A Wimbledon charity raised a record sum for the Gambian school it supports at its annual fundraiser earlier this month.
Giving and Gratitude in The Gambia held the family-focused Party in the Park event in Nonsuch Park on Sunday July 16, and raised £690, the most in its four-year history.
Make-up artist Becca Gray founded the charity – which also donates children’s clothing to the school and organises sponsorship – in February 2013, after visiting the Bijilo nursery school where her friend Marianne Cresdee volunteers.
Becca said: “I took my daughter out to visit when she was in Year Four and we helped in the school.
“When I got back I decided I wanted to do something to help and set up the charity.
“So far we have sponsored more than 50 children so they can go to school and our money pays for their uniform and school supplies, everything they need.
“I burst into tears when I met some of the girls at the school, just because they have nothing.
“£50 to sponsor a child for a year can do so much for them, it’s mad.
“A teacher gets paid a pound a day – you can imagine how far the money we raised goes.”
Some of the money from this year’s fundraiser will go toward painting two classrooms, as well as the upkeep of the building, educational supplies, end of term reports and wages.
To date, Giving and Gratitude in The Gambia has raised £2,500 for the nursery school and Becca added that collecting and sending old clothes helps the children here to understand how little the children in The Gambia have.
“We see photos of the kids wearing the clothes, so it’s really good for our children to see,” she said.
Marianne volunteers as a teacher at the nursery, spending half her year there and the second half in Wimbledon – to avoid the rampant mosquitoes during the west African country’s monsoon season.
She used to work as a counsellor, helping people with drug addictions, and has been based in Wimbledon for the past 30 years, where her grandparents were also from.
Marianne said: “My late partner and I used to go to The Gambia twice a year for a holiday. We loved the people, they’re so happy, contented.”
She is the only overseas member of staff at the school and teaches the children, aged between three and seven-years-old, to speak English and count to a hundred.
She added: “I feel very privileged they have taken me in and treat me as one of their own.
“The children are so happy but they don’t have anything.
“We’re always laughing, we never stop laughing at school.”
The school, run by headteacher Baboucarr Jobe, takes between 260 and 280 children each year but does not receive government funding and children have to pay to attend.
Marianne said many families cannot afford it and leave after just one term, but Giving and Gratitude in The Gambia helps by sponsoring children and shared one moving example.
She said: “A pupil’s head was critically burnt in a house fire and he desperately needed medical attention.
“There is a medical clinic opposite the school but if you need treatment, you have to pay for it.
“The money we had saved the boy’s life.”
Those who attended the fundraiser enjoyed a tug of war, tarot card readings, Reiki, face painting, a raffle and a cake sale.
Becca said the charity is a family effort, with her mum and close friends helping out, and she intends to continue the charity’s success with future events, such as a Halloween party.
To get involved with Giving and Gratitude in The Gambia, contact Becca Gray on [email protected] or 07932 541 838.