Dubliners: Meeting Lucan man Paul, who recently returned from Gambia

by Padraig Conlon

In our new series, Dubliners, we tell the stories from people from all walks of life who call this city their home. This week, we chat to Lucan man Paul, who recently visited The Gambia.

“Having moved to Dublin from Laois at the tender age of three, I’ve enjoyed the luxuries of living in the suburbs of a capital city in a fully developed country all my life.

With my culchie life far behind me, I’ve been a Dub ever since, and today I call Lucan home.

Although I’ve travelled a lot, I’d never visited a country that was considerably underdeveloped, but when the prospect of volunteering in Africa presented itself I immediately jumped at the opportunity.

Along with five friends, I recently returned from a week in Madina Salam, The Gambia, set hours of travelling away from Gambia’s capital.

The Gambia last year was ranked the 12th poorest country in the world with a life expectancy of 61 years.

It’s one of the few countries on the planet that has actually gotten poorer in the past ten years, surviving on only a very small tourist trade and its peanut production.

I remember when I was in school, the emphasis that was placed on looking presentable in school uniform, and I was amazed at how children in The Gambia likewise take pride in their uniform.

It was their one good outfit, and they kept it in impeccable condition.

Once home, they changed into their home clothes, which can only be described as rags, while the uniform gets washed and dried for the next day.

Aware of how limited their clothing is, this year we volunteers chose to bring football tops/jerseys with us.

A jersey is a highly desirable item of clothing in The Gambia, so thanks to the generosity of Clonee United FC, and many other clubs across the country, along with countless individuals, we collected more than 400 tops – a massive 140kgs worth, so it was a good thing we travelled light as we had no room for our own things!

The tops were very well received; it was fantastic to see the pleasure they got from them, and all thanks to everyone who donated.

We stayed in the compound of WYCE, a charity supporting the school and clinic. By Irish standards, the accommodation was “rough”: cold showers, no lights, a few spiders and even a toad for company one night, but by their standards, it was 5-star.

The compound highlights things we take for granted on an everyday basis, and I was grateful to be able to turn on the lights while having a warm shower on our return back home to Dublin.

The first time we left the charity compound, I was amazed at the stark contrast at the busy nature of everyone back home compared to the local community.

We were constantly greeted by a friendly “Hello”, “How are you?”, asked what our name was, and even the question “Minto?”, meaning ‘Where are you going?’ by young kids, teenagers and adults alike.

We spent a day painting the local school and another day fixing tables, hanging blackboards, and other odd jobs.

Having seen the school’s capacity challenges, we decided while out there to fund the building of a new classroom – a cost of €6,000.

The people of Madina Salam are starting to know where Dublin and Ireland is, and they really will when we build their classroom.

If any reader would like to help us reach that classroom target, we’d be delighted if they’d check our charity fundraiser account here.

  • What’s your story? Do you have an interesting connection to Dublin and why you call it home? Please email your story to news@dublingazette.com.

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