The Marlborough Brandt Group's new director looks to the future
The Marlborough Brandt Group (MBG) has a new director: Karen Bulsara took over last month from Dr Nick Maurice - one of the Group's founders and a stalwart worker with it ever since.
The new director told Marlborough News Online: "I hope to be taking MBG into its next chapter - working with the incredibly dedicated people who have supported MBG's work - people like Nick Maurice and Anita Bew - and have been keeping its vision alive for 35 years."
MBG was founded in 1981 in response to the Brandt Report on relations between countries of the north and of the south. Ever since the Group has looked after Marlborough's link with the coastal village of Gunjur in The Gambia - and overseen and supported development programmes there especially in education and women's enterprises. Gunjur is 'village' with a population of 25,000.
Karen Bulsara has had a career in international development specialising in social marketing. This uses commercial marketing skills to promote highly subsidised essential health products to the poorest in society - such as mosquito nets for malaria prevention and condoms for AIDS prevention.
She has lived and worked in many parts of Africa and Asia. She then returned to Bedwyn to establish her development consultancy business - a role she will continue as her job at MBG is paid and part-time.
The Gambia was new to her when she made her first visit there after just two weeks in her MBG job. She went with a Teachers’ Study Visit run by MBG's educational arm the Wiltshire Global Education Centre (WGEC): "It was lovely to see Gunjur from a visitor's point of view."
She will be formally introduced as MBG's new director when she goes to Gunjur on a 'handover visit' with Nick Maurice.
In the past four years Gunjur has changed considerably. At long last the government has brought electricity and piped water to the villagers. On the negative side it faces the threat of outsiders coming to hoover up its off-shore fish stocks.
It also has unemployment levels of seventy per cent - especially amongst young people. And that is turning young men toward the hazardous journey from the south, across the Sahara towards the northern countries with their lure of work.
MBG's Youth Business Development Project is seeking to begin to turn that tide. The project has two strands to the activities, 1) funding students through technical college and 2) offering business loans to entrepreneurs within the village. (And see below.)
Since its foundation MBG has had aims focused at home as well as away. What the charity does in the Marlborough area has always been high on its agenda: "I see education being central to everything we do."
"I would like to see how the young people who are involved with MBG - on the summer visits to Gunjur and in schools - can become ambassadors for the organisation and for its values."
"The beauty of the summer visit to Gunjur by sixth formers [mainly in recent years from St John's] is that it is youth led, which seems to inspire an energy in the students to take the initiative and make things happen for themselves. Also this would be building on the work we do through MBG's Wiltshire Global Education Centre."
With the Group's trustees, she will be taking a strategic look at MBG as a local charity - how it serves the population of the Marlborough area as well as looking at it as an organisation involved with Gunjur and its changing needs.
While she was in The Gambia Karen Bulsara met two of the enterprising young Gunjurians who are being helped by MBG's new Business Development Project:
Omar Darboe's hardware store is located centrally within the trading area of Gunjur. He was a very friendly, welcoming person Karen met early in her trip. Omar has used his small £250 loan to diversify his cement and hardware store. He is now stocking electrical goods. Gunjur only got an electricity supply in 2014, so this is obviously a huge growth area for Omar and he is certainly selling well from his electrical range.
Ndey Binta Ndoye is another loan recipient. She is successfully running 'The Glastonbury Salon'. At only 21, she is one of the younger entrepreneurs, but she is not letting her youth hold her back, she is already using her loan to hire more staff at her salon as the beauty business in Gunjur appears to be booming.