In August 2020, a statement from the Department of Social Welfare announced the temporary closure of Penny Appeal. The charity runs orphanages and provides relief in over 30 countries in Asia, the Middle East and Africa. It was temporarily shut down in The Gambia for at least four reasons:
a. Illegally operating and managing its orphanages in The Gambia without following the due process of registration
b. Exploitation of children
c. Sexual abuse and
d. Other child protection matters
These findings surfaced after a taskforce was instituted comprising the Police Child Welfare Unit, Department of Social Welfare, the Child Rights Unit of the Ministry of Justice and the Child Protection Alliance.
The statement said the Department of Social Welfare was working with the management of Penny Appeal to “reunite the children with their families.”
Penny Appeal UK, the parent charity, issued a statement falling the closure saying it is “committed to demonstrating the highest standards of behaviour and humanitarian practice and thus have commissioned an immediate independent investigation into all related matters and are engaging the relevant authorities.”
What we know since then is that at least six individuals were on trial for various offences, two of them for sexual abuse. As we all know, this involves children. The charity started to help the poor and vulnerable and it has done that in remarkable ways. The charity has transformed lives and empowered communities around the world, helping to break the poverty cycle and build brighter futures.
However, the Attorney General and Minister of Justice last week discontinued the case against Penny Appeal and five of its employees. The AG said new evidence has surfaced that the wrong people were charged. That is an interesting revelation. Regardless, we urge the AG to work with the police to reach the bottom of this issue. The exploited and sexually abused children deserve better. Their parents who entrusted the children to the orphanage deserve better. And, as usual, we await the final investigations of the police to charge the right persons this time.