I'm off to London this afternoon, the first step on my way to The Gambia on Tuesday. My case is full of clothes for the kids, as ever, and a few odds and ends for other folk.
My love affair with The Gambia began eight years ago, when, because it was the only sunny holiday available, I found myself in West Africa in November to "soak up some rays". I had read of, and preached on, Third World poverty, but when it hits you on the face like a wet kipper, and you actually see and feel what it actually means, life can never quite be the same again.
One day I found myself outside a school in Serrekunda, the largest town in The Gambia, in a street which was constructed of hardwood, cardboard and corrugated iron, dust flying everywhere, with ten pupils and forty to fifty children trying to peer in to see what was being taught. London Corner, in Serrekunda, is the poorest area in one of the poorest towns in the world. The children outside couldn't pay for their education, and were therefore excluded. I started by paying the fees of two or three of them to attend. The rest is history.
It was like Topsy, it growed and growed, and within a year I had a fairly large number of people who wanted to buy into the concept of free education and a feeding programme for London Corner.
Today we have a beautiful school, attended by 90 of the poorest children in London Corner, and we provide free education, a free feeding programme and free health care for our children when they are sick. We employ eight or nine people from teachers to cooks to watchmen, and feed eight extended families as a result. I'm proud of the way that the people of Dumbarton and beyond have responded and have made this happen. We send out close to £1,200 every month to continue this work and the cash is closely monitored.
However, we have a problem. The landlord wants his building back and our agreement with him is due to end in January. He seems intransigent and I need face to face meetings with him to see if there is any compromise. We have spent thousands of pounds on his property and can't afford to begin again.
Is this the end of Dumbarton/London Corner Nursery School? Possibly. I need my blogging pals to pray hard that this week we can find a solution, and continue to provide free education to this area. I will do my best, but we don't have a lot to bargain with.
Today, Internet Cafes are more common than eight years ago! So maybe I can update you as the days go on!
Thank you for your prayers!