As mentioned we have reclaimed all the land on which we have built our compound. We plant trees and refuse to buy our drum making materials from any one who is not replanting the trees they consume. We only employ Gambians and other West Africans settled in The Gambia. We pay good wages, without inflating the local economy. All your money for the holiday is spent in The Gambia on local goods and services, except a small advertising budget, which is spent in the UK. All decorations and furnishings in the guest house are bought and mostly made locally, employing local artists, trades and craftsmen. We support local musicians, performers and artists by organising trips to see their works or they come to us. However we do not create artificial events, nor cause things to occur, just because we have guests. Things occur naturally as part of the local culture and traditions.
We are slowly and carefully introducing some solar power at the guest house without too adversely affecting the economic health of the local electric company.
This is a not for profit endeavour. We keep guest numbers low, so we do not make too much impact on the area while guests are here. We have water and energy saving measures in place and minimise our use of motor cars. We buy our vegetables from organic sources as much as possible and always try to support the local women's vegetable garden cooperative.
We are thinking globally and acting locally.
We realise we have limited resources for helping here in The Gambia. We don't want to try helpind too many people, so that individuals get next to nothing; that would be a waste. We like to keep things simple, local and effective and the best way to help, in our opinion, is with our neighbours' children's education. This is also an investment in the future.
We are supporting many of our neighbours' children through school or college. Some of our guests have befriended local people and continue to give them some financial support for years. We have supplied outlying schools with text books and rebuilt damaged buildings, or completed unfinished projects. We've funded the supply of fresh water to villages and paid for some urgent hospital treatments and sadly, for a few funerals. Occasionally, some guests decide for themselves that they want to do something positive, then ask for our advice about appropriateness and practicality. We do not expect any guest to contribute in this way.
Guests have already 'given' by paying to be here in the first place!
Now and then a guest decides to 'do something charitable for the locals' and goes their own way, without our advice. We pick up the pieces, console the people upset and sort out the problems later. Good intentions are not good enough. There has to be good direction as well. Please always ask our advice first. If you don't understand the society and culture in The Gambia it's too easy to make mistakes.
We help people in our neighbourhood as much as possible, without creating situations of their dependence on us. Perhaps the second best way to help, and one which any of our guests can contribute to, is with clothing. We take out second hand clothes and footwear to distribute freely to our neighbours. These two photos show people in their new clothes.
You want to give a little something?
Guests often think it a good idea to bring out pens and colouring books as charity, but this is very misguided. It is nice to think of doing this, but much more effective to buy these things in The Gambia and contribute to the local economy. These things are also much cheaper in The Gambia, so save yourself your precious luggage allowance, save money. However we would ask you to consider using that same amount towards a child's education, by buying school books or whatever is needed whilst you are there: maybe the monthly book rental or something towards school uniforms?
We also want to discourage the practise of giving sweets to children. How would you feel if your child was given sweets by strangers? You will not be there a few years down the road to pay the dentist bills either will you? Please give it some serious thought before you give a little something in charity. Much better to give the parents some cash to buy food or the fuel to cook it. Whatever you think you might want to give, first ask the advice of Haruna and Modou or myself if you are thinking of taking something out to The Gambia.
Wherever we try to help, we also try to maintain and foster the people's self respect, values and cultural traditions. These wonderful people give us a lot, they open their hearts to us; offering lifelong friendship, from their natural generosity of spirit, not from any need to gain materially. Theirs is a precious gift, worthy of our utmost care and respect. I feel honoured that they continue to accept me and my guests, so warmly, into their society as part of their community.