Many of our volunteers in The Gambia work in some capacity with ASSET, the Association for Small-Scale Enterprises in Tourism, which aims to help small local businesses make best use of their opportunities to thrive in a tourism-based economy. However, as we all know, tourism in West Africa has been badly hit by the Ebola outbreak.
This from Adama, our local partner in The Gambia and the driving force behind ASSET:
The Flames of Ebola Smouldering
The spread of Ebola in Sierra Leone, Guinea Conakry and Liberia has caused a public health panic resulting in large-scale cancellations in holiday and travel arrangements throughout West Africa. This, subsequently has had serious impact on tourism in many parts of Africa even in destinations as far away as South Africa, despite being located thousands of kilometres away from the Ebola epicentre. The situation inevitably brought much suffering to communities across Africa especially those countries that are heavily dependent on international arrivals like the Gambia, even though there is no occurrence in the country.
One year into the Ebola crisis things are changing for the better. There are no recorded cases for some time now in Liberia whilst cases in both Guinea and Sierra Leone are fluctuating at a much lower scale than it was.
The Ebola crisis showed how ignorant most people are of Africa. The negative fear-mongering image of an Africa rife with war, disease, poverty, famine and so on still forms the opinion of many in the west.
Africa is a continent not a country! It is a continent full of opportunities with economies growing faster than most anticipated. It is a continent with a soul where even though many live in poverty there is a spirit of living together as a family. The Gambia is no exception, it is seen by many visitors as the destination to visit first as a soft landing spot, where the people are open and friendly.
Worldwide, tourism is an important and growing sector for many economies. In The Gambia, it is a main source of income and employment, and its connections to the local economy makes many small and community enterprises dependent on it. However, it is often compared to fire: it can cook your meal, but can also burn your house down.
The Ebola crisis did bring the flames of overdependence on tourism to these businesses. At the ASSET Bantaba, situated at the Tourism area in Kololi and which houses a restaurant and craft shop, there was hardly any business.
We would need to take a fresh look at developing a target market that is not totally dependent on tourism, a market that will use the income from tourism as a supplement to an existing local clientele. This means we need to change our business approach.
If you have ideas and want to take up this challenge with us you are very welcome to volunteer with us.
In Saint Lucia one of the key focuses for projects where we place volunteers is working with disadvantaged young people, and our local partners, Sacred Sports Foundation (SSF), are always looking for opportunities to expand this very important work. Nova, from SSF, has sent us the following update on their work:
“The focus of SSF has shifted in recent years to providing more comprehensive, holistic sustainable solutions as it looks to help tackle critical social issues in the Caribbean, offering youth greater employment opportunities, improved child welfare, environmental sustainability, health and youth development. The Foundation’s development programmes have reached more than 2,000 participants in the past 24 months and it has successfully worked closely with Governments/agencies, mentors, youth leaders, unemployed youth, associations, industry stakeholders, schools, universities and vulnerable communities across Saint Lucia and the Caribbean. SSF has received financial support from a wide range of contributors, including the European Union, UNESCO, UNDP and Australian Government.
“We are always looking at ways to bring in more consistent funds to sustain our programmes”, says Nova Alexander – founding partner . “In December we received confirmation of our UNDP/GEF grant application for the development of an environmentally friendly organic farm and public education programme. It will tackle a range of nutritional and environmental challenges through the introduction and optimization of organic production. It will focus on farming methods that engender Health, Ecology, Fairness and Care and has the specific purpose of engaging unemployed youth”.
The foundation’s key aims in 2015 and beyond are to provide greater employment opportunities through their programmes by extending training initiatives, certification programmes and helping establish a non-profit organic co-op, a youth-led response to sustainable unemployment and environmentally sound food production and processing designed to help solve the nation’s food security issues.
Primary goals are the promotion of a better and more sustainable healthy lifestyle, the promotion of life skills, and greater employment opportunities for disadvantaged youth in local communities. These programmes are designed to foster increased community participation in socially inclusive public education projects, alongside promoting positive gender awareness and enhancing global environmental sustainability efforts.
Those of you who have volunteered in Cambodia will know Bridget, project manager at Grace House Community Centre. Bridget has recently featured in The Guardian newspaper; the article is reproduced below:
Disability in Cambodia:
‘Children can make progress and have rights’
Bridget Cordory shares her experiences of working as a project manager in Cambodia, a country with three social workers per 25,000 people
“I work as a project manager for Grace House Community Centre (GHCC) an NGO near Siem Reap, Cambodia. In my previous life, I was a care needs assessor for social services, establishing care packages for young disabled people. In 2008, Alan, my husband, took early retirement from the civil service and we travelled around Europe in a motorhome. Nine months and numerous cathedrals later we decided to “give something back” and volunteered in Cambodia. Seven years later we are still at GHCC.
