The Society of Saint Vincent de Paul’s (SSVP) Education Support Project in Gambia changes the lives of many children and teenagers who need someone to believe in them and invest in them.
In this small country with fewer than two million inhabitants, the SSVP has undertaken charitable projects with the support of the SSVP’s Commission for International Aid and Development (CIAD) and the SSVP Ireland. These projects are rice cultivation, fishing boats, sowing by tractor, rice husking, vegetable growing, a housing rental assistance programme and educational support.
When engaging in this work, the members of the Society have the privilege of being recognised by the Gambian Head of State and the Bishopric of the Catholic Diocese of Banjul, always offering them the possibility of participating in the delivery and distribution of donations of various material goods at a national level.
The SSVP Gambia is very conscious of the importance of offering resources to those in the population who are living on the street, with no training or employment, firmly believing that it’s necessary to invest in these people to get them out of this situation.
The members of the Society in Gambia have good examples of many who have benefitted from the opportunity for training. Fellow member, David MS Gómez, their current project manager, was once a beneficiary of the SSVP’s help. He is now a teacher by profession and headteacher of various schools. Who knows what his future would have been like if he had not had the SSVP’s support? He is an example of the role of financial investment in education. The innumerable pupils who have passed through the schools which he runs, and who know him by the nickname of “Mr Discipline”, ensure that the living witness of this man is a source of real pride for the SSVP.
There are other examples of students who are part of this education project run by the SSVP Gambia and who have continued their studies in Europe, China, and the USA. It is worth mentioning the achievements of Marie Adams Njie, another beneficiary of this education project, who works with the UN in Gambia. There are also three students currently studying law at the University of Gambia, two doing medicine and various other students training in finance, marketing, and architecture, to name but a few examples.
Let us now consider the case of Marcel Chipaapa Jarju, the youngest of five children, who is another example of how a life can be changed through studying. His uncle asked his father to let him go to the farm and the SSVP’s school so that he could continue his education. Initially, his father was reluctant, commenting that Chipaapa did not usually make the best of his time at school and that they were possibly going to waste their money. Having completed his education, he now designs houses and has a job and a car.
The SSVP Gambia is proud to be able to influence the lives of these people classified as “poor” in academic terms and to whom nobody would give an opportunity. Furthermore, the Vincentians are forcing a positive change in the education process. The number of students they have sponsored has contributed to an increase in school admissions. This has led to an increase in the number of teachers in schools as well as additional classrooms and new facilities put in place for students.
It can be said that, through this programme of educational sponsorship, the SSVP Gambia has trained people who now hold posts of responsibility in various institutions but, above all, “it has given hope to those who were on the road to failure.”