Speaking in an exclusive interview with The Standard, he countered: “The recent publicity in the UK and elsewhere given to the newly-formed Amir Khan Foundation should not go unchallenged. In a press report in the UK we read: ‘Bolton-born Khan said: “Gunjur is an extremely deprived area in The Gambia where I’m determined to change things by building an orphanage, so children can have a safe place to sleep and be educated. The kids starve to death here and it hurts so much to see this happening. The orphanage will cost about £200,000 to build and will look after more than 150 children”.
In his reaction, Dr Maurice said: “One can only assume that Amir Khan never went to Gunjur where we have been working for the past 30 years and that he was using this disgraceful language to yet again portray Africa as a basket case of poverty and disease in order to raise money. I have never seen a child in Gunjur ‘starve to death’ and I am aware that the few orphans that there are in Gunjur are well looked after in their extended families and supported by AFNOW and the Gunjur Widows and Orphans Association. The Gunjur I know is a community of extreme social wealth, where people genuinely care for and about each other, including their children and the elderly – greater than that which you find in many communities in UK. Certainly Gunjur is not without some material problems (considerably reduced since the recent arrival of electricity and piped clean water), which our partner NGO Tarud is addressing with support from us.
He added: “We must not allow Africa, The Gambia and Gunjur to be described in this way by people who drop in and make no proper analysis of the extraordinary hospitality, generosity and resourcefulness of people in that rich continent. I was in Gunjur at the same time that they were in The Gambia this time with the 18th group of young people from Marlborough to live with families in Gunjur and “get their hands dirty” on a construction project, since 1985, this time building a fence around a 12 acre vegetable garden for women, working alongside Gambian volunteers. This is just an excuse for them to have a life changing experience and return to UK as true global citizens, having met with kindness and hospitality which is second to none while at the same time making a small contribution to development in Gunjur.
The Gunjur described by them in the report bears absolutely no resemblance to the Gunjur that we know and love. If there are orphans in that community, and there are some that we know, they are immediately absorbed into their extended families. I have never seen or heard of any children “starving to death”, it simply doesn’t happen and I am not aware of that happening in other parts of The Gambia although there are concerns at the moment about the very poor rainfall (and we are halfway through the rainy season) and the impact that that will have on the rice harvest. Talking to the many Gambian friends that I have both in The Gambia and here in the UK, they get very angry, as do many other Africans, at the way that Africa is constantly portrayed as a basket case of poverty, disease, corruption and conflict while the reality is that there is a social wealth and resourcefulness, which is second to none. I think one has to be very careful about the messages that one puts out”.]]>