Young people of Aasha visit the Smiling Coast of West Africa

“This journey has definitely had an impact on my life.”

Before the 2010 FIFA World Cup fever had began and more people became interested in the African continent, a group of young people of Aasha took the step of organising a life changing residential to visit the continent in person.

Three groups of youth from differing backgrounds got together in December 2009 to form a Committee and started researching and planning their residential experience.  Their aim was to inspire young people from different territorial backgrounds to be all they could be; to awaken a sense of belonging and purpose, and to feel part of a global community that works together to make a difference.

The group began identifying ideal locations and then researching into feasibility of travel, potential partner agencies that they could work with, developmental potential and risks associated until they chose the smiling coast of Africa: The Gambia.

The week long residential experience from 28th May- 5th of June 2010 brought the group together with a variety of wonderful and inspirational experiences which including:

Visit to the Gambian National Youth and Sports Councils

Set inside the National Stadium, the Youth Council and the Sports Council both hosted the visit of the Aasha Project.  Although they may not have the same level of technology, building infrastructure or presentation as some organisations in London, they had loads of dedication, warmth and vision for the youth of their country.  What impressed the Aasha Project most was the Councils’ determination to educate young people through values and to create a new generation of independent and responsible leaders. A tour of the stadium was also included as well as challenges to football game.

A friendly match with the Gambian Government

That challenge of a football match was taken up in earnest. The two state departments of Youth and Sports Council put together an all-star ‘Government Team’ that played the youth of Aasha in the heat of the Gambian sun.  The Aasha youngsters took control of the game from early on and scored the first goal to take the lead within ten minutes.  Unfortunately, it was all downhill from that point onwards!  The ‘Government Team’ played it careful defending aggressively.  As time elapsed, the heat had its effect on the western lungs of the Aasha team and one by one players had to be substituted as they ran flat out of energy.  In the end, the match ended 4-2 to Gambia but everyone was in high spirits.  Wait until they come to Tower Hamlets!

Visit of a grass-roots youth project in a rural village of The Gambia.

Save the Youth Action Group was set up by a former policeman who was affected by seeing people suffering from the effects of drugs, crime and poor circumstances.  He set up this project that now works with a huge number of young and old to support people and help them to change their world.  The Aasha Project was met with a beautiful display of cultural song and activities, welcoming them into the village.  It seemed as though the entire village had assembled to greet the visitors including young people, mothers and children as well as the elders.  One young person describes: “It was reality that poverty was around and no matter where you are it is not forgettable. Seeing their state of living made me feel immense level of gratefulness in my heart and mind…” A dialogue took place of sharing ideas and experiences. The young people of Tower Hamlets were then awarded an honorary citizenship of the village of Madiana by the village chief.  During their visit to the village they also toured a development site of a poultry farm.  One of the young people mentioned how the journey affected him: “I did not know the value of money until I came to Gambia. For example on the fourth day we went to a local school and there were about 30 students. The teacher told us that they pay 50 dalasi a month which is just over a pound! However, still the parents of those children can’t pay for some months.”

The Aasha Project will be developing partnership with Save the Youth Action Group amongst others so that a twinning process can take place that would provide even more inspirational experiences for LBTH residents but also support grass roots youth organisations in The Gambia.

Visit of a school for blind and visually impaired children

One of the highlights of the trip was the visit to an amazing institute that serves the blind and visually impaired children of Banjul.  The teaching is provided by blind teachers and the entire organisation is also managed by the blind.  It was truly a powerful experience for the young people as they came into contact with children who sang for them, played football and took them on a tour of the site even though they were not able to see.

Safari trip to Senegal

Ofcourse a trip to Africa would not be complete without a safari.  This journey took the project across the border to neighbouring Senegal.

Throughout the entire residential experience, one thing stood out for the entire team – the friendliness and hospitality of the Gambian people. One of the young people mentions that for him, they were one of “the most generous people I have come across in my life. They greet you with the biggest smile and you can see when they are talking to you they genuinely care. You also have the people that appreciate what they have which some of us take for granted in London.”

Members of the Osmani Trust management were also part of the residential experience, engaging in planning for the long-term and strategic development of the organisation.  They participated in distributing gifts to villagers and children.

The Aasha Project continues to provide young people with unmatchable experiences that are great for character and personal development.

Aasha would like to extend its gratitude to the National Youth Council and Sports Councils of The Gambia for hosting the project and arranging the football match.  It would also like to thank members of Save the Youth Action Group, Gambia Organisation for the visually impaired for providing the project with profound experiences and interactions with the special people of the Gambia.

Young people who went to Gambia trip wrote a case study of their trip. If you would like to read them, please click the header below.

Aasha Vs ‘The Gambian Government’ (Case Study)

The Value of Money (Case Study)

The Special People of Gambia (Case Study)

Save the Youth Action Group in Madiana Village (Case Study)

Shopping in Banjul (Case Study)

Journey to Senegal (Case Study)

For more information, please contact Muhammad Rabbani on muhammad.rabbani@osmanitrust.org or 020 7247 8080.

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