Newsletter May 2014 - Gambia Trip



We had just arrived in The Gambia when news came that Sheikh Nazim's family were asking his followers to distribute sugar to the poor. Maulana was in hospital in a very weak condition and this was meant to kick start his liver. We sent out an appeal and donations from all over the world started streaming in. The timing was perfect, because in The Gambia everybody was getting ready for Ramadan, where sugar plays a major part. Tea with sugar before fasting gives energy to be able to stand these very hot days and still be able to function. People started praying seriously for Sheikh.


The Imam of Darubjusambala signing the receipt of sugar, rice and Qurbani

Then, 2 days later, Sheikh passed away. To be in a country like The Gambia in such a moment was a blessing, because here people pray out of their deepest heart, which is what is needed when someone you love goes on to the next dimension. In homes and mosques all over the country, people were reciting Surat Ya Sin. Because of the intensity of the amount of projects that had to be checked on in the two weeks we were there, there was no time to retreat and go into a reclusive mourning. My first message from Sheikh was to get on with the responsibilities I had been given. We managed to distribute 4650 kg of sugar and 2000 kg of rice.


We distributed 11 Qurbani, which were done in different Mosques and fed the poor there after they had done heartfelt prayers for Sheikh.


Tanji Mosque:

 Our curiosity was at it's height when we went to see the earth block mosque under construction in Tanji. We were not disappointed and knew we had made the right choice. The Imam was beaming with gratitude and amazement at how this blessed and beautiful mosque was developing in front of his very eyes. After all, they had been praying for 5 years to get a mosque which would accommodate the people of this village. The earth blocks had created a cool interior, which with its natural material on the outside, just majestically blends into the earth.    

The Mosque in Tanji, almost ready 

The Dome from the inside

The Mosque from the inside


Yundum Mosque:

Having the assurance that Alpha was definitely up for the job, we confidently went to try find a place for the next mosque. Word had spread and people came forward taking us through the deepest bush telling us that they really need a mosque urgently. Only to find that they already had one slightly smaller, which they were more than willing to pull down just to get a new smart one.

The days went by and still no suitable place was found. With the amanat of building one more, we got in touch with Imam Bah, with whom we have been working together with the schools for the last 14 years. He is the representative of the Tijani Tariqat based in Kaolack, Senegal, founded by the great Saint Ebrima Nyass and is the most respected Sufi Master in The Gambia. With undesirable forms of Islam spreading everywhere, now also in Africa, it gave a sense of protection knowing that he could be involved.

We phoned him and he came the next day to the hotel, just a few minutes after we found out that Sheikh Nazim had passed away. He made a Dua for Sheikh from the depth of his heart. As this new reality of Sheikh being in a different dimension had to be accepted, this Dua helped bridge this connection and it was beautiful when he at the end of the Dua said, “He is my Sheikh too!”

Earthblocks being prepared for the Mosque          

Making a Dua with Imam Bah for the new Mosque

Two days later he took us to a piece of land in Yundum, where there is a new settlement with hundreds of people and no mosque within 2 square miles. It became clear that this was just the right place. Sheikh Nazim announced a few years back that we are now Rabbanis, not Naqshbandis, which at the time was not directly obvious to me what it meant. Now, with the time of Mehdi a s coming ever closer, when all Tariqats will join, this project is most suitable. The Mosque is being sponsored by a family which belong to the Qadri Tariqat. The Naqshbandi Tariqat are building it and the Tijani Tariqat will be running it! What could be a more suitable co operation as a Rabbani Umbrella preparing for Mehdi a s?



Darubjusambala I:

The new well in this remote area was ready: next to the mosque, which is also being used as a school. The Elders and the Imam welcomed us beaming with gratitude. But something had gone seriously wrong: without consulting they had moved the location of the well a bit further away from the mosque. Just 50 meters, with the explanation that it was now close to the Imam's house, meaning that it is easier for the Imam to keep an eye on it and to open and close the lid every morning and evening. When doing this, they had not remembered the rule that a well has to be at least 25 meters away from any toilet, so that the water does not get contaminated. This one was now 19 meters away... We only had one choice: to close down the toilet at once and build a new one a bit further away. With water levels in this part of the country being no deeper than 25-30 meters, it is impossible to take that kind of risk.

