Rich and I, may need counselling after the job we witnessed today. Ngange was good enough to pick us up to go to his HQ and then onto his office when a call came from Samba… “beer bottling factory on fire.” I almost jumped out of the moving car, ran up the road and changed into some fire gear😂.
We pulled up to the factory and were confronted with a very busy scene. We passed through the factory’s security with Ngange and were met by Samba. He walked us down to the scene of operations and explained what had happened so far. As we walked into the factory, firefighters were busy turning over the burnt debris, further into the building, the roof had already fallen in and the fire was still well alight, efforts were being made to deal with it. Factory workers were helping remove burnt debris, some lifting it and others using wheel barrows. Outside there was a huge store of empty bottles on pallets, stored in cardboard and wrapped in plastic to the left of the building. Paul and I were both concerned about the possibility of fire spread. Samba pointed out to us that the bottles were glass and he too was concerned but after assessment the only hose line was required inside and he was correct. We left the guys to finish the job, they would be there for hours, having to shuttle water to and from the hydrant that was some distance from the job.
We stopped at the disaster management HQ for a brief chat with Mr Dahaba the Executive Director, a great character and knowledgeable man within his field. We chatted about our trip so far and showed him our blog, then onto general work he was undertaking, and what we would do with his department.
After our brief chat we returned to the scene of the house fire from Saturday, this was so Ngange could talk to the homeowner, unfortunately he wasn’t there so a meeting was arranged for later. We left for St David’s School as this place had left its mark on us; one of the poorest areas of Gambia, with some of the happiest kids. We wanted to ask if we could help in any way so waited for the headmaster to arrive, no kids today as they were off for Easter. He told us they had started to build a new school not far away so we walked to have a look, the framework is up but they are struggling to finish it off. We asked them to get quotes to begin work again, we emphasised that we aren’t rich by any means but we will endeavour to help, bear in mind how cheap building equipment is here. Our initial idea is to help with clothing and school supplies, then if the quotes are cheap enough see if we can raise the funds. One of the biggest dangers is electrical fires, but they don’t have electric which is essential to make the school better, this would be expensive for locals but affordable in western terms, think of the price of a stag do weekend and the school electrics could be up and running. We await the quote before we decide what we are going to do, this may come across as cheesy but the kids and school have struck a chord with us.
After visiting the school we headed to Ngange’s office at Kanifing Municipal Council (KMC) and discussed various aspects of his work within the NDMA he provided us with some photos from the last time Ebo Town flooded and showed us various documents and statistics which were very interesting (to disaster management students anyway). We were waiting for various people to turn up, a resident from the fire we attended on Saturday for a needs assessment and a member of a local Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) who was potentially going to help with some supplies for the members of the community effected by the fire. While waiting we were introduced to Ngange’s office staff, all volunteers, and then a member of the public health office popped in to chat. We talked about the diseases he deals with in general and after a disaster, flooding being the worst to bring about illnesses. He is part of a preparedness programme that involves informing the community of disaster risks and vaccinations against water borne disease. Part of his job is to visit schools and community groups to educate and help them be more resilient, this is working in many ways for the community, as flood related illness, injury and deaths are declining.
We were then invited to speak with the vice chair of the interim committee, Maria Dacosta, these are the people who will run the admin side of the municipality until the newly voted councillors take over. She was a very open person who explained the politics of the upcoming election to us and why the committee was necessary. She had studied and resided in Reading to complete a Masters degree before returning to The Gambia to eventually work as a community development officer. Her main aim was to share development responsibilities bility’s with the communities and make them self sufficient in a sustainable way, making them more resilient in the process and in a country low on resources this is necessary.
Today our experience was framed from a different perspective, it was very interesting and helped us form a more holistic picture.
Paul & Rich.