During a visit to the Trust’s projects in January 2019, Dee Bixley grabbed the opportunity to ask Ansumana Manjang, Clinical Director, Gambian Management Team & Officer in Charge, Jappineh Health Centre, about his work.
"I became interested in nursing and healthcare during my school years, from Primary through to Senior Secondary School. It was largely because I was a very active junior volunteer for the Gambia Red Cross Society. Our motto was:
I promise to serve God, President, and my Country and join with others all over the world to help the sick and suffering.
I was always saying this in my mind, I am Ansumana Manjang and I promise to serve the sick and suffering … I thought about it, talked about it, and I still do! That is why I became a nurse.
Through my Red Cross volunteering I attended numerous incidents. If there was a road traffic accident I would rush to help, or if someone was sick near our compound. If they had diarrhoea, I quickly mixed a drink solution. Whatever it was, I gave primary care and when necessary referred to the nearest facility.
As soon as my academic career finished, and achieving very good grades, I wrote a formal application to the School of Nursing. I was interviewed, shortlisted, then admitted for a 3-year nursing education. I should add that midwives in other parts of the world are mostly female but in Gambia there are male midwives too.
Although I have worked in other areas, I think my decision to return to my village, where I was born and where my whole family and community lives, has made a big difference. Every day I see that people appreciate it. I even thought about going to work abroad - some of my friends have done this and I’ve seen photos of their houses and cars. But why would I do that? What could be better than helping my own people?
Working with the African Oyster Trust is interesting and important. It is helping rural Gambians by bringing more knowledge and medical equipment, which is so needed in our community. We still need the Trust’s financial support, but we are working very hard towards the time when we can sustain our projects completely.
I now have a motor-bike and this means that attending emergencies is much easier. For example, this morning 10 kilometres away a woman delivered a baby but no placenta. They called my cell phone, I put the equipment in my rucksack, climbed on the motorbike, and delivered the placenta. It was fantastic! I was so pleased because without the motorbike she would have bled to death.
I have very little recreational time, I’m constantly on call. I might read a novel, but I’ll also update myself on the latest medical information.
The best aspect of my work is that I enjoy it."
Dee adds: "During our conversation a young man joined us, quietly sitting beside Ansumana, taking it all in. “Is this your successor?” I asked. “We continuously think about that process,” was Ansu’s discreet reply. “And now I must go – a woman is waiting to deliver.”"
Everyone at the African Oyster Trust would like to thank all of those who have helped make the last couple of months so successful for fundraising.
Big Give Christmas Challenge
First of all, we achieved our target of £4k - and then some! In fact we raised an epic total of £4,540 through the Big Give (including Gift Aid).
The funds raised will allow us to purchase all the items on our Wish List, namely a portable ultrasound machine and an X-ray machine, plus we can start to equip the new laboratory and pay for staff training.
This really will make a huge difference to the welfare of the local people in and around Jappineh.
Also last month, successful wine tasting tickled the taste buds and, with your donations, raised over £1,000.
Some fabulous wine descriptions, courtesy of our friend Matt from Majestic Wines who entertained guests: "To bring a pantomime theme to the proceedings, if Burgundy in France was Prince Charming, then Beaujolais would be seen as Widow Twanky."
Only one table managed a full-bodied SWEEP! But everyone had a good time as shown in the photos below.
Auction bids for extra colour and comedy!
The two signed prints by artist Perry Taylor together raised £106.50, while Christmas wreath sales added a further £75 and the meal voucher, kindly donated by The Falcon, Warmington, was sold for £50.
The last item, a book; 'Good Moaning France: Offcer Crabtree's Fronch Phrose Berk' went for £20.
The African Oyster Trust is once again taking part in the Big Give #ChristmasChallenge18. Our aim is to raise funds to equip a lab for Jappineh Village Health Centre which provides care for 30,000 people.
