Bryan and Jackie Drewett from United Kingdom have been Next Step Sponsors of ActionAid for more than 8 years. Bryan is a lecturer and an engineer and has been sponsoring ActionAid for more than 30 years, first as a child sponsor. He and his wife are now ActionAid The Gambia’s Next Step sponsors prior to sponsoring a child in India.The couple has just ended a week-long visit to our areas of work. This is the second time the couple is visiting, having made a similar one last year. The Sponsorship Communications Coordinator Madi Ceesay spoke to Bryan and Jackie at the end of their visit.
AA: You were here last year and did a lot on some of our ongoing projects. ActionAid was very pleased with your contributions. This year too you are back and have just concluded a week long trek up country where you saw some of those projects you contribute to. What are your impressions
BJD: Our impressions are that everything that we have agreed with ActionAid, that we could do over the year was done and is being done to a very high standard. The two major projects the classroom blocks and the roof on the teacher’s accommodation at Sotokoi School are very impressive. We hope these projects will be of great benefit to the people.
We are both delighted with the classrooms and the teachers’ accommodations and we do believe that the people who work there and live there are happy with it. We are also very happy about the warm welcome and reception we had from everyone we met. People whom we met last year are even more welcoming than before, as they now feel that these are people that they know, so we have a positive experience.
AA: Your intervention at the Bakalari Nursery school has really uplifted the face of the school, is that what you were anticipating?
BJD: I think it looks much better than I expected. The whole building looks quite charming, and it is a very welcoming place for children to learn. The rooms are very spacious, the store, the furniture and the store room between the two class rooms. We are very, very, proud to have our names on the walls of the classroom block which we certainly did not expect, but really we are pleased about it.
AA: You also visited some needy women who got support from you, for example Sawi Bah and Kumba Bah. You have seen how these women live and under what conditions. Did you think this is something that can happen under the earth comparing it from where you come from?
BJD: Two different worlds, we were very privileged to have these women welcome us into their rooms and again we were impressed with such wonderful fabrics which they make so colorful and beautiful. We found their homes charming and we are very delighted with their warm welcome.
AA: Your contributions have positively impacted on the livelihood of these two women, how do you feel about that?
BJD: Well it seems that the skills that they were taught in soap making and animal husbandry have made a difference in their lives, they told us themselves. Kumba Bah who got a sine hoe from Group Juboo said she has benefited a lot and that she was able to double the amount of food she produced for her family’s support and which makes it possible for her to sell part of the produce to pay for other things.
AA: Has what you saw really tempted you to do more this time around?
BJD: Yes it has, when we go to their house and compound everyone is so dignified. No matter how poor they are, they are very dignified. The neighbors come around and say ‘hello how are you’. One of the things you ask where do we go, we are only two individuals we are not big corporate bodies, and we are not like ActionAid , we are only two individuals and have only a little bit of savings and want to give some of those savings to the needy ones. Most of the time we discuss among ourselves and see what we can do and more importantly what is sustainable. We do not want to see something we set up just to see it collapse. And we get back to nothing again and everybody is sad. So I would to things in the projects that interest us and will be sustainable.
AA: You have gone around five days, what have you seen that touched you emotionally more than anything?
BJD: I think it’s the peanut farmers, I think the men were very poorly dressed and the conditions that they are living look pretty down. But they spoke with knowledge, they spoke with dignity, and they spoke with ambition. I thought this project with ActionAid will work well and hopefully someday it will be much bigger. There are two things, one is the service industry will want more money and where a produce industry will go bigger and bigger. I hope that.
AA: What would you love to see next time you come?
BJD: Well at Bakalari they promised me that it will be different again and we were able to give them some paints and should do some paintings on the walls. The whole environment is stimulating and the children would like to learn with more equipment we gave today and we hope to give them more next time we come. We want to provide more hands on creative materials. We also hope to give more help to the disabled children we saw.
Yes you Madi have introduced us to three ten year old disabled children in one compound in Njie Kunda, which is a very sad thing to see. I have worked for a number of years learning disability and physically disabled children. I know how difficult it is giving all the facilities we give to these disabled children in England and now we saw these children in Njie Kunda through your help are now sitting in their wheel chairs more comfortable with their plight. We only thought that life is only going to be very difficult for them, we hope we give some little help to help make life little bit confortable for them.
AA: Thank you for all your time and wish you safe flight.
BJD: I hope long after am gone ten, twenty years later when those paints will fade away from the building I will not be forgotten.
AA: No, no, you will be remembered forever. On behalf of the management and staff of ActionAid I thank you and wish you safe flight back to UK.