Project Gambia: People Feeding People are delighted to be working with the Diocese of Dunkeld following their meeting with Bishop Stephen Robson in June. Rebecca Lafferty and Aidan Curivan, two young students who run the fund raising efforts of the charity, are shown pictured with Pope Francis.
Project Gambia was set up 7 years ago and Aidan and the other volunteers, having done voluntary work for various charities working in Africa, came to realise that The Gambia, a small country in West Africa, was not getting the support that some of the other African countries were receiving.
After visiting schools in The Gambia, they came across St John’s School for the Deaf in the Catholic Diocese of Banjul. Being one of the only special needs schools in one of Africa’s poorest countries, it seemed like a logical place for them to start. Rebecca said that “After touring the school, we were taken into the store room, where we were shocked to find that the only food they had for at the time 200 children was a bag of rice and a bag of onions. After seeing that and meeting the children, we decided there and then that we had to do something to help them and make their lives at least a little bit easier”. Having set up a fully functioning feeding programme at the school four years ago, as well as providing the children with school bags, learning materials and school uniforms, the attendance now sits at over 350 children. The transformation of the attendance has only been one of the benefits they have noticed. Aidan said that “the children are now coming to school more focused, more concentrated, more energetic and are doing better in their exams than ever before”. Although St. John’s was the initial focus of the charity, they have recently expanded their efforts to St Patrick’s Lower Basic School and St. Joseph’s Nursery School in The Gambia – taking their feeding programme to over 1,000 children between the three schools. Mother Teresa summed up their mission perfectly when she said that “if you can’t feed one hundred children, then just feed one”. Thanks to the support of the Catholic community in Scotland, they are now able to feed more than 1,000 children every day. The charity is ran entirely by volunteers who do the charity work in their spare time, so they find it particularly amazing that it has grown to the extent that it has.
One accomplishment their volunteers are particularly proud of is that they were able to secure a visa for a young pupil of St John’s, Alieu (Muhammed Cham) to come to Scotland. Alieu was born without ears, but the type of Deafness he had was entirely treatable. Through a partnership with the NHS and ENT Surgeon Mr Iyer, Alieu was able to hear for the first time in his entire life. Since this life-changing surgery, he has also learned how to speak and is now attending a mainstream school in The Gambia. During his time here he was able to meet and thank Bishops, parish priests and parishioners who had so faithfully supported his school over the past years.
The charity volunteers, fuelled by their faith and education, fund raise by visiting different parishes across Scotland each weekend. As they now expand their efforts into the Diocese of Dunkeld, many of you will be meeting them and hearing more about their story in the months ahead.
Rebecca said that “We would all like to thank Bishop Robson for his support, which included a very generous donation of £500 from the Diocese. The fact that he has welcomed us into the parishes of his Diocese with such open arms is so heart-warming. We would also like to thank the parish priests of the Diocese, who have been so keen to support us and invite us to tell our story in their parishes.
St Therese, whose relics journeying so memorably through our Dioceses last year, said that “the Church has a Heart and this Heart is burning with love” – which has been precisely our experience of our Church here in Scotland. It is this heart of the Catholic Church, beating full of life, that makes our work in transforming the lives of over 1,000 children every day possible. To all the clergy and faithful of the Diocese of Dunkeld, we assure you of our continued prayers – and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts”.