August 2011

We had heard from several families that they were struggling to find money for food. So with the help of workers from Southern Water we arranged for 15 families to receive a 20kg bag of rice. Which was very much needed and gratefully received. Should keep them going for at least a month.

22/09/2011 at 7:14 pm Leave a comment

January 2010

The Sun is nature’s prozac!

The Gambia seemed a million miles away during the snow fall that caused turmoil in the South of England but Diana & Saidou still managed to set off from Gatwick Airport on New Years day.

Children’s education in the Gambia had become the primary focus of The Big Smile Project over the last six months but aside from building a nursery school in Sukuta Village we managed to squeeze in a makeover of a twelve-bed children’s ward in Essau located in the North Bank Division of The Gambia. A second charity shop was opened in Tobokoto, our children’s clothing and toys distribution was still going strong and we were beginning to get the street-soccer project off the ground in Barra.

New Year, new challenges. Accompanied by Ebrahima Kanateh, journalist from the Daily Observer on the ferry from Banjul to Barra, the Big Smile team (all wearing their Big Smile T-Shirts) set off for the hospital in Essau to see what their fundraising work had produced.

Waiting at the hospital to greet us was the local M.P. Chernou Cham, the Alkalo (Head of the Village), The Chief of the villages and the Director of Hospital Services.

“Following the speeches and enthusiastic expressions of gratitude that make it all worthwhile, we began applying the finishing touches: each bed was adorned with a duvet, pillow and covers, a blanket, a visitors chair with a cushion and the crowning glory was a new mosquito net for each bed. We also opened up a box of toys which were also gratefully received by the children and thier parents.”  Diana Saine.

The Big Smile team then made a visit to the compound where Saidou’s family lives located in Barra. Saidou’s mother, Ida, made chicken Yassa and rice and the team then handed out more toys to the local children and neighbours.

Later that same day, the Big Smile Team delivered 15 laundry bags of children’s clothes to Kanuma Village. The clothes were sorted by age group and on arrival at the village, the team found over thirty children waiting in anticipation. The children were initially organised into lines according to their age but the crowd increased to such an extent it was difficult to maintain any order such was the need. The Big Smile Team handed out outfit after outfit, eventually clothing some 250 children.

The Big Smile Project would like to say a special thanks at this stage to Barbara Collis from Lancing who knitted over 30 children’s jumpers to keep them warm at night during the winter season.

Over forty Big Smile Shoeboxes were handed out to families during the 3 week stay which had been accumulated over approximately 2 months by supporters such as Christine Stanning, Joan Knight, Sheila Clements, Tinia Lewis, Joan Evison, Jude Mills, Elsie Woodman and Margerie Howey.

The Big Smile Nursery School builders were paid to have the first floor building work completed, leaving only the doors, windows, plastering, tiling and electrical work to be done. Some £3000 is still needed to be raised in order to complete the nursery school which will provide capacity for 100 children aged between three and seven.  If you would like to make a donation then please contact us now.

The Big Smile team rounded off their activities with a set of special deliveries to the youth of the Late Lamin Saine Football Academy. 24 pairs of football boots were provided following a cash donation from Michael Warr of the Lancing & Sompting LionsKopano FC donated 2 footballs, 1 football pump and 10 football shirts. Southern Water SPLASH donated 10 football shirts and ten pairs of football socks. Diana & Saidou then paid for 15 shin guards, 5 footballs, 20 pairs of shorts, 10 pairs of socks and 2 goalkeeping strips to complete the set.


  • Football kit donated by Inspire Leisure
  • A television and donation of clothes from Carol Bailey
  • Sharon Malone cleared out her wardrobe and donated LOADS of clothes!
  • George Parolalista, Group Director of George Alexander Group funded the cost of logo design work carried out by their head of Creative Division, Janusz Rust from My-Identity – lovely people to work with.
  • Dan, Jo, Poppy and Sonny Griffiths had a house clear-out and donated loads of videos and cuddly toys. Poppy is such a very brave girl to be without so many cuddlies. The children of the Gambia will love them all!
  • Mandy Dumbleton provided her regular monthly donation of clothing and useful items.

23/03/2010 at 9:08 pm Leave a comment

August – December 2009

Workshops NOT Talkshops!

August 2009

Diana and Saidou returned to the UK determined to raise funds to give the children’s ward a Big Smile makeover!  On the 23rd August the Big Smile held an African Night fundraising event at the Lions Hall in Lancing and managed to sell 50 tickets for the cultural show including Gambian drumming and dancing as well as Gambian cuisine.

