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: email@example.com 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.
By Kira Dalton
January - Eye Care
My January visit was mostly taken up by helping with our annual Eye Care Programme, again ably conducted by Bev Breakwell and her sister-in-law, Sue Steel, from Warwickshire. We sight-tested over 160 patients in 1½ days, as well as seeing another 60 or so patients at Faraba Banta School en route.
Everyone was examined by Bev, a qualified Optician, before Sue dispensed free second-hand spectacles, as required.
Working with us on both days was the Senior Eye Specialist from Soma Hospital, Ebrima Jadama. Those who needed cataract or other eye surgery were immediately examined and scheduled for surgery with him the following week.
For all concerned, it was an enormously productive and satisfying couple of days.
‘Drop the Cane and Chain Campaign’ goes from strength to strength
February is the month for purchasing our annual drug requirements for the Health Centre in Jappineh, at Banjul Pharmacy. This year we spent over 320,000 dalasis (around 5,000 GBP). I’m delighted to report that a full half of this figure was raised by the Health Centre’s own sales of medicine during the previous year.
Each year the staff aim to make the Health Centre more and more self-sufficient; their ultimate objective is a completely sustainable Centre, run by the community with no outside help.
Banjul Pharmacy didn’t have some items in stock so further boxes were purchased from the Malik and Value Pharmacy wholesale divisions – 72,000 dalasis worth.
All supplies are divided according to disease patterns and packed into cartons for collection each month. The rest are kept in an air-conditioned warehouse in Kotu. We took fifteen boxes in total, because supplies in Jappineh had run down following a busy few months.
While I drove us there, Fanding Manjang was organising everything in advance by phone. With us were two experienced psychiatric nurses from the Tanka Tanka Psychiatric Hospital, Fatoumatta Jallow and Yankuba Suwareh. They would do the 3-day training session for our Health Centre Staff and for the Marabout's people [marabouts are traditional healers whose treatment includes herbs, canes and chains].
The nurses had been carefully briefed by Dawda Samba, who heads up the mhLAP for Gambia (mental health Local Advocacy Programme) run by the World Health Organisation (WHO). Dawda had personally conducted both initial training sessions of the ‘Drop the Cane and Chain Campaign’ (see previous reports). He and Fatou had also been among the monthly outreach visitors who go to the Marabout’s hospital (Njie Kunda) to check on medication, diagnosis, and the on-going care of their mentally ill patients.
We left Brufut before 7am and managed to get to Jappineh just after 10am, to make the most of our time there. The plan was to conduct half a day’s training in English at the Health Centre and then to repeat a simplified version, in Mandinka local language, at the Marabout's establishment after lunch.
The photos here show the well-received sessions held at both locations, which are only some 500 meters apart. The highlight, for me, was the final session when both groups were brought together to discuss how best to prevent relapse and ensure good continuity of care when patients are discharged.
There is already close collaboration with the Marabout’s team. They routinely call the Health Centre staff to come and see new admissions on arrival, when they conduct physical examinations as well as suggesting what drugs to administer.
It has also been agreed that each patient will be given a record card detailing all their treatments (traditional and Western) and that the Health Centre staff will be notified when a patient is about to be discharged. This will ensure that the patients go home with sufficient medication, and that their family support will have been well-briefed. There is potential for follow-up home visits, and written records that can be shown to any other health facility they might need to visit in future.
Our mutually agreed objective is now to minimize relapses and reduce the need for re-admissions.
Major steps are being taken for mental health in this area of Gambia, as these smiles during training surely indicate.
By Dee Bixley
As UK Directors of the African Oyster Trust, one of the privileges for me and Steve Emery is gaining some understanding of how things are run in a small African country. Here’s a little of what we learned about Chiefdom.
There is a Chief at the head of every District within The Gambia. A District is a cluster of villages under one administrator: The Chief. In Jappineh Jarra Central (where many of the Trust’s projects are based) Alhagie Bakary Dampha has held this powerful role for many years.
We asked Kira Dalton to outline the role of a Chief and this is what she told us:
“A Chief spends a lot of time on official duties. Together with his Deputy, he oversees a team of Elders and they mediate in land disputes, family feuds, and other domestic situations. He presides over a Chief’s Court, attends numerous formal events, and is summoned to the capital, Banjul, for official functions.
“Chiefs are held in high esteem,” she continues. “They work with Alkalos (mayors) and local Imams, who lead Islamic worship services, provide community support and spiritual advice.
