African mission success

PUBLISHED: 13:23 13 February 2008 | UPDATED: 14:27 07 July 2010

MID-NORFOLK friends Janet Clark and Marney Kuyateh were mobbed by welcoming villagers as they arrived on their latest mission to give impoverished people in Africa a better quality of life.

MID-NORFOLK friends Janet Clark and Marney Kuyateh were mobbed by welcoming villagers as they arrived on their latest mission to give impoverished people in Africa a better quality of life.

It was the latest humbling episode in the history of the Mattishall-based GATE - Gateway to a Better Future - relief and educational project.

Janet, of Mattishall, and Marney, from Garvestone, travelled deep into Gambia's Upper River Division to an area where, in Janet's words, “the poorest of the poor live”.

During their two-week visit they were able to see a new milling machine, funded by a sponsored reading of the complete New Testament last summer at All Saints' Church, Mattishall.

And they were bowled over by the joyous reception awaiting them from some of the many people who will benefit from the gift.

“We were mobbed. The whole village turned out to greet us,” said Janet. “It was incredible.

“To be honest, I found things so moving out there that I could not talk for a while. I was totally overcome - that's all I can say.

“It is just that feeling of being able to do something to make such a huge difference to the people's lives.”

The mill, the second of its kind to be supported by GATE, is expected to serve 10 villages and up to 4,000 people and will be used to produce coos, a foodstuff associated with millet. And, because it will take much of the laborious daily grind out of the villagers' day, its spin-off effect is to enable more children to go to school.

In their gratitude, people presented their VIP guests with a ram, worth the equivalent of two months' wages, which they passed on to their guide and interpreter.

Janet and Marney delivered various supplies, including gifts of vegetable seeds from wellwishers and Suffolk-based company Thompson & Morgan for schools and women's groups to sow, dictionaries and exercise books, as well as gifts of footballs from Sporle School.

They saw a new self-help venture in which fabric handbags are being crafted by a women's group, having been supplied with an electric sewing machine and generator by the GATE team. Some will be sold in Britain.

And they brought home with them some Gambian jewellery. Various items are expected to be on sale through Dereham Baptist Church and the town's Fairtrade Fortnight event from February 25 to March 9.

GATE's 2008 wish-list includes fundraising to install a kitchen in a country school to enable the pupils to have a hot midday meal; providing about £600 of equipment for another playground; and an estimated £10,000 venture to help a school that wants to create an orchard and to cultivate foods such as mango, guava, papaya and coconuts.

“They've got plenty of ground to do it. We're wondering whether this one might appeal to a company over here that would like to get involved in a carbon-offset project,” said Janet.

To find out more about GATE and its other schemes, which also include sponsorship to send children to school and teachers to college, call Janet on 01362 858221. She can also give talks to schools and groups.

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