The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints joined with Gambia’s first lady to celebrate the Church’s donation of 18 boreholes in villages throughout the country.
Boreholes are deep, narrow holes made in the ground to access clean water. A mechanized borehole can provide a village with 10,000 liters (about 2,642 gallons) of water each day.
The Church worked with the first lady’s foundation — the Fatoumata Bah Barrow Foundation — to identify the villages in Republic of The Gambia that would most benefit from the boreholes, reported the Church’s Africa Newsroom.
Elder S. Gifford Nielsen, General Authority Seventy and president of the Church’s Africa West Area, participated in three ribbon-cutting ceremonies with first lady Fatoumata Bah Barrow in Bonsa, Giboro Gidda and Kubariko villages on Aug. 18.
“Water is life,” Elder Nielsen said in Kubariko. “No longer will members of your community need to walk kilometers to fetch water that is often contaminated. No longer will your children miss school to help their families get the water they need for drinking, cooking and washing. And no longer will you need to worry about the waterborne diseases associated with contaminated water.”
The governor of Gambia’s West Coast Region, Ousman Bojang, noted how the first lady’s foundation and the Church worked together.
“This is not an accident that these things are done,” he said. “The generosity of the Church and the vision of the first lady and her foundation made this possible. Because of them you know that Kubariko is not forgotten.”
Elder S. Gifford Nielsen greets a young girl at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new water borehole in Bonsa, Gambia.
When installing the mechanized boreholes, the Church trained village representatives how to maintain and repair the boreholes. Bojang asked the villages to maintain the equipment saying, “In donating this equipment, the Church is challenging you to provide the proper care so it will benefit your children and grandchildren.”
A member of the Bonsa Village Development Council, Louie P. Mendy, said clean water has always been a major concern in the village. “This is a problem now solved. This borehole will benefit our community for many years to come.”
Elder Nielsen was accompanied by Flint Mensah, Church director of temporal affairs in the Africa West Area, and Marian Esiape, a Church welfare and self-reliance manager. Local dignitaries, religious and traditional leaders also attended the ceremonies.
“We know that these boreholes are not just infrastructure projects. They represent hope and progress,” said Elder Nielsen. “We can see the power of collaboration and collective efforts and how this can transform our communities. We can all have an immense impact in our communities when we work together …
interfaith, ethnic leaders, government and community leaders and, most of all, the community members.”
Meeting with Gambia leaders
The following day, Aug. 19, the Gambian president, Adama Barrow, welcomed Elder Nielsen to his home at the State House in Banjul, reported Africa Newsroom.
“We are forever grateful to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for the charity they have shown to the people of the Gambia,” Barrow said. “Your generous contributions have not gone unnoticed by me, the government and the people. … They have made a real difference.”
Barrow told Elder Nielsen about growing up in a small village of about 200 to 300 people with no clean water source — and that he understood how much the new boreholes would mean to the 18 villages.
“I’ve seen firsthand how difficult it is to live without a clean, close water source,” he said. “Water is life, and you’ve given these people life.”
With Elder Nielsen — in addition to the area temporal affairs and welfare managers — was Banjul Branch President Samuel O. Amako. The Banjul Branch was officially organized in June 2022 and is the first branch established in Gambia.
Prior to the meeting with the president, Elder Nielsen and the others had lunch with the first lady and members of her foundation board on the grounds of the State House. They discussed how the Gambian government and the Church work together.
In the past, the Church has assisted the people of Gambia by supporting food initiatives, donating equipment and supplies to hospitals, and working with disaster-relief efforts throughout the country.
Elder Nielsen presented Barrow with a statue of a family and shared with him his knowledge of the importance of eternal families. And Barrow gave Elder Nielsen a plaque that recognized the contributions the Church has made to improve the lives of all Gambians.
Elder Nielsen told the president: “We believe that we show our love for God by serving our neighbors, and our donations are representative of that love. We are bound together in our desire to bless the lives of Gambians for generations to come.”
In Gambia, 96% of the 2.8 million people are Muslim. Until Barrow’s election in 2016, Gambia was an Islamic republic. Since that time, the country has focused on religious freedom, and this allowed The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to be recognized in early 2022.
Elder D Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles travelled to Gambia in February 2022 to meet with leaders and offer a blessing on the land and allow missionaries to begin teaching in the country. The first branch was established four months later with 14 members.
One year ago, Gambia’s first lady visited Salt Lake City, met President Russell M. Nelson and toured humanitarian sites.
“We have been here a very short time, just 18 months, but we are thriving,” Elder Nielsen told the president. Today there are 67 members in the Banjul Branch, reported Africa Newsroom.