By Sallie Grayson Programme director
We are so thrilled and proud for our partner in The Gambia – Adama Bah – his honorary doctorate is so well deserved.
I have known Adama for over 15 years – he is my friend, partner and most important of all – my mentor – much I have learnt about ethical and responsible volunteering – I have learnt from him – together we strive for the best and always challenge each other to do better.
Congratulations Adama on a well deserved recognition for all you do to make better places for people to visit and better places for people to live.
This is his acceptance speech
Chancellor, Deputy Vice Chancellor, Graduands and Guests, good morning to you all. I am deeply honoured to be conferred an Honorary Doctor from this great university that holds a special place in my heart.
Today I would like to talk to you about stories leading to dreams and dreams to aspirations. There is an African proverb which states: “Dreams are voices of our ancestors” meaning they are related to the past but also connected to the future. Our dreams should lead us to tell our stories and as Maya Angelou reminded us “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” I choose to tell my story.
My story with tourism started when I was a hotel manager in The Gambia in the 90s. In 1994, the UK and Scandinavian governments issued a travel advice against The Gambia following a military takeover. This brought the tourism industry to a total halt. I thought if a foreign policy can cripple our economy in this way then something is terribly wrong. I resigned from my job and started an NGO called Gambia Tourism Concern advocating for sustainability in tourism. This was the start of my activism against an unfair model of tourism controlled from the outside. I worked with small businesses in tourism and with others founded the Association of Small Scale Enterprises in Tourism enabling over 2000 women gardeners to sell their produce to hotels. We also worked with villages and communities so they too can benefit from tourism. Our most recent project is the Ninki-Nanka Trail, you are all welcome to join us in our next story telling trip in January 2020 following the trail of the Mythical Dragon along the River Gambia.
Through the journey of advocacy, I have been inspired by many like Dr Harold Goodwin who has been a great mentor. He encouraged me to pursue my Masters Degree with this University in my 50s. Here I met inspirational lecturers like Dr Simon Woodward, Dr Davina Stanford and Lucy McCombes amongst others. I sincerely thank them all.
I would also like to say thank you to Sallie and Kate from People and
Places, Helen Wilcockson, Sheik Tejan Nyang and all my colleagues in
the Gambia and abroad. Together through the responsible tourism
movement we have collaborated and made remarkable achievements.
To my wife, Lisong and our children and grandchildren thank you for
your love and support. And finally, to the students, you too have
dreams, do not leave them hanging with no purpose, nurture them,
mould them, pursue them and most importantly tell your stories.