As the situation with Coronavirus has progressed the Penyem villagers have been trying to observe the terms of lockdown. These are very similar to those in UK and other parts of the world. The schools are closed, as are the Mosques. People are asked to remain in their own compounds. Most difficult is no hand shaking!
The Gambian economy is very fragile. People are lucky to have a job. Many of the jobs revolve around the tourist industry – and of course there are no tourists. The majority of the Penyem villagers are farmers. There crops are varied but ground nuts, peanuts, and mango are widely grown. Any surplus produce is then taken to market, usually in Brikama and sold. The income from the sales allows the people to buy food that they cannot grow in large enough quantities. The main item they have to buy is rice. This is expensive with a 50KG sack costing 1250 GMD – about £25. A sack will feed an average family for 4-6 weeks.
It has soon become apparent that they needed urgent assistance with purchasing rice. NTF has stepped in to help. We were spurred on by Hilda! She is the 95 year old mother of our long time sponsors Jill and Bryan Allbut. Hilda took on a sponsored walk project and the proceeds were shared between her local church and NTF. We have received a magnificent donation of £650 from Hilda.
This has been put together with other donations from our every loyal supporters to create a £1500 Penyem Food Aid Programme. This went hand in hand with another project fronted by the village Red Cross Volunteer Group. They have been working on a whole village sanitization programme, educating the villagers in Covid 19 prevention, including washing buckets, disinfectant and soap at the entrance of every compound.
During the weekend of 9 May our team of co-workers and volunteers mobilised into a structured and co-ordinated operation of rice distribution in Penyem. Rice was allocated according to numbers in each compound, need and so on. At the same time more work was done to increase the basic hygiene around the compounds with the Red Cross Group.
On Thursday 14 May, Alkolo Kalilu Kolley sent this message:
I am thànking NTF for providing funds to buy rice for the people of Penyem village. Special thanks to Malang Marena and Jerreh Kolley for going round the village to count the number of peopĺe in each compound. This was the information we use to distribute the rice fairly I thank you very much for the great work the made the distribution very easy for us I also have to thank the Village Red Cross society the for actively participating in the sensitization and distributions exercise. Thanks to the VDC for the participation in strategic planning and distribution. Thanks the point News paper and Radio Gambia for reporting the occasion. Last but not the least I thank all the volunteers for participating fully in the exercise. I thank Ten very much despite his poor health condition he was there to advice and monitor the exercise. I thank you all.