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SOS Children's Charity: Spring 2006 Newsletter


Enjoying the opportunity of school in The Gambia

The Gambia

London and Devon based SOS Volunteer David Stranack, recently visited the SOS Children's Village Bakoteh, and shares his experience here on meeting the children at the SOS Children's Village.

Four year old Kebba shook my hand solemnly as his big round eyes stared into mine. And then, in a flash, formality was gone and he threw his arms around my legs and gave my knees a big hug!

It could be said that the practical application of affection is what SOS Children's Villages is all about. It sounds a bit cold and impersonal when described that way, but there is absolutely no doubt that this whole vast international organisation is based fundamentally on the two basic principles of loving and caring.

Kebba and 80 orphaned or abandoned children like him are looked after and brought up by their "mothers" in the village houses. On the morning Kebba and I met, he was attending the village nursery, and we were greeted there by grinning faces and one of the most enthusiastic songs of welcome I have ever heard.

Children Cared for by SOS in The Gambia

The youngest child we saw was a baby of just two months. She had recently been found abandoned, and would almost certainly be cared for by SOS Children's Villages until she was old enough to lead an independent life. SOS Children takes such a sensible approach to the development of children and young adults, particularly recognising the different needs of adolescent boys and girls.

All the children live in their own village homes, and attend the SOS Primary School, until their early teens. The girls then remain in the village, increasingly helping the mothers to run the houses and look after the little ones. The boys, at the age of 14, move on to live for the next five years in an SOS Youth House. They are responsible for running their home and managing themselves, with advice and counselling available when they need it.

One young man, Kalifa, was asked to show us around the bedrooms, communal areas and kitchen of the youth house, which he did, somewhat shyly, and was totally consumed with embarrassment when we commented on the St. Valentine's Day card on his bedside table.

The dominant impression of the youth house, where teenage bedrooms seem to be kept in a vastly better state of tidiness than many I have seen closer to home, and all the other SOS Children buildings and projects, is that of quality.

Learning for a bright future at SOS Children's Village, Bakoteh

Bakoteh is a loving, caring community. An excellent example of SOS Children's vision in action. What's more, that vision is being delivered with quality and style.

In addition to the SOS Children's Village at Bakoteh there is a new village being constructed in the east at Basse, which will support 120 orphaned and abandoned children in east of the country.

Cases of child abandonment here are high due to an economy reliant on agriculture. Only 20% of those aged 15 or over are literate and only 29% of primary age school children attend school - compared to over 70% in the West of the country.

Relevant Countries: Gambia, The.

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