“As with any other male Muslim, a Chief is allowed up to four wives. However, as with most Gambian men, he is rarely seen in public with any of his wives. Males and females live almost entirely separate lives. Even when you invite a group of Gambians round for dinner or to a party, within minutes men and women are in separate areas talking only to others of the same sex. This happens however much we try to get them to mix!
“In a typical family compound the husband has his own room, and each wife has her own living quarters, which she shares with her children until they reach puberty. The wives become almost like sisters - sharing the chores ordered by the Senior Wife.”
Given this very different way of life, we are keen to know how the Chief relates to Kira. After all, she is an exceedingly capable white lady, who arrived in their midst and proceeded to transform the lives of many of his people.
“I would describe my relationship with the Chief as one of ‘healthy mutual respect’. Sometimes he jokes about me being an honorary Gambian citizen! I think the way he copes is by treating me as an honorary man. For example, at any gathering it is expected that I will eat with the men, firstKemo Bah, our Education Director, and Gambian Management Team Secretary, adds:
“Chiefs are important persons in their communities and they command profound respect from their subjects. Chiefs rarely retire; they are either dismissed, deposed, or they die in post.
“In the case of any disagreement, most of their subjects retreat with respect. Some years ago, challenging them would have been unthinkable but now a Chief’s authority can be seriously contested.
“His Excellency the President of the Republic, Sheikh Professor Dr. Alhaji Yahya A.J.J. Jammeh (the former President) dismissed many chiefs, replacing them without election.
“Chief Alhagie appreciates the numerous developments brought to the Jappineh area by Lady Kira Dalton and the African Oyster Trust. The Health Centre has helped to curb the menace of some diseases and patients come from far and wide for treatment. The Chief knows that such improvements in health have transformed the welfare of the people in the district and beyond. In schooling too, the charity’s intervention has brought excellent results, as seen in recent countrywide national examinations.”
Kemo finished by sending the Chief’s ‘… profound greetings to the UK management team’. We appreciate his thanks for our efforts; sometimes he even invites us to “E-x-t-e-n-d Your Efforts!”
It was our first morning in The Gambia, the week before Christmas. Lady Kira Dalton, a Trust Director, met us by reception at our hotel at Kombo Beach, as arranged. We’d heard about the African Oyster Trust via James Holden, a founder member, and were curious to learn more.
We bundled into Kira’s car, which had all the hallmarks of a local vehicle, covered with a liberal coating of dust. We drove through the streets of Banjul while Kira filled us in on the back story, about how the population has multiplied from 1.1 million to 1.8 million in the space of five years. We were told that 70% of the population is under 35, but of those 70% were unemployed. A fact exacerbated by the migration of many young people from the villages to the city seeking work. There were children everywhere.
We drove past the traffic lights (of which there are four sets in Gambia, although only a couple are working) along dusty roads. We shared the highway with donkeys and mules pulling carts, with mini buses crammed with locals, their roofs pled high with luggage. It was an assault on the senses.
Life is colourful and vibrant here. Bright fabrics are worn by the women, fashioned into graceful dresses and elaborate headdresses. Bustling street markets display produce in baskets, livestock and all manner of household utensils, furniture and firewood. While this colourful chaos may be interesting to see, the reality for people living here is that life is tough. It’s a case of survival for many.
Gambia is not a wealthy country. Far from it, about a third of the population lives in poverty; employment is scarce; people struggle to feed themselves; the government has questionable probity; the medical care must be paid for; education is limited. These economic forces drive many young Gambian men to seek a better future in Europe.
It is against this backdrop that the African Oyster Trust operates.
Stepping Stones Nursery
Kira drove us to Serrakunda, the Gambia’s biggest city, to visit the Stepping Stones nursery. On our arrival we were met by a sea of smiling faces. Stepping Stones is clearly a happy place to be. It boasts fresh water, purpose-built school rooms, a good play area, clean loos, and dedicated staff.
The children were very well behaved, sitting at their desks in the four classrooms, under the watchful eye of a member of staff. Class sizes are limited to thirty. This nursery education gives a great head-start in life and puts them at an advantage when they begin junior school where class sizes can be as large as 60 to 90 children per teacher. Not a great ratio for learning.
While they speak different Gambian dialects amongst themselves, at Stepping Stones these three and four-year-olds learn English. Colourful images of the alphabet decorate the walls. One young by was acting as prompter, pointing to the days of the week on the backboard and getting the rest of the class to repeat the days.