I wake at about 4.30am to the sound of monks chanting at the local pagoda, if lucky I fall back to sleep until 7am. A cup of tea and toast is followed by a short ride on my scooter to GHCC where I am known as “Teacher Madam” (Bridget is difficult to pronounce). My journey takes me past rice fields with water buffalo wallowing in the river, women stooped over planting rice and children in their blue and white school uniforms who wave as they cycle to school. All very idealistic except for the potholes, lorries and dust!
Our work is with the poorest families in the community, keeping families together and preventing them placing children in orphanages. It is estimated that 74% of children in Cambodian orphanages have one or more living parent. Poverty and access to education are the main reasons given by parents for placing their children in orphanages. Children often fail to attend school as they are working to help support the family.
There are extremely limited state-run social services and benefit systems in Cambodia. With approximately three social workers per 25,000 people, NGOs are left to fill the gaps. As a consequence, services are very patchy and the rural poor are the most disadvantaged.
Physical abuse is still common in the home and at school, and children with disabilities are more likely to be abused. There are no official figures on the number of children with disabilities in Siem Reap province, however a Handicap International study found 16% of children assessed had a disability.
We started a special needs day centre and take referrals from the whole province. Last year, I visited a nine-year-old girl with cerebral palsy who was kept in a playpen in a darkened, locked room. My heart ruled my head and we raised funds to build a small group home as no specialist facilities existed outside Phnom Penh. We try to help parents understand their child can make progress and have rights. I need to respect local belief that a child with disabilities has done something wrong in their previous life, but balance that with safeguarding the child. My current task is to explain the benefits of respite care to local social workers working for other NGOs.
As a team we decide where our budget is spent and have developed assessment and review procedures. All families are assessed and given help in the form of rice and support for children to attend school, and access to healthcare. If the money is not in the bank, we are unable to buy rice, run services or pay wages and rent. I strongly believe in working with the community but over the years there have been times when I have tried to implement projects that have failed; I call it having my “western” head on, not my Khmer one.
I leave Grace House about 4pm but often work in the evening writing funding applications or reports. Fundraising is my biggest headache and a constant pressure.
It’s a continuous learning curve but the enormous smiles that greet me every morning make it worthwhile.”
What we have been up to at Charles Duna
Calabash Trust has been engaging at Charles Duna as a supporting partner offering extra mural workshops in drama and permaculture gardening with Xolisa Ngubelanga being facilitator for drama, Alhyrian Laue and Simpiwe Kaya facilitating the permaculture process. This is part of our mission to facilitate community members taking more ownership of their community’s school.
In his sessions Xolisa has been working hard to foster an understanding between the role players; parents and students as to what role the parents and principal of their school are. Videos were compiled of the interpretations of parents and students on what a day as the principal entails, as well as what it takes to be a supportive parent.
Continuing from last year’s permaculture design and implementation we had environmental education with the children and parents after school. Practical environmental education taking place where learning resources are being developed based on a process of integrating local knowledge-what the children and community know already- with additional knowledge of permaculture consultant, Alhyrian Laue.
We also had a showcase of the above works where other parents and community members were invited to attend. A great turnout with a lot of laughter and lessons.
We will now continue at Charles Duna with Environmental Education and Drama lessons once a week, with one of the aims turning their little garden into a potential business opportunity…we will let you know how everything progresses after the second term…
What we have been up to at W B Tshume
Our ongoing partnership with WB Tshume Primary school this year has so far included many activities thanks to the ongoing support of Grants-in-Aid and individual donors, particularly the Royal Wootton Bassett Rotary Club in the UK.
After school environmental education with the Qhamani Garden Club, where between 10-15 (sometimes more!) children attend practical garden/environmental lessons with our associate, Alhyrian Laue and our parent assistant, Linda Bartman on Wednesday afternoons. Below are some photos illustrating some of the activities…which also include singing songs about the work they are doing!
Last but not least, Linda Bartman, the parent assistant, will be opening a healthy tuckshop on the school premises, selling healthy meals (supplemented from the school garden that she manages) to the school and community. The room is still busy being prepared, so we will be able to show nice pictures towards the end of the 2nd term, as well as progress in the garden and Grade R classrooms…
Then we still need to update you on the mural that was painted at the school by local artists, Sakhumzi and his brother. We plan to hold a showcase for the parents as well, after which we will send an update…
News from Emmanuel
We have to say goodbye to our project manager Estolene this month. Esto resigned to look after her sister who has been suffering from illness for some time. Thank you Esto for all your hard work and support over the years and we wish you all the best. The team has now elected Thembeka to become Emmanuel’s project manager and we look forward to a new stage in our development.
So we are now in our second year without receiving any stipends for our work. It is hard but we renew our PLEDGE and our volunteers’ contracts. The carers still go out for home visits and we still run support groups. One of the elderly client is now over the garden and we are cooking now three times a week for the creche children and volunteers. The garden is growing and we are back at food bank because the food they giving now is much better than the last. Our aim is to cook a healthy meal every day for everybody so that at least there is enough to eat. Thank you again to all our sponsors to help us achieve this.
• for updates from Morocco and Nepal, make sure you read the separate articles on these countries on this blog