What can we say about Sue, Trisha, Jane, Liseanne, Dorothy and Fiona? They are six wonderful, passionate supporters who have taken the next step in their World Vision journey and are now our newest Ambassadors. This incredible group of women traveled to Senegal to meet their sponsored children and see for themselves how World Vision works with communities and how their sponsorship helps some of the world’s poorest children.
Over the next week, we’ll have inspiring stories from our new ambassadors and their trip, including remarkable photos, amazing stories and tales that made them them laugh and cry. Everything they experienced has moved them to go out raising awareness of the work of World Vision on their return to the UK, we hope they’ll hit home for you, too.
You can follow all of the week’s updates from their trip on our Facebook Page, or by popping back to the blog on Wednesday and Friday for parts 2 and 3.
Time to celebrate – the opening of the new school building
by Sue Tinney
When we arrived at the school for the long awaited opening ceremony, the temperature had soared to at least 38oC and we were all very hot. The villagers and children were sitting under the large awning as the musicians played and the dignitaries patiently waited. A sense of excitement and anticipation filled the air. We were about to take part in a big celebration the community had been looking forward to for a long time! We were quickly ushered into a side room, where we were each presented with a set of Senegalese national dress, the community’s gift to us. They were beautiful!
We were overwhelmed by the community’s generosity, and dressed in our new outfits, we took our place alongside the dignitaries, including the Head teacher, Village Chief, Elders, the World Vision community manager, construction manager and representatives of the Rural Council.
The event began with the Village Chief expressing his thanks to World Vision for the new classrooms and added that although the community had made a great start, they still had not finished – there was still more work to be done. Their vision is so admirable!
It turned out that the new classrooms and toilet block had been ready for a month prior to our visit, but the community had waited for our visit before the children could use them. How frustrating this must have been for them, and how humbling for us.
Before World Vision embarked on this project, the children had lessons in classrooms made of stick-type fencing with grass frond leaves and open to all the elements. The floor was dusty and sandy and the blackboard somehow fixed to the fence.
The condition of the classrooms was far from ideal; snakes and scorpions would find their way in and bite the children, rain would come through the roof during the wet season and the Harmattan wind would blow through the rooms in the hot dry seasons.
The children suffered from sickness, which had a tremendous effect on their ability to attend school and learn. It was heartbreaking to hear, but wonderful to be at the ceremony that was going to change all this.
As the ceremony continued there were many speeches and lively music, and then came the symbolic act of the ‘formal carrying’ of the children’s desks across to their new classrooms. The children were so calm and dignified as they made their way across the compound with their desks although I’m sure they must have been bursting with excitement!
A little time later the children were happily seated in their beautiful new classrooms and it was such a joy for us to have been part of this. It’s amazing to experience, first-hand, some of the fruits of the work that World Vision undertakes, in partnership with the local communities. Sponsorship money and the dedicated work of World Vision staff ensure the delivery of this and many other such projects. The long term benefits will be immeasurable.
In addition to the new classroom, a freshly painted new toilet block has also been built for the children which they were very pleased to start using!
As the event drew to a close, we explained, through an interpreter, how seeing our contribution come to fruition has been a tremendous experience. We thanked everyone for the wonderful welcome given to us and for our gifts, which will be a lasting memory of our special visit.
Official Opening of Loul Pre-School
by Trisha McGee
As we climbed out of the minibus – our heads and senses already reeling from the heat, scenery, colour and life in all its aspects that is rural Senegal – we were greeted by the welcoming timbre of drums, women singing and dancing, and general joy, enthusiasm and excitement.
Never in my life had I seen such an amazing sight nor heard such extraordinary sounds. My throat constricted and my eyes filled up as we walked towards and through the gate.
A large group of children of varying heights and ages, all sporting cross body sashes in the green, yellow and red of the Senegalese flag lined our route. They gave us huge beaming smiles and shook hands. This was the School council!
We were paraded in and the singing reached an almost deafening crescendo. There was a large marquee full of women with the musicians; we stopped to watch the dancing for a while.
Inside the preschool all the small children were sitting perfectly in rows. What a delightful and engaging sight! The youngest children all wore blue smocks over their clothes and older children (I thought about reception age) wore pale green. The Nursery children and their wonderful young teacher sang for us, mainly as a group but also as individuals. They were alert, confident and not at all fazed by all the attention, waving at us while keeping one eye firmly on their teacher.
It was so humbling to realise that a small amount of money we pay each month helped to create this, life changing chances at education for so many small children.
Next we were treated to a clever little scenario performed by the Reception class. This involved two girls and two boys. The two boys sat at desks, ‘writing’ and looking very official! The girls were acting the parts of mother and daughter. The daughter desperately wanted to go to school but mother kept saying, ‘No, girls don’t need to go to school. Go to Dakar, be a maid and earn some money.’
Eventually, however, the mother gives in and takes her daughter to enroll in school. But unfortunately it’s not that simple for the little girl as she wasn’t registered at birth. So mother has to go to the Rural Council to register her daughter before she can go to school. The messages from this performance were very clear!
After these wonderful performances we went to see the new classroom. No benches or tables yet but plenty of space to put them in. The room was high, cool and spacious. The windows glassless but finished with louvered shutters appropriate to the climate.
Thanks to Sue and Trisha for sharing their stories. You can read more ambassador blogs later this week and don’t forget to check out our Facebook page this week for all the latest from World Vision as well as the photo album from the Senegal trip.
Two wonderful stories of great changes implemented thanks to your support. And how remarkable that our Ambassadors got to experience the joy and the excitement of the opening of these new buildings and rooms, too. Let us know what you’d love to see in person over on our Facebook page here.