Kaira Konko

Help Me To Make To Make A Difference - Marion's Story

When long-time ClobR customer, Marion Christmas came into the boutique recently, she and I got to talking about our recent 'Bras for Balamanja' initiative, in which we, here at ClobR, and with your help, collected over 300 second-hand bras to be sent to Malawian women in need.
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Hearing this, Marion told me about her latest trip to The Gambia and the charity work she and her friend Jill have been doing there over the last three decades.
Now, I've known Marion for about 6 years and I'd no idea about her work in Africa, so, intrigued to know more - leaning on the shop counter - I asked her to tell me a bit about what it was she did; little did I know that, over the next twenty minutes, Marion and her incredible story would take me on an emotional rollercoaster and instil in me an urge to make a difference.
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I'm now going to tell you what Marion told me...
In 1989, a group of Hampshire Scouts, in conjunction with Action Aid, spent six weeks in The Gambia working in the local community, where help was desperately needed. In those six weeks, life-long friendships were made and an international connection between Hampshire and Soma was forged.
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A few years later, Hampshire Scouts raised the money to bring four Gambian Scouts to the England for an international camp.
Coming from thatched-roof homes, made from earth bricks, with no electricity or running water, these boys were used to a hard home life; in their four weeks in the UK, these young men were to see and experience so many things that they could only dream of having at home.
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At the end of their trip, the young Gambians spent a few nights with Marion Christmas and her family - Marion's son, Paul had been on the 1989 expedition.
Marion asked the boys if there was anything they would like to take back to The Gambia with them - thinking they might ask for a pair of trainers or a radio - they told her they would like their own Ferny Crofts (referring to the Hampshire Scout centre in the New Forest) so, Marion promised she’d build them one!

And so she did. With no experience of the African continent, or even of construction, Marion set about raising the funds to enable her promise to the boys.
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The Scout centre, Kaira Konko, meaning "Hill of Peace" was completed in 1998 and has, since then been a thriving Scout centre and lodge accommodation to people of The Gambia, as well as international travellers, Scouts and school groups.


Since its opening, funds raised by the lodge, along with charitable donations, have been invested in various community projects; recent initiatives include feeding Soma’s poorest families, sponsoring local children through school and into Higher education, providing a safe water supply for the area and rebuilding homes stricken by poverty. 

The Kaiaf Health Centre serves a large rural area of the Lower River Region of The Gambia; with support from UK sponsors and Kaira Konko, the centre is undergoing a much-needed renovation and expansion programme. The centre began as a one-room facility but has grown, in line with community awareness and patient demand.

In The Gambia, childbirth brings considerable risk to life and, this Spring, Kaira Konko are on a mission to vastly improve maternity services in the area.

This is the main maternity room of the Kaiaf Health Centre.

As someone who gave birth in a very comfortable midwife-run facility in Petersfield, it's hard to recognise the Kaiaf Health Centre as a modern birthing place and, whilst the dedicated nursing team there work tirelessly to improve maternity conditions, and the renovations being made are making a huge difference, it's still a very far stretch from the sort of medical facilities we're privileged enough to have here in the UK.

The health centre wants to raise funds to buy solar batteries, so that they can bring light and basic comfort to the maternity ward, throughout the night. Marion told me how women in labour had to pay for the use of a ceiling fan - something they were just totally unable to afford - and that lack of electricity in the centre also sees babies regularly being delivered by nothing more than the light of a hand-held torch.

 In Soma, women need to provide their own sanitary towels, soap, surgical stitches, any and all medication, food and washing buckets as part of their after-care treatment: an impossible task for many local women.

So, members of the Kaira Konko team are assembling and distributing maternity kits, made up in buckets, which include these things that they need to be safely delivered and, with which to look after themselves following the birth of their babies; really simple maternity basics that I, for one, took for granted when I had my son here in Hampshire.

Marion, and the Kaira Konko team are dedicated to expanding the maternity care provision in Soma and ensuring that local, expectant mothers have access to good health care facilities at every stage of their motherhood journeys.

Kaira Konko is supporting women to bring new life safely into the world, but they can only do so with the support of people like you and I.

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So, I'm reaching out to you, and to all your friends and family in turn, to help me help these women in The Gambia. I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw the maternity conditions they live in; as a mum my myself, it really got to me, to all the girls in shop, in fact - and we all knew, right away, that I had to tell Marion's story to you, to my ClobR ladies. 

If you'd like to support the work that Kaira Konko is doing in The Gambia to promote safe and hygienic maternity care, then you can give, whatever you are able to, via KindLink on the charity's website:

CLICK HERE TO DONATE 

 

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