Stretching our hand of friendship to one of the world’s poorest nations

Alan Cleaver reports on the successful trip to West Africa by Egremont-based charity Siiboo

siiboo9THE people of West Cumbria have extended a hand of friendship to The Gambia – one of the poorest countries in the world.

The Fox family of Nelson Square, Egremont, have just returned from the West African country where they oversaw the delivery of shoes, hospital equipment, glasses, bikes and much more – all donated by the people of West Cumbria.

A shipping container was needed to export all the donations – arranged by Colin and Sharon Fox under the auspices of the Siiboo charity they set up – Siiboo means ‘dream’ in Mandinka tribal language.

Sharon said the trip and delivery of the items was “awesome” although the long ferry ride to the village of Bakendik which they have befriended involved much red tape. They teamed up with Friends of the Gambia which has been running for 20 years to help the impoverished country.


Making new friends: The Fox family meet with the Gambian people.

Bakendik has a school with about 117 pupils and much of what they took was to help the pupils receive a good education. It included shoes which protect the pupils who have to walk to school on the burning hot sand. The delivery also included bikes including some old ones kindly refurbished by Re-bike of Carlisle; some of the children live several miles from the school so these will help them to attend regularly. Nick Sharma of Egremont’s Nisa store donated puncture repair equipment and pumps too.

Colin and Sharon were joined on the trip by their two sons, Alex and Jake who volunteer their time to help with Siiboo.

There was some valuable hospital equipment donated by Carlisle Hospital (equipment no longer suitable for use by the hospital) including 14 hospital beds, mattresses, bedside cabinets, Zimmer frames and 50 crutches. These were delivered to the hospital in Bakindik on the North Bank.

Ann Morgan of the Cleator Moor opticians donated three sets of eye-testing equipment and hundreds of pairs of glasses were donated to the Gambians.

Many shoes were donated courtesy of Egremont’s Lorraine Scott who won a £150 shoe voucher in a competition.

Well hello there: meeting some of the youngest recipients.

Well hello there: meeting some of the youngest recipients.

Other stores helping in the appeal was The Lad Barber in Egremont which collated 117 bags containing school books, toothpaste, soap, toys – and an astonishing 60,000 pencils donated by Maryport and Workington Rotary Club.

There was room on the shipping container for one purely fun item in addition to all the valuable health and educational supplies: a trampoline.

Sharon said: “They had never seen one before and it proved to be the most popular item with children and adults!”

Siiboo were grateful to so many people in West Cumbria including Ben Snowden of Cumberland FA at St Bees who donated football shirts, footballs and kit bags.

The donations may have been safely delivered thousands of miles to the people who need them in Gambia but the Fox family are not resting – they are already planning more fund-raising events and have some ideas on how they can practically help the Gambians. Many Gambians earn a living from fishing but can only do so using nets from the shoreline.

Siiboo wants to buy them one or two second-hand boats. The boats are about £132 but the outdoor motor is another £208. That’s only £340 in total but it would make a huge difference to the lives and economy of Gambia.

A fundraising concert is being held on October 1 at the Marchon Club which will feature a cabaret night with various acts.

More details will be issued nearer the date.

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