The event raised £504 of which half went towards the building of The Big Smile nursery school and the other half went towards the makeover of the Essau Clinic’s children’s ward.  2 further car boot sales generated the rest of the funds needed to paint the Essau Clinic Children’s Ward and purchase new mosquito nets and visitors chairs as well as covering the cost for the shipping of the bedding.

“I count my coppers get them changed at the bank and buy stationery supplies.  I phone the airline and ask them for extra baggage allowance for free and they normally give me another 5kgs.  I also now send the parcels by sea freight because the usual 20kg extra luggage allowance just won’t cut it!” Diana Saine

September 2009

The Big Smile gain support services from the George Alexander Group and join the Nations Unity Campaign to facilitate the presence of The Gambia for the first time at the annual Homeless World Cup through their street soccer project in partnership with the Late Lamin Saine Football Academy supported by Mbanyick Njie the Permanent Secretary for Youth & Sports.  The ambition is to be recognised by The Homeless World Cup Foundation in time for the tournament in Rio de Janeiro 2010.

Saidou already knew the Group Director, George Parolalista from playing football for a Brighton-based ethnic unity team called Kopano FC which is run by Wayne James who originally introduced the Big Smile to George Alexander Group.  Saidou is a former international goalkeeper and a local hero in the Gambia, he has made it his goal to ensure The Gambia is represented at the Homeless World Cup every year.

The Big Smile team were now growing in numbers and two new members arranged to travel with Diana, Saidou, Tony and Sandy on their next trip scheduled for January 2010.  The new members were Yvonne Prosser, a sales professional working for Mars and a member of the Lancing & Sompting Lions Club and Carol Bailey, Yvonne’s best friend, who is assistant to the CEO of Inspire Leisure.

October 2009

Diana and Saidou were also approached by the father of a girl with congenital glycoma who had heard of The Big Smile project and the couple were able to influence the Lancing & Sompting Lions to underwrite the cost of the travel and accommodation in the UK which was paid for by the Chichester Lions Club.

George Alexander Group begin providing Diana and Saidou with opportunities to build their network across regional and international communities and start to map out Diana’s vision for the project in the future.

George facilitates the partnering and skills/resource sharing between The Big Smile Project and IT Skills 4 Rural Kenya, both causes begin meeting regularly and supporting each other’s aims, sharing contacts and resources.

November 2009

George Alexander Group introduce Diana & Saidou to the Global Voice campaign to establish a radio broadcast studio in The Gambia with an education outreach program for children and adults in basic learning, IT skills and media broadcasting.

Also in November, bedding provided by Bellerbys College in Brighton as well as toys and some basic medical equipment were shipped to the Essau Clinic.

December 2009

Jan Rust, head of the George Alexander Group Creative Division and Creative Director of Myidentity is appointed to create Big Smile brand identity.  The Group also helped Diana and Saidou purchase the web domain for Big Smile, created a blog site and The Big Smile facebook group to begin work on mapping out the history of the project.

The facebook group targets doers like Diana and people who proactively encourage the efforts The Big Smile Project are making.  Within the first 24hours of launching the group page, people such as Katryna Thomas Shell immediately got in touch to offer children’s clothes and toys.

Group Director, George Parolalista donated costs for the logo design as a Christmas present to the Big Smile.  He also registered the Big Smile Project with a Creative Industries funding scheme run by Brighton Business Forum.  He advised Diana to consider linking creative people and businesses from Brighton with the craftspeople from The Gambia by publishing their goods on a Big Smile Online Shop where they can post pictures and explain a little about who they are and how they make the products on display, thus empowering them to explore international markets with a little support from the city’s creative sector.

The Group also introduced The Big Smile Project to a global learning event run by the BCP and the URBACT Network of Social Enterprises. In attendance were international delegates from Social Enterprises from across Europe, local social enterprises, voluntary and community groups as well as public sector representatives and local and regional businesses.

The support from George Alexander Group has shown Diana how businesses and communities can work together for positive change as she was very much used to operating alone with her family and the Lions Club. Diana was able to gain fresh knowledge and meet lots of new contacts including The Body Shop’ s Head of Values & External Marketing who discussed the exciting possibility of funding the Big Smile Online Shop and the Big Smile Nursery School. 

By now news came in that the Hospital Ward was painted ready for the final touches which would be applied when Diana & Saidou returned to The Gambia with the Big Smile team in January 2010.

