A biography | My life as one big adventure by Zainab Janneh
Zainab Janneh, eleven, lives in Leeds, UK with her mum, dad and three sisters. She was born in 2009 to Ebrima Janneh (EB) and Kaddy Jabang both naturalised British citizens from the West African nation of The Gambia.
As the world was gripped with various forms of lockdown to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus, businesses and schools were closed down and many movements were curtailed with a view to suppressing the virus.
Zainab was challenged by her mum to utilise her time at home during the schools closure and write a “biography”. Several days later, Zainab produced a moving and emotional twenty pages story of her life and that of her family in the Yorkshire city of Leeds, United Kingdom, paying tributes to her brave father who is currently recovering from Lymphoma (a type of blood cancer), and her mother who gave up her job to care for the family because of her father’s illness.
In the “biography”, Zainab writes about her family, friends, her hobbies, her religion, books she likes, the Coronavirus, the environment and what she would like to become when she grows up, among other things.
Zainab is now dedicating her write-up to raising funds for Kombo Sillah Association, a UK based charitable organisation which her two parents helped set up two decades ago. She aims to raise £1000 for Kombo Sillah Association to help vulnerable members of the association who are impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic.
Here is a short video from Zainab Janneh
Below we reproduced verbatim “ My life as one big adventure” by Zainab Janneh.
My life as one big adventure
Hi. My name is Zainab. I am 11 years old. I was born in 2009. I live with my mum, dad and 3 sisters. My sisters names are Mai Muna, Folonko and Tida and my mum and dad’s names are Kaddy Jabang and Ebrima Janneh. We are a family of black African Muslims living in Leeds. I go to St. Matthews C of E Primary School and I’m currently in year 6. I have a lot of family members (I mean a lot)mostly on my mum’s side. I am a very sensitive person especially this year.
The reason for this is CORONAVIRUS!!! It is all over the world now and it spreads very quickly. For the past few weeks we haven’t been outside of our house and we can’t see our friends but we can cope for now. I have been told I am very smart and bright by people that know me. I know I don’t have a lot of confidence, (I know that for a fact) even though people have told me the opposite. One of the hardest things I’ve had to deal with is my dad having cancer it was horrible and heartbreaking. I love him too much to see him going through so much and I couldn’t help.
CORONAVIRUS is all people talk about these days. It first started on the 31st of December. Ever since then it has been spreading and now we are on lockdown. At first I thought it wasn’t a big deal but as more people died from it I realised that it was very a big deal. Panic buying has affected us because we can only by 2 of one item and we have to buy enough food (with the little money we have) to feed 6 people. Due to the virus, all schools have closed down. Because I am in year 6, I was supposed to do my SATS but they have been cancelled and it’s the same with the GCSE’s.The worst part is I don’t have a phone to call my friends. It has made me very emotional because so many people are getting sick. The virus has affected me because I can’t see my family and I really miss them. Also, we have to be extremely careful not to contract it and give it to my dad because he is recovering from cancer. We also have to wash our hands more than we used to do. Although it has affected us badly, there is a good side to staying at home. We have spent more time together and we got to know each other betteras a family.
We can’t go to school anymore but we still study. I was upset when I was told I wasn’t doing SATS because I prepared for it since year 3. I am still worried I won’t see my friends anymore because I am in year 6. I don’t know if we will go back to school anytime soon. All of our last year fun at school has been cancelled. I started school
in reception and since then I have loved school. It is so fun because I have lots of friends and good teachers. I have a lot of friends.
Nia and Pamela are my best friends. We have been friends since we started school. My other friends are really nice to me. Like Bethany, she always invites me to her birthday parties and she is really nice. Enaya and Priya are really funny. Emily is very bubbly. Lulu and lily are really crazy. Elissa is fun to be with.Jessica laughs a lot and is very caring. Lucy loves drama and is really fun. Ellie and Lileya are very quiet around people, but once you get to know them they are very loud. Jayden, Makai and Marley are cool. Dajun is funny. George L is kind and there are lots more. If we don’t go back to school before September then we will be going to high school. I’m excitedbut sad because I didn’t get into the high school I wanted to go to.
I wanted to go to Abbey Grange Academy (my big sister goes there) because it’s a good school. They put me in Leeds City Academy, (none of my friendsgoing there) so we are appealing for Abbey Grange Academy. When we found out what school I was going to, I cried a lot and when the teachers found out, they were surprised because they also thought I was bright enough to going to Abbey Grange. I get quite embarrassed when people asked “what school are you going to?” but it made me proud to know that the teachers cared.
