Motoring students prepare ambulances for charity mission

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It was blue lights and sirens at West Nottinghamshire College’s engineering innovation centre as repairs got underway to two ambulances preparing for a charity mission.

Motor vehicle engineering students started work on two ambulances ready for them to be driven more than 3,000 miles to The Gambia in West Africa, where they’ll start a new life supporting communities and clinics.

Led by Nottingham man Mark Hammans, Aid2Gambia is a charity project which launched in 2014, helping poorer communities in The Gambia with supplies such as medical dressings, books and stationery.

This began after Mark, a retired police sergeant, started holidaying in the country in the mid-1990s and recognised the needs of the people. He began the charity work on a small scale, filling suitcases on his visits with vital equipment which he knew would help the locals.

Over time, the small items turned to shipping over chairs and tables for schools in need, with Mark working closely with the Early Child Development Association who would help to distribute the goods in a fair way.

That is when the Aid2Gambia project was born.

The group of 11 students will now be using their motor vehicle skills to bring the old ambulances up to standard ready for the 3,390 mile drive across France, Spain, Gibraltar, Tangiers, through Morocco and into The Gambia, in November 2019.

Level three diploma student Simon Wicks, 18, said: “It’s great to be involved in this project as it’s going to help people less fortunate. It’s something different for us to work on in the engineering workshop and as a group we’re enjoying the challenge.”

The team will be ensuring that the vehicles are road-worthy for their mission to help Mark and his friends reach Africa.

Mark said: “We’ve already driven ambulances to The Gambia before, so we know it can be done. We’re really grateful for the students’ help on the vehicles and it’s great that they’re getting some experience on different vehicles.”