It took us a long time to finally post our last blog post about our time in the Gambia. Being back in the Netherlands and
continuing our studies, got us back in the daily busy rush. In this blog post we will talk you through our last three weeks in the
Gambia and finishing the last phase the Netherlands.
Last three weeks
As said in the last blog post, our last three weeks were all about documenting and teaching. We continued with the workshop on Presentation Girls Vocational School (PGVS) and at home we continued working on our formal report and finishing up the manual. Giving the workshop was simply amazing. At the beginning we soon realized that the level and speed of our classes was too high, so we made some adjustments while providing the workshops. Eventually, after familiarizing both the students and teachers possessed a positive attitude toward the workshop. The students really enjoyed the practical assignment as well. It allowed them to think critically and creatively about a potential business plan. They all worked very hard at making their own business plans. During the last day, the pitching day, all the students presented their business plans. We were very proud at the results of the students. It showed a lot can be achieved in seven lessons. The event was fun and educative. Several representatives of youth empowerment organizations gave a short speech about what their organizations entails. At the end of the event we handed over the sponsor money that we raised with your help to set up a microfinance system for the school!
As you all know, initially we were planning on spending the money on sewing machines for students we choose ourselves. Unfortunately there were no third year students present during our stay, furthermore the students we taught were not only tailoring, but also cookery and home-management students. This is why we have decided, together with the principal and our supervisor to allocate the money in a slightly different way. The money will be provided to four to six students of the class we have taught after they graduate at PGVS as a small starting capital to start a business. This will still involve tailoring students who will use if for for example sewing machines, but also cookery students that may want to use it for opening a restaurant. The students have to provide a comprehensive business plan. Subsequently the teacher and principal will review and decide upon the best and most sustainable business plan, and will award a micro-loan to this student. Besides the money we used for the workshop itself, we invested 900 euros in this microloan system of PGVS. We signed a contract with the principal that involved the rules we agreed upon. We are convinced that the money is used in the right way and we will keep in touch with the school to make sure it will all put in to practice properly. We hope that all of the sponsors can agree with us that this was the best way to invest our sponsored money.
Besides the workshop we also worked really hard on our formal report and our manual. We finished the manual after the pitching day, to make sure that all feedback from the practical experience of the workshop was included. Sadly because of this reason we were not able to hand a hard copy over ourselves to the schools we visited. Luckily our supervisor took this responsibility upon herself. We also included the manual as an appendix to our formal report, so all stakeholders have a digital version of it. Before finishing our formal report, we discussed the last draft with YEP-Gambia and the CEO of NAQAA, to make sure that their comments were still taken into account in the last version. After finishing the report we sent it by email to all the involved stakeholders and people that had shown their interest. We received a lot of positive feedback back and we hope that action will be taken upon our suggestions.
During the last three weeks we also took our time to say goodbye to the country. We were part of a family there and we made amazing friends that we are going to miss so much! We visited some places we still wanted to visit and during our last week project Domo joined us in our village. Sadly on the 29th of January the plane left, with us inside. Currently we are back in our cold, small country but surrounded by a lot of family and friends.
Back in the Netherlands
Back home, we continued working. Friday February 2nd we had our final presentation about our project. It was nice to see all the groups after three months and talk about all we had experienced. After the presentation we had until Monday to finish up our project plan and reflection on our feasibility report. This was somewhat stressful, but we managed to make the deadline. At 12am on Monday the fifth of February we handed in our project plan of 184 pages!!
We just received the grade for our final project plan. At the start of our meeting with Otto Kroesen, he complimented us on our work. After discussing the final project plan and our internship he rewarded us with an 8.5 as final grade! We are all really happy with this grade and even more amazing he added that the project plan could potentially be published if we turn it into an article. During this process he offered to guide us. This would be the first academic publication for all of us. We are very interested in looking into potentially publishing an article, and will soon sit down to discuss the possibilities.
In the section deliverables on the website you can read our formal report, manual and project plan (without appendixes). We hope that you can be just as proud of our achievements as we are! We look back at an amazing time in an amazing country surrounded by amazing people. This is an experience we will never forget and we have the Gambia to thank for it! Luckily the project is not done totally, you will hear more from us soon about maybe turning our project findings into a publishing worth article!
Lots of love,
The Mala Team