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In November 2014, the library in Makumbaya Lower Basic School gained its own sustainable power supply.

Newman University student Carl ‘Watty’ Brown tells us how…

What an incredible week! I don’t know how Mark Chidler manages to cram so much into our Gambia adventure. Every day brought a new challenge and an eye opening experience. Thanks again!

So, onto the project: On Friday 28th of November, we visited Makumbaya Lower Basic School to do a recce and work out what additional materials would be needed. Gary and I then went to buy them with tour guide Mohammad – who also doubles up as a fantastic purchaser (the best haggling skills I have seen).

After visiting three electrical hardware shops, we discovered that not only were the materials more readily available in The Gambia than they are in England, but also at a fraction of the cost. For example, a 12v light bulb which would have to be ordered, would take 5 days for delivery and would cost over £6 in England, was on the shelf in The Gambia for less than £1.

Installation of the solar equipment was fairly straight forward and without mishap (not a single breach of UK health and safety regulations….). It was really nice to see everyone’s enthusiasm to get involved, including staff and students of Makumbaya and colleagues of Newman, especially Eamon  who was Gary’s chief labourer and appeared to enjoy every second of it.

It was a humbling experience to see how well received the equipment turned out to be.

When Steve and I came up with the project, the initial idea was to deliver enough energy to power computers, lighting and enough sockets to replicate a typical classroom in the UK.

However, as we gathered an understanding of the limitations with solar equipment, we soon learned to hone in our ambitions and finally agreed to only install lighting and mobile phone charging points – something taken for granted by us all and yet something which could be considered a life changing resource for the recipients in Makumbaya. In fact, Alasanna Beyai – a college student who lives in Makumbaya – has now posted to the BFiG Facebook page expressing his delight at being able to study in hours of darkness.

I was further humbled following the installation, when Mr Sanyang (Head Teacher at Makumbaya Lower Basic School) brought out an inverter and plugged in a laptop – previously donated by Pete Kendrick of Kitwell Primary School – which worked perfectly. As a result, Mark kindly donated the funds to purchase an inverter for the school, allowing Mr Sanyang to keep his for personal use.

Gary, Eamon and I returned to the school on Tuesday morning before our flight home in order to extend the lighting outside the library. Upon entering the room, we were thrilled to notice that the charging points were being fully utilised to charge three mobile phones and also the laptop via use of the inverter.

 While there, we showed Mr Sanyang how to access the internet on the laptop by tethering it to a mobile phone. And so it turns out that by everyone putting their heads together and using their initiative, the initial aim of turning Makumbaya library into a multi-purpose room with lighting and computers has been realised. I look forward to hearing more stories about how the people of Makumbaya benefit from it.

All in all, a huge success! Thanks to everyone who played a part, especially Steve, the inspiration behind the project, to Gary, whose enthusiasm and expertise made it possible, and to Mark for organising it. Personally I am relieved and overjoyed to see all the hard work has paid off.

And here it is…the inaugural switch on of the new solar powered lights at Makumbaya Lower Basic School.

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