Footsteps Gambia

Footsteps Gambia

Footsteps Eco-Lodge

Welcome to our Footsteps Blog.

Here you will find news and views from our staff and our guests.

Also see how we help the local communities.

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Sarani and family

Abi DarboePosted by Ray Thu, March 28, 2013 17:33:35

A Day With Abi Darboe aged 13

Just the other day I was talking with Sarani our guide reminiscing about the past, we have a lot of history dating back more than ten years now. Sarani and his family have been a big part of my life here in The Gambia, from the initial design and build of our lodge through to the bushfire of 24th February 2007 to then becoming one of Gambia’s best examples of sustainable tourism.

When the bushfire was first thought to be a danger to us it was still nearly 2 days away, this fire was big and fuelled by an extended dry season and hot winds from the Sahara, it was morning and guests were breakfasting aware of the fire approaching but knowing it was still as yet a safe distance away. Around mid morning we made a decision to evacuate the lodge, by three in afternoon we were all fighting a losing battle and by six in the evening the fire had taken everything, not just the lodge but our homes

It was Sarani and his wife Roki who were first in line to offer help in 2007. In fact all staff offered their help but Sarani was first and so it was I began what was to become an entire year living within their loving and protective compound.

Their children are called Abi, Buba and Mariama who were 7years , 5years and 6 months when I moved in.

From the moment I first met Mariama that little girl screamed every time she saw me, something that didn’t stop till around a year or so later. Buba likes to be off somewhere all the time, usually finding plenty of hi jinx on the way, such as the time he came into the compound brandishing his father’s cutlass and treating an almost mature banana tree as his mortal enemy and i have to say Buba gave short thrift to that tree, it fell defeated after just a quick barrage of cut and thrusts. I still remember the proud look of victory on his face, a look which disappeared a moment after Sarani’s entrance. OOOOOUUUCCHHH.

Then there is Abi, at seven years old, her written and spoken English were better than her contemporaries, lucky job too because she is a proper chatterbox, always smiling and full of energy.

So with all this reminiscing it occurred to me that I hadn’t seen them as a family for way too long and asked Sarani if they would like to come for ice cream ( daft question, all kids love ice cream right ) he said they would come the following Monday. He was very proud to tell me that Abi is top in her class and said he would ask her to write me a letter about her days

Abi's letter.
Gunjur Village
Kombo South District
West Coast Region
3rd March 2013

Dear David
I am here to explain to you about my daily activities I did from early in the morning till the evening.
First to tell when I wake up at 7:00 in the morning I performed ablution and pray. After prayers I greeting dad and mum. I sweep our house and mope the floor. I take my breakfast fetch water from the well, wash my clothes, wash the bowls, cooking pot, and so on. After that my mum sent me to the market to buy cooking ingredeances for her.
Sometime I help her for cooking before I go to school in the afternoon. I also iron my uniform. take bah, before school time. I go to school at 12.30 and we close at 6.00pm in the evening. If I carn I take my lunch. After taken my lunch I take two hours to rest before I start study my book. I started studies at 9.00pm - 11.30pm then I go to bed till the next day This is what I did every day.
from Abie Darboe

After reading my first thought was of how hard working and studious she has become. I asked her, what do you want to be when you are older, she said, a politician.

I said, I’m extremely proud of you Abi and I think someday I will be as equally proud of your political career.

My thanks to Sarani and Roki.

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Norwegians help Gunjur Upper Basic Scool

Norway charity in The GambiaPosted by Ray Fri, March 01, 2013 16:51:00

Norway’s passion for The Gambia

It has been our pleasure to see Gambia receive an increasing numbers of visitors from Norway over the past 3 years or so and most recently a couple from Norway who travelled with Ethical Travel Portal proved their hearts are as big as their fjords. Sverre and Åse Leksbo from Lyngdal, Southern Norway, were happy to help the school children of Gunjur Upper Basic School when they learned of their problems.

Pictured left to right, Sverre, Yahya & Åse

The school under the new direction of Yayah Jobe its new principal, has come a long way in the past 12 months, it has a new 2 storey purpose built school house which is due to be opened by the start of this year’s rain in June, but the funds ran out before a secure wall and gates could be made to protect it. Without these the school had a constant array of animals fouling everywhere and generally making a nuisance, not exactly a safe or sanitary place to receive an education. Sverre’s company ”FIBO-TRESPO AS”, donated 15,000 NOK whilst Sverre and Åse gave 5,000 NOK. Shortly after their arrival Sverre, Åse myself and Yahya found ourselves going through quotes for building supplies and saw that if Yahya was able to persuade the school funding board to match their total contribution of 20,000 NOK (approx £2,000-00 or 100,000 dalasi.) the entire school perimeter wall could be either replaced or fixed and new gates installed to keep the kids in and the animals out. We found ourselves trusting Yahya to keep his part of the deal and agreed that work should begin immediately to repair and replace the wall.