My dad is amazing. He is originally from a place in Africa called Gunjur the Gambia where he did his primary, secondary and college. He came to England in 1999 to study further and he studied Education and Community study at under graduate level. Then he got two Master Degrees. One was for International Business and the other one was for International Trade and Finance. He met my mum in 2000 and they married in 2001.While he was studying, he worked as a security guard to sponsor his studies. Soon after his graduation, he went back to Gambia and worked with a company called Qcell as a manager.
After a while, in 2013 when I was only 4, my mother took my sister and me to live with him for 6 months. At first we loved it, as we had a big house and a big garden and our own car and all our extended families keep coming around to visit. We even had a maid who helped with cleaning the house. But then we had to come back to England because we found it hard to fit in. Although our cousins came round to play, we missed our home and our friends back in Leeds. We go on holiday there every year.
In July 2017 we went on holiday to visit but unfortunately my dad got ill and we had to return only for him to be diagnosed with Lymphoma (which is a type of blood cancer) which was heartbreaking. He had 6 sets of chemotherapy and then a bone marrow transplant, it changed our life forever. I would cry when he had to go to hospital for 3 months, 6 weeks or sometimes few days. But I know we had to be strong for him, my Dad was really ill, but now he is much better and doing his exercises, reading his books, feeling happy and helping us with our homework.
I know it was hard for him but he was brave for taking the challenge. He made the whole experience far less stressful for all of us. He loves political conversations with his friend uncle LD, and now a days I can hear him saying to his friend “so this is the thing” this reduced my worry about his health. The reason I love my dad, is because he is fun and caring. When we hurt ourselves he always helps and saw us so much empathy. He is also very brave because after all he’s been through, even on his bad days; he has always been there for us.
Just like my dad, my mum was born in Gambia but in a different town called Tujereng. She also did her primary and secondary in Gambia. When she moved to England for further education, she studied BA business management at Leeds MET and MBA. During her studies, my mum worked part time as an interpreter at courts to sponsor herself. She also works at Tesco and soon ended up as the front end team leader. She worked there for a long time. I liked her working there because, she would always bring back shopping after work and we would stop studying to hug her and search through the bags to see if there was anything we liked.
In 2017 she had to give up her job due to my father’s illness. She had to look after us more than ever before. She did the hospital runswith my dad, school runs and mosque runs for us and still has to cook and clean while we were at school. She would still try and make us happy, so she would take us to town every Saturday and buy us things like new clothes, etc. She is amazing. She is my superhero. She is a black independent woman who is very good with managing with the little we have.
My mum goes to the gym a lot to distress and have fun. Even with all she was going through, my mum still helps people. She does lots of fund raising to help people in need with different charities; she is a trustee of one charity call Kombo Sillah Association. When we go to parties, she won’t enjoy herself because she is too busy making sure everyone else is enjoying the party. My mum loves people; she has so many friends from all around the world, black, white, Asian. She is very popular and lots of people know her in the African community in Leeds. I love her so much because she helps me when I am upsetand has helped my family in so many different ways and has dedicated her life for us. She is a very good Muslim. She is my inspiration and when I grow up, I want to be like her because then I know I will do well in life. She is funny and always makes me laugh with her dances and the way she acts.
Tida is my big sister. She can be fun sometimes and she can be annoying or mean but I still love her. She can be very boring. We didn’t get along much before but now I think we are pretty close. She is a very good cook. I love eating her food. My mum always tries to compete with her in cooking. When she is angry, she is very moody and can get very mean, but when she is happy she is so fun to be with, my mum said it is because she is a teenager. Tida makes me laugh a lot. When she is getting told of, she always starts laughing which makes me laugh too, so I end up having a tell off too. She also makes lots of different jokes which make my whole family laugh (including my cousins). She was born in 2004, so she is 15 now.
Next year she will be doing her GCSE’s and when she is finished, she said she wants go to 6 form, then she wants to study to be a dentist at university. I am really going to miss her when she leaves because when I am upset she is always there for me, and when someone is being rude to me she will always stick up for me. She sometimes calls me an alien and that I am from Mars. The reason I love her is because on the outside she is really tough, but on the inside, she has so much love in her heart.
She is my little sister. She is a very crazy girl in a good way. She always tries to impress people intently which can be funny but can also get her into a lot of trouble some times. She can be very cheeky, which always puts her in trouble. Although she can be a pain in the backside, she is a very caring person. When we go out and she sees a homeless person she always wants to give them money. She also likes helping people which I think is very sweet.
