Our modern Health Centre, which we staff and fund, continues to provide affordable healthcare to the community of Old Jeshwang, a sprawling urban village of about 25,000 people. Although unable to support it financially the Gambian Health Authority accepts our facility as an integral part of its health care system.
2017 continues to be another successful year for the Centre, with some mothers travelling from the capital Banjul, 15 miles away, to access our “clean facilities” and “friendly staff”, the maternity unit providing a safe environment for both mums and babies.
The somewhat turbulent installation of the new Gambian government in March necessitated postponing our visit until April, hence the slight delay to this year’s update. However, we arrived in a country seemingly much more at ease with itself.
It was with great sadness that our visit was overshadowed by the death of Mary Stafford our Gambian chairman’s wife. However, being present for the funeral we were able to give Emmanuel and his family both much appreciated support and your condolences in person.
Again this year we have seen much progress. The pathology lab now offers 25 different tests making a significant contribution to the running costs of the whole Centre. Our committed path. lab. team of 9 staff headed by Cherno have set up their own training course for path. lab. assistants. An amazingly well motivated group who deserve to have some of their equipment updated and added to – we are working on it but need to attract some additional funding for it to happen quickly!
It was gratifying to see Genevive and Isatou continuing to work together in leading a good team of midwives who take pride in everything they do. Our delivery rate continues to touch on around 35 babies per month.
The new generator was fully operational, looking very smart in its completely rebuilt generator shed, and frequently giving hourly backups to an increasingly erratic national power supply. Due to the critical part it plays in our day to day service we now have it on a monthly service contract with a Dutch company based in Banjul.
The planned refurbishment of the Bantaba meeting place has been completed. Wow! What a transformation! 3 smart new offices created around 1/3rd of the periphery, for Immunisation, Blood donation (called “the bleeding room!”) and the third room for Stock control. Our disease surveillance unit now based here continues to be at the frontline of reducing the incidence of Malaria with its insecticide nets, education programmes and prompt diagnosis and treatment. The remaining central area, with chairs, tables and benches set out for Community Health Clinics also serves as a teaching space with blackboard. This was obviously being well used for the pathology training and community health talks. Whilst we were there it had a real buzz! The blood donation facility continues to attract much local support and is enhanced by its new home.
The Bantaba roof has also now been thatched making it a cooler and much more welcoming venue.
The main clinic hall remains clean and spacious and also with smart new offices created around the old nurse’s station which will serve a Cashier, a new Accountant and our Doctor. With the increased income from our path. lab. and ever popular dentist, we are looking to fund a GP presence in the afternoons. This will complement our children’s doctor’s surgery in the mornings, recently made a permanent feature through the generosity of a sponsor.
During this year’s visit it became obvious that a new large general store was needed. (We never addressed this issue when the sea containers used for general storage were removed and the retained items redistributed around the Centre). It is proposed to site ‘Mary’s Store’ next to the generator shed which, hopefully, will help to maintain a ‘decluttered site’.
We were also able to review the progress of some of the children whose secondary education we sponsor. A visit to a local technical school successfully decoded (and decreased) a bill for one and, another sponsored student, Isatou Darboe, proudly visited us at the Centre with her latest excellent report. If you would like to sponsor a Gambian child’s education please let us know – the need is great and it really does makes a difference!
The demands on our Health Centre continue to grow and we are fortunate that the constancy of your support enables us to meet these new challenges whilst still maintaining high standards in our primary health care services. Our 48 Gambian staff and their families are certainly mindful of your commitment.
Our new website, aoja.org is now ‘up and running’ thanks to Mark Tomlin our new webmaster. Please sign up with your e-mail address to enable us to more regularly (and cheaply!) update you.
Pictures of these recent activities will be circulated shortly and will be on display at summer BBQ on Saturday 24th June, 1pm at Avins Bridge Cottage, Ardingly, RH17 6SH. All are most welcome, but to assist catering please book tickets in advance by calling 01444 892431 or registering your interest online here.
With grateful thanks to you all.
On behalf of the Ardingly Management Committee