Within days materials had arrived and work began with Sverre making the first blocks.

Meanwhile Åse not content with only helping with the wall said she would like to spend some time training a young girl called Aroki Nyassi to re-establish the library which had fallen into a badly coordinated room full of books in no particular order or sequence. Over the next 2 weeks Åse set up a system and made sure that Aroky knew exactly how to maintain it. Åse has incredible energy and it’s plain to see that she is happiest in the company of young enquiring minds, it was then she offered to begin teaching the children French language.

Just this week all works were completed on the wall pictured below with Linda and Myself, unfortunately the gates which have been made could not be fitted in time for this month’s edition due to the welder measuring incorrectly.

I think the children and teachers will remember their good friends from Norway not simply for their generous gift of money to build their wall and gates but most of all for the time, kindness and love they demonstrated during their 4 week visit. Thank you from Gunjur, The Gambia.

A word from Sverre and Åse

First of all we want to thank you once again for a fantastic stay at Footsteps. We read an article in the Norwegian newspaper VG about Ethical Travel Portal and Linda in December 24th 2011. We had for a long time wanted to visit a country in Africa, and because of this article and a conversation with Linda, we decided to go for The Gambia.

We wanted to stay for four weeks and then we had the opportunity to do something more than just being ordinary tourists. We asked Linda to put together a program, which Gunjur Upper Basic School was a part of. The school needed a new wall around the school area. For this project we contributed with some money from ourselves and some from the company where I work; Fibo Trespo AS. This showed up to be a very good idea since we could follow the progress of the wall project. Thanks to Linda and the application from the Principal, the school was able to complete the project with money from the Government.

We spent some days at school at the library in order to have it in better order, and met many very nice and friendly people, both teachers and pupils.

At last we will like to recommend Footsteps as a “family home”, where staff and owner made us really feel like a part of the “compound”. We will never forget the conversations around the Friendship table.

We will definitely be back.

Åse & Sverre

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Gunjur Museum Project

An interview with Lamin BojangPosted by Ray Sun, February 10, 2013 11:13:52

An interview with Lamin Bojang, Entrepreneur

by David White, Founder and owner Footsteps Eco Lodge.

David. Tell me about your work in Gunjur, how it benefits the village of Gunjur and what your plans are regarding your proposed new project of starting a museum there.

Lamin. Thank you David, my work is a birding guide, I have more than 10 years working with bird enthusiasts from all over the world showing them where to find their wish list of species, and I also discuss the importance of the areas environmental preservation and demonstrate how we contribute to that preservation as part of the day’s activity.

David. In your spare time you have been working on another project, tell me about that.

Lamin. I first began my plans for The Gunjur museum building for cultural heritage and environmental preservation, some years before I came to Footsteps as a birding guide. The idea is to create the communities first Cultural Heritage Museum for the benefit of researchers, students, tourists, locals and future generations.

David. Why is this so important to you Lamin, I remember when we first met and you seemed to me like a man who would have had more pressing things to spend his hard earned cash on ?

Lamin. David, our history is disappearing, our traditional languages are not written languages but spoken only, with no central record of historical events the culture of past generations is being lost, I won’t let that happen, our culture is too important. The history of the area known as Gunjur has been narrated by our forefathers and passed from one generation to the next. This oral history tells us that the first people known to have settled in this area were Bianunkas surname Sanyang of the Biyaro tribe. They settled near a small lagoon close to the Atlantic Ocean called Bolong Fenyo which is now protected by the community as a wild life reserve. The lagoon was believed to be an object of worship and it said that they used to sacrifice a man to the lagoon every year. The Sanyangs still have extensive land holdings in the area of the original settlement.

The second clan which settled this huge territory, but a different location were the Darboe’s. This clan was believed to be more powerful than the Biyaro neighbourhood, and were settled somewhere around what is known today as Senga forest. They used to worship idols at a place close to their dwelling place known as Sebindinto, the practice which is still done by the Darboe’s today. They believe that if you ask the idols for anything your request will be answered and now on special days people come from all over Gambia to join them in their worship. As said earlier, because of their power, they hold authority over the extensive land, and called their settlement Amesang, named after the head of their clan who led them to this place. The third clan to arrive was the Touray’s and Sahos led by a man known as Ma Tora

Toray (Sheik Ousman Touray). History tells us that this Islamic saint dreamt of a place of blessings where he would settle, where his progeny and followers would prosper and multiply. He set off from his birthplace in Mali with his family and many followers searching for the place. When he finally arrived near the Darboe’s village of ameseng he saw things he had seen in his visions. Ma Tora Touray met with the Darboe’s who granted him permission to settle. He named his new settlent Gunjur after his native village in Mali.

