The Gambia

Early in 2001 Environmental Health Practitioner Teresa Isaacs and her engineer husband Steve went to live in the village of Bulock in the Gambia, West Africa. Through the Catholic Mission in the capital Banjul, they had identified the need to replace the tumble-down health centre in the village (population approximately 5,000) with a new, larger building which would provide 3 treatment rooms, a meeting room and library. One of the main requirements was that the centre should have a piped water supply.

Prior to leaving, Steve and Teresa raised money from their colleagues in East Anglia under the umbrella of Water for Kids and this money kick-started the project which was jointly funded by the Catholic Mission in the Gambia.

Once in Bulock the couple worked with local tradesmen to build the shell of the centre. Initially, Steve encouraged a group of young men in the village to set up a business of making concrete blocks. Many were used in the construction of the centre but they were also sold to other local groups, in particular the school to build an extension. They were also able to locate a safe water supply, make it secure and install a solar powered pump provided by the village elders.

Environmental Health colleagues in Cambridgeshire raised more funds and in the winter of 2001, Environmental Health Practitioner Tony Shaw and his son Chris flew out with it. The money was used to purchase the water storage tank, pipe work and sinks which they installed during their stay. There were sufficient funds to also purchase corrugated iron for the roof and floor and wall tiles. More funds raised in early 2002 financed the installation of window frames and fly screens.

In April 2002, the building was opened by the Bishop of Banjul, and not before time because shortly afterwards the original centre fell down.

Teresa and Steve had lived with the villages for 18 months and when they left they were able to look back with some pride on the friendships made and the achievement of helping the villagers build their new health centre. For it is certain that the building would not have been built without their combined efforts together with the funds raised on behalf of Water for Kids by Environmental Health Practitioners in East Anglia.