Sunday, November 20, 2016


Soon it is going to be one month since my arrival from Gambia and I still ask myself every day, what do all that I have met are doing at this very moment. All the while I am delaying the day when I will write this and today I said to myself, Veronika, now is the time. We always have a choice whether we do things in life with heart and soul and let ourselves go, leading us to all directions where we are intended to go, or based on different reasons, we view, visit and meet a new environment from a more touristic perspective. I knew that many things will change after one month, but I did not know yet that I would leave such a huge part of my heart there.

It all began many years before, when I was a little kid and my mother promised my sister Neja we will go to Africa one day, to the elephants and giraffes. This wish and this promise lead all of us to the point where one year ago my mother adopted a girl named Kumba who comes from Gambia. Not long after she bought the flight ticket, visited the family, spent two weeks with them and the rest of the extended family and after coming back, I was not sure what had happened. Happy, healed, smiling, optimistic, but a crying mother all over, who was standing with suitcases at the airport. She told me “This is not a different world, this is a different planet.” I understood the words but I did not understand the meaning as you, who reads this, do not understand it as well. It is hard to imagine life on the other side of the world, where they do not know hate, anger or unhappiness. That is why I know that to the majority of us girls, the shock was bigger coming back home rather than to get used to the Gambian life, for which I can only say it really is a different planet.
My mother Mojka with Kumba

Even just days before departure I did not have a clue what I was doing. I am not sure I was aware where I was going, what will change and that I will soon be in Africa, there, where it is always warm, the sun as well as the people. Together with my sister we were sitting on the suitcases in the apartment and told to ourselves »ow, you know that tomorrow at this time we will already be in Africa?« which was followed by silence and kind of a little smile, because we knew that one small wish came true.

With my sister Neja 
The purpose of our arrival was to teach the kids, in the school Mobeta, age 3 to 8, together with the local teachers. Even before the arrival we collected material and ideas, how to bring the kids closer to a certain school topic and through playing and singing get to know a new subject. The start of the school lessons was only in the second week after the arrival because of the Ramadan, which did not end yet. Therefore, we still had time to prepare, talk about the work and divide ourselves per classes. In that time we went to Barra and Banjul, we were getting to know the culture, we spent a lot of time with the locals and from day to day, I felt more and more at home and accepted.
In Barra village
I could not wait to meet, together with Neja, the little sister Kumba and on that day I really cried my heart out. With Musa, we were coming into the area of Dippakunda and when we were approaching the house, all three of us heard fast-talking of the children and repetition of the same words. Because they talked in the tribal language Wolof that I did not understand at that point, I asked Musa what they were saying. He laughed hard, touched my shoulder and said »they are all saying: sisters are here, they are here, they are here, sisters are heeree!« and in the moment when we opened the copper and broken doors of the yard, Kumba's sisters were all of a sudden around us, sister Mariama and the older Khaddiatou, the mother was hugging us but Kumba was nowhere to be found. In the moment when she ran into the house, she, all cried out, jumped on us and never left our sight. It was only the third day and I already knew that people here are capable of so much love that I do not know what are we doing in Slovenia and where we lost track.
With my sister Kumba
Every day we went to school at 8.40 so that we were in the class by 9h. Lara and I were in a class of kids, age 4 to 5, and with us there was a teacher Marie. I have to say that at times it was very hard most of all because the kids there are hyperactive and something always has to go on and they need to be motivated all the time. Concentration drops as quickly as the rain drops, but if you understand them, if you spend some time with them and you trust yourself, all of this becomes entirely acceptable. In the morning, we always repeated the numbers, alphabet, animals and English, after the lunch we sang, danced, played drums and learned Slovenian through song.

Lara had a flute with her and every time they heard her, they listened and were so impressed over this instrument that she always had it with her in her bag. Every time I mention the compassion that Gambian people have, also goes for the children. Many people who I have told this were not sure, if they should believe me. Every child received a lunch, but always when someone was still hungry, the other kid broke a piece and gave it to him. The same happened when I did not eat, because I was not hungry. A kid came to me with a piece of bread and offered it to me, because he thought I was hungry and I do not have any on my own. A child, who does not have enough for food at all times, who does not have all the conditions for life, offered me his lunch because he saw I do not have any.