The Big Give, the UK’s biggest online match-funding campaign, starts at noon on 27th November until noon on 4th December. Any donations made during this period through www.theBigGive.org.uk will be DOUBLED. So a gift of £10 will become £20, or £50 will become £100, and so on.
The lab will help diagnose and treat malaria and other tropical illnesses, bringing relief to thousands. We are also looking to raise funds to buy a portable X-Ray machine and an Ultra Sound machine.
Why does the Gambia need our help?
Given the extreme poverty in The Gambia it is not uncommon for a small illness, even a splinter, to become infected and if not treated it can worsen and lead to an amputation. The situation with serious illnesses is much worse with patients facing long and expensive journeys to other towns for treatment.
Jappineh is in Jarra, Matsakonko region of Central Gambia. This is a heavily indebted, remote and poor area which relies mainly on subsistance farming. Gambia itself is an extremely poor country, rated 10th from the bottom in the human development index. Average incomes in this region are under £1 per day. Even the cost of travel to the nearest town's clinic is beyond the means of most of the local population.
The nearest large hospital from Jappineh was a good two hours away. The journey involved pot holed dirt tracks and a ferry crossing. There is only one major teaching hospital in the whole country which is approximately 5 hours away.
What impact is the charity having on health issues?
To address these needs the African Oyster Trust opened the Jappineh Health Centre, also known as the ‘Sir Howard Dalton Clinic’, in 2009. The medical centre is the only one serving a population of around 30,000 people from Jappineh and surrounding 20 smaller villages.
It now employs seven full-time members of medical staff, supported by the Trust, and treats about 700 patients every month. Having a health centre means ailments can be treated immediately, people do not need to decide between feeding their families or paying to travel to distant towns for healthcare.
Following the opening of the medical centre there has been a general improvement to Jappineh community health. There has been a measurable reduction in maternal and infant mortality, better survival and cure rates for malaria and other infectious tropical diseases, “the African Oyster Trust's work has transformed the welfare of people in the district and beyond,” says Chief Alhagie Dampha.
Having a well-stocked dispensary saves people buying costly drugs from a retail pharmacy.
It is often difficult securing skilled expertise to service the technical equipment and to find replacement parts for complex equipment such as centrifuge and solar fridge.
We routinely purchase lab equipment through the Department of State for Health Central Laboratory stores so that we can call upon their expertise and store of spare parts whenever required. We want to build on this healthcare success story.
Help us equip our new laboratory
One of the aims of this year’s Big Give campaign is to equip our newly built laboratory as well as providing ongoing consumables, parts and maintenance for equipment, and training for the lab staff. These facilities will ensure quick, cheap and accurate diagnosis - accessible to all the community.
By having a fully equipped laboratory on site, staffed by a trained lab technician, patients will no longer have to travel in order to have routine blood tests.
The onsite facilities will allow fast and accurate diagnosis of common tropical diseases leading to appropriate treatment and better survival rates.
Before, problems in childbirth often had fatal consequences, exacerbated by lengthy journeys in private vehicles or on donkey carts to get to the nearest medical help. We are delighted to report that the Jappineh Medical Centre is now delivering 20-30 babies every month, and as a result of the anti-natal care being offered, birth weights are above the Gambian average.
With the additional funds raised through the Big Give we plan to add a portable X-Ray machine and an Ultra Sound machine to the equipment already in the Health Centre so we can improve our medical care even further.
Please help us achieve our fundraising targets!
Make one donation with TWICE the impact!
Simply log on to the BIG GIVE website www.theBigGive.org.uk (or click the button below) between noon on 27th November and noon on 4th December. and look up the African Oyster Trust – Project ‘Equip a lab.’
You can raise funds for the African Oyster Trust at a fun evening of wine tasting with genuine and dubious wine connoisseurship!
