Mum’s project to help poverty-stricken schoolchildren in Gambia

GIVING TO GAMBIA -- Faye Stevenson and her son Ayden with village children during their visit to Gambia.
GIVING TO GAMBIA -- Faye Stevenson and her son Ayden with village children during their visit to Gambia.

A holiday to Gambia by a Ravenshead mum has blossomed into a full-blown community project to help poverty-stricken youngsters in the African country.

Faye Stevenson was touched by the plight of the children at a village school that has no electricity, a water-supply that barely works and teachers it cannot afford to pay.

But she was also inspired by their determination to improve their lot, and now plans to raise funds to help.

“It was so saddening to see people living in these conditions in this day and age,” said 29-year-old Faye, of Woodside Gardens. “I think it’s important to try and support them and give them the chance to make a difference.”

Gambia has fallen on hard times because of the Ebola crisis. Although the disease has not spread there, it has put off holidaymakers and decimated its tourism industry, which accounts for 40% of the country’s economic output.

Faye visited with her seven-year-old son Ayden and her sister Emma Harding (32), a care worker who lives in Durham. Keen to see “the real Gambia” and not just the beaches and balmy waters, they were taken on bike-rides into the villages and came across the Gambia Reality Nursery School.

The head teacher told them of a beekeeping project he was hoping to set up to make honey and wax that they could sell to raise money.

“Humbled, we gave a £50 donation to buy two more beehives,” said Faye. “It didn’t seem much, but the average wage there is only £20 a month. They presented us with certificates and also made Ayden their UK ambassador!

“I now plan to give presentations of our visit at Ayden’s own school, Abbey Gates Primary in Ravenshead, and I hope to raise £2,000 before we go back to Gambia in October.”

FAYE Stevenson made her name as a successful model. But in recent years, she has forged a reputation in the Mansfield area as a go-to woman who gets things done in ventures that embrace business, the local community and charities.

She is currently working as a sales manager for a training company involved in adult education. But she is involved in community projects, raising funds and awareness, and she has set up a string of small companies. Faye even launched the Aspirations Academy to help 14-to-24-year-olds looking to start a career in modelling, acting or dancing.

Now she is determined to spread her wings to Africa. “I was so humbled by the generosity and kindness of the people we met at the school, and their willingness to give an insight into their world,” she said.