“The efforts of The Big Smile Project team just weren’t being tracked or recorded at all – very much unsung heroes.  We felt their work needed to be documented and communicated and it was clear to me that this small family mission had the potential to be a nationally recognised movement.  We are really impressed by people with a compulsion rather than just a desire to make something happen and Big Smile shows just what is possible when such people come together.” George Alexander Group Charity Division

03/02/2010 at 10:47 pm Leave a comment

January to June 2009

To Infinity & Beyond!

Diana and Saidou travelled to The Gambia with 40kgs of clothes, gifts, educational materials, cottons, threads and anything else they could fit into their luggage allowance!  They also shipped out over 60 children’s toys kindly donated by Donna Marshall and daughter Millie for the children of Barra.

The shoebox donations were building up nicely and with people donating : Soap, Deodorant, Flannels, Disposable Razors, Make up, Small Toys & Games, Books, Pencils, Pens, Felt Tips, Cotton T-Shirts, Baseball Caps, Plasters, Antiseptic Cream, Boiled Sweets (no chocolate please), Hair Clips/Slides/Bobbles, Underwear, Fashion Jewellery, Tooth Brushes and Toothpaste.

During their trip, Diana & Saidou distributed 10 shoe boxes to Hardem and his family in Brufut, Ansou from Serekunda, Alieu from Mayamba and Haddy & Fanna from Kanuma to name a few.

On their return to the UK, the couple continued to ship more and more items out to The Gambia virtually every month.  Plans to build a Big Smile shop were also beginning to take shape.

June 2009

Diana and Saidou facillitated the ‘twinning’ of Ardingly & Kebbles Lodge Tenants Association with the town of Barra in the North Bank division of The Gambia.  They met the chief and the head of the women’s association of Barra and the permanent secretary for youth and sports for The Gambia.

The Ardingly & Kebbles Lodge Tenants Association have now arranged to fund the repair of a water pump in Barra.

This was the first time Diana and Saidou had visited the Essau Clinic also located in the North Bank Division.  The couple felt the children’s ward in particular could do with a makeover as the bedding and moskito nets were just not up to the job.  Walls needed painting and visitors had no chairs so they tended to sit on the patient’s bed!

To be continued…

28/01/2010 at 8:52 pm Leave a comment


First up, best dressed!

A few car boot sales later, Diana returned to The Gambia in March to see the family and help Saidou apply for his VISA.  The documents came through in April and Saidou started work almost immediately with Brighton & Hove City Council where he has worked to this day without taking a day off sick, but even Saint Saidou couldn’t beat the snow!

The couple continued collecting all types of clothing they could get their hands on – everything from underwear and hats to jewellery and wellington boots!  It wasn’t just clothing they collected, there were cameras, calculators, makeup, mobile phones, hair toggles and even decorative trays and footballs!  Before they knew it, Diana and Saidou had accumulated a mountain of goods in the house they shared with their parents, Sandy and Tony.

In June 2008 Diana and Saidou travelled back out to the Standrard Chartered Orphanage in Kanifing and the Kaa Koli Kemo nursey school with funds to help with fees and supplies.

On their return – the couple saw a huge increase in the amount of gifts and donations being received with added support from the Lancing  & Sompting Lions (  Lions Clubs are an international network of men and women who work together to answer the needs that challenge communities across the world.

On the 7th August 2008, the very first Big Smile shipment was made to The Gambia using Redcoat Express.

Adama is now the manager of the BIG SMILE SHOP in Latrikunda Sabiji in Serekunda which is in Kombo St Mary’s in the South of The Gambia.

In 2008 however, Adama, who is a single parent mother of 3 children, would walk some 4 – 5 kilometers visiting each compound to sell the clothes and items shipped.  Adama, would do this 6 days per week and generate an income to support her family.  She proved to be a marketing whizz and originally asked for support to set up a market stall but Diana and Saidou decided to make plans to open a shop instead.

In December Big Smile received an extremely generous donation of around 60 children’s toys from Donna Marshall and her daughter Millie from Lancing.  Diana met Donna during a train journey to work and they became good friends after realising they both travelled on the same train to and from work for years!

Please join our Facebook Group!

28/01/2010 at 7:31 pm 2 comments


February 2007

Love Is…

“Got sun burn, food poisoning and nearly died from an anti-histamine overdose!” Diana Saine on her Valentines experience! Diana returned to The Gambia in February 2007 for 2 weeks to make sure she’d be there for Valentine’s Day and to celebrate Gambian Independence Day (18th Feb) with her fiancé. The Gambia gained independence from Great Britain in 1965 with 35 chiefs celebrating the end of 300 years of colonial rule alongside the Duke and Duchess of Kent.

