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Fundraiser boosts African school kitchen

PUBLISHED: 16:59 25 February 2009 | UPDATED: 15:03 07 July 2010

Janet Clark (centre left) of Mattishall and Irene Marshall of Shipdham are presented with tribal tops.

Janet Clark (centre left) of Mattishall and Irene Marshall of Shipdham are presented with tribal tops.

IT has helped to make sure needy children get a square meal every day with a Dickens of a fundraiser. And now a mid-Norfolk charity team is out to sustain a consistently high level of schooling for them.

IT has helped to make sure needy children get a square meal every day with a Dickens of a fundraiser. And now a mid-Norfolk charity team is out to sustain a consistently high level of schooling for them.

Janet Clark, of the Mattishall-based Gambian Aid Through Education (GATE) project, has just returned from her latest self-funded visit to the remote, poor interior of the west African nation to see the latest results of its moneyraising work by churchgoers, school pupils and other supporters.

She was joined for the first time by Irene Marshall, from Shipdham, who is involved through the Cowper Congregational church in Dereham and who shared the frugal amenities of the region during their stay.

The British pair were visiting at a time of mourning after a river-borne tragedy in which two fishermen drowned when their dug-out canoe was smashed in a collision.

But there was joy, too, as Gambian guests showed them a new school kitchen built with the help of money raised last summer by a sponsored reading of Oliver Twist at Gressenhall Farm & Workhouse.

“Our idea was to make sure that all the children got a good meal every day,” said Janet.

For 2009, GATE's wish-list includes funding an accommodation block for staff at the Bakadagi school in Gambia's Upper River region.

Janet explained: “The teachers are not from the village and need to stay there. To provide quality teaching we need to have a continuity of teachers, so to do so we need to provide them with accommodation.”

To help raise funds, Janet and her volunteer team are seeking people to take part in two sponsored walks in and around Mattishall in June. They will be of 13km, signifying the distance that some of the school's pupils travel each way to get to their daily lessons.

Also on the agenda is a plan to set up a low-cost bike hire scheme for pupils. This will enable children to get to school quicker at times of year when sweltering temperatures sometimes exceeding 50LC make it too hot for them to walk.

The GATE project has been running for several years and aims to help people in some of Africa's poorest communities to help themselves through improving access to education. Over the years it has chalked up various successes in increasing pupil numbers by supporting pupils and teachers and by freeing up time for family members to attend school through providing labour-saving devices such as feed mills.

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