It is easy to write from the memories that happened, but it is different to talk about them. When I talk to someone about Gambia I do not remember only the events but I remember the smiles and the feelings and sometimes tears and it creates a big lump in my throat and just stops there. I remember the kids who always ran behind our van when we were leaving, until they could not run anymore; I remember the kids in my class who waited every morning for us at the entrance doors for the moment when they will see us; I remember how I learn to cook Domoda and Benachin and also eat that, of course with my hands, which I was not really good at it; I remember how we drove in those funny vans where doors did never work and did not close; I remember the rainy days when all stay at home, because, if it is raining no one goes to school; and I remember how one girl said to me on my last day that we will see each other on Monday. It was hard but I told her that I live far far away and that I am leaving for home today and maybe she will already be older girl next time I see her again. But for her, far far away meant the neighboring village. She smiled and said, see you on Monday Mariama and went home smiling. For them far means walking 20 minutes and if I tried to explain to them that I have to fly one whole day with a plane, I think that would represent such a big problem for them to understand that I just left it at that.

That is why a whole month had to pass by so I could sit behind the computer and write this, and even this very shortly. I always ask myself when will I see them again and when will we dance again, drum, play soccer on the street and when will I eat mango from the tree again.

-   - Veronika Žorž

Tuesday, November 15, 2016


We created a program called Travel as a volunteer to The Gambia, which enables volunteering, visiting and experiencing the real Gambia without strict conditions, specific education, experience and time limits. It’s our belief that anyone, who would like to spend some time with children and meet friendly locals, deserves this opportunity. There are many people, who spend their whole lives dreaming about volunteering in Africa and we are here to help make these dreams come true.

The International Summer School has been organized for the third year now by humanitarian organization Charity Pearl the Gambia, founded by Musa Faal from Barra and took place at Mobe-ta Primary & Nursery School from 4. 7. 2016 until 29. 7. 2016. The activities and the program were prepared by educators in collaboration with other participants of the international summer school camp 2016. It was open to all children up to the age of 12 years from the Dippa Kunda area. The school camp was free of charge for all children, and each child received a meal and juice every day.

We wanted children to gain knowledge that will help them in their future and education. We wanted them to upgrade their English language skills, to be creative, to get musical education and do sports activities. Everything was done under professional supervision of local teachers and in a creative environment, in small groups and through playing.

We hosted 14 volunteers from Slovenia. Slovenia is a small country in Europe surrounded by Austria, Italy, Hungry and Croatia. There was also a Finnish volunteer, who is currently living in Spain, with her 2 children and a volunteer from Thailand.
2 Slovenian volunteers got the opportunity to work at Africmed clinical laboratory. Africmed Clinical Services provides a comprehensive one-stop full medical examination using modern equipment and attend all emergency cases, including occasional home visits and provide overseas referrals. Special thanks goes to Dr. Omar Jagne, CEO Africmed Clinical Services.
All Gambians welcomed our volunteers with open hearts. Now, they have become part of our big family in The Gambia.

At this point we would like to thank to the government for creating the enabling environment needed for successful and productive projects presently and in the future.
All volunteers have been raising funds before the departure so they could offer free meals to all the children participating in the summer school camp. The response of people in Europe was very positive so they raised much more than expected. In addition to a free meal every day and juice for all participants, all the teachers received a financial reward. Kids were also taken to educational school excursions at My Farm in the Nema Kunku area, which is part of Africa Startup Project from seed to business.

In Slovenia, there was also a charity campaign going on for collecting school materials needed for activities at summer school camp. Children, parents & educational institutions supported the idea. There were new collaborative projects born so Gambian schools will stay connected to pupils from Slovenia and other European countries.
Schools, companies and individuals were also collecting toothbrushes and toothpastes. Volunteers shared them among children in the school and at remote villages.
In Barra, they distributed GMD 56.800 to 71 needy families, on the day of Eid. The team was part of the Eid celebration, which was an amazing experience for all volunteers and inhabitants of Barra village as well. This was the day when they first tasted local traditional food and of course they loved it. They also gave out many school materials, lollipops and balls to children. At the end of the day, volunteers surprised the local Falcon football academy, founded by Amet Faal from Barra, with jerseys donated by Slovenian company Navim. The company’s owner, Mojka Budihna, is also sponsoring a female child in The Gambia and is a regular visitor to this country.

