The Virus and the Gambia
The Gambian government ordered lockdown early when the virus appeared in Africa. Biran has worked very hard to alert our families of the dangers of Covid 19. The charity purchased masks for every resident of our little community.
Students are expected to start school in October. Very few families have computers, so remote learning is impossible.
Meanwhile, Biran lost a cousin who lives in the country, far from Farato. We don't know if he were a victim of the virus, but he was in his 20s and healthy. Below are pictures of one of our masked youngsters, and also the precautions taken at the burial site of Biran's cousin.
"Stick Mama" is the first to undergo cataract surgery.
“Stick Mama” earned her name years ago during our Big Party. he kids were whipped into a frenzy of happiness and behavior was unusually wild. I noticed that if this Mama even leaned down, as if to pick up a stick, kids shaped up instantly. They know she will use the stick if there are any infractions whatsoever.
She is easily one of the most elderly of the village, but she has not lost her energy. No matter what’s going on, she is always there, monitoring the action. She is also known to kiss us on the lips.
This year she approached me and showed me her eyes. Karen confirmed she has cataracts. Mama wanted us to give her glasses or medicine, which wouldn’t help a person with cataracts. This was sad news.
And THEN… we visited the local hospital, at Brikama. This is the busiest hospital in The Gambia. They are wildly understaffed and under equipped. But they have an eye clinic. The clinic performs cataract surgery!! What? How much? $50.??!!
We told Mama that she could have the surgery. She explained, as a traditional person, that any cutting on the body is forbidden. We tried to convince her and I explained that I had the surgery and I can see like a young person. Finally she said she would ask the man in the family. Not squandering that moment, we marched over to her house and woke up her son. We explained the surgery to her son who just said, yes, of course she should have the surgery. He would take her himself!
Stick Mama has successfully completed surgery on both eyes!
The Cookstove Saga
One of our North Shore supporters, Mary-Kay Miller, told us about these eco-friendly stoves that Create! has developed for West Africa, in neighboring Senegal. Astonishingly, the stove costs nothing, is safer and greatly reduces the amount of wood burned for each meal in The Gambia.
We were able to schedule the Create! team to visit while we were in the village. Directors of Create!, Omar Seck and Amadou Diouf traveled from Senegal to run a stove workshop in Farato.
Farato residents gathered dried grasses and dug up some of Mama Janko’s dirt to provide materials for the stove. Young men pounded and sifted the clay into two buckets of fine dust. Women collected the dried grasses that they cut and pounded in the mortar that every household has for grinding herbs. Water was added to the dirt and the grasses to form clay balls. Then Amadou expertly formed a mud stove from the balls around Mama’s cookpot. It took some time to prepare the ingredients, but the actual forming of the stove took less than an hour. After two drying days, Mama used the stove for the first time. She was astonished at the small amount of wood she had to burn. The stove concentrates the heat into the cooking pot, reduces the chance of burns and helps to save the forest.
Even though the process took the day, all the other households plan to build their own stove. They understand the cooking efficiency and the fact that they will spend much less money on wood.
Check out the link from the Create! Website: https://www.createaction.org/blog/expanding-our-alliance-for-clean-cookstoves
Carpenter Dean Saves the Library
It was a shock to see the library this year. Brian had told me that books were damaged during the rainy season when the roof blew off.
In fact, there were no picture books left and very few chapter books.
We shall re-stock those shelves!
But meanwhile, visitor Dean Kupstas put his carpenter genius into gear. He analyzed the current roof, which sheltered what what left, but was unlikely to withstand another rainy season. He knew what we needed and once we gave him the green light to rebuild, he was off and running. He’s experienced in working in many countries, so was not shocked at what a lumberyard looks like in The Gambia! We hired a local carpenter, got assistance from Biran’s brothers, and in one morning, they installed a sturdy roof built to last. Modern, non rusting nails, better quality tin, and a reinforced, upgraded wooden structure gives us the reassurance that our collection will be protected.
Fresh Start to our "Clinic"
Our Little House Clinic has a new nurse! Fatou, our first nurse had moved away and left the little clinic shuttered. In addition, the word of our “clinic” spread to the point that Biran was approached by the government and wanted to know where our license is. In fact, a clinic license is prohibitively expensive. Besides, we’re not a real clinic. Our vision, and the actuality, is that this is a place for first aid. Patients who need care from a doctor are referred to Dr. Kinteh’s Farato clinic or the Brikama hospital.
The community is helped tremendously by pain meds, a clean dressing, or advice from a medically trained person. At the 11th hour, we found Binta Dambelle. She completed a year of medical training and works for Dr. Kinteh in applying dressings. We took her to our clinic when we met her so Karen Windle, NP, could see how she works with patients, Karen was impressed. She even assisted us with poise and confidence, translating, during our meeting with the women. Happily we have employed Binta to open the "clinic" twice a week for two hour sessions.
In an effort to avoid scrutiny from the government, we are no longer calling this place a clinic. It’s new name is “Boston Health Center”.
In January 2020, we completed our longest and most productive trip ever.
Our team included Ellen and Dennis McGill, Lucille Nagin, NP Karen Windle, Dr. Raquel Pacheco, her husband, Dean and daughter, Katrina.
Picture includes Modu, our cab driver, and intrepid Executive Director, Biran Sallah. Team hats provided by Biran.
Musa Kolley — Graduate-Banker!
Musa Kolley was among the first students we sponsored 10 years ago. A star from the beginning, 11 year old Musa sailed through primary and secondary school. Proudly admitted to the competitive University of The Gambia, he graduated last Spring with a degree in business administration.
But finding a job in The Gambia is extremely challenging. During his time of unemployment, he occupied his mind tackling new languages. Happily, he eventually landed in a housewares shop in busy Serrekunda. Musa's quick mind, easygoing nature and mastery of numbers make him a successful salesman.
We were lucky enough to visit him in the shop.
Clearly happy with his new position,
he endured the toubab (white person) invasion
with characteristic good humor. He was also
most grateful that I was able to contain myself
and NOT hug him in public.
In August, 2020,Musa landed a
management position at Megabank
in Bakau, the Gambia!
A number of generous Future for Farato
supporters made all this possible.