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Charity builds 40 apartments for flood-hit, homeless families

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HMD Charity Foundation, a non-profit international organisation established by young Gambians to support needy families and people neglected by society, has commenced the construction of 40 apartments for flood victims and homeless families across the country. 23 out of the 40 apartments have been completed, 11 are currently under construction, and the remaining 7 are waiting for funding. Hope for Humanity, a UK-based charity, directly funded 17 of the apartments, while the rest was funded through individual contributions from Gambians and non-Gambians alike across the world. The beneficiaries are from across the country, including a 70-year-old man in the Central River Region who is living alone in extreme poverty. The man has no children, and the whereabouts of his immediate family are unknown. “I can barely walk past the entrance of my house due to my old age and I feed with the help of neighbors. When it rains, I will be on my feet praying that the only shelter I have doesn’t collapse until the rain stops. I sit patiently here everyday waiting for food aid from my neighbors. I have no children and no family,” Abdoulie Sillah said.

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The housing initiative is part of the NGO’s emergency relief project, which is designed to respond to emergencies.

The HMD Charity Foundation CEO, Saihou Balajo, said the D6 million project was conceived by the NGO following last year’s devastating floods and a recent poverty assessment visit by its staff and volunteers to one of the country’s remote areas.

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“What we saw during our visit to some areas in rural Gambia rejuvenated our commitment to continue serving humanity. If you are in Urban Gambia, you think life is easy, but there are people living in horrible conditions in this country; some of them cannot even afford food, let alone shelter,” Balajo told The Standard.

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He said the houses in which some of the beneficiaries are living are mind-boggling.

“The more you travel away from the city, the more you understand the level of poverty in this country, and that is why we continue to do everything humanly possible to support these vulnerable communities,” he said.

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He said the NGO started its activities with the distribution of food aid, dubbed the Free Meal Project, which provides free meals to kids to help them stay in school.

This project, he added, is not just implemented in The Gambia but also in Senegal and Uganda.

“We support underprivileged students who cannot afford meals to encourage them to go to school. We have since provided over 400 school meals in The Gambia, and we have similar statistics or more in Senegal and Uganda,” Balajo added.

He said the NGO is also providing Ramadan packages every year to needy Muslims.

“We started with fifteen families, and each of these families was provided with Iftar and some cash to take care of other needs,” he noted, adding that the NGO endeavours to meet these families at their homes.

“We have reached a point where these people consider us part of their family, and that is reassuring for us,” he said.

He said the NGO endeavours to visit the country’s remote areas to ensure that they have a firsthand idea of how they are living. Last year, Balajo added, the Ramadan distribution reached 1217 families across the country.

He said the NGO has a programme called the Comprehensive Family Support Package.

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“This programme is designed to help families who are totally dependent on people to survive. For families who would have to go on the street to be able to put food on the table, we created a package for them to ensure that they were able to stand on their own. We usually start by working on their mindset because any country that wants to develop must work on the mindset of its people because development cannot go without people being mentally prepared,” he said.

He said the NGO also provides community water projects.

Vulnerable Groups

Prostitution is one of the fastest-growing industries in the country due to largely lack of employment opportunities and poverty. But Balajo said the NGO, due to its policy of leaving no one behind, has managed to take some sex workers out of the streets through a project they run to empower prostitutes to be able to make a decent living.

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“During our engagement with them, we realised that the majority of them do not desire what they are doing, but the circumstances in which they found themselves forced them into it. So, we work with them and help reset their mindsets and empower them to start a business,” he disclosed.

Prisoner release

Last year, the NGO paid D73, 000 to cover the court fines of six inmates at Mile 2. All six were aged between 18 and 29, and they were sentenced for offences ranging from felony to stealing. Those released were given D600 each for transport back to their respective homes. The foundation also donated 50 bags of rice and sugar to the prison’s feeding programme.

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Balajo commended Hope for Humanity and all their donors for supporting their projects. He said their doors are open for partnerships and collaborations.

“We have always thought about working together as a family, looking out for each other from our neighbourhood to the community and international level. We have committed ourselves to caring for others. This is the concept that we are working on, and that’s why, since its inception, we have been using our own energy, resources, and time to support others,” he said.

He said individuals donate from D350 to D500 to support some of their projects, adding that 99 percent of their projects are coming from individual donors.

HMD was formed in 2016 by a group of young Gambians determined to make a difference in society, with the sole aim of ensuring that every Gambian lives a decent life.

The NGO’s project is designed based on need. It is currently implementing food aid, empowerment, Zakat distribution, Qurban, housing, and community water projects across the country.

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