Needless to say, charities around the world have been hit hard by COVID-19. The African Oyster Trust (AOT), a charity founded by Leader and close to its heart, is no different.
The AOT provides education and healthcare to children in The Gambia. While the COVID-19 infection rate in the country has flattened, only essential travel into the country is permitted and there are still fears of a second wave. This could be catastrophic for its economy and fragile health system. Now is not the time to turn our backs on a promise made over 15 years ago.
In 2001, a climb up Mount Kilimanjaro, a chance meeting with a formidable philanthropist at his local tennis club and 9/11 all contributed to James Holden’s resolution to do something that could make a positive change in Africa. But would it be possible to make a real difference? And how could he be sure where the money from fundraising activity was going? How would he know whether his good intentions were worthwhile?
These questions took our managing director to one of the smallest and poorest countries in Africa with a handful of gifts and bags of uncertainty. By his own admission, his journey to a small school in The Gambia was uncomfortable in more ways than one.
Sitting with the locals in the stifling heat, it was hard to believe that any amount of desire and commitment to help such a poverty-stricken part of Africa could improve their lives significantly. Faced with the reality of the situation, it was overwhelming and disheartening.
But there were a few people on the ground making things happen; picking up and handing out medical supplies, playing sport with local children on a dusty school yard and providing books to the school. When a young local spotted James and offered her last few sweets, it was enough to change his mind. Small things may not change the world but they can make a real impact.
The African Oyster Trust was founded in 2005. This small part of The Gambia now has an up and running hospital, two clinics and four nursery schools. It provides healthcare to thousands of Gambians of all ages and delivers nursery education to more than 500 children every year.
Funds continue to be raised by individual and corporate donations and, when possible, through fund-raising events with all proceeds going to projects on the ground. And they need this support now more than ever.
If you would like to find out more about the AOT or get involved, please visit here: http://www.africanoystertrust.co.uk/
Or, learn more the founding of the African Oyster Trust, the people involved and the projects they support, you can also read Happy! Happy! Happy! a book about the AOT written by Dee Bixley in 2015. Click here