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Tina Mele: Sponsor, volunteer and explore

My Magazine 2022/04
11 min
Travel as a volunteer to The Gambia program is offering you a great opportunity for volunteering on your holidays! We believe travel can change lives simply by linking your passions of traveling and volunteering.

Tina Mele, a volunteer from the Kids Are The World organization (Društvo Za Otroke Sveta), is already very domesticated and independent in The Gambia like it is her homeland. She is an energetic and active woman, always ready to help and she carries that humorous spirit that makes everybody feel relaxed and inspired in her company. She is an explorer who never rests and her energy is contagious and she brings a lot of laughs.

She described her Gambian experience in a way that makes you feel like wanting to go on an adventure with her.

We hope to have her back again many times more.


I’m thinking about how I could briefly describe The Gambia to you, but I don’t think it can be described briefly. Unless I tell you to come and see for yourself.

I was now in The Gambia for the third time in a year and a half. Yeah, I know, you'll think it's because of love. No, I didn't fall in love with a man ... But with the country.

It all started when I decided to be a sponsor about three years ago. I started paying the sponsorship for school for a boy who comes from a very poor family and for him to afford to attend school at all, he needs extra help. And because as a sponsor I received pictures of my boy, I connected to him more and the desire to visit him was very great.

And then Corona came. Unfortunately, I lost my job, but luckily this was an opportunity to visit the Gambia. The first time I was here was in January 2021, the second time in September 2021 and the third time in March 2022.

The Kids are the World (Društvo Za Otroke Sveta) organization gladly invites sponsors to visit their Gambian children and offers some help in informing about flights, and accommodation and connecting the sponsors to come in groups if they don’t want to travel alone. Every sponsor has the opportunity to come and visit their child in The Gambia and also help in the kindergarten as a volunteer and help the children get extra active which also makes them very happy. I did both.

I worked in kindergarten every day from Monday to Friday. On the way to the kindergarten, I took public transport, which is a van that can accommodate up to 20 people, and then I walked for another 15 minutes. Working in the kindergarten is not hard and you can adapt quickly. Children learn English there so communication is not too difficult either.

Together we learned to get to know colours, letters and numbers. We were painting a lot, cutting, reading children's books and playing various games. The school also has its own garden, so we planted several types of vegetables there and watered it and we monitored the growth with joy. This is how they learn about how the food is grown. These kids really get anchored in your heart easily.

As a volunteer, I also distributed money to the parents of the sponsored children, which was transferred to them by Slovenian sponsors. I visited quite a few families for whom my fellow sponsors gave me money and bought them big bags of rice.

Everyone is very grateful here and even if they meet you on the way to kindergarten, they greet you nicely.

Volunteers spend their afternoons in their own way. You can go to the beach, learn to drum, dance, you can visit their craft market, where handicraftsmen sell their beautiful products, you can drink their tea Attaya with the locals, go on a trip and sightseeing, which is usually done for the weekends. You can also just chill on the beach and enjoy Whatever suits anybody … We are never bored with such a rich offer of activities like kayaking, visiting monkey park, crocodile pool, reptile farm, birdwatching, oyster gathering, monitoring baby turtles getting hatched, visiting Kankurang festivals, fairs, and ever-busy Serrekunda market where you can buy all the things made in The Gambia and bring them home with you and give them as exotic presents to you friends and family. All-natural Shea Butter and peanut butter, Moringa oil, Wonjo – Hibiscus, herbs, African pattern fabrics, wood art, woven baskets, paintings, colourful dresses and bags, and much, much more …

If you are thinking of visiting The Gambia, I really highly recommend it because really everyone is very nice and kind, everyone greets you "Hello. How are you?" And you are happy to reply, “I’m fine, how are you?”

I hope I convinced you at least a little to visit The Smiling Coast of Africa because I'm already thinking about when I'll be back.

Tina Mele

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