‘It has touched our hearts’ - Soham couple donate essential items to Gambian school in desperate need of help
- Credit: Archant
A Soham couple who has helped schoolchildren in Gambia with donations of vital equipment and other essentials said the difference they have made to their lives has “touched our hearts”.
Herbie Baker and Linda Hitchings stayed at the Kololi Beach Resort in Gambia last year and in 2018, where they met Bassaru Jallow, who worked as a gardener on the resort.
The couple got friendly with Bassaru, whose uncle works at the Kerr Ardo Basic Cycle School, and wanted to take the couple to his hometown so they could meet his family.
“Me and Linda used to travel a lot, so we gave Gambia a go,” Herbie said.
“We got quite friendly with him and last year, he wanted to take us to his village to meet his family and other children.
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“We went in the village and all the schoolchildren ran up to us, taking sweets and bags of rice, pencils, and the headteacher came up to us and said ‘please, please, please can you help these children?’
“When we got to the village, we could tell straight away that they need help.”
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On their return to the UK in January this year, instead of receiving gifts for his birthday, Herbie instead wanted to donate these to the school as friends and relatives attended his party in fancy dress.
With help from the likes of Soham Comrades Club and Linda’s best friend Lisa Stewart encouraging people to donate items such as stationery, as well as Histon FC providing football kits, the couple raised £1,120, something which came as a surprise to Herbie.
“We went out to the shops and bought pens, pencils, people from the village donated children’s clothes and all sorts,” he said.
“We had a fancy dress and we charged each person £2 entry and then people from Soham and the comrades club donated prizes.
“I said to Linda before the party I thought we’d raise between £400-500. We were really pleased.
“We kept in touch with Bassaru nearly every day, sending us photos and it touched our hearts.”
Each shipment of items takes around six weeks to arrive at the village, with the next shipment planned for October depending on restrictions caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Histon have already said they will donate more kits, and the couple aim to return to the village later this year as they continue to help those in school and in daily life.
“I have started collecting other stuff now when the next ships come out in October, and if we can get there this year, we want to spend more time at the village,” Herbie added.
“They are massive Liverpool fans and I actually took two Liverpool shirts and a mobile phone to my friend.
“I sent Histon the photos and they are amazed by it all. They said they will donate even more football kits, so we will do this again.”