After almost 20 years the Friends of Visually Impaired Children in The Gambia is about to complete its final project.
The trustees particularly wanted to say 'thank you' to Lamin Saidy for all his hard work and patience and the way he has supported The Friends over the years. So it was agreed to sponsor the dream of his wife Haddy to set up her own nursery school which will include some children with special needs. Below: some of the first pupils at Haddy's nursery school.
Haddy is about to retire as the head of a large upper basic school at Sukuta and so has extensive experience in education. Her nursery school has been built on land owned by Lamin in Brufut. She will allocate one of the classrooms as a day care centre.
Although this is the charity's final project Joan and Phil will continue to travel to The Gambia to give, when possible, support to the Start Now Centre in Brikama. This is going from strength to strength but still requires assistance as will Haddy's nursery school.
We feel it is wonderful that, after so many years, the Director of GOVI has said that its school is able to run without the support of The Friends. Thanks to the Gambian Education Department over 200 visually impaired children have been integrated into main-stream schooling.
Phil and Joan Feller visited the Gambia in May and reported:
Once again Start Now has done a cracking good job on the construction of a wall to provide more security for the building, and added protection for the staff and students. The murals were painted by Ebrima Saho.
We had a long chat with the team as they still need help with computer equipment and other items. We advised them to set up a "Friends of Start Now".
Haddy's nurse school is nearly finished. Joan has managed to sell a few more items [at car boot sales] and so was able to give Lamin some money to complete the work before the official opening at the beginning of the September term. Rianne, the wonderful Dutch nurse, will provide the furniture which, at present, is in storage.
The Start Now team beside Ebrima Saho's mural
The entrance to the Start Now compound
Haddy's nursery school
With the charity now winding down a quieter year was expected but then Lamin Saidy, our Gambian member and representative, introduced us to the Start Now team (above).
This centre of Technology for Visually Impaired people, based at Brikama, was the dream of founder members Alieu Jaiteh and Charles Gomez. When we met them in November 2014 we were so impressed by their in enthusiasm and commitment to the education of visually impaired young people after main-stream schooling.
Phillip and Joan Feller, representing the Friends of Visually Impaired Children in the Gambia, attended the inauguration of the Start Now project at Brikama in the Gambia on May 28, 2016.
The objectives of Start Now are to provide further education and training for the visually impaired and blind young people who have completed their schooling.
January 26, 2016
Congratulations to Muhammed Krubally for becoming the first visually impaired person in the history of The Gambia to be a Barrister and Solicitor of the Supreme Court of that country.
He wrote: "I acknowledge the true friends like Joan and Phil and my sponsors without whom attaining this important position might be impossible or delayed. I thank God a lot.
Phil and Joan Feller were sad that neither of them were able to attend the graduation ceremony. They would also have liked to have seen M Krubally's new daughter, born on January 6.
Phillip Feller commented: "This is an amazing story". It is a truly inspiring story not just for visually impaired children in The Gambia but anywhere in the world.