The Touray’s practiced their Islamic faith and soon the recitation of the Quran began to attract the Darboe’s children who were not believers of Islam. Gradually, even their elders grew interested and later converted to Islam by Ma Tora. Eventually, the Darboe’s joined Ma Tora living in Gunjur because their interest in Islam and inter marriage started, the village became one of the three biggest villages in The Gambia which is why it became the district headquarters of Kombo South.

In this way, the new settlement of Gunjur grew and became the dominant settlement in the area. The Darboe’s were made the village heads of Gunjur. They in turn accepted the Touray’s as imams due to their knowledge of the Quran.

Later the Jannehs arrived at the invitation of the Sahos. As the Sahos were charged with the apportioning of things belonging to or affecting the village, the Jannehs had to help their hosts with this responsibility. Up to this day, the Jannehs still have this role in the community. The next important clans to arrive were the jattas . All the other clans came much later.

Justification of location.

David. So why Gunjur ?

Lamin. The cultural village of Gunjur is located on the west coast of The Gambia, thirty kilometers away from the capital city, Banjul. The village now holds a varied population of Mandinkia, Fula, Wolof, Jola, Karoninka, Manjago,Balanta, and other tribes. The Mandinka were the first to settle and the largest tribe followed by the Jola. Due to the introduction of Islam in the 17th century, Gunjur is still a predominantly a Muslim community with some Christian and animists . Gunjur is one of the oldest and biggest villages in the Gambia, rich in culture and history. But since the beginning of this significant village, there is no proper historical record keeping of the village, no base line data, or museum so its people can learn of their heritage.

There were many wars waged before and after the Gambia was colonized by the British and yet none of the weapons or artifacts were kept for historical references with regard to Gunjur. Example Ebrima Kombo Sillah was a native of Gunjur and a Jihadist ( holy wars) warrior who waged various battles all around Kombo areas in the 18th century to establish Islam in the region he fought with Brikama, Busumbala but was defeated by the British colonials who asked him to stop the war against non believers., he ran to Senegal where he finally died and his tomb and is visited by the Touray family every year, but none of his materials were kept at in a certain place or museum whereby everyone can have access to them . He was a very significant man in Gambian history, he even has a street named after him (Kombo Sillah Drive) and a local historical syllabus was included in primary school on Ebrima kombo Sillah and others... The world is modernizing and changing every day, many things are changing especially among the youth. The Gambia is no exception. We feel it necessary to preserve our cultural heritage and history for the benefit of our young ones. A step toward this preservation would be a village museum where historical information and materials could be amassed and preserved in one place. Since Gunjur is located along the coastline, it has a comfortable climate and relatively unspoilt landscape; it attracts people from the interior as well as Europeans. This has resulted in lodges along the coast which attracts tourist. The coming of tourists has led to exposure of local youth to foreign ideas and lifestyles. There needs to be a counter balance, a cultural museum can perform this function.

The cultural heritage of Gunjur did not develop in a vacuum. It arose in close conjunction with the natural environment and our museum will reflect that by featuring exhibits on the ecology found in the area. This will help educate visitors and locals alike about the importance of keeping our biological heritage.

David. That was detailed and very interesting Lamin, tell me, do you have a project development plan of how much money is needed in order to achieve your dream.

Lamin. Yes, the cost to see the realization of The Gunjur Museum Building is now left with 150,000 dalasi.

David. It’s getting close then, let me tell you Lamin that through some very generous donations by Rolf Soerby, Sverre and Aase Marie Leksboe from Norway who recently sent 15,000 Norwegian kroner with Linda Veraasdal from Ethical Travel Portal which at an exchange rate of 6/1 takes you 90,000 dalasi closer to your dream. How does that make you feel?

Lamin. I cannot put into words how happy I feel at this moment David, thank you so much, thank you and Linda and Sverre, Aase and Rolf, my wonderful friends from Norway, thank you Footsteps.

David. I can’t think of anyone who deserves to succeed more than you do Lamin, The very best of luck to you my friend...

Final Thought

While speaking with Lamin, I am sure he will succeed. Anyone wishing to help whilst visiting The Gambia please contact me, david@footstepsgambia.com .

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