Note From The Director

Note From The Director



Our goals were lofty but achievable.  We wanted to provide 8th and 11th grade Gambian high school girls intensive English classes, vocational counseling, as well as leave them a physical symbol of their summer school experience.  We also wanted to expose our American volunteers to Gambian life and culture.  In the end, we had put in at least eighty-five hours of classroom time and twenty writing assignments. 



The first and last weeks of the ten week program we spent meeting with officials including  Secretary of State for Justice, Secretary of State for Education, the Permanent Secretary of Education, the Assistant Permanent Secretary of Education, the Region Two director of Education, the Principal of St. Peter’s Senior Secondary, the girls and their parents.  We also contracted masons to start the construction of the library we hoped to build in the village.



Having four teachers responsible for teaching 100 girls from Monday through Thursday for three hours a day was quite an undertaking.  However, by the end of each week, we were exhausted but exhilarated.  We grew to depend on each other and to understand that should any one of us be removed, everything would take a drastic turn.  We were, each one of us, simply irreplaceable.  We also learned to have certain things in place early on.  One, we set very high expectations.  The girls were to work hard, be self-directed, and manifest nobility, knowledge, courtesy, service, and independence in all they did.  We also expected them to be punctual and anyone who came more than five minutes late was sent home.  After two days, almost everyone was at least half an hour early! 



My favorite part of the program was watching the girls grow from shy and soft-spoken students to students who took charge of the program and spoke up for themselves at every step, clearly articulating their goals, values, and plans for their lives.  They took great pride not only in their self-worth and their work but also in what they could do to be of service to their communities.  They made bracelets for their female inspirations and planned the program to honor these women; they coordinated their scholarship award ceremony, the grand opening of their library, and radio and newspaper interviews where they impressed everyone.  They even went on to chart the course for where Starfish goes from here.  They have decided to institute a peer tutoring program, service projects in their neighborhoods, monthly meetings with their adult mentors, and service hours at the library.  What else could we have asked for?



I always believed that one could design and execute a top notch educational project with minimum resources.  For the most part, we carried our chairs under the trees and had classes in the open air.  Yet, by the end, our girls were more confident, understood the intricacies of effective goal-setting, felt empowered to make positive changes within themselves and their communities, and most importantly, saw themselves as worthy of the very best.   



I feel confident in summing up this summer experience as an unforgettable experience in what is possible when a few individuals, motivated by a vision and their talents, can gather momentum enough to transform their lives and the lives of everyone they come in contact with.  Thank you and enjoy the photos!



~Mam-Yassin Sarr

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