In the Shade of the Mangoes

The shade of the compound mangoes trees is a familiar place, particularly as the evening sun prepares to tuck itself behind the horizon. However, what was unfamiliar was the silent crowd of around 50 - 60 who had gathered in the shade with me.  The crowd representing 5-6 different tribes and two or more faiths were the likes of whom that would typically would not gather together. 

I am sure when exactly when or how it dawned on me, perhaps it was the unfamiliar cultural silence or the reality that we were now sending children to neighbouring compounds to find more chairs the the but I realized these people had come because of something I was doing and to hear what I was going to say. To complicated the matter I felt I had no idea what I was doing or what I was going to say. 

Abandonning any hope of being culturally appropriate to arriving guest, I thought it would be a good idea to start making a few notes. 

After a brief introduction and an spirited argument to select a common enough language for translation, I began telling the story which brought us all to were we are today. 

During my past trips to The Gambia, I came to understand the decision most families make in The Gambia; food in the bowl or their child in school. In 2010 I became to assist a few famillies which eventually grew into a program administered by local volunteers able to properly prioritize and oversea any funds. 
As of this current academic year over 75 students representing all academic levels who are actively receiving support to help with their school. This has occurred with minimal infighting and attempts of corruption. A reality I can only attribute to God's work in my life and those who have partnered in the vision both volunteers and participants. 

My message was simple - let's pray and work together so we can continue to sustain and further develop the program. The goal being not simply to provide education but furthermore use this education to develop good leaders who are willing to invest the knowledge and skills back into The Gambia for Faith, Hope and Love.

We talked through program logistics, some new rules preventing parents from taking advantage of the system and the importance of family and community involvement in students pursuits. In all the meeting lasted 3 hours - I was not always sure what was going on or how things would end up but, as we concluded there was a spirit of unity and sense that we we're on the right path and God is doing great things. 

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