Until the Covid-19 outbreak, things had been going very well in Bakary Sambouya. We have been inching our way slowly forward with plans to hand over the school and the clinic in 2021. It's been quite a journey over the last 4 years, at times feeling optimistic and at others wondering if the school and the clinic can have a realistic future. The last few months have been very encouraging, especially since the formation of a Village Development Committee, (VDC) and new management committees for the clinic and school.
Working with them, the plan was for fundraising by the village to increase over the coming year and for our contribution to salaries, maintenance etc. to gradually decrease. We stopped all income to the charity at the beginning of this financial year and have been budgeting as far as we can for our remaining funds and reserves to last as long as possible in support of the school and clinic.
That was until March when the first case of Coronavirus hit Gambia. The country went into immediate lockdown, so overnight people had no work, no income and no government support.
This is a fascinating short documentary on the impact of lockdown in African countries. It shows how that approach is totally unsuited to the culture and lifestyle, and causes far greater suffering, hardship and death rates than the virus itself.
What has happened in Bakary Sambouya supports this thesis. To date in the whole country, the virus has been well contained. They have had 23 cases and only 1 death, but without incomes people cannot buy food, so at the moment the crisis is one of hunger and starvation. In addition to this they are about to go into the rain season, which is when malaria cases increase dramatically.
In early May the VDC began approaching the wealthier villagers, organisations and possible donors to request financial aid for food supplies to donate to needy families. We contributed to this appeal and subsequently sent another £1000 to be spent on food and help with the cost of medicines. We then put out an appeal to our supporters and another £2000 was raised in less than a week. This morning that money was spent on essential food supplies and is being distributed as I write this. In total 230 families have been helped. It is incredible how technology now allows us to move at such speed.
I am hoping that also today they were able to purchase more PPE, as the first supplies bought in March are nearly finished. I'm hoping that availability there is better than here.
Of course it is impossible to predict what will happen next, and even in the best scenario, it is unlikely that we will be able to meet all the needs that this situation throws up. It feels important that we keep enough of our funds to continue to support the school and clinic in the way we have committed to for the coming year. At the same time we must continue to fund PPE and try to help with food aid to some degree.
This is an extract from a letter I received this week from our lead nurse:
EMERGENCY BRIEF REPORT
The 12th may is international nurse’s day. This time W H O urges government, organization and philanthropist to support health workers in Africa especially nurses who are always with close contact with patients every time.
Nearly more than 1000 health workers, nurses contracted the virus through their work; some of them lost their lives .The WHO urges stake holders to ensure nurses have equipment and supplies needed to deliver care safely.
Yesterday the Gambia registered its 22 cases of covid 19 which is alarming .the clinic staff are doing their best but need more preventive measures equipment and materials to protect themselves, their families and the communities ,if they contract the virus because of inadequate preventive protective equipment that means their families and communities will not be and exemption .yes the community of bakary sambuyaa is in real need of rice, sugar etc which I think kambeng trust should help , but the clinic staff life will be at risk if protective equipment and supplies like enough masks, enough hand Sanitizer, protective gears are not available. There is enough soap, bleach and other disinfectant available. The last mask and hand sanitizer purchased are almost exhausted.
The clinic staffs appeal to kambeng trust to help them acquire these protective materials to deliver care safely. Our health is also our concern.
The clinic staff are adhering to the WHO guidelines and patients and communities are sensitize very well about the importance of distancing spacing , hand washing , stay at home safe lives , but this is Africa sometimes before you realizes what happen these rules are broken. The clinic staffs once more appeal for urgent help in order to safe guide their lives. Below is a breakdown
DESCRIPTION QUANTITY AMOUNT
1. FACE MASK 250 D200 X 250=D50 .000.00
2. HAND SANITIZER 15 BOTTLES D400 X15 ==D6000.00
3. PROTECTIVE GEAR 5 D500.00X 5=D2,500.00
TOTAL AMOUNT D58 ,500.00
NB THESE PROTECTIVE MATERIALS AND EQUIPMENTS WILL TAKE US FOR THE MONTH OF MAY, JUNE, JULY AND IF POSSIBLE AUGUST .BECAUSE WE CANNOT TELL WHEN THIS PANDEMIC WILL END.
The first food handouts were at the beginning of the month. It is Ramadan at the moment and during this time people consume less, so those supplies will probably last till the beginning of June. But then more will be needed. I know that we cannot do it all, but if we can at least keep up the supplies of PPE and some food, it will make a difference.
