By Lady Kira Dalton
Having met the trustees of the Kambeng Trust many years ago, I had always been impressed by their excellent nursery school which they had built and supported for many years in Bakary Sambouya - a village a few kilometres outside of Brikama. More recently they had added a community clinic.
We first met Sue Current, Chair of Kambeng trustees, when she was seeking our advice on running the clinic in a more sustaainable manner. I think they had seen Jappineh Health Center reports on our website and felt we had developed some worthwhile expertise in this area. Following our meeting we agreed that our own Sainey Dampha would make monthly visits in order to help their administrator, Pa Gibba and their Head Nurse to set up a suitable charging and reporting system similar to the one we used.
As with Wellingara , the Kambeng Trustees had set a date for winding up their charity of 2021. That gave several years during which the school managed to accrue a modest bank balance by saving the fees and the proceeds from sales of vegetables from their school garden - surplus to their own needs for school meals.
The clinic however, had several changes of staff and never did quite manage to introduce the modest fees we had all agreed were going to be necessary to secure their future.
Then, of course, there were the years of Covid which brought reduced donations and made it impossible for their trustees to visit. They decided they would be closing the charity in early 2021. Sue approached me in November 2020 asking whether AOT would perhaps be willing to take over.
Not wishing to take on too much (having recently absorbed Makumbaya Nursery and Wellingara Health Centre) we came to an agreement with Gambia School Support, our sister charity with whom we share our Gambian Management Team, that they would adopt the school while we would take on the clinic. Very quickly GSS sprang into action funding some necessary roof repairs and other renovations, as well as being able to provide a bit more topping up for the teacher's salaries.
Meanwhile, we held a series of meetings with the community to familiarise them with how things were going to work going forward. At one of these we were able to distribute emergency Ramadan food supplies using some of the funds Kambeng had raised for Covid emergency relief. We were also able to repair roofs blown off by a storm for a disabled woman and a blind man near the clinic.
We also patiently explained that if medicaments continued to be given out for free, then their clinic would not last a year…
It has taken a while for this last message to percolate through to all villagers and indeed to all staff - who had grown accustomed to treating friends, family and various local dignitaries free of charge! Reality struck when they realised there would not be enough in their bank account to pay salaries past May.
Now the clinic has turned a corner and is endeavouring to make sure they always have sufficient funds to not only pay the salaries and purchase consumables plus top up medicines, but also a few months extra. Much of the credit must go to Head Nurse Sylvester Sambou and Administrator Pa Gibba and the excellent team they have working at the clinic.
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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.