During holidays and on the weekends they were exploring The Gambia. They visited many places. When they decided to discover the Central River Region, their first stop was at Nyemtempo village, where they spent some time with children and people of this amazing village. They have also given out donations of GMD 15.000 to 36 families, who just couldn’t believe their eyes. They were very thankful. They also received toothbrushes, toothpastes, school materials and sweets. After visiting Nyemtempo, they continued their way to Tendaba camp, Wassu Stone Circle and stayed overnight at Bintang Bolong lounge. They went for a river trip to admire hippos in their natural environment, baboons, birds, etc and of course beautiful nature.

They also visited Fathala Nature Reserve in Senegal and spent some quality time at historical villages Albreda & Juffureh. First they went to Kunta Kinteh island by boat, where they visited the museum and had a traditional lunch at the local restaurant. In the afternoon they visited the Jabang family and gave out GMD 30.000 to needy families of Albreda, some school materials and sweets. People were surprised, thankful and so happy. The team also surprised the Albreda local football youth club with jerseys donated by Slovenian football club Nova Gorica.

The day before they left, they visited an orphanage and bought GMD 10.000 worth of food. The rest of the money, which was GMD 17.000, was donated for school fees for children coming from needy families.

Our volunteering program is designed to combine all the goodness of The Gambia with the meaningful experiences people can gain while volunteering here. The Gambia’s unique charm lies in its smallness. It has many attractions just a short distance away and therefore it is becoming one of the most famous destinations in the world.  A combination of volunteering, adventure, relaxation and wildlife makes everyone’s holidays in The Gambia unique and magical.

Following that mission, we encourage volunteers to visit and discover this beautiful country in West Africa. They were sightseeing at Banjul, visited Arch 22 built to celebrate the military coup of 22 July 1994, learned about history at the museum, shopped at Albert Market and enjoyed the crowds on the streets. They visited popular tourist spots like Katchikally Crocodile Pool at Bakau, Makasutu Cultural Forest, Lamin lodge, Tanji fishing village, Sanyang beach, Tunbung Art village at Tujereng founded by great Gambian artist, late Etu Ndow, historical villages Albreda/Juffureh, Kunta Kinteh island with museum, Janjabureh, Wassu Stone Circle, Central River Region, Fathala at Senegal, etc.

Their presence alone had a very positive impact on the lives of the local people. By visiting the country, they had an indirect influence on daily earnings of taxi/bus drivers, bakers, fruit saleswomen, owners of a juice stand at the beach, staff on the local boats, salesmen at the craft market & local market, guides at tourist attractions, tailors, salesmen at local shops, etc. By paying entrance fees for different historical and other popular tourist sites, attending traditional Gambian music concerts and ceremonies, they supported local activities.
Many volunteers, after seeing and meeting the families, have also decided to sponsor a child in The Gambia. The idea of the ‘Travel as a Volunteer to The Gambia’ program was developed from the charity project ‘Sponsor a child’, which was started by a humanitarian organization, Charity Pearl The Gambia, in 2011. Four years later there are over 200 children sponsored by people from all over the world.  Its aim was to invite the sponsors to visit and get to know the children and families they are helping in The Gambia.
Some volunteers were already included in our “Sponsor a child in The Gambia” before so now they got to know the kids they were helping, saw where they live and met all the family members. They brought gifts for them, bought food and other necessities like clothes and shoes for children.

Travel as a Volunteer to The Gambia is changing lives, not only among Gambian communities, but also to foreigners that are coming to the country as volunteers.
If we say thank you in the name of people who received help and also us who are trying to make some changes, is not enough. But we know that our prayers are strong enough so all the good work of volunteers will be rewarded.
We are already looking forward to our fourth International Summer School Camp The Gambia 2017, which will take place in July. Our wish and our plans are also to build an Educational and volunteering center in The Gambia in the future.
Help us to distribute a positive message around the world and invite everyone to travel as a volunteer to The Gambia, The Smiling coast of Africa.
Thank you and we are waiting for you in The Gambia!
For more information about SUMMER CAMP 2017, please contact us!
Charity Pearl The Gambia