Bridge to success in The Gambia

The project team from left Lamin Manneh, Beth W. Kealy, Maggie Peterson, and Randy Hutchins.

By Maggie Peterson, Rotary Club of Edmonds, Washington, USA

Four members of our club left Seattle on 1 February and flew some 30 plus hours to The Gambia, arriving on the evening of 2 February. The purpose of the trip was to identify a site in the remote area of the Central River Valley for a “pure” science lab. This crucial component for Secondary Schools does not currently exist, effectively cutting off access to college or even high school graduation, as this science lab work is required for both.

Upon our arrival, the team immediately set to work meeting with the governor, Ministry of Education permanent secretary, and other officials. Every person encountered embraced this project warmly and enthusiastically, and we came away with a memorandum of understanding from the permanent secretary pledging the government’s support in this work. We are also partnering with the Rotary Club of Brusubi, who will be closely monitoring and helping us assess the project as we move through the process.

Now the hardest part – choosing the site. There were some pretty strict parameters that the chosen school had to meet: A competent involved principal, good staff, a clean school, strong community support and a good, central location with many “feeder” schools were just a few. We had hoped to find a site that already had a building to renovate, but in the end, that was not the case. We found literally everything we wanted in the Niani Senior Secondary School on the North Bank. Principal Lamin Juwara and several of his staff gave an impassioned appeal for their school, and we were so happy to choose them for this project.

Every single school we visited (all nine) had a list of needs; fencing, water, solar power, furniture, books and other supplies. Our hope is that as we spread word of our project, other clubs will join us in helping not just with this science lab, but some of these smaller projects as well.

So, now the work begins in earnest. We are looking for other Rotary clubs, NGOs and community organizations to help us raise the funds to make this dream a reality. Members of our team will be happy to come out to any club or business and make a presentation. Just let us know if you are interested, by contacting me at

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