Whose Wine Is It Anyway? takes place in Oxhill, Warwickshire on Friday 30th November 2018
Each table will present a wine by sharing prepared scripts with the whole room - one true and 2 false. Everyone votes to decide the most convincing description. Adjudicated by an expert from Majestic Wines.
The evening offers:
Plus other special lots to bid for – details to follow.
Tickets for the event are £15 each, or you can buy a table for 8 guests and bring your friends. Starting at 19:15 for 19:30 and running through to approx. 21:30, this special event will raise funds for the African Oyster Trust to equip a lab for Jappineh Village Health Centre in The Gambia
To book, contact Shirley Cherry on 01295 680793 or firstname.lastname@example.org
A message arrived via the African Oyster Trust website: “Hi, we are holding a Fun Day to support the African Oyster Trust at Barn Owl Day Nursery … how would you like to receive the proceeds?”
We quickly contacted the nursery; how had this happened? The manager said, “We have two enthusiastic staff members who wanted to do something for a charity and they liked your website.” Wow! They had trawled the net for suitable charities and ours came out tops!
Attending the event, we witnessed how much thought, planning and organisation had gone into the enterprise, with all sorts of activities for little ones, including hook a duck, tombola, hip-hop dancing, lots of scrummy things to eat and drink, and even exotic henna tattoos.
So, we say “Bravo and a Big Thank You!” to all at the Barn Owl Day Nursery, especially Sophie and Mercedes. We will ensure that the £313.77 you raised will be spent on the sort of thing girls and boys need and enjoy most.
There was much hooting, trilling and tweeting on Friday 3rd August at St. Mary’s Church, Tysoe, for the performance of ‘Musa and the Incredibirds Talent Show’.
An audience of more than 80 people were enchanted by the antics of a ballet dancing Flamingo, corps de ballet Stilts, tumbling Hooded Vultures, a magician Umbrella Bird, Performing Parakeets, Glossy Starling singers, and a Rapping Raven!
For the 28 young performers between the ages of 4 ½ and 11, and some older siblings and adults, this was the finale to a week-long workshop to bring the book ‘Musa and the Incredibirds Talent Show’ to life.
The book, written and illustrated by Shirley Cherry from Tysoe, is set in The Gambia and the workshop activities included mask making, learning about African birds, African stories, music and dance.
Earlier in the week there was a visit from Fir Tree Falconry which gave the children the chance to get up close and personal with a Harris Hawk, a Kestrel and two owls.
The children who participated had great fun. Joel Smith, aged 9, said “he liked the costumes and the falconry”, Eliza Gray, aged 8, “really liked the drama and the arts and crafts,” while Monty Atkinson, aged 4, enjoyed “making the masks and looking at the birds.”
The show finished with a dramatic twist in its tail feather. If you want to find out what happened, you will need to buy a copy of the book! You can email your order to: email@example.com
The Rev’d George Heighton said: “It was a terrific initiative and I’m delighted that the church was able to sponsor a workshop that enabled local children to have a creative start to their summer, and all for a good cause.”
The final performance raised more than £850 for the African Oyster Trust. Thank you, Incredibirds!
Friends and supporters of the The African Oyster Trust are warmly invited to join us at the 2018 Annual General Meeting on Sunday 2nd September at 3pm.
This year the AGM will be hosted by Liz and David Bailey, at Groves Mill, Shakers Lane, Long Itchington, Southam, Warwickshire CV47 9QB
As well as the main business of the meeting - including the presentation of accounts for year-ending 31st December 2017 - there will be plenty of time to catch up on news, and for Lady Kira Dalton to captivate us with the charms and challenges of The Gambia.
To help us with catering and arrangements, please do let us know in advance by either post or email by Monday 20th August if you are planning to attend: firstname.lastname@example.org or Old Fox Cottage, Heath End Road, Great Kingshill, Bucks HP15 6HS.
I first met Lady Kira when I was Head Teacher (2005-2013) at Faraba Banta Basic Cycle School. Her visit was during the 2011/12 academic year. I knew nothing about the African Oyster Trust then.
