This month the Star of the month is Momodou Lamin Colley, born in the coastal fishing village Tanji which is undoubtedly the biggest and busiest fishing centre in The Gambia. He is a 26-years young Gambian who teaches at the Tanji Lower Basic School. He is working to fulfil his dream to help others: ‘My goal is to help the most vulnerable people in my village with the basic needs and to set up an official sponsoring programme for the children in my school’.
What drives Lamin? Lamin shares with you as Star of the month his vision, experiences and future plans for The Gambia.
I was born and raised in Tanji. My mum took care of me. She worked in a small garden. The harvest provided just enough money to pay my school fees. After school, I used to eat lunch and go straight to the garden to water the plants. As a small child, I always visited my neighbour. She was a kind and great woman. We talked a lot. One day she asked me if she could do anything to help me. I was really struggling to come to school. The transport fee was mostly too much for my mum. That is what I told her. My neighbour gave me a bike. I used the bike to go to school. I never missed a class after the day she gave me that bike. Maybe for my neighbour or for you, a bike is something small, but for me, it was a really huge thing. Without that support, I may become an early dropout.
I always wonder what I could do for my country. Straight after college, I started working as a teacher. I did not want to sit, relax and wait for better to come. I believe that something is disturbing our Gambians. We always want the government to do things for us. We, as the younger generation, should always think what we could do for ourselves to progress, not what others can do for us. I believe that if you start something for yourself, someone comes in and supports you. But it has to start from within, from YOU!
I was lucky to meet a Dutch man called Arjan Koopmans. I proudly call him my bonus dad. He is an entrepreneur and coach in The Netherlands. Since the day we met, he has always believed in me. He calls me a bright spark. He gives me the courage to do things I really want to do. He shares his life experience with me, and I share mine. If I need advice, I can always call or text him. This is what makes me feel strong to do what I do to help my country. The time I started working as a teacher, I always wanted to teach at Tanji. I asked around and talked a lot. It never happened. He was the one who helped me to meet the right people to get me a job at the school in my hometown Tanji.
The time I started working for the school in Tanji. I saw the conditions; they were extremely poor. I felt terrible. I was thinking to myself: There must be a way to improve the school. How can I stand for the school? I linked my school with a Facebook page called: Lamin Koopmans. I want people from the outside world to feel close to my school and our daily program. Through my Facebook page, people start helping me to improve the school and especially the children in the school. I collected many banana boxes full of clothes or other stuff, also people sent me money to buy the essentials for the children’s education. This all started in 2017. Today twelve children are in the sponsoring program: they have people who pay for their school needs. Alongside that program, many other under privilege children got extra support through the help of my Facebook friends.
I always want to move forward, to help and do more for my community. Arjan Koopmans introduced me to Wilbert Sluiter. They both helped me a lot. Without them, I would not be where I am right now. Wilbert and Arjan together even helped me to register a Foundation. It has always been my dream to have my own foundation. I believe that a registered foundation can help me to raise more funds and make a bigger impact in my community. The registration of the foundation is almost done. I am so excited to tell you about this. It still feels like a dream to me. I am not sure if I am ready. Sometimes it is really overwhelming to me. My foundation will be called: Jamorai Gambia Foundation. Jamorai is a Jola word which means: ‘Coming together to work for a common goal’. When I get overwhelmed, I always think about the road I have already walked and the people that have helped me come so far. That helps me to believe that the future through Jamorai Gambia Foundation will enlighten a lot of children's lives.
Because I know where I came from and the way I have been struggling to get where I am now. I want to share my experience with the children in my school. I always tell them to follow what they love to do in life. My father taught me the most valuable life lesson: Plan in the night for the day ahead. I do what I love and make a plan for it. I have a vision: I want to make a difference for the children in my community.
The children I am teaching are really intelligent. They all have their own talents. They are able to uplift our country. They can be the missing part in the puzzle to development. Sadly, we are dealing with a syndrome affecting our girls in The Gambia. Parents send their girls for early marriage and then they become early dropouts. I know I am not in the place to force parents to let their children finish their education. I have to use another tool to make sure the girls of the younger generation will finish their education. My goal is to find enough sponsors for long periods to make sure that the girls of under privilege families in my community can stay in school. This is a big goal. Every day is a step. I always say: ‘One pen, one pencil, one book and one chalk can massively change the entire world’
I believe there must be more focus on school being shown throughout the world. The education system lacks exposure to the outside world: daily news, modern technology and what is going on in the world. Education should not stop between the four corners of the classroom. It must go beyond! Outside the classroom, you can learn more and different things. As a teacher, we need to create a suitable environment inside and outside class to showcase the children's talents. Sometimes a child is not good in one subject but is good in another. How do you help that child? You listen to them, help them find their talents and give them the space to develop their own unique talents. That's why education has to go beyond the classroom.
I started a pencil project with a Dutch school to expose the children more to the outside world. The children from my school write letters to the children in the Dutch school. Everybody gets a pencil friend. They can write about everything. This project exposes the children to the outside world. What is happening in their pencil friend’s life? I see a positive effect on the daily life of my children through this pencil project. They are always looking forward to hearing from or writing to their pencil friend. I am more eager to connect my school with other international schools around the world. How can we help to expose our children in a positive and uplifting way to the outside world? Let us come together for this common goal and work together towards an education beyond the classroom.
Do you want to follow me in my mission? Do you want to help or sponsor a child? Or do you want to become a pencil friend? Follow and contact me through my Facebook page Lamin Koopmans or visit my website: www.lamingambia.com. I can’t wait to talk with you and make this world a better place for all our children.