SOS Children’s Villages The Gambia expands to Basse in URR

Thursday, November 6, 2008
Friday 24th October 2008 saw the official inauguration of SOS Children’s Village Basse, when the solemn words officially opening SOS Children’s Village Basse were pronounced by Hon. Dr. Malick Njie, SoS for Health and Social Welfare who was representing H.E. Alhaji Dr. Yahya AJJ Jammeh.

This project that is mainly funded by sponsors and donors from UK through SOS Kinderdorf International counts an SOS Children’s Village that is a caring home for 86 orphaned and abandoned children with 12 mothers and 9 aunties, a kindergarten with 139 pupils both sponsored by Mr James Barham from UK; and a Lower and Upper Basic school that has unrolled so far up to grade 4 121 pupils, partly sponsored by the National Bursar Association UK and the Zurich Insurance Company in Switzerland.The ultimate capacity for the various projects are: 120 at the SOS Children’s Village, 140 at the SOS Kindergarten and 210 at the SOS Lower & Upper Basic School.

"This village is better and more beautiful than that of Bakoteh" proudly said Hon. Omar Khan Governor of URR in his welcome remark as he recalled the first visit of Mr James Barham in Basse two years ago when he came to see the bushy land allocated to SOS in the outskirt of Basse Mansajang, and marvelled on its transformation as it stand today.Hon.

Khan sincerely thanked SOS, Mr Barham, the National Bursars Association UK and the Zurich Insurance Company for their assistance to the children of The Gambia and his region.He proposed more land to SOS for the construction of a Senior Secondary School, which has surely not fallen into death-ears.

Looking at James Barham in the fullah outfit he offered him two year ago, he christened him Samba Khan – now his brother from URR.

Richard Pichler, Secretary General of SOS Kinderdorf International underscored the importance of caring and protecting children who will become future leaders: "Celebrate today, but start working hard already as from tomorrow for SOS Children’s Village Basse is like a small tree.

Please shelter it, nurture it, water it and it will grow; for in 10, 15 years these children that are sitting here will leave this village with your respect, for you as the elders, for you as society; and they will in return want to contribute to society".

Mrs Fanta Bai Secka, Director of Social Welfare pledged government’s commitment and support to the protection of all the children in this village and in The Gambia.She advised the mothers that the children are under their care but they belong to the community with whom SOS should nurture integration as the children will return one day back to the community.To the Village Director Mr Henry Mendy, her advise was that despite all the difficulties and challenges with children coming from various communities, regions and background, he has to care for all of them and be a father to all of them.

Hon. Dr. Malick Njie underscored the importance of children in the Gambian society as central to Gambia’s history and tradition.

"Any intervention into family life on behalf of children must be guided by state laws and sound professional standards".He said. " The Gambia is signatory and has ratified all international protocols relating to children and has indigenised all such provisions in the Children’s Act 2005 which states to promote foremost children’s rights in accordance with the MDGs".

According to Hon Dr Njie, special measures have been taken through the Department of Social Welfare in collaboration with partners to support children who lack parental care."The Government of The Gambia has made children’s welfare a priority concern; emphasis is made on the right of children to be respected and no child should be denied basic care, nutrition, shelter and education.Protection of every child is a collective responsibility" said SoS Njie.

In her opening remark, Ms Oumou Tall Ag. National Director for SOS Children’s Villages The Gambia and chairperson for the occasion, quoted the founder of SOS Children’s Villages Dr. Hermann Gmeiner who dedicated his life to the welfare and protection of children around the world, in these words that are extracts from his reflections and convictions he shared with the world thirty years ago: "Many of the modern development regarded as ‘progress’ or as technical and intellectual advancements or achievements have created a world that is hostile to the child" – "If we want to help these children we must become their champions, asserting their right to protection and help and defend this right in the face of adult blindness and egoism" - " It is the task of society to offer each one of our children the support and protection, care and education essential to their development. These are things of which a child must never be deprived of.

Society needs the child, for through the child it receives ever new impulses and adapts itself to the changing circumstances of life" – "To neglect a child for the sake of selfish adult interests is to destroy the foundation of human existence" – "The true history of mankind is not concerned with its wars but rather with its cultural development.Let this be the red thread running through life, to be picked up and continued by our children".

Relating to SOS Children’s Village Basse, Ms Tall said: "The expansion of SOS Children’s Villages The Gambia work in Basse is very relevant with the challenge that SOS Children’s Villages worldwide has set itself of ensuring that 1million children live in a caring family environment by 2016, have friends to finance their needs, and build a collective of professional co-workers who are ready and able to drive this challenge to 2016 and beyond".

SOS Children offered gifts to dedicated guests; the Gambia Football Association offered sports gears to the SOS children marking their commitment to embrace the children of SOS Children’s Village Basse in the long standing partnership SOS enjoys with GFA.

Ms Oumou Tall extended sincere appreciation and thanks to H.E. President Jammeh and his government, Governor Khan and his office, and Mrs Secka and her team for the continuous wonderful support and collaboration with SOS Children’s Villages The Gambia.She also heartily thanked the Basse community and business community whom have made the day a success though their donations and participation.

The SOS Children’s Village Basse cultural group in their very typical fullah attire danced to a beautiful and well executed choreography to the delight of all that were present.

The blue and white symbolic ribbon held by an SOS boy and girl was cut by Hon. SoS Njie with the assistance of Hon. Ousman Sonko – SoS for Interior, Hon. Ismaila Sambou – SOS for Local Government, Lands and Religious Affairs, Hon. Governor Khan and Richard Pichler before the Village plaque was unveiled.

The Ag. National Director gave a conducted tour of the projects and during the tour two more plaques were unveiled: that of the Kindergarten by Mr James Barham in memory of Annie Rose – his mother; and that of the Lower and Upper Basic School by Mr David Stranack, Trustee of SOS Children’s Villages UK on behalf of the sponsors.

The ceremony was witnessed by Hon. Ousman Sonko;Hon. Ismaila Sambou; Mr Josef Kittl, Regional Director SOS-Kinderdorf International Regional Office North West Africa and Mr Hermann Boehler; Deputy Regional Director; Mrs Fiona Tuohy Partner of James Barham; Mrs Ann Stranack; Ms Caroline Baker SOS Children’s Villages UK; Mr Nelson de Medina, National Director SOS Guinea Bissau and Francesca Nanchia Corea Director SOS Children’s Village Gabu; Chiefs; Alkolos, Yaye Compins, Religious Leaders, Partners, Heads of government departments and private organisations, the members of the Basse community and SOS co-workers.

On Thursday 23rd at another small , private but solemn ceremony, Mr James Barham and the SOS children planted a mango tree, to symbolise growth, happiness and peace in the SOS Children’s Village Basse.This ceremony was witnessed by the SOS Mothers, Aunties, staff and all the friends and colleagues from UK.

Mr Barham promised the children that he will come back and climb the tree with them; the children promised him to water, nurture and care for the tree, and promised to send him the first mangoes the tree will produce. Looks like this is a love story that is not about to end in million years. Samba Khan has found home in URR.

Author: DO