Schools for Gambia is a small charity, which over the past twenty five years has built 21 schools and provided educational resources to many more. The charity relies mainly upon donations from community groups, with a major donor being the staff, parents and children of Clifton Primary School in Balsall Heath, Birmingham. The Chair of Governors also happens to be the wife of a member of St Philips Lodge, 5580 and she was given an opportunity to describe the work of the charity at a Lodge social gathering.
As a result, members of St Philip’s Lodge and the Warwickshire Installed Master Lodge 2016 Ladies Festival generously undertook additional fundraising activities which led to Schools for Gambia receiving support, as well as our own Masonic Charities.
In November, 2017 St Philip’s Lodge heard about what had been able to be provided through Masonic generosity. KristiKunda Lower Basic School is situated in an isolated village in The Gambia. When it was built by Schools for Gambia three years ago, it was the first time since the Missionary Station closed some 50 years ago, that children were able to attend school. Through masonic generosity, children now also have age appropriate educational resources.
Pupils at KristiKunda with books provided by
contributions from Masonic charity collections
Such is the success of the school, that the Alkala (the village chief), has identified that additional classrooms are needed!
Whilst on a support visit early in 2017, the head teacher raised a specific concern with Schools for Gambia . A 12 year old boy had recently become a pupil. He had never been to school before, as he was expected to become a nomadic herdsman, like his father. Some 2 ½ years ago he had had an accident playing football. The nearest hospital was a half-day travel away and by the time he arrived, it was too late to save his leg. After an above knee amputation, a temporary artificial leg was fitted before he was discharged. Since then, his parents had not been able to afford for him to have a more appropriate artificial leg. And he had grown! His ‘temporary’ leg was now much too short. The boy, Essa, walked some 3 kilometres to school every day – he had never been late, but the stress of walking with such an inappropriate leg, meant that he was sobbing with back pain by the time he arrived at school. Could Schools for Gambia fund a bicycle for him?
The head teacher of Clifton Primary School donated the funds for the bicycle, but the real problem was that Essa needed an appropriate artificial leg.
Fortunately, St Philip’s Lodge had organised a ‘Ladies to Dine’ Christmas lunch. W Bro Michael Fry made a special charity request – and this, together with support from other local community groups, meant that within a month, sufficient funding had been obtained for Essa to have his new leg.
Last week, Essa and his parents made the two days journey to the Royal Victoria Hospital, Banjul – where there is the only prosthetic facility in the Gambia. Two days of extensive training has enabled him to throw away his crutches and walk unaided on his new leg. And he is delighted that he now has a new pair of trainers!
Essa, in November 2017 was a withdrawn, depressed boy. There was no eye contact - he looked at the floor, not at people.
Essa in February 2018 was a sparkling boy, with a beaming smile and happy to hang on to your hand. It was inspirational to see him throw away his crutch and walk tall on his new leg. He is also rapidly acquiring English – ‘It is good’; ‘new leg, new leg; ‘thank you, thank you, thank you’.
Truly, a wonderful example of masonic benevolence in action!