Following a cultural history trip with Saidou to Dakar, capital of Senegal and the Senegalese island of Goree where Diana met his sister, Ramu, for the first time, they travelled back to The Gambia to hand over £300 to the Kaa Koli Kemo school in Sukuta on behalf of Diana’s mum, Sandy, who had raised the money through a series of car boot sales.

June 2007

Saidou and Diana were married on the 9th of June following a funny mix up with the dates. Having made travel arrangements with their families for a ceremony on the 10th, they discovered on the 8th that the registry could only marry them on the 9th… Diana’s parents arrived late evening on the 8th which for most people would be a total disaster but the couple just found it hilarious – GMT = Gambian Maybe Time!

Saidou followed Diana to the UK in October 2007 and was particularly curious to understand what a car boot sale was all about. Below is the family guide to raising funds through Car Boot Sales!


Car Boot Sales are a profitable way to de-clutter the house. The Big Smile Project is happy to support and advise anyone wishing to raise funds for The Gambia on how to get started.

If your house is full of unwanted trinkets, toys and toot and you want to see the money raised make a real impact on the people that we reach then a car boot sale could be a fun way to spend a Saturday morning! To find your local car boot sale event, go to your local newspaper or council.

Pack the night before! Put your items in boxes so you can quickly pack your car in the morning. Take a collapsible table (wallpaper pasting tables are the best) and ground sheets on which to lay the items; make sure this is last in the boot so when you get there you can get them out first. Look at the weather forecast the night before to help you prepare efficiently.

NEVER put prices on things, you’re likely to lower the prices as the day goes on anyway! Try to research the going rate for your stuff and set in your mind what the minimum amount you will accept is. It doesn’t make sense to turn up, have a wander and then set your stall out – arrive early and get the early birds!

If you are selling clothes, people strangely pay more money for them when they are displayed on a clothes rail than if stuffed in a box! Invest in a money belt! Keep your funds with you at all times.

There are professional car-booters that arrive early and they sell and buy, so be prepared for negotiation on your best items early on in the day and try not to let things go for too cheap.

Always move things around if some items aren’t selling – it makes other things more prominent and it also pays to try and match up items that may go together – like towels for example.

A useful tip is to create a sign stating EVERYTHING MUST GO! If you’d like some BIG SMILE point-of-sale material to display at your stall then please contact us on

Let everyone know how you get on by joining our Facebook Group

26/01/2010 at 9:26 pm Leave a comment

November 2006

Love Much!

Diana returned to The Gambia for another week, this time to spend more time with Saidou.  The love affair with The Gambia was now taking on a new dimension for her.

One of Saidou’s friends, Alieu, a local tailor from Mayamba in the North Bank Division of The Gambia had named his new born son after him.  Saidou was very keen to introduce Diana to his friends and family and armed with some ‘smellies’ for the ladies and some cash for gifts, Diana was also keen to make a good impression.

Saidou embodies everything about The Gambian people that Diana fell in love with, he had very little money with him on their journey to the North Bank but he didn’t think twice about handing it out to the beggars on the ferry.

“I could not believe how charitable he was, here was I sitting there holding my purse tight to my body, scared I would lose what I had despite having more at the hotel.  I asked him why he had given all his money away and Saidou said he was with me and he knew I had a good heart so he would be okay.  The beggar needed the money more than he did. Saint Saidou was born in my mind.”  Diana Saine.

On their way, Diana bought the new born a little outfit and also some oil and rice for Saidou’s family.  Later that evening she sat with Saidou’s family to eat what is now her favourite meal, Beef Domoda

After being introduced to most of the locals in the area, Diana and Saidou took a taxi to see Alieu’s baby son “little Saidou”.  Alieu and his wife Awa were very friendly and Saidou did the interpreting for Diana as they spoke mostly in Woolof.  They gave them the present for baby Saidou and ate fruit together.  On their way back Saidou and Diana popped in to see Saidou’s sister, Isatou, who was the house keeper at their villa in Kololi.  Isatou had also recently given birth to a beautiful baby girl.

Diana’s birthday is in November and ‘Saint Saidou’ organised a wonderful beach party for her with his friends and family.  It was to be a dream holiday for Diana – the icing on the cake came when Saidou proposed at their villa (Balmoral Apartments in Kololi) after saving Diana from a big spider!  A saint and a hero down on one knee… she said yes of course!

Join our Facebook Group and get involved!

04/01/2010 at 6:25 pm Leave a comment

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