Please can you help us with this?
If you would like to help there are three possible ways to do that.
Firstly many of you will be doing online shopping at the moment. When you shop at over 4,000 stores including Tescos, Sainsbury’s and Marks & Spencer, (and most online retailers), via Give as you Live Online, they'll turn a percentage of your spend into free funds for us!
If you could spend 5 minutes now to take a look at how this works and set it up, we would be so grateful. There would be nothing more you need to do, and the charity would benefit each time you make online purchases. To do this please click here
Secondly, if you'd like to make a one off donation, please click here
Thirdly, a regular donation, however small will help. This would only be for the duration of the crisis. To do this please click here
Here are two extracts from a letter from the VDC this week
It feels like a good time to tell you about some of the exciting developments going on in Bakary Sambouya as we move towards handing the school and clinic over to the village. For the last two years we have been visiting six monthly so that we can work more closely with the village committees to explore and develop our joint ideas for the way forward. On our last visit in the Spring, Fadera, the deputy chair of the clinic management committee, came up with the idea of screening international football matches to raise money for the clinic. It seemed like a really great idea, as not only would it bring in a regular income to help pay clinic staff salaries, but also provide a much appreciated facility in the village. They researched the idea, came up with costings, and worked really hard to get set up for the start of the new football season. An old store room was identified as a suitable venue to begin in. New doors and secure windows were fitted to increase ventilation, and all the equipment purchased using a loan from the Kambeng Trust.
The idea of watching three football games simultaneously is a little beyond me, but I can report that everyone is VERY happy! A bank account has been opened and the project has started generating income from day one. This is a really exciting initiative.
For the nursery school we will continue with all our regular support until August 2019 when we have agreed that we will complete our financial commitment. A new sponsor had been identified who was willing to take over the funding, but sadly a personal tragedy has caused him to withdraw. The school committee are still hoping to find alternative funding, but if nothing materialises the plan is for the Education Department to take on the school, as nursery education is something that the Gambian government now value. We have been in contact with the department and it is a very straightforward process to hand over.
Alongside these developments all our normal activities continue:
This year we provided 475 mosquito nets. The Health Department have been running a campaign to beat malaria, and our nurse Sylvester has been very active in mobilising every area of the village to take steps to reduce the number of mosquitoes. He has held regular training events and grass clearing days, so it will be interesting to see whether there will be a reduction in malaria cases .
We really appreciate Sylvester's hard work and dedication. He does a brilliant job of managing the clinic, has increased the patient numbers and has a clear vision for the future.
We financed this upgrade to a community well which had run dry. This much needed incinerator was built in the clinic compound at the end of last year using funds provided by the Kambeng Trust.
An Education Department inspection of the school required that additional toilets should be built. There was a great collaboration devised to get the job done. The football team agreed to make the concrete blocks and dig the tank. Another group of volunteers did the building work and the Kambeng Trust funded all the materials. Great result!
This much needed incinerator was built in the clinic compound at the end of last year using funds provided by the Kambeng Trust.
On one of our visits we coincided with the handover ceremony of the new Lower Basic (junior) School building to the community, by Dutch sponsors. It was lovely that the Kambeng Trust was acknowledged for the large part we have played in the development of education in the village.
Thanks to the generosity of Electrotek Solutions in Plymouth we were able to donate four laptops to the Lower Basic School. The new building has solar power, so has none of the charging problems that we have in the nursery school which has no electricity yet. The changes since we first began the project are massive.
The village continues to grow at an incredible rate since the arrival of the tarmac road. There is still no piped water or electricity supply, but the use of solar power is making a big difference to the lives of those who can afford it. Most of the new homes springing up are luxurious by comparison to the 'old' village. Professionals are moving in and this brings an interesting shift in village dynamics.
Together with Pa our manager, Sylvester the clinic nurse is doing an amazing job in integrating the newcomers and seeking their help with community issues. They bring a wealth of skills and experience at this crucial time. They are currently forming a new association to begin further fund raising projects, in the first instance to sustain the clinic. It is so exciting to see such a different energy emerging. We thank you so much for your support and hope that you will continue with that support until such time as we have everything in place to finally hand over. We will keep you posted on the developments and let you know in advance when we are nearing the end. It is our intention at the moment that we will continue supporting the village beyond that time: to employ Pa our manager on a part time basis to ensure the smooth running of the fundraising projects, to provide school meals, help for a few individuals with disabilities, and various other things for as long as we have funds to do so.
