyone – to those who give and those who receive.
If you want to be a part of this wonderful project, you can make your contribution to the bank account of the association Volunteer Trails or the European organization Kids Are The World. There is also an option to donate with Paypal.
We also invite companies to join us in a charity campaign for the lighting up of the village of Kerewan Samba Sira. If you want us to publicly thank your company, please send us your logo (and photos of your company/products) and contact information together with social media.
What are the advantages of lighting up the village of Kerewan Samba Sira?
- The most important advantage is that we can make over a thousand villagers happy, especially children who don’t demand much, right? Lighting up the village will change their lives.
- Street lighting will improve the village economy and contribute to development, which will change their lives for the better in a very short time.
- Safety will improve as soon as solar lights are installed.
- Better visibility will reduce the number of accidents and injuries involving drivers, passengers, and pedestrians.
- Solar energy produces clean and entirely renewable energy. It is an excellent alternative and a greener option for our environment as it contributes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions that would otherwise be produced by local energy sources.
- Solar lights require minimal maintenance – battery replacement when necessary and cleaning when they become dusty. As the solar panels will be installed outdoors with direct access to sunlight, they need occasional cleaning to maintain quality and functionality.
- The lights do not produce any noise, providing a peaceful environment for the villages.
- In terms of cost, solar lights are the most cost effective solution, as they only include the initial costs of purchase and installation. Solar energy is entirely free, and solar panels can operate for decades. Batteries have a lifespan of 5 to 25 years.
How many donations do we need?
150 SOLAR LIGHTS: €6,500
150 IRON POLES: €3,500
150 IRON PLATES (for light installation): €185
WELDING (+ off-loading, loading) 150 POLES: €425
TRANSPORT (in the city, to the village, within the village): €600
CEMENT, SAND, STONE: €500
250 LIGHT PROTECTORS: €1,450
The purchase and installation of solar lights will be monitored with our cameras and will be published on our social networks.
The Kerewan Samba Sira village will also be included in sustainable tourism activities and volunteer programs (medicine, education, agriculture, etc.)
BANK TRANSFER DETAILS:
Account Name: VOLUNTEER TRAILS – THE GAMBIA
Account Number (GMD): 6240037610
BBAN (GMD): 008201624003761074
Account Number (EUR): 6240037611
BBAN (EUR): 008201624003761171
Swift Code: ECOCGMGMXXX
Beneficiary Bank name: Ecobank Gambia Ltd.
Beneficiary Bank Address: 42 Kairaba Avenue, Serekunda – The Gambia.
Please support this project to make a difference in the lives of hundreds! Donate to the account above or the button below and share this article with friends and family to make this dream come true.