For over a decade, the Aarschot schools Damian Institute (DIA) and Institute Sancta Maria (SMA) have been sending exchange students to Gambia. This project was given the inspiring name Africrack. Both in Belgium and in Gambia, Africrack and SawallaH are active in the same region, resulting in an intense collaboration between the two partners to this day.

The exchange program of Africrack aims to achieve three objectives:

1. Support for SawallaH Nursery and SawallaH Lower Basic School

During each trip to Gambia, the students from Aarschot assist with the maintenance and further development of the SawallaH schools, each contributing in their own field of expertise. For example, they create school furniture (benches, tables, cabinets…) and uniforms for the students. All of this is done in collaboration with students and teachers from the Little Trees Skills Training Centre.

2. Support for Little Trees Skills Training Center

The second objective involves further and intense collaboration with the Little Trees Skills Training Centre in Bakoteh. This school, founded by English scouts, offers Gambian teenagers a three-year vocational training program in carpentry, automotive mechanics, welding, electricity, fashion, office skills, among others. LTSTC, like many schools in Gambia, operates without government support.

Before their departure to Gambia, the exchange students send small electrical tools and hand tools to their partner school in Bakoteh. These tools are either purchased in Belgium or obtained through sponsorship. During their stay, Belgian students teach their Gambian colleagues how to use these tools. At the end of the exchange program, the tools are donated to the Little Trees Skills Training Centre. Before leaving Gambia, Africrack purchases a batch of raw materials for their Gambian partner: timber, metal, textiles, etc. With these materials, Gambian students can then create furniture, metalwork, or clothing. By selling these finished products, LTSTC generates much-needed additional income.

3. Life experience for the participating students

The trip is exclusively focused on students from vocational and technical education tracks. During the internship, Belgian students experience the real Africa. A visit to the pristine but impoverished Gambia is an eye-opener and a cultural shock for many participants. The less attractive aspects of the country, such as poverty and inadequate infrastructure, confront our youth with their own desire for luxury and comfort. This endeavour aims to make them more critical and tolerant in their approach to life.