Going to Gambia with the Craven Arms Cricket Project was a truly amazing experience. I never really knew what to expect whilst there. One thing i wasn’t expecting was to fall in love with the country as much as i did. The people were absolutely amazing and never stopped smiling, and seeing the conditions in which most were living, this amazed me. On arrival it was about 38 degrees and the heat hit us as soon as we stepped off the plane, it was boiling! We had to wait for workers of the Fresh Start Foundation in the airport and as we guessed they were a little bit late. We called this Gambia time as i don’t think we were on time on this trip once. The locals would wear very flash watches; however not one had a battery in! Wherever we went the locals made us feel welcome and called it our second home, this made us all feel fantastic.
We spent 2 nights in a hotel in Banjul where we were able to relax around the pool and lay around on a fantastic beach on site where we were also able to play beach cricket and beach football with the locals, who happened to be very good at football! We also spent 5 nights in Tendaba Camp. The camp is located oppposite the Baobolong Wetlands – a Ramsar site of international importance for birds. We were able to enjoy a swimming pool here along with 2 bars at night time where we had a lot of fun dancing with the locals and the staff to reggae music; funnily enough they were better dancers than us. On route to the camp we had to go through a town called Kwinella. Kwinella was the village where we would go to the school and introduce Cricket to the kids and teachers. Whilst going through the village we were amazed to see that the whole village had come out to welcome us. I was gob smacked to see all the locals swamp us as we stepped off the bus, there was very little room to walk as there was that many people out to welcome us. All the local kids came and held out hands singing to us as they took us to their school. This is a memory that i will never forget.
Introducing Cricket to the kids was an amazing experience. Most of them had never even heard of the sport Cricket, so being able to teach them how to play it gave me a great feeling inside. What made me smile the most and gave me the greatest pleasure out of it all was seeing their faces when they know they have done something well. The smile would be beaming and they would feel fantastic about themselves, and to think that you contributed to that happening brings a smile to my face. We left absolutely loads of cricket and other sporting equipment for the school to have, along with lots of clothes including there favourite kind of clothing….. football shirts!!
The young kids would do anything to have a plastic water bottle. It was unbelievable to see that they would beg for a bottle. Back here in England when we finish with a bottle we just throw it in the bin, over there it comes in very handy for the kids as it means they don’t have to carry massive buckets back and forth from the water well. It would be nonstop pestering from them for out empty bottles, it was annoying at start, however when we knew how much it meant to them it never bothered us.
We played the Gambia U15’s in a game of Cricket at the national ground which we won with a few over to spare, it was a very good game and is good to see that cricket in Gambia is progressing, however they may need to work on their ground security as we had a number of goats on the pitch!. We left a lot of equipment at the Gambia Cricket Association also to try and help locals get into cricket, and to help improve their skills.
Overall my experience of The Gambia was fantastic, things i saw will stay with me forever and the feeling of helping other less fortunate than you is an amazing experience. They live so happily although they have absolutely nothing, seeing what we have done do the school helping them play Cricket is fantastic. The memories i will take away will stay with me forever and the people i will never forget. I saw sad to leave but was so happy that i experienced this trip. It turned out even better that i imagined it to. If i could go again tomorrow and help out even more i would!