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.
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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.