Our first month in The Gambia: a lot of new impressions, work and teambuilding!

The first month is already behind us. Time really does fly when one is having fun and busy! We needed time to get accustomed to the new environment, culture and the intense way of working together. After all the first impressions, we started off our project. To summarise, we gave an entrepreneurship workshop for students in a nearby skill centre and we interviewed various important organizations.

The first week was an introductory week to The Gambia and its culture. Barbara Somers, our supervisor, showed us the country and the culture and introduced us to the two schools with which we are to collaborate during our internship. It was a week full of new impressions and experiences: from eating with hands in a big bowl with rice (we are still getting used to eating rice every day!), being called Toubab by every kid to being driven in the hazardous traffic, everything was worth writing about. This first week was a gentle way of preparing us for the work to come in this new country.

And work, there was! 

The following two weeks and a half were spent on developing and delivering an entrepreneurship workshop tailored to the needs of the GambiaPartner Skill Training Center. During one week and a half, we walked twenty minutes to the main road where we then tried to try our luck in finding a bush taxi with some space left for three people. “Are you a teacher?” was always the question when we shouted “Driver please stop at the school”. Upon arrival at the school, we shook hands with the students who all came to the workshop with a big smile. We were amazed by the enthusiasm of the students and their willingness to learn! 

The group was composed of 20 people, 17 students coming from different skills like construction, plumbing, electrical and carpentry and 3 teachers. These teachers participated to the workshop because the school wanted them to learn how to teach entrepreneurship. The Skill Training Center wants to implement entrepreneurship lessons in its curriculum which does not treat it at this moment. In an interactive and more practical way the students had to set up their own imaginary business in order to learn how to write a business plan. This business plan was written based on the knowledge gained from the overarching topics management, marketing and finance which we taught the students during the different lessons. The students showed us a lot of creativity and passion in creating their own companies!

The workshop was formally ended with a ceremony in which the head principal and Norwegian CEO  awarded the certificate of participation to every student and teacher. The proudness of the students and teachers can be read on their faces on the pictures taken that day! 

The remainder of last week was focused on the information gathering from important organizations. We met and conducted interviews with institutions like YEP Gambia, NEDi and GIEPA which are key stakeholders in the entrepreneurship environment of The Gambia. The incubator program plan (a coaching program plan for youth who just graduated and want to start their own business) for the Central River Region (CRR), which is the end goal of our internship, can only be sustainable if these stakeholders also work hand in hand. To create collaboration, it must be known how and where each organization helps the development of entrepreneurship among the youth. 

Alongside all this, we visited many local entrepreneurs to see how they manage their business. The aim was to better understand the advantages and disadvantages of being an entrepreneur in The Gambia. For example, we went to local bakeries and lodge and garage owners, tailors and more. Despite of the difficulties some entrepreneurs face, they inspired us with their enthusiasm. They showed us why The Gambia is always called the smiling coast!

This first month in The Gambia was not only a month of new experiences and of hard work, but it was also a month in which we got to know each other. Somewhat isolated from home, in the first weeks, we had to adapt to each other’s habits and personalities. After all, we wake up together, eat together, work together, share experiences together and go sleep together. That is quite a difference from the more distant relationship we had in Delft. We however found a good synergy between the three of us and we are collaborating well together.

This blog about our first month stay in The Gambia, is written in Kuntaur. Yesterday, we have travelled to the CRR to continue the research for the incubator program plan. A whole knew experience: we have to walk farther to reach the main road on which the number of bush taxis is significantly smaller than in Tanji. Nevertheless, we will adapt to this new location in order to successfully continue our project. In the coming weeks, we will (and are already) working closely with the Armitage school, where we will also give an entrepreneurship workshop. We will meet local entrepreneurs and youth empowering organizations around Janjanbureh. 

The prologue of our adventures will be written in the next blog post. Stay tuned!