The Gambia is one of the nicest places in Africa to spend time in as a career break volunteer. Volunteering in Gambia allows you to experience the 'real' Africa: the noise, the drums, the heat, the dust and, best of all, the friendly village people. All of this is just a short distance away from the rolling surf of the Atlantic, where the water temperature is a pleasant 28Â°C. Career breaks in Gambia provide the perfect opportunity to volunteer in Africa and experience the continent in safe and happy surroundings.
The Gambia is a small country in West Africa. Apart from a small Atlantic seaboard, it is entirely surrounded by Senegal. The geography of the country is dominated by the Gambia river basin and floodplain, beyond which lies savannah and low hills. Volunteers wanting to work or teach in Gambia should be aware that the climate is tropical, so there is a hot rainy season (June to November) and a cooler dry season (November to May).
As a volunteer in Gambia you will join the small number of foreigners in a country which is made up of five major ethnic groups and several minor ones. The Mandinka make up approximately 40% of the population, the Fula 19%, the Wolof 15%, the Jola 10% and the Serahule 9%. Although these are represented in each of the Gambia’s six administrative divisions, they are concentrated in particular areas.
Mandinkas are the majority in the western half of the country, Wolofs predominate in the capital, Banjul, Fulas and Serahules are largely concentrated in the east around McCarthy Island and the Upper River Division, and Jolas populate the Western Division. The minor ethnic groups are the Serer, Aku and Manjago. As you can see, the Gambia is a diverse country and an exciting destination for a career break abroad.
MondoChallenge has been operating volunteer programmes in the Gambia since 2001, and we offer opportunities to teach English in Africa and help NGOs and HIV/AIDS sufferers through business development projects.
Volunteers teaching in Gambia can help to provide education at rural schools, which have limited resources. Our business development programme involves working with the National Beekeepers Association of The Gambia (NBAG), providing training and support in marketing, finance and project management. More recently career break volunteers have begun to assist the Allatentu Support Kafoo (ASK), which is a group that helps people living with HIV and AIDS. Volunteer work on this project can contribute to women’s empowerment and community development in the region.
Although The Gambia is Africa's smallest mainland nation, volunteers travelling to work and teach in Gambia find that it offers landscapes and attractions of great diversity. The scenery can range from broad, sandy beaches on the Atlantic to lush tropical forests, swamps, marshes and large areas of wooded savannah. The towns and markets are also fascinating, and it is worth spending some of your career break in Gambia in Banjul, where you can immerse yourself in local customs and culture.
The Gambia is home to some fascinating wildlife and there are some fantastic bird-watching opportunities in the region. Even if you don’t think of yourself as much of a ‘twitcher’, it is highly recommended that you take time out from your voluntary project to visit one of the many nature reserves with a local guide.
Trips up the river are another good way to relax, although they can be expensive if you organise them with a tour operator. Gambia’s growing popularity as a tourist destination means that there are some wonderful lodges around the country although, again, these can be quite expensive. The Lamin Lodge near Lamin village is a popular place for volunteers in Gambia to relax, have a nice lunch and organise boat trips. Prices vary between 800 Dalasis to 3000 Dalasis depending on the boat size and length of time for the trip.
While most visits to volunteer in Gambia are trouble-free, we recommend referring to the FCO website for the most up to date information and travel advice. Although The Gambia is considered one of the safest countries in West Africa, career break volunteers have experienced petty theft, pick pocketing, and home break-ins in the past.
Whether you are volunteer teaching or assisting in business and community development, you should always take certain precautions to minimize the potential for being a target of crime. You can reduce your risk by avoiding situations that make you feel uncomfortable and by dressing modestly. Remember that crime in smaller villages or towns is less frequent than in large cities. In smaller communities, people know one another and generally will not steal from their neighbours. This means that volunteers working and teaching in Africa are likely to be safest in their host communities.
Pick pocketing and bag snatching most frequently occur in congested areas such as marketplaces, beaches, bus terminals and ferry crossings. Being aware of your surroundings and projecting a confident attitude can reduce your chances of becoming a victim of petty theft. While working on a volunteer project abroad, you should make sure that you hide money and valuables in inaccessible places, avoid displaying large amounts of money, and walk with a companion or take a taxi at night.
You can also use the menu at the top left of this page to navigate projects in this country.