New Well at Darubjusambala


Darubjusambala II:

Having established a good relationship with the people of Darubjusambala, and witnessing how very scarce water is there, we decide to build the next well there. A mile down the road is another small mosque and no water nearby. We said some prayers and everyone involved promise to build it exactly where we have agreed.

Place for the next well in Darubjusambala

New Yundum V:  

5th well in New Yundum ....

The fifth well with a pump in New Yundum was ready and the inhabitants were deeply grateful, especially the ladies, who usually are the ones who have to go long distances to fetch water.

A very good container was built to catch the overflowing water, prevent wastage and be available for animals to drink. This well is right next to the road on which cows, sheep and goats are taken from one place to the next for grazing.

.... with perfect drinking place for animals


Kombo Kerawan II:

For the next 2 wells with a pump the village of Kombo Kerawan was chosen, where we have previously built a well. The first place chosen this time is next to a mosque. But it had to be carefully considered where to put it, as the area has huge baobao trees with enormous roots. 

Agreeing on new place for the next well in Kombo Kerawan


...huge Baobao trees to be considered...

Kombo Kerawan III:

Further down the road are more new settlements without water. Mr Ngum makes arrangements with the inhabitants that they will house and feed the well digger and also of their responsibility of afterwards maintaining the well.

yet another possible place for a new well





The side of the school which had collapsed in the last rainy season had been fully repaired. A new plinth had been added around the whole building to strengthen the foundation and to prevent something like this from happening again.

But yet again a big test was waiting for us... We had given the job of making new uniforms for the whole school to a specialised uniform factory belonging to the President. At first I wasn't too keen to take this job away from small local tailors, but the main reason this factory was chosen, was because it used 100% cotton materials, which is hard to find for uniforms these days in The Gambia.


sucessful repairs and a new plinth around the school 

Also, I optimistically thought it would be so professional that for once it would be hassle-free... It was the opposite! The factory had gone bust, no one dared tell the President and for us the result was that we had paid for all the uniforms (something I would never ever had done with anyone else, but naively I thought the president's factory could be trusted implicitly...) So there we were, 120 uniforms paid for and nothing to show for it. After hours of negotiations we came up with a fantastic solution: the manager, who was deeply embarrassed by all of this, agreed to take us to the factory and give us the equivalent in materials. So in the end, no loss!



The school in Tanji has from the start had the problem of too small windows, which makes it difficult to get a breeze and have more air circulating. Now that we have a professional builder like Alpha, we decide to have bigger windows made. When we visited it was just time for noon prayers, so all the students assembled in the courtyard to pray.

Noon prayers in the school yard


too small windows in Tanji School...




GNPC Project:

Every week groups from the GNPC are trained in learning how to repair wheelchairs, thereby also getting other skills like welding and hopefully one day get jobs which will take them off the street and not be in need of begging anymore. The trainers were very happy with the development of the project and said that dozens of disabled people were taking part.

teaching how to repair wheelchairs
discussing the progress of the project


Joof's House:

There had been a few teething problems with the rebuild of Joof's house. Babilon is a very difficult place to access, so it had taken many week's longer to get going than originally planned. When we arrived, the foundation had been laid and the earth blocks made. Just 2 weeks later the building had risen up a meter and a half up to window level. Ebrima Joof had tears of joy seeing what a good quality building he was now getting, after all that time of patience.

foundation laid
two weeks later: built up to window level!


Stationery/Computer Repair Shop:

Ebrima Colley had lost his little stationery/computer shop to some ruthless developers. He didn't give up, but within a short time found a huge metal container which will now be turned into a new shop. And the good news is that this new shop will be exactly on the same street, just across the road, so he can keep his old customers. Any initiative by a disabled person in The Gambia to set up a business of their own, is worth supporting, especially in the case of Ebrima, whose old shop really was a success.


An old metal container: his new shop!