We handed out balloons to the younger children, while the older ones received pens. They were all very polite and said thank you.
The lesson stopped, and break started. Instantly we were surrounded by eager youngsters all trying to shake our hands. The classroom emptied, and the playground filled up. The boys at one end kicking a football around (football and the Premier League is like a religion in Africa) while the girls played skipping and gossiped at the other end.
Compare and contrast
After Stepping Stones, Kira took us to see a state-run nursery not far away where one of her teachers had been parachuted in to sort it out. This was in sharp contrast to the environment we had just come from. It was dirty, shabby and overrun with children. The classrooms were sorely in need of a coat of paint. The alphabet pictures were peeling off the walls.
But the new head was beginning to get the place in order. No mean feat when the class sizes were 60+ in a classroom designed for 30.
It made us appreciate how well the Stepping Stones model worked by comparison.
A humbling experience
Our visit to Stepping Stones took place just before the Christmas break. It was an education for us. It was also a joyous and at the same time humbling experience; humbling to see what had been achieved by the Trust and how this small group of individuals had taken it upon themselves to be a positive force for change against a backdrop of seemingly overwhelming odds.
Coming back to the UK and filling up my supermarket trolley with food for Christmas gave me a sense of guilt, to have so much compared to the little that the Gambians have to survive on. All credit to Kira and her team for their dedication and commitment to making a difference to these young lives.
We would urge everyone to make whatever contribution they feel they can to support them in their work and if you ever get the chance to go to The Gambia be sure to call in to the Stepping Stones nursery. Don’t forget to take some balloons and pens with you!
The introduction of an ambulance at the Jappineh Health Centre, based in the Lower River Region of Gambia, has been a hugely successful achievement for the Trust.
It was June 2011 when joyous villagers from miles around escorted the Mel 1 ambulance to its home at the Centre. Children stared in wonder and ladies with loudhailers chanted, “…once there was no ambulance and sick people went to hospital in donkey carts ...”. The day of the ambulance was now part of their oral history, to be handed down through the generations.
At the wheel, Chalo Dampha felt proud but slightly nervous. As the newly-appointed ambulance driver he would soon help to save lives. In fact it was sooner than expected because the celebrations were hardly over when Chalo and Mel 1 saved a life. (You can read all about it in our News Diary for June 2011. And a further story, involving a bush taxi that overturned carrying 22 people, in the July 2011 archive).
Chalo was trained by Riders for Health, an exceptional not-for-profit organization that maintains all The Gambia’s health service vehicles. At first, Riders were a little concerned about him - “Isn’t he a bit old?” The happy answer is that Chalo has been highly commended as one of the most careful ambulance drivers in the country. He ensures that the ambulance is regularly maintained and well-kept. And not surprisingly Riders for Health now select older drivers!
Lady Kira Dalton, the Trust’s lynchpin in Gambia, has often commented on how immaculately Chalo keeps the ambulance and was reminded of this recently. He had attended a particularly harrowing accident the previous night but first thing in the morning there he was giving the inside a thorough hose down.
Mel Bixley, who donated the ambulance, met Chalo in 2014 - a memorable occasion for them both.
Six-and-a-half years later, Chalo continues to love his job. He is always ready to serve the interests of the villagers, he answers calls quickly, and is totally committed to his duties.
Our thanks to Kemo Bah, Education Director & Secretary, Gambian Management Team, for his help with this News Diary contribution.
On your marks for The Big Give Christmas Challenge 2017!
We are very happy to announce that once again the African Oyster Trust has been selected to take part in the Big Give Christmas Challenge, when our online donations will be doubled!
This year we are concentrating on two projects in Jappineh: a new roof for the health centre, and new tables and benches for the nursery school. The roof promises to be a major task – the extreme West African weather conditions being an unavoidable factor of wear and tear. As to the nursery school - founded by Kira in 2007 - ten years later those tables and benches are (literally) on their last legs.
The Challenge goes live at midday on Tuesday 28th November and runs until midday on Tuesday 5th December. Donate during that week and your gift will be doubled with funds pledged by Lady Kira Dalton, and by our ‘charity champion’, the Coles-Medlock Foundation. The online donation target is £2,500.00.
Please join us in achieving our target and in that most pleasurable human experience: giving hope.
Remember: to double your donation you must make it via the secure Big Give donations page. Click here between the campaign dates to access our page:
Gift Aid your donation if you can - it will be worth vital additional money to the Trust.
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
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.