A Weekend with Humanity First and the Poor– Volunteering to Serve the Needy


DEMBA KANDEH

Humanity First is an international Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) headquartered in the United Kingdom and maintains functional branches across some countries in Africa, America and Asia. From Friday 4th to Sunday 6th May 2012, Humanity First Gambia Branch embarked on a provincial ‘feed a family’ programme. From the Mayamba in the Lower Niumi district of the North Bank Region through Farafenni, Sare Nyanga in Niani district of the Central River Region – north and Missira in the south of the same region to Kaiaf in the Kiang East district of the Lower River Region, poor and needy families were targeted and assisted with some food items. During the three-day round, at least two bags of rice (50kg each) and a five-litter gallon of vegetable oil was handed over to some twelve families.

This humanitarian intervention is all the more important at a time when the Gambia’s farming community is experiencing serious food shortages as a result of the 2011/2012 (farming seasons) crop failure.

‘According to the Gambia Bureau of Statistics (GBOS), real GDP growth moderated to 3.3 percent in 2011 from the 5.5 percent in 2010 attributed mainly to the early cessation of rains which affected crop production’.

A statement from the Ministry of Agriculture, formally announcing the national crop failure, stated that the post-harvest assessment of the 2011 farming season, which was characterised by below-normal and poorly distributed rainfall, indicated a reduction in total crop production of more than 70%. The Gambia government has also said that it “urgently needed” twenty three million U.S dollars to provide food, seeds, and fertilizer to the entire farming population as the country declared 2011-2012 farming season a failure resulting from severe crop failures and a corresponding soaring of food prices.

Speaking to Mr. Yankuba Sinayoko, Director of the Feed A Family programme, he said that HF is also out to contribute its quota in alleviating the suffering of the people. He further noted that the mission is to serve disaster struck and socially disadvantaged individuals and families in the poorer communities of the world.

Feed A Family Testimonies

Fatou Balajo, a widow heading a family of four in the village of Mayamba in Lower Niumi district of the North Bank Region of the Gambia was full of praises for what she described as a magnanimous gesture. Life is very difficult with us but your intervention will go a long way in alleviating our plight. I am so happy to receive this assistance. It is not easy to cater for the daily needs of a family and since the demise of my husband I have being trying in every little way to keep the family.

Tutty Cham, another widow in Mayamba was dumb found with the Humanity First intervention. With tears of joy running down her cheeks, Tutty managed to tell me that she that she supports a family of thirteen dependants from her petty trade. ‘Jerejef’, the Wollof equivalent of thank you was what she punctuated with her cries and prayers for the committed Feed A Family team.

Abou Touray a boy of fourteen (14) in Hakkalang in the Jokadou District of the NBR received what would be their family ration for the next two months. ‘My father has gone on his daily routine to fend for the family. We are thirteen altogether in the compound and because dad is old now, he find it very hard to meet all our needs,’ said Abou who told me that as the eldest son of his father, he sometimes goes out with him to learn the trade of carrying a family. Abou disclosed to me that he is in sixth grade in school and that he nurtures the ambition of becoming a doctor in the future. A future even though attainable but looks very bleak for little Abou at least for now.

Mr. Dembo Ceesay heads a family of eighteen (18) dependants is a former police prosecutor for Farafenni town in Lower Baddibu district of the NBR. Ceesay an accident survivor is physically challenged. He explained to me that while he was serving the Gambia police force, he had tried to maintain a balance in ‘carrying a heavy family’ like his. ‘Now that I am how I am (indicating his physical status), it is support from good intentioned programmes like this (Feed A Family) that has made all the difference. ‘I am very grateful for the assistance and I pray that God almighty enable you all to excel in your good works’, he concluded. The former police prosecutor lives in what looks like a very isolated slum, houses with thatch roof and infested corrugated iron sheet in the suburb of Farafenni.

Similarly, Mr. Almamy Trawally and Ms. Oumie Dumbuya all of Farafenni in the same locality express gratitude to Humanity First. The former supports a family of eleven, whereas the latter, a widow maintains a family size of nine.

In the far middle-east of the Gambia, the Central River Region, the Feed A Family team was led to one Madu Jallow. Mr. Jallow, a widower is heading a family of sixteen (16). A purblind, Jallow was also suffering from Malaria at the time of the visit. Managing to speak in between tears of joy, Jallow repeatedly prayed for his benefactors. Jallow lives among people who can be generally described as poor and puzzled over this, I asked how poor is he? In response, a young man who preferred not to be named whispered to me that he (Madu Jallow) is known to be the poorest in the community. ‘He regularly goes out to meet people willing to do all types of work for anything he can give his family’, he said, adding that the family will also wait patiently with high hopes as he return in the late afternoon or early evening.

In Bureng village, Lower River Region one Baboucarr Ceesay was identified. Mr. Ceesay sells ice blocks and hardly earn twenty-five Dalasis (D25.00) on a daily basis considering his market size, daily supply and returns. Standing by his wife, he said ‘We are very grateful to you. You have come to our aid at a time of need, may Allah (the Muslim preference to the word God) reward you all abundantly.’ According to Ceesay, he spends most of his time outside the four corners of his compound trying to fend for his family of eight (8). ‘Every day I wake up early in the morning and return here late in the evening trying to lay my hands on anything good for the family’, he said adding that by the time he returns sometimes, all the small children would have slept.

 

Sambou Kassama of Kaiaf village, kiang east district of the Lower River Region: I am glad to receive these food items. I pray that God almighty bless you all abundantly and help your organisation to grow from strength to strength. I have fifteen dependants and I know what it takes to be responsible for such type of a family. It is only God’s grace that we are able to live and your intervention will go a long way in helping me in my daily struggle to feed the family. Once again I thank you all and I will continue praying for you.

The Lower River Region is considered the poorest region in the Gambia.

Humanity First is registered in 33 countries across 6 continents, and has been working on human development projects and responding to disasters since 1995. These have included the earthquakes in Turkey, Pakistan, Japan and Iran, floods in Africa and Latin America, storms and tsunamis in the USA, Indonesia and Bangladesh, and conflicts in Eastern Europe. Humanity First has been active in The Gambia for many years, and the flagship project is the school and facilities complex in Old Yundum. HF has been sending qualified medical experts, engineers and teachers to The Gambia to help kick-start projects in the country and to transfer skills and knowledge to local people.

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