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City of Banjul
Sunday, January 24, 2021

Team from Stanstead Abbott’s charity head out to Gambia

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Chris and Margaret Meeks founded the charity 16 years ago after visiting The Gambia and meeting a young man from the northern part of the country, who showed them a school there. Co-founder Chris Meeks said: “The school had so little in every way that we decided to try and help. “Sixteen years later we have built six nurseries which we support completely, paying the teachers, feeding the children and supplying equipment. “We have also just completely refurbished a clinic at Fass village, putting in solar power for lights and a fridge for drugs and laying on water, we have also supplied a Land Rover to be used as an ambulance.” Now, the group from the charity will share their experiences with teachers and medical staff. Retired nurse Mrs Bartlett will be sharing her medical expertise, gained at hospitals in south east Hertfordshire and Saudi Arabia. “I haven’t been there before and the idea is to work alongside the nurses,” she said. “Last year the charity refurbished a clinic. Now, this year, we are going out to see what’s happening at the clinic.” The medical centre serves 15 villages – incorporating roughly 20,000 people – in the remote area in the north of the country. Mrs Bartlett, who trained as a midwife, said: “I’m hoping to promote antenatal care and hopefully (fellow volunteer) Sarah will take on some first-aid training. I’m excited to see how we can help them.” For retired teacher Mandy, it is her second visit to The Gambia with the charity. She first got involved after attending a U3A talk about Helping The Gambia’s work. Her friend Ros Hoare, from Sussex, was dreading retirement, so Mrs Westley suggested that they volunteer in the Gambia. The two will be rolling out a new literacy curriculum at nursery schools. The situation in The Gambia was very different to what the teachers had found in the UK. Resources were a problem and not all pupils had a chair. Mrs Westley said: “They are nursery schools so they are not government funded. The situations are bleak.” The teaching methods currently used are fairly old-fashioned. Mrs Westley said: “We are trying to get them working in smaller groups to meet the needs of the children. We have just got so many exciting things to show them and share with them. They will be so excited.”


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