I've enjoyed watching my friends celebrate Commonwealth Day in past years, and as a visiting Englishman it has helped me reflect on the wrongs that have been done to this tiny African country which I love so much. To witness the proud and friendly citizens of The Gambia celebrating Independence day has emphasised that the country has moved on from the days of exploitation and slavery with a good grace that many Europeans would have difficulty emulating.
GOES will still help Gambians with emergency support whenever possible. We're a small charity and sometimes we sadly have to say 'Sorry, we can't help this time.' For example, we can't buy you a sheep to help celebrate Tobaski or other festivals. But recently we've helped a families cope with invalidity, house fires, rebuilding after the rainy season, school fees and dental expenses. Like hundreds of other small charities we do what we can.
So, back to the title. Where does Lampedusa come into all this? Well, once again there's been a terrible disaster off the coast of that small Italian island. A boat crammed with refugees has caught fire and sank, causing the deaths of hundreds of men, women and children. I have always admired the courage and determination of people who leave their homes and set out on a journey of thousands of miles across unknown country to try and find a better life in Europe. I doubt I would have the courage to undertake such a journey. So many of those people meet with robbery, sickness or death when they undertake that journey. Some, a few, do make it and bravely look for employment so they can send money home to their families. Sadly, more do not; even if they survive the journey they may be arrested, interned, then returned to their home land poorer but perhaps wiser.
GOES tries, in its own small way, like many other charities to help improve life for people in their own villages.