This can’t be started differently than to say that the experience was amazing, and it truly warmed my heart. If you are thinking of going to The Gambia as a volunteer, don’t wait any longer – just go for it. You won’t regret it. I know I should start at the beginning, so I’ll go back now.
Let’s start with the expectations I had about volunteering in The Gambia. Well, I had to admit that my knowledge about it was quite limited before I arrived. I knew we would be volunteering in a kindergarten with children aged around 4 to 10 years old and that we should prepare some workshops. I had no idea about the school’s appearance, the available materials, or the number of children who would be there. Being a teacher by profession, I prefer things to be organized, so it was quite a challenge for me. We also didn’t know how many other volunteers would be there, and we assumed our primary task would be to assist the teachers in school.
Now I’d like to briefly describe our typical day there. School started at 9 a.m., and it took us approximately an hour to get there. We spent the first hour outside playing with the kids – jumping rope, playing football, singing children’s counting rhymes, etc. Sometimes, we also prepared things for the planned workshops. Every day, we had two one-hour workshops, one at 10 a.m. and another at 12 p.m. The kids were usually divided into two groups by age. Our task was to lead these two hours, so we had to prepare two workshops per day. We were usually creative with various materials; they particularly enjoyed making bracelets with beads, drawing, and colouring with colour pencils … We also included some sports activities, such as teaching them how to jump rope, playing frisbee, and other games. So, between these two workshops, we had a meal and then continued playing with them outside.
What surprised me at the school? One of the things was that there were a lot of materials, but most of them were not really useful. So, it’s best to plan all the workshops at home and then ask the responsible person what they have and what you need to buy and bring there. The second thing that surprised me was the discipline in the school. It’s challenging for children to wait patiently for your assistance. During the first few days, it was really difficult for me to listen to all the noise inside the classroom, but I got used to it and learned that it’s still possible to get things done; you just shouldn’t have too high expectations of how it will look. It’s definitely an interesting experience. One reason for children’s behaviour is probably that we are speaking to them in English, and they don’t understand everything, so it’s probably not easy for them to really listen and comprehend.
Now, let’s return to the description of the day. After school, we went back home, and in the afternoons, we usually headed to the beach, played some board games, or went on daily trips.
My advice for you would be to take the opportunity on weekends to go on trips where you’ll have an amazing opportunity to see life outside the city where you’re accommodated. It’s really worth your time.
To sum up, I have no doubt that you’ll have a great and enriching experience there. These kinds of experiences stay in your heart and soul forever and broaden your view of the world.