Sponsors of The Grace Foundation, The Gambia
Simba Ndemera, Founder of The Yathom Foundation USA
Pablo Carrasco, Founder, inventor, engineer, Spain
James Godfrey Fausset
The idea of Grace Foundation existence's stems from the growing numbers of poor and vulnerable street children engaged in street trading with no hope of going to school. My 25 years teaching experience in the classroom has brought me very close to many children and the encounter they go through in and out of school daily. These children will be in school for a term and the next term you see them they will be selling cold water, fish pies, local Chinese tea (ataya) etc in the streets. I have observed many children who turn up in school daily on hungry stomach because they are too poor to afford breakfast and lunch in school. So they resort to begging their friends for "bites" and in some cases they are mocked, humiliated and insulted.
10 years ago, I cornered a pupil whom I had been observing closely for not mingling with other students during the breakfast and lunch recess. His name is
Sulayman and he was 9 years old. "My stomach pains everyday because I come to school hungry and I am ashamed to beg my friends in school for fear of
insults and intimidation" he said.
Two weeks later Sulayman stopped coming to school and when I asked his classmates about him they told me that he now hawks cold water in the Westfield Area of The Gambia.
Therese, a girl child of 11 years old was the brightest student in her class. She was indeed the class prefect but dropped out of school because her parents are so Poor. Her classmates directed me to where she was selling fish pies for a woman she worked for, and she wanted to run away when she saw me but I appealed to her to stop. Tears in her eyes she confessed that she cries everyday she saw her friends going to school while she sells in the streets. She said she got no other choice but to do this in order to help her parents and siblings feed at home.
9 years old Sulayman is now 19 and Therese is almost 22 years old now. They both finished
their Senior School School as they were absorbed and supported by Grace Foundation for the education and feeding programmes.
Regrettably, Sulayman followed the trend of so many youths from the Gambia and travelled to
to Libya with the Hope of reaching Europe through the Mediterranean sea. But nobody has heard
from him since then.
Therese is now studying automobile engineering at the Gambian Technical Training Institute (GTTI) while also learning to be a mechanic in a local mechanic workshop every school day and Saturdays when she comes home from school.
Like Sulayman and Therese, we identify the children in the streets as they sell or beg for
alms. We interview them then take them home to their parents or guardians. We educate the parents on the importance of pulling their children away
from the streets in exchange for education and free meals daily from Grace Foundation.
The parents eagerly embraced the provisions from Grace Foundation with thanks and gratitude
by personally taking their children to school everyday.
As Mr Camara, a parent, puts it: "It isn't that I do not know that education is the best for my children but I am so poor that I cannot feed my 6 children so I regrettably had to send them to the streets to look for money through street hawking".
Interestingly, four of Mr Camara's 6 children were taken from the streets and absorbed into Grace Foundation programmes. Unfortunately, his two eldest daughters aged 14 and 16 who were engaged in street trading got pregnant and became single parents in the streets.
Since the inception of the Grace Foundation school feeding programmes in 2017, there has
been increases in pupils admissions in our supported schools, truancy is no more, and pupils
academic performance have doubled overwhelmingly.
Another parent said in her local Wollof language "I no longer think of how to provide breakfast and lunch for my daughter because she eats good and nutritious foods at school. In fact, my daughter doesn't even ask for lunch at home which may sometimes not be available."
In Grace Foundation we know there is indignity in hunger, so we give our children a friendly atmosphere and serve them with dignity and respect which they truly deserve. Ours is to empower children academically through healthy meals to remain and stay a step ahead of others as we build great leaders for a better tomorrow.
It is my Life's Work, It is my Purpose.