Gunjur with Thriving Through Venture: Visiting the EU funded Youth Empowerment Programme - Callum's blog
Today we went to visit the YEP in Bakau, the Youth Empowerment Project. It’s an EU funded programme to educate, train, and offer opportunities to young people in The Gambia.
It’s focussed particularly on people who haven’t benefitted from a higher education. The fund addresses three key areas: tourism, IT, and engineering. And they take a special interest in sustainable projects like solar panels, offering loans and business plans to get ideas off the ground.
They make a conscious effort to develop ideas likely to succeed. But they also consider jobs and employment opportunities for young Gambians. It’s almost a mixture of a school, a bank, and a job centre.
For example, a young man was given a grant to work on a satellite dish repair start up. The project has only been up and running since 2017, and this young man was one of the early successful applicants. Now he earns a good wage and has plans to expand. He wants to start manufacturing his own parts.
They try to make or source everything within The Gambia. Effectively, it’s an education system for Gambians, by Gambians.
There’s real hope that the Project will continue to be funded. They want to draw on more funds to pay staff to increase capacity and to roll out the programmes more widely, particularly in rural areas.
I think we could all learn from this model in the UK. The way it straddles the gaps between education and infrastructure development and funding. Every request for a loan requires a 50 per cent asset in order to secure the funding. And the terms are very generous.
I also really liked the way they publicise the programme, using local radio stations and TV and religious sermons, hoping to reach people who aren’t literate.
And that sums up the idea that they’re for everyone being involved. It’s not affiliated to any religion or class or area or tribe, it’s just for everyone. In the UK we have job centres, but they’re nowhere near as focussed on trying to help everyone, or on benefitting the whole community and local infrastructure.
I went with Dr Nick to meet the Gunjur Mango Farmers’ Cooperative, to speak about a better system for promoting the sale of mangoes to the EU and the UK, through storage and shipping. The community in Marlborough has been involved in talks with various NGOs, trying to put all the steps in place. And we’re hopeful that this will proceed.
They’re looking for land locally in Gunjur to house a cold storage facility, somewhere where they can combat the damage done by fruit fly during the rainy season. They also want to create a facility to dry and juice mangoes.
Tomorrow we’re hoping to welcome Abbie back into the TTV group. She’s been away in hospital for a few days with a deep vein thrombosis. We will all be so excited to have her back.
Callum Roberts, 17
Kingsbury Green Academy