Our MD, James Holden, established the AOT back in 2005 with the objective of trying to tackle poverty and sickness in this smallest of mainland African countries. Leader has always supported the work of the AOT and we asked James to write a few notes for us now that travel is once again permitted.
James recently returned to see how things are in a country where Covid levels appear relatively low but where the economy has suffered massively, there’s been no furlough pay and some devastating storms have wrought havoc on many of the schools and hospitals that the Trust supports….
A Gambian Blog by James Holden – 25th November 2021
I’ve just left my home in Warwick. Temperature 2 degrees Celsius and it’s due to rain shortly. By this time tomorrow I’ll be in The Gambia- temperature 32 degrees C and it won’t rain until next July!
I’ve been going to The Gambia ever since 2004 when I first visited what was then called James Island. It’s a World Heritage site that’s slowly falling to pieces. And yet it’s slavery’s equivalent of the Holocaust’s Auschwitz: James Island was one of the main holding areas for Africans before they were transhipped to the New World as slaves.
It’s called Kinta Kinteh island now, after Alex Haley’s famous ancestor whom he traced through historical records and the extraordinary memory of Gambian griots who carry the history of their people orally. As I’ve already said, the island, which lies relatively near the mouth of the great river Gambia, is gently mouldering. The cells where the stolen Africans were caged pending transportation are now open to the fierce West African sun which frequently generates breezeless temperatures close to 40 degrees. And yet whenever I have visited I have found myself strangely chilled.
To be honest it was this ‘James Island’ experience that prompted me to establish the AOT and I’m about to make my 21st visit. I really do wonder what I’ll discover on my visit. How has Gambia and its people fared? How are the schools and the hospitals that the AoT supports doing?
I guess I shall find out soon enough…
If you would like to find out more about the AOT, please visit here: http://www.africanoystertrust.co.uk