I recently returned from a trip to Gambia, West Africa. I didn't know much about the country before I arrived but have since have found out it used to be a British colony - which explains why a lot of people spoke English, amongst many other languages. I also learnt on my journey that approximately three quarters of the population live in extreme poverty - which is the reason I was there, as part of a charity.
I was tasked to shoot a 'day in the life of' video showcasing the amazing work conducted by a group of young Foster Mother's who collectively look after over 40 orphan children. They provide a safe, loving environment for these young children and help them to thrive, and have a fulfilled life, after being dealt a very rough hand. I was shooting on my Sony FS7, run and gun style, capturing two English Charity Workers offering their help and support.
The presenters took part in all the activities that the Foster Mum's do every day such as cleaning the floors, slicing bread for breakfast, sending them off to school, as well as the more enjoyable tasks of playing football in the courtyard and reading bedtime stories. The children aged from as young as 5 years old up to about 12.
What really surprised me was how respectful and kind all the children were to their mothers and each other. I didn't see any misbehaviour or nastiness during the entire day I was there. They found it particularly bizarre when I pasted on factor 50 sun cream as it was 32 degrees, I'm assuming they've never seen sun cream before.
We interviewed a handful of the youngsters who spoke of their best friends within the orphanage and how the mothers cared for them as though they were their own. They told us about their favourite subjects at school and the games they loved to take part in.
The boys were very competitive when it came to playing football (what young boys aren't) and the girls enjoyed singing and dancing. It seemed the donations from around the UK and the rest of the world were being spent very wisely and make a real difference to so many young lives. I've heard horror stories of aid money being taken by corrupt politicians and never reaching the people who need it most. This was certainly not the case for Gambia and the work of Penny Appeal.
Then it was a grueling 19hr trip back on various buses, trains, planes and cars stopping in Casablanca, and Paris, before heading back to Manchester. It was a truly humbling experience to see such happiness amongst young people that had so little in terms of material goods and it just goes to show the true power of friendship and love.