#Article (Archive)

'Lift Gambia' ready to lift The Gambia

Jul 15, 2010, 2:09 PM

An organisation known as Lift Gambia is poised to lift The Gambia through help for financially disadvantaged children. They sponsor with a difference, thus attracting a lot of children, help to train their teachers, help the sponsored children's sick parents, and provide laptops and computers for schools they sponsor, and sponsors well over 300 children. 'Lift Gambia' is a Gambian-based organisation with the sponsors from Norway. Society and Development spoke to officials of the organization, and was able to find out its humble beginnings, current activities and future plans from Berit Lovstad at her hotel, where she explained how they are ready to lift The Gambia.


S&D: When did you start Lift Gambia?

Berit Lovstad: We started it two years back. When I left Scan Aid, I sat and saw a newspaper article on how Grade 3 children had failed the National Assessment Test that year. The causes for the failure are well known. So I started by helping the Upper Basic schools, because that is the class where many leave school. We started at the Brufut Upper Basic with 60 laptops and two projectors; we fixed the kitchen, electricity and electric water pump.


S&D: Is it only the children's failure that moved you to become responsible for their education?

Berit Lovstad: Not only that; there are so many who drop out off school because it's expensive for parents to pay. That is why I opted to do so. It was backed by a radio news also I heard when Grade 3s could not pass their NAT test. We started to help the teachers. We started with Sanchaba, providing them with food because many of these children will come to class without food. We then fixed the kitchen, put in some equipment, and also fixed the school's basketball lawn. The kids get food from the government, but all the equipment in the kitchen we provided, and we did the renovation. By September 2010 over 1,700 children will receive food at the lower basic level (primary school).


S&D: What are you doing for the Upper Basic then?

Berit Lovstad: At that level, Lift Gambia is paying fees for 250 children, and in Brufut Sanchaba Nursery about 100 children are sponsored. We started sponsoring them in January.


S&D: What is your aim?

Berit Lovstad: Our ambition is to give Gambian children a quality education. We are also sponsoring three teachers at the college to study under the Early Childhood Development Programme. Children at the Sanchaba Nursery have started receiving uniforms. The Fajara Skills Centre sews the uniforms, which is over 300. It is not expensive to educate a child here, only a small amount of money can sustain a child.


S&D: Are you developing anything else?

Berit Lovstad: We have developed the infrastructure and rehabilitated the school. We made new blackboards, made chairs, tables etc. The sponsors always send extra gifts for the children. Containers are sent with assorted materials, including clothes.


S&D: Do you only deal with Brufut?

Berit Lovstad: Oh no! We brought 43 computers before to Saint Therese's Upper Basic. And recently, we brought 16 desktop flat screens, 32 systems units, 23 laptops, and five printers (one colour and the others black and white). Fajara Skills Centre receives help; we network to lift them as well, so they will get help and get paid. Award Scheme makes nursery uniforms for us, and we supply it to Sanchaba Nursery School at Brufut. Our aim is to start paying for very needy children in the senior schools. We hope to help with a soccer team, and bring kids from Norway to help. We brought 100 footballs from Snaroya Sports Club and a school in Norway.


S&D: Do you intend to expand?

Berit Lovstad: We are a baby association, only two years old. We are not only expanding to Saint Therese, but we are looking beyond to sponsor other schools. We are a baby organisation with great strides, sponsoring within two years 250 children plus 100 in the nursery department, among many other things.


S&D: What is the most important thing for you, in your efforts to help needy kids?

Berit Lovstad: The most important thing for me is that the kids come to school, eat well, eat good food and use clean water. We also help train the teachers to impact good education in the young. This will enhance quality education. When I see children could not pass their exams, I felt too bad. How can anyone learn on an empty stomach?


S&D: Any future plans for your organisation?

Berit Lovstad: Yes! We are looking for more schools. My intention is not to build schools, but to help. Some schools have three to a chair. We can help them by providing benches for them.


S&D: Have you any other wishes?

Berit Lovstad: My hope is to get more sponsors from Norway and elsewhere to help more and more children. We have more plans. Our hope also is to strengthen the bilateral cooperation between Norway and The Gambia.


S&D: Have you any partners?

Berit Lovstad: Yes indeed! Vigdis Jordal from Norway is my partner. We are now putting our efforts together to expand and do more for children in The Gambia. We have other three friends in Norway (Dente, Tone and Evelyn) that solicit for items, and funds for this purpose.


S&D: Any special thanks to anyone?

Berit Lovstad: Special thanks to the principals and students of Snaroya School in Norway and to Dente, Tone, Evelyn in Norway, who find sponsors mainly for Lift Gambia.


S&D: Have you any difficulties?

Berit Lovstad: Tourists are often frightened of the police. We appeal to them for their help, when we bring in gifts to help with education.


S&D: Any last words to the heads of schools you help?


Berit Lovstad: Heads should know that if things are sent for schools or children and are not used properly, that school would be cut off. Let us all join hands and help the children.


S&D: Would you love to appeal?

Berit Lovstad: We need assistance from the Ministry of Education and government. We need a document to enhance our free movement without hindrance. We always come with things for children. If we put laptops in a container there is no problem, but bringing 18 laptops through the airport for children becomes a big problem. It is discouraging. We are appealing to the government to facilitate our coming with things.


S&D: Is there anything you want to tell President Yahya Jammeh?

Berit Lovstad: We are begging President Jammeh to turn and see Lift Gambia. This is necessary. It will help us do even more.


S&D: Thanks for saying all you said, Madam.

Berit Lovstad: You're welcome, and I thank you also for coming to meet me.