Friday, 28 September 2007

Sorting Lamin out

Long phone calls and emails to Lamin, the young man we are supporting while he studies at Lodz Uni in Poland. Trying to transfer some zloty to his account so he can show the authorities that he is not destitute and so receive a 12 month visa, then he can enrol on the study course he has already paid for ...
How many zloty to the pound - is it better to change sterling here or there - what does it cost?
Spend yesterday on the net and this morning at the Carers' Centre, filling in a DLA claim for a lovely couple. How people can remain cheerful in such dreadful circumstance both humbles and heartens me.
Must say that the Co-op bank has turned up trumps with advice and patience. Settle down with a coffee and a plate of biscuits and indulge in a little problem solving.
I've booked a flight to The Gambia for a couple of weeks in November/December. Can't afford an hotel but several Gambian friends have offered a bed and meals. Come to think, they offered the same when I was a complete stranger. They still offer and I'm happy to accept. Home is a mud brick house, bed is a mat on the floor, food is rice, rice, rice. There's lots of fun, bags of laughter and good company. We're a rich nation but we have lost so many things that really make a wonderful quality of life.
Trying to find out if Ibo has attempted to enter Europe. There are so many dangers but West Africans, desperate for work, will risk their lives in flimsy boats, trust their life to complete con-men, exercise outstanding effort and courage to undertake a journey which so often results in death, disaster or arrest. We take education, health care, good housing and all the rest of it for granted. These young men risk their lives for a slight chance to gain one tenth what we take for granted.
So that's the reason for G.O.E.S. We try to help a little, sponsor a child, care for a young mother's health, take out medical supplies, a few books, repair a house or two. And still feel guilty.

Monday, 24 September 2007

Back to work at last.

Great boat holiday. Managed to cover 28 miles and work 14 locks in fourteen days. Explored the Grand Union Canal (well, a few miles of it) visited some beautiful villages, spent too long in some very friendly pubs, met some lovely people. There's something about boating that attracts wonderful laid-back folk with time to talk and chill out.
Home to the emails. Lamin, at Lodz University, has problems with his visa, Ousman almost passed his final teaching qualification exams, Ami must have her school fees - and my barber is holding a car boot sale to raise funds for us. He'll guarantee a minimum of £50. I'm searching for a cheap flight to Banjul so I can visit some schools and hospitals and take out some medical equipment friends have given us.
The Co-op Bank account is up and running, the application for Charitable status is almost complete and we've got information on how to apply for Gift Aid, which will mean an extra 28% on every donation from tax payers.
We promise that we cover our own expenses, so that every penny of every donation goes to The Gambia.
We've sent our local newspaper a press release, which, if published, will hopefully attract interest, funds and volunteers.

Thursday, 6 September 2007

Ebou's emergency.

Just about to leave for holiday, check emails. One from friend in The Gambia telling us Ebou is attempting, madly, to enter Europe. So dangerous, so often fatal. Young men pay all their money, hand over passports to alleged agents who promise to get them safely into Europe and find them work. Young Ebou, a man who didn't get an education, fatherless, responsible for his aged mother, for his brothers and sisters, longs to find work so he can care for them. He is reluctant to accept 'charity' and wants to work. There is no work - so the 'solution' is to emigrate to Europe. Everybody in Europe is rich - there will be lots of work. He will not have to beg.
And, if anything goes wrong, will I adopt and care for his son?

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

Slow boat to somewhere ...

We need a break. Too many late nights filling in forms for the Charity Commission, Gift Aid, writing newsletters, seeking advice about how to set up a fool proof Web site - so we're off to frighten the ducks with a friend's narrow boat for a few days. We've sent a copy of the newsletter to the local paper in hope of a bit of publicity, told the dog he's going on holiday and done a frantic shop so we don't starve. We've sent school fees to Ami, Fatou, Lamin, Haddi, Bubba and the twins. Awa gets a bag of rice, Adama has her hospital fees - we're up to date with the important bits. I'll write some letters for N'fally, Ma, Mamie, Sulayman and Ousman. Maybe even a couple of chapters for the book. Do canal boats steer themselves? Let's try to publish a picture. Wow - it worked. She's Abi. We paid her mum's medical bill when there were complications. Both fine now.

Monday, 3 September 2007

GOES moving on - slowly.

Setting up a Charity is hard work. We imagined that all the effort would be concentrated on raising money. Not so. Cash is coming in at a steady trickle. It's the form filling that's the head ache. Setting up an acceptable bank account, keeping accounts, filling in the forms from the Charity Commissioners, finding out about Gift Aid, promising to do an hour's form filling for every hours spent on enjoyment. Thank goodness for horrible rainy days. Meanwhile, the requests for help roll in. Horija would like support, Haddy's mum wants her to start school, Eba's house is falling down, Bubba (the deaf & dumb little boy) needs special help - The Gambia is full of deserving cases, all genuine. We know these people and it's heart-breaking to have to say "No". Gift Aid is essential; we will get a tax refund of 28% on all donations made by tax payers. That will be a wonderful help to people. We need a web site but haven't the foggiest idea how to set one up - more research. If we can afford a trip out there in October/November we'll be able to take out some medical supplies we've been give, together with a load of children's clothing. Must find out how to post pictures on this site ... Help.