She is 7 years old. She was born in 2012. I love her because, she is fun and crazy. She can be very embarrassing some times, especially in front of my friends. One of the worst things about her is that she sucks her thumb. We always tell her to stop but she doesn’t. At parties it is really embarrassing because, children younger than her come up to me and ask “why does she suck her thumb” which can be funny, sometimes. One of the funniest things she has ever done is at Nando’s, she did a crazy dance in front of a little girl and shouted “Nandos!” This made the little girl scream and run away. Although we fight for everything including singing each other’s songs, she is fun to be around with, most of the times.
Maimuna is the last born. She is cute but very demanding. She is very attached to my dad. She always shouts,”DADDY, DADDY, DADDY!!!” She is 3 years old. She was born in October 2016. She is very adventurous. I think she likes singing because she is always singing to herself. Mai Muna doesn’t like sleeping. In the night she always gets out of bed and wakes everyone up. When my dad was in hospital, my auntie would look after Maimuna. My auntie Missel also had a baby girl.
They were only two months apart and soon the two became best friends and have been ever since. Her best friend’s name is Nyima. She is as wild as my other sister Folonko. They love spending time together and love making mischief. One of the naughtiest things they ever did together was, after my birthday party they took one of my presents (the biggest present) and ruined it. Maimuna loves three things. Those are, the colour pink and Mickey Mouse and three little pigs. She is a very sweet girl and that’s why I love her.
My family and I are Muslims. We pray five times a day. We don’t eat pig or drink Alcohol. I love being a Muslim because, I get to learn to read the Qur’an, I get to fast at Ramadan and I get to learn about prophets and the qualities of a good Muslim. At school, when we are learning about Islam, people always want my help and I feel proud to be a Muslim. Ramadan is coming up and I plan to fast all 30 days this year because it will make me proud, my family proud and my teachers proud. I love being a Muslim because I want to have a pure heart, help humanity and when I die, I want to go to heaven. My mum is an amazing Muslim. I want to be like her because she has a good heart and always giving and comforting needy people. I have now finished Qur’an and I am now memorising. Being a Muslim makes me happy, I feel like it gives me a path to follow in life, and I am proud to be one.
I love art. It is my favourite. It makes me happy and it lets me be creative. It lets me express myself and it brings me peace. At school, when we do art, everyone wants to see mine which make me feel special. I also enjoy singing, even though my sisters think I’m bad at it. I like learning new songs because it means I can learn new harmonies. I also like making up songs just so I can find a way to make it better. Gymnastics is one of my favourites.
I used to be in a group at school called Leopards but it didn’t work out. I used to do it every day, but then I stopped. After that I decided to start it again. And now I’m getting better at it. One more thing I do in my spare time, is dancing because it makes me feel free. It also lets me be myself. I love these things because I can do it when I like and while we are staying at home, it gives me something to do. I do sometimes give up hope when my sisters say I’m bad at it, but my mum always tells me not to give up hope and carry on with what I’m doing.
I find the environment very important and to find out that people are ruining it is really upsetting. At school, we do lots of work on how to save the environment and how it could affect us. We do a lot of recycling and I like taking something and using them to make something which is quite fun. Helping the environment makes me really happy because I want my generation to be clean and animals to have their habitats. Helping the environment will make us healthier. Some people don’t take global warming serious, but it is.
My family and I take it really serious. I learned my skills about saving the environment at an after school club called Global Gang. We would do assemblies’ telling the rest of the children how important it was to save the environment.There is a good side to corona virus and the environment because the more people staying inside, shops closing and fewer vehicles running, there are more improvements in air quality.
My favourite games are Paint by Number and Roblox. I also like Tic Tok, but not as much as the other two. Paint by number makes me relaxed and Roblox lets me join my friends. Tic Tok is fun because I get to watch different kinds of short videos. You can also make the videos. Tic Tok is very popular. Paint by Number is my favourite because I can colour any picture I want, and they have so much detail in them. In Roblox, you can do lots of different games. I mostly play one of the games which is called Adopt Me. You can buy eggs which hatch into pets. There are different eggs for different events. Like the type of eggs now are spring and Easter eggs. Also, you can add people as your friend and talk to them. I add my cousins who are all the way in Slough and London. I love all of these because when I play them I never want to stop. They are sooooooooooo fun.