We thank you so much for your support and hope that you will continue with that support until such time as we have everything in place to finally hand over. We will keep you posted on the developments and let you know in advance when we are nearing the end. It is our intention at the moment that we will continue supporting the village beyond that time: to employ Pa our manager on a part time basis to ensure the smooth running of the fundraising projects, to provide school meals, help for a few individuals with disabilities, and various other things for as long as we have funds to do so.
We are in an exciting stage in the life of the Kambeng Trust. If you've read our recent updates on the project, you will have noticed more references to sustainability and self - sufficiency.
We have always made it clear to the management committees in Bakary Sambouya that our support would not continue for ever, and that they would need to consider how to generate income for the school and clinic.
Last November, when Sue and Jude were in the Gambia, they continued to discuss the concept of self sufficiency and put forward some suggestions for a gradual, planned hand-over of the nursery school and health clinic. We decided that a deadline in about two years time would encourage the villagers to think about how they can take steps towards running the school and health clinic themselves.
Over the last year or two there's already been considerable progress in increasing the local income. The school undertakes fundraising activities, runs a chair hire scheme for village events and charges the families a small termly fee. The clinic is continuing to charge a low fee for each consultation, for the cost of the drugs and for laboratory work, which is in line with Government clinics. Over time the responsibility for the running costs is being handed over but we are continuing to fund salaries, school meals and some larger expenses.
We are visiting more frequently to help with the logistics of this transition, and also to work with the relevant government departments. Sue and Jude will be returning for a week in March.
Change can often be challenging, however we are optimistic that we can all work together through this period to achieve a good outcome. We have put the wheels in motion now, and much time will need to be spent working on the details.
We will of course keep you updated on this process. For the time being there will be little change in how the charity operates and for this reason we greatly value your continuing support.
What we have established is sound and runs well. We see this next stage as an exciting and positive move towards the village taking ownership of their much-valued school and clinic.
Our thanks to you for your help in making this happen.
This update is later than usual because we delayed our visit on account of the difficult political situation. After the initial euphoria following the November elections, and the defeat of President Jammeh, things got very tense as the handover time approached and he refused to leave office. It seems calmer and more stable now he has left the country, but it will not be an easy time for the new president. He has to bring together all the opposition parties and undo 22 years of corruption and malpractice. Expectations are very high, and there may yet be unrest if change doesn't happen fast enough.
It was lovely to be back, and great to have Jude Bishop with me. She is one of our trustees, and it was her first visit to the village.
She hit the ground running and put her many years of experience in teaching to good use in the school. She worked with both the head teacher Adama and with the teaching assistants, to encourage them to use more small group work and play.
She also never missed a single baby cuddling opportunity!
Just before we left, we put out an appeal for nurses uniforms. Festival Medical Services members did us proud. We had enough donated to be able to distribute them to other clinics and to the Regional Health Department, all of whom were delighted, so very many thanks FMS.
The clinic was looking great, and we were lucky enough to be there for the monthly anti natal clinic, when a team from the Health Department use our premises to do anti natal care, vaccinations and HIV testing. All the women dress beautifully for the occasion and its a really colourful event.
You may remember that we have been helping a five year old girl, Satang, with severe burns to her hands. She has just spent six months in Ethiopia receiving treatment from Dr Einar Ericsen, and arrived back a short while before we got there. Einar has achieved the most incredible results, and Satang now has full use of her right hand, and with continuing physiotherapy the left one will be nearly as good. It is truly remarkable what he has achieved, she and her family are so grateful to him.
Not only were we late in going to Gambia, the new community bus which we loaded in November with masses of stuff for the school and clinic, was also delayed by the political crisis.
The good news is that it has just arrived in Gambia, and is now in the village being unloaded, much to everyone's delight.
We are continuing to move the project towards more sustainability. Since the main road was surfaced, there is a very noticeable change in the village; new homes, more cars, solar panels, taxis and buses. It is clear that the need for a community bus has diminished considerably, so we have decided that this will be the last one we are involved with. The income generated by the new bus will help to fund the clinic, to aid its transition to becoming self sufficient.
Thank you as ever, to each and everyone who contributes to our work. Your donation goes directly to the project, and is greatly appreciated by the village.