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  • Helping Committee

Spring 2021 Newsletter

Dear Sponsor,

Many of you have been contacting us to try to find out how our friends in The Gambia are coping during the on-going Coronavirus pandemic.

Thank you so much for your on-going interest and especially for your constant and consistent generosity. Both are so greatly appreciated by us of the UK Committee and more especially by our sponsor children and their families in The Gambia.

It is very difficult to obtain accurate information regarding daily life in The Gambia during the pandemic, but we will do our best to use this opportunity to up-date you with what we do know.

Coronavirus is present in The Gambia but we do not know to what extent. There is little testing and people are scared. There is no vaccine available yet.

What we do know is that the impact of the virus on tourism is so comprehensive that many, many people in roles linked to tourism, hospitality, leisure and all areas supporting these, including food production, have lost their source of income. Hotels and restaurants are closed and many, many families, extended families and compounds have lost their breadwinner.

Due to these problems as well as to Covid itself, people are going hungry and starvation a real concern.

With the help of so many sponsors, HELPING is doing its part to help as many families as possible.

Although the virus has prevented members of the UK Committee from visiting The Gambia since early 2020, HELPING is very fortunate to be able to continue to employ a small, but reliable and trustworthy team of people ‘on the ground’ in the North Bank area of The Gambia. These include teachers, staff at the Lodge, an administrative assistant, Karamo our Sponsorship Co-ordinator and, most importantly, Sarjor our Charity Co-ordinator, who oversees the day-to-day work of the Charity. The Charity has continued to pay their salaries in full throughout the crisis.

Our staff work tirelessly to support our sponsor families – and others in desperate need - as well as they possibly can. Sarjor and Karamo visit all our sponsor children and their families on a regular basis, checking that children are attending school; informally assessing their situations; and providing them with food and medical support as needed. Additionally, should an emergency arise, Sarjor can be contacted at any time by phone or by calling in at The Lodge, and called upon for help.

The situation is being exacerbated by soaring food prices. A cup of rice that normally costs 6 Dalasi is now costing 14 Dalasi, and one visitor reported paying the equivalent of £1 for a single carrot. Let me put this into context for you. This photo shows what £20 buys at the local shop. Whilst the rice will last a small family for a couple of months, this ‘food parcel’ – supplemented with a few cheap ‘tapalapas’ (heavy, poor quality baguette-type loaves) - will be stretched to provide a small family with nutritious meals for about eight days. £20 represents eleven days’ pay for a teacher in our nurseries. (£55 a month is seen as a very good salary in The Gambia. Many earn far less.... or nothing.) Then there’s the rent, clothing and other household needs... and the food for the remaining 22 days of the month. This is an impossible situation.

The Nurseries (and schools) are open. Thanks to the generosity of our sponsors and

Rice distribution at Chamen Nursery

friends, late in 2020 we took the decision to give all our sponsor families an extra 50kg bag of rice to support them. We were also able to give a 25kg sack of rice to every family with a child in our nurseries whether sponsored or not. (Therefore the sponsored children were given two sacks of this essential food staple.) These made a huge difference. Such was the gratitude of their families that there was dancing and much celebrating!

So, whilst apologising to sponsors that, for very obvious reasons, we are unable this year to provide individual profiles of your sponsor children, I would like to close as I began – by offering you, on behalf of our families in The Gambia - our sincere and heartfelt thanks for your on-going interest and especially for your constant and consistent generosity.

Very best wishes,

Margaret, Chris & the Helping Committee


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