Long live the African Oyster Trust! Meet Fanding Manjang, General Manager of AoT's Gambian Management Team
When and how did you first meet Lady Kira Dalton and get involved with the African Oyster Trust?
I met Kira at the Atlantic Hotel when she visited The Gambia in 2000. I worked as a tourist taxi driver and was hired to drive Kira and her friends to several destinations, to do with her first ongoing project, the renovation of Niumi Lamin Lower Basic School, on the North Bank.
Five years later the idea of the charity was born. I started the construction of a nursery school on land within my own compound, and Kira helped with completing the school.
We developed a special interest in building nursery schools. I think I gave Kira confidence that we could work together to achieve her goals and she asked me where she should start building.
When Kira visited my own village, Jappineh, it was with the intention of starting a project there. On her way from Sambel Kunda, a village in the Central River Region, she came to Jappineh. I had informed the entire village of her intention to visit and she was given a tumultuous welcome.
I am very satisfied working with Kira on the Trust’s numerous projects. She provides the funds to buy materials for the construction work. I sometimes sub-contract people to do the labour at the schools or health centre but in other instances I do it. I also act as the foreman at each site. I’m ready for any challenge the Trust gives me!
What do you most admire about Kira?
Kira is a hard-working lady. She is committed, sympathetic, loving and caring towards humankind, and generous too. She uses resources only for the projects as dictated by the donors’ wishes. She devotes three quarters of her time to the Trust. I started out as a volunteer before I was paid a salary - all due to Kira’s motivation and encouragement.
What might displease Kira?
Kira Dalton is a lady of principle who has respect for time. She dislikes people who are not committed and gets cross with anyone who fails to complete an assignment within a stipulated time!
Do you enjoy meeting the Trust’s supporters from the UK when they visit?
Yes, I really enjoy meeting supporters of the Trust. I am pleased and proud to take guests around to see for themselves our projects in The Gambia.
How much does Gambia’s weather affect your work?
I cannot embark on the painting of schools, for example, during the rainy season - the only time this can be done will be in the dry season. Sometimes it rains when I have already mixed cement and sand to commence work!
Has your standing in the community changed, with this important role you play?
My community has changed now towards me. At first, the villagers in Jappineh viewed me as a difficult person - they envied me for working with the UK people.
With time, that attitude has changed. My community is more positive towards me now - they realise that what I was advocating was real, and has happened.
The health centre in Jappineh and all the nursery schools speak for themselves. Communities are benefiting immensely from these facilities, thanks to the efforts of the UK team of volunteers and all our supporters and well-wishers.
I am happy with the activities of the Trust, especially now that the staff are paid and well-motivated. Those difficult days many years ago, when our people were volunteers, have passed.
I never expected to become the Gambian manager of the African Oyster Trust and I am very thankful to Kira and the UK team. I am happy working for the good of my country, especially my village. I started as a taxi driver and have risen to the position of a manager, which is a great achievement for me. I am grateful because I didn’t get a formal (English) education but the faith bestowed upon me by the UK team gives me great confidence.
My connection with Kira and the Trust has changed my life. Long live the African Oyster Trust!
Fanding is married, with children. He was interviewed by Kemo Bah, Education Director & Secretary, Gambian Management Team
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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.