Gunjur to the rescue ..again! - Dr Nick Maurice
There is considerable evidence in the UK of a growing problem of mental health problems amongst young people. It seems that many are experiencing lack of self confidence, self esteem, sense of purpose in life, often these emotions leading to more serious problems of depression, acute anxiety, eating disorders etc. And clearly this problem is not confined to the UK.
There appear to be many causes for this rise including the breakdown of families, the pressures of academic work in schools, social media and the online bullying that is apparently rife. A new charity Thriving Through Venture has been created in Gunjur’s partner community of Marlborough in UK. http://ttventure.org
The director of this charity is Caro Strover, an educational psychologist living a few miles from Marlborough who is working with young people referred by schools across the county of Wiltshire and Swindon who are experiencing these problems. Knowing of the link between Marlborough and Gunjur Caro asked me if working in Gunjur might be a solution to the issues these young people are experiencing. We discussed this at a meeting with President Barrow and with many friends in Gunjur in October and all were of the opinion that they would like to help and support our aims.
President Barrow receives a Thriving Through Venture brochure from Caro Strover Twelve boys and girls aged 17-19 have now been selected from five schools and they are already working on three projects here in the communities where they live and they will be adding to those projects in The Gambia.
Four of the group will be interviewing and collecting the life histories of elderly people here and in Gunjur, people who have had similar professions whether a Priest here and the Imam in Gunjur, an MP for both communities, a tailor, a hairdresser, a musician, a women’s leader, a Mayor in each of the communities.
Another group of four will be learning the art and skills of photography in order to take portrait photos of the people who have been interviewed and the environment in which they live.
These comparative life stories of people from the two communities and the photographs will be put together into what should be a fascinating book for publication and shared with people in Wiltshire and The Gambia and across the world.
The third group will be exploring both in UK and in The Gambia, the barriers to the export of mangoes which, if those barriers were eliminated, could lead to major employment and wealth creation in The Gambia thus combating the tragic flow of migrants taking the ‘back way’ to Europe. Their research will contribute to the development of a business plan.
As agreed with President Barrow, the Gambia is sitting on a potential goldmine in the form of mangoes which sell for as much as 100 Dalasis per mango in UK supermarkets either as fresh fruit or in other forms whether dried or juiced. In Gunjur, in contrast, a basket of 100 mangoes could fetch the same price!
With appropriate major investment in management, education around how to increase yields, treatment of fruit fly, cold storage of fresh fruit, sorting, preparation of mangoes in dried and juiced form etc, the current situation, whereby 90% of the fruit from the many thousands of trees in the West Coast Region lie rotting on the ground, could be dealt with and, as has happened in Mali, which of course does not even have a sea port, a thriving mango industry could be the answer to many of the problems facing The Gambia. If Mali can do it, why can’t The Gambia?!
For the young people who will be spending two weeks in Gunjur in August, where they each will be working with a young Gambian counterpart, they will return to UK refreshed, with a sense of purpose, with greater confidence after their work and their achievements with their new friends, with new skills and certainly with a strong sense of gratitude to the people of Gunjur for the welcome and the opportunity they have been given to widen their outlook and to become global citizens for the first time.
Isn’t there an irony here? While UK adolescents are travelling to The Gambia to improve their lives, young Gambians are travelling in the opposite direction for the same reason.
About the Author:
Nick Maurice is is the founder of Gunjur Marlborough link. He served as director of Commonwealth organisation Building International Links for Development(BUILD) for almost a decade before retirement.