By Kira Dalton
During Gill and Jonathan Evan's visit to the newly built Stepping Stones Nursery School last March, we met with the Deputy Head of the adjoining large Kunkujang Keitayah Lower Basic School which gave us free land for building our nursery.
She expressed sincere gratitude to African Oyster Trust for the wonderful
gesture but, as usual, mentioned that they still had some further pressing needs - for a chicken! After much confusion, we realised that she meant a kitchen - having a suitable building is a prerequisite in order for the whole school to benefit from supplies of free rice from the World Feeding programme.
Before they left Gambia a few days later, Gill and Jonathan agreed to make a very generous donation to enable us to fulfill this dream.
The first requirement was for the school to have a good water supply, which took some time for them to organise. Another was to obtain a detailed plan to ensure that the building meets all of the WFP criteria, which took even longer!
Finally, with everything in place, we began building on the 1st of May and have every intention of having the work completed by mid June. That will allow time to get the cooking staff on board and rice supplies in place for September.
Gill and Jonathan's generosity will ensure that over 1,000 children are able to get a regular, nourishing cooked meal at lunchtime. And, as all of the WFP research shows, this will encourage parents to keep their children in school.
Written by Jonathan Evans OBE
Seeing really is believing!
My wife has been Company Secretary of the AOT for a few years now, and I have always been inspired by the reports I have heard and read – at second hand of course - of the projects the Trust is involved with in The Gambia.
But it was not until Gill and I spent a week in The Gambia in February that I
fully understood just what amazing and transformational work the AOT does!
We fell in love immediately with The Gambia, a beautiful country with a majestic river, spectacular wildlife (we saw 125 species of bird in a week!), in the midst of which 1½ million people live their lives.
Most Gambians we met seemed happy: welcoming, smiling faces greeted us wherever we went, and even the tourist-harassing bumsters” plied their trade with a grin (most of the time). But apart from a small and growing middle class, most Gambians live in poverty – on one scale The Gambia is the 176th poorest nation on Earth. This is poverty in material terms: there is only a primitive basic infrastructure – water, sanitation, power, transport – and limited health and education provision, especially for small children.
And this is where charities like the African Oyster Trust make such a difference. We visited three of the Trust’s nursery school projects, and indeed saw the new Stepping Stones nursery being built.
The overwhelming view we were left with is how well the Trust is being run on the ground, with every £ donated in the UK being put to maximum value in The Gambia.
Thanks to Kira Dalton’s amazing energy and Fanding’s careful oversight of the projects, the cost of providing and maintaining a nursery school is remarkably low. Measured in terms of the benefit brought to
children’s education, the payback for every £ is astonishing!
To visit one of the Trust’s nursery schools, to see and hear how the children are enjoying being taught to read and write and sing, to talk to their committed teachers, is the best form of persuasion that here is a very worthy cause.
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.