Inspirations: Aldingbourne charity helps Gambian villagers

Janet and David Underwood, founders and trustees of the Gambian Upcounty Development charity, which works in the village of Kanubeh, Gambia SUS-140906-094349001
Janet and David Underwood, founders and trustees of the Gambian Upcounty Development charity, which works in the village of Kanubeh, Gambia SUS-140906-094349001

A VILLAGE community is prospering – thanks to the support of a dedicated and generous Aldingbourne couple.

David and Janet Underwood set up a charity – the Gambian Upcountry Development charity (GUD) – helping villages to become independent.

Children in Kanubeh, Gambia SUS-140906-094401001

Children in Kanubeh, Gambia SUS-140906-094401001

The charity has worked with the villagers of Kanubeh in Gambia, who have little outside support, to build a nursery school.

David and Janet, who are the original trustees, are now helping villagers to make their own money, developing a cashew farm in the area which should provide jobs.

“They live in real poverty,” said David, who was moved by the plight of the villages on his first trip to the Gambia in 2007.

“We are helping them to develop a cash crop which won’t just provide hand-to-mouth living, but will be sustainable.

“After two to three years they will get their first harvest and will share the profits between the workforce and other villagers.”

The cashew farm will be next to the River Gambia and use the water from there to irrigate the land.

“By 2017, Kanubeh villagers will benefit from the proceeds, funding their own school and projects.”

But David said one of the biggest issues in Gambia was the economy.

“We don’t want to be paying for the school forever, or the farm. We have to come up with ideas for people to be earning money themselves.”

GUD managed to raise £18,000 for the nursery school – making an agreement with a master builder from the Gambian coast to oversee the construction free of charge.

“The builders are incredible. They work so hard – physically hard – and for such little reward and money,” said David.

“But the villagers want to become sustainable and work without aid. We didn’t want to be just going in, building a school and leaving again.”

The school now provides education to more than 110 four to six-year-olds and the school management committee, set up by the charity, has learnt to run the school with strong leadership and a sound understanding of education.

The negotiations with businesses and villagers involved in the project are progressing on a weekly basis.

“We are trying to encourage micro banking – that way the whole economy of the village will grow.

“What is for certain is that both GUD and the villagers of Kanubeh are keen to put in the work to make the business viable and sustainable,” said David.

The charity is also developing a partnership with the University of Gambia.

The development studies students will have placements in Kanubeh and other villages. David said the charity would fund and support the Gambian Community Development workers so Gambia developed itself.

The charity is working hard at home to keep fundraising – with two special events planned to raise awareness in the Gambia.

“It has such a vibrant culture,” said David. “We really want other people to enjoy it too and hopefully support the work we 
are doing.”

Charity teams up with Chichester business

THE charity has teamed up with a local business – giving pizza-lovers the chance to give to charity and enjoy a meal.

Heamoor Pizza in St Pancras is offering a free beer with every pizza bought and is giving all the proceeds to the Gambia Upcountry Development charity.

The takeaway is the new business venture for Morad Hossain and Jahangir Hussain, the owners of Chichester’s Masala Gate curry house.

Morad said: “GUD is a fantastic charity which has helped a village build and run its own school.

“The villagers are now being helped to develop a cashew farm to fund the school and grow other businesses.”

Charity work is close to Morad’s heart – his father Mosharaf helped poorer people in Bangladesh, as an engineer teaching them work skills to gain employment.

Morad and his wife Nadira plan to open a home for the many older people in Bangladesh who have been abandoned on the streets.

A celebration of Gambian culture

THE charity is set to hold a celebration of Gambian culture – with authentic Gambian food cooked by well-known Gambian chef Ousman Kunjabi, live Gambian music and Gambian decor.

There will be drinks, canapes, a two-course feast with wine, an auction and silent raffle, music and dancing and a sale of Gambian artefacts.

The evening takes place at Lavant Memorial Hall on Saturday, July 5 at 7.30pm.

Tickets are £20 each and all proceeds go to the Gambian Upcountry Development Charity.

For tickets, contact David on 01243 542702.