As an expert in nursery education, Kira escorted a Dutch couple who wanted to build a nursery school and needed a plot of land. We agreed to provide them with a portion of land belonging to our School.
Kira monitored the construction phase of the Big Tree Nursery, frequently visiting the site. During these visits, I got to know her and learned about the many activities of the Trust. I became further involved in 2014 when I returned from studying for my Masters’ Degree in Ghana. Kira asked me to become a member of her Gambian Management Team, based on my educational background and other relevant experience. My role is Education Director and Secretary of AOT-Gambian Management Team.
My full-time work now is at the Gambia Technical Training Institute, a tertiary institute with student enrolment of over two thousand. I am the Deputy Registrar/Human Resource Manager, responsible for all recruitment and selection procedures, plus the induction programmes of newly appointed personnel and liaison with Senior Management colleagues. I work Monday to Friday, 8am to 4pm.
In 2017, I was identified by the Institute to travel to China. However, the trip did not materialise - since I was disqualified on the premise that I was above the age limit! The opportunity of overseas travel might arise again as Gambia now has bilateral relations with many countries and remains on honeymoon terms with the world at large. However, I am also hoping that the AOT UK team might invite one member from the Gambian Management Team to visit UK in the future.
Some years ago, I had the opportunity to visit England, seeing many key places. I also attended an international conference, the theme of which was, “What is special about being British?” Several reasons were advanced, including the food, the culture, the language and even the dress code!
I was fascinated by the British Educational System and visited a few schools, including Woodfield Primary School in Plymouth, where I was introduced to their child-centred learning process. I met the Mayor of Plymouth and witnessed a tribunal when parents were denied their child because they were drunkards and would molest the child at home. I found the court procedures interesting and I was happy with the verdict.
I had good social interactions with my hosts and generally found UK people to my liking. My visit changed my view of the world greatly.
I live happily with my wife, mum, children and nieces. It is good to see my ageing mother every morning before I leave for work. She loves to be surrounded with her grandchildren and they keep her company every day.
My children all go to different schools. My first son is studying for a certificate in Electrical/ Electronics, and the second just completed Grade 12, in May 2018. My next child (a daughter) is in Grade 10 and Absatou and Ismaila are in Grades 1 and 4 respectively.
I really enjoy my engagement with the African Oyster Trust and when we have lunch with Kira as a team, these are great moments. One of my goals is to see that the good work done by the Trust is sustained for posterity. I am an avid believer in the principle of sustainability. Kira and the UK team have worked extremely hard to bring the AOT to its present status. We will endeavour to make sure that those efforts are maintained, whether Kira is here with us or not.
My major frustration is lack of time, due to the demands of my full-time work. However, I will continue to show my commitment to the Trust come rain or sunshine.
Kira is totally committed to her work and she’s a role model and mentor to us all. Her excellent interpersonal skills are a force to reckon with.
The activities of the Trust have greatly improved life in Jappineh and the whole Region. The health centre team led by Ansumana has been able to contain some of the prevalent diseases in the area, such as Malaria, and because of the expertise of his team and good availability of drugs few referrals to other facilities are necessary.
A poem dedicated to the African Oyster Trust:
Many thanks to the AOT;
Long live Kira and the entire AOT-UK team;
Long live Fanding and the entire AOT-Gambian team;
And Long live all the donors, who in one way or another
have contributed their resources to the charity.
All contributions, big or small, have made a difference
to the lives of the many deprived children, adults,
and elderly in this beloved country.
by Shirley Cherry, voluntary fundraiser
Scores of scones, dozens of dollops of jam, cream by the jug load and that’s before any mention of sandwiches and cakes. Ninety-four teas were served over two sittings at The Chapel, Oxhill, Warwickshire on Mothering Sunday 11th March. Plus, a great time was had by all!