My favourite food is... I have a lot of favourite foods. One of my favourite foods is chicken and chips because it is very nice to eat and I really enjoy it. Apparently, I am very greedy eater that is what my siblings and parents say (except my Dad). I like baking. I do it mostly on Sundays. I am still working on it because I am yet to make a perfect cake.
I also like to help my mum make food, so I can cook it too. My mum is a very good cook. She cooks delicious African food that I like a lot. My favourite African food is the chicken Yassa. My second favourite is the red Jollof rice. The time I like food the most is during Ramadan because we can’t eat for the whole day, so I love food at that time. I love this food combination I came up with not long ago. Its Nutella spread on rich tea biscuits. It’s delicious. I also love golden syrup because I love the sweet caramelized taste. It tastes so rich. I do love food, but who doesn’t.
My grandma lives in Gambia. She is so kind. She is on my mum’s side. She is the only grandparent I’ve seen, the rest are dead. Even though she lives in Gambia, she still comes to visit us in the UK. It takes a lot of work, even our MP had to intervene but we get her a visa so she came to England for 6 months to support us while our dad recover from the cancer. She brought us some fresh air, everyone loves her. She is so funny; when we are watching TV, she will fall asleep, but when we tell her “you are sleeping Mba” she always say that she is only closing her eye. It always makes us laugh.
The reason I love her is because she plays fun games with us and tells us stories. I really miss her. I hope that she stays inside during corona virus lockdown because she loves wondering around and I believe she might not take the massage seriously. She always makes me happy.
My aunties, uncles and cousins.
I have a lot of cousins, uncles and aunties mostly on my mum’s side. My mum has 4 brothers and 6 sisters which makes 11 children. My dad has 3 sisters, 4 half sisters and 2 half brothers. My favourite auntie is auntie Yama. She is amazing. When my mum worked, she would look after me. She has a baby girl called Zainab Bella. She is soo cute. I love auntie Yama because she is so nice to me. She is like a second mum to me. She takes us out and one time for my birthday she took me to Sheffield with my friend Alima Khan and we did soooo much shopping. I have known her since I was a little baby. She knows what I like and what I don’t like. My favourite uncle is uncle lamin in London. He is so funny and he makes me laugh so much. I can’t see him much because he is in London but I still love him.
My favourite book is Asha and the spirit bird, although I really love the dream snatcher by Abi Elphinstone. My two favourite authors are David Walliams and Abi Elphinstone. I love both authorsbecause when I start reading them, I never want to stop. I love reading because I can take the interesting words and use them in my own writing.
My dad loves reading; he can read for a long time. I also like reading the same book with my friends so we can discuss each chapter and things we don’t understand. Because we aren’t going to school, my dad wakes us up early in the morning (around 4am) for us to read our book. I am getting used to waking up early. I can finish a big book in about a week if I really concentrate on it. Because I love books so much I have a big shelf full of them. I have a lot of books. My dad has a lot in his room too but not as many as mine.
What I want to be when I grow up
When I grow up I want to be a politician because I will be able to help people and change the bad things to good. Politicians can also change the law so if there were any bad laws that favour just the minority, I would be able to fight to change it so the majority can benefit. I would love to be a politician because other ways to influence politics include public protests, signing petitions, or making your views known to the government by writing letters or attending meetings all of which i enjoy. I would also like to be a politician because right now there are no many womenin politics, so it would be amazing not only to add to the numbers, but to bring about real change. If I became a politician, I would work as much as I could to make the country a better place.
When I grow up to be a politician, I want to see a better world where wealth is shared fairly, where equal rights and opportunities for all means equal, where people can feel safe, where the planet is clean and healthy and animals have their habitats, where people are grateful for what we have and where young children have an opportunity to go to school and be the best they can.
Why I wrote this
My mum gave me this challenge to do a biography. She said it had to be 20 pages and I said that it was a lot. She said to just try. So I did. At first I just did it for the tablet she promised, but I found it quite fun. I did it in 3 days because when I woke up I would start and not stop until the evening. It was hard because sometimes I didn’t know what to write about and sometimes I just wanted to stop, but I got it done and now everyone can read it. I am very proud of myself for taking the challenge. I worked really hard on it and now I hope everyone really likes it. Thank you.
Editor’s note: This inspiring and moving piece of work by eleven year old Zainab Janneh is published to inspire young and talented children to take up writing to express their feelings.
Zainab has dedicated this writing to raise funds for Kombo Sillah Association to help vulnerable families negatively impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic. Please kindly help Zainab achieve her goal of raising £1000 for the association to use to support members who need support during this unprecedented times.