Thanks to all the cake bakers, musicians, our fabulous face painter, our young Wonderland waiting staff, kitchen caterers and tea-cup washers-up; White Hyacinth Cake Design for the fabulous Mad Hatter Cake, Cotswold Marquees for loaning the tables, Rev Jill Tucker for the use of The Chapel, Clearway Promotions for sponsoring the print and everyone who helped to make the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party such a success.
It was all rather WONDERFUL and a great example of how a local community can pull together to support a good cause, albeit in a distant, faraway land like The Gambia. Between us we raised the fabulous total of £1,437 for the African Oyster Trust. Particular thanks go to St Mary’s Church Tysoe for its very generous £250 donation (offered as match funding).
The money raised will be used in the Gambia to support the work of the Trust. One of the first jobs will be to replace the roof of Jappineh Health Centre as the last one has been eaten by termites! The plan is for the director, Lady Kira Dalton, to give a talk in Tysoe about the latest projects when she returns to the UK during the Gambian rainy season. Watch this space for more details.
All of which just goes to show that a touch of MADNESS can pay! Once again thanks for all your generosity, time and efforts.
It was June 2017 when Tor Peebles contacted the African Oyster Trust with a proposal.
He and a couple of chums - Phil Caswell and Ben Dufley - were preparing to take part in a Trans-Saharan race from Europe to West Africa; an off-road endurance and navigational rally.
Searching online, they had singled out the African Oyster Trust to donate their K Reg Land Rover Discovery 1 (aka the Gentleman’s Express) at the end of the rally.
It all sounded a splendid idea. But when Kira realised that it wouldn’t be a left-hand drive vehicle (Gambia doesn’t permit the importing of right-hand drive cars) we thought: that’s that.
However, Tor, Phil and Ben made sure that the Trust would benefit anyway, with help from the donations of their friends and admirers, via Just Giving. Here are excerpts from the last days of their rally log.
27th January 2018
A short 300ish Km day but with a whole plethora of activities to complete. After staying north of the Gambia River overnight we first had to cross south. With the overnight stop so close to the ferry we were in no real rush to head off.
However, when we arrived at the small port we found a queue of about 15 vehicles. The ferry only takes four cars and with the queue consisting of vans and a couple of mid-size buses, we knew we’d be there for a while.
Local children were pestering us to buy them footballs and give them money and this soon started to wear thin. The problem, we deduced, is that the children do the begging and teenagers then take anything you give or buy them and sell it - keeping the profits for themselves.
This, we figured, has become very lucrative for the teens: professional begging! Since we arrived in Africa it has been a topic of debate in the car and what could be done locally to stop it, yet still allow a charitable vibe to persist. These children obviously aren’t starving and appear quite healthy. The mid-eighties fly-ridden pot-bellied version of Africa is no longer extant and as such the countries we passed through are thriving, in their own way but still thriving.
Mobile phones are a huge part of daily life, as without the landline infrastructure they jumped from no telephone to mobile phones. Coupled with the low-tech approach to life, solar panels are not uncommon even in the smaller villages and settlements we passed through. So, as we sat in the queue for the ferry we decided to try and effect change, nothing too huge but something easily sustainable.
Rather than just blindly give these little beggars what they wanted we would offer them a way of earning some money. As we had finished with the sandy and dusty areas, the car needed washing and a price was agreed of 200 Dalasis, the equivalent of around 4 Euros. To start them off I bought them a sponge and they set to work.
After a quick lesson the car was wet, and the boys asked us to buy some Omo, local detergent powder. I said if they wanted some they could get an advance payment to allow them to buy their own. Soon the car was covered in bubbles and being meticulously rinsed. A good standard was achieved and, happy with the job, I handed over the remaining 100 Dalasis, making a total profit to split between them of 190. A fair profit for half an hour’s work.
Our friends in car 60 also had theirs washed, allowing our budding monopoly holders to purchase their football and learn that this way they gained a lot more than simply begging. As we boarded the ferry the view behind us was of soap suds and smiles – already a good day by any measure.
We soon arrived at Jappineh, the location of a small medical facility supported by our charity, the African Oyster Trust. Once inside the walled compound we were given a guided tour, starting with the outpatients’ area, a small room with a single bed for the consultation of patients. Then into the (thankfully empty) inpatients ward, suitable for 8 patients at any one time.
Next, we visited the lab where samples could be checked against malaria and other ailments. A small stand-alone building has recently been erected as an isolation ward for sufferers of TB and a larger covered area with space to seat around 100 people and used for collective awareness classes.
During our visit, Tor was midway through a 3-hour nose bleed and whilst not life threatening, the male nurse offered to help, eventually stemming the flow.
Later in the day we headed for our overnight stop at Tendaba, another campsite with limited facilities but (increasingly important) a bar!
The view stretched along a freshwater beach with breath taking views along the tidal Gambia River. At low tide the mangrove bushes with their roots exposed looked like a scene from an Attenborough documentary.
Our penultimate day ends with everything we expected from this trip – wild African views, good friends, a campfire, and a few cheeky beers.
28th January 2018
Today we had a few hours tarmac drive to Banjul and the finish line. Excitement was high as we converged on Banjul, but first we needed lunch!
We met Kira Dalton of the African Oyster Trust for a fantastic carvery lunch at a local restaurant, Samba’s Kitchen. It was wonderful to meet her and hear in a bit more detail how the Trust is helping in Gambia. We learned that the money raised through Just Giving will make a real difference and could for example cover the salary of a teacher for a year.
The finish line was chaos and we crossed it with mixed feelings including relief, sadness, excitement… a hectic few hours followed congratulating our other rallyists. The awards ceremony was cracking and team 17, our British friends in the racing category, won a prize for the most sociable team of the rally. After this we retired to the bar to discuss the next trip.
We are hugely grateful for the support from all in helping to raise money for the African Oyster Trust, such a valuable and worthy cause. Our friends and family also deserve massive thanks – supporting, encouraging and tolerating what must have seemed like a lunatic obsession that has dragged on forever!
It has been an incredible journey – awe-inspiring and humbling. We have forged some great friendships and seen some unforgettable sights.
Lastly, I hope that perhaps we have demonstrated that if we can do it, so can anyone! And it’s Madness Not To! The next rally is in 2020…
A few more words about the African Oyster Trust from Tor Peebles:
“To reach The Gambia after thousands of kilometres driving across Africa evoked some good feelings. However, for us what really brought it all into context and made the experience unforgettable was the opportunity to meet some of the African Oyster Trust beneficiaries and understand a little about how the Trust operates, and the good work it does.
"We were delighted to be offered the opportunity to stop in at the Health Centre in Jappineh and meet the staff – a place full of promise; providing much needed basic healthcare, and with aspirations to expand the maternity ward and improve facilities further. Of course, this clinic is just one of the many places that receives support from the Trust.
"Meeting Kira the next day, we were heartened to hear how the Trust supports local projects and services that have a sustainable, long-term approach – ensuring any equipment / infrastructure / medicines etc. will be managed and looked after.
"Rarely do you get to see first hand the effects of such charitable causes, and it was a hugely positive experience. For us I think it reaffirmed the value of the great work that the African Oyster Trust is doing, and it was certainly humbling to see."
A huge thank you to Tor, Phil and Ben for their generous hearts and minds, and to all their supporters and fans who donated to the African Oyster Trust. We have received a very handsome cheque for £1,000.
The News Diary is a regular account of all that is happening at The African Oyster Trust. Please pop back for regular updates, follow us on Twitter or sign up for our RSS feed to have the latest news sent straight to your computer!
The news diary is written by a number of people close to the work of the African Oyster Trust, including founder James Holden, his co-directors, trustees and volunteers.