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US Embassy disburses over D2M grant to communities

Apr 10, 2012, 1:33 PM | Article By: Sainey M.K. Marenah

The United States Embassy in Banjul last Thursday disbursed over $100,000 to five civil and community-based societies and eight local communities.

The grant, totaling over D2 million, was given as part of the Embassy’s commitment to support local communities and help Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and Community-Based Organizations (CBOs) in The Gambia.

The grant is aimed at empowering local communities to take ownership of small projects.

The beneficiaries and donors appended their signatures on a contract agreement at a signing ceremony held at the America Corner.

The event was presided over by the US Ambassador to The Gambia, Pamela Ann White.

The Democracy and Human Rights Fund (DHRF) provides grants to indigenous civil society organizations or CBOs to implement small, short-term, and highly targeted activities designed to show measurable results with an emphasis on change in support of human rights and democratic institutions.

This year, the DHRF program awarded a total of US $52,000 to four organization. These were: the Gambia Bar Association, allocated a grant of D171,000 for website creation;

The Association of Non-Governmental Organizations (TANGO), granted D499,000 for women’s political empowerment;

Children and Community Initiatives for Development (CAID), D500,500 for developing youth leadership skills; and  the Wuli Sandu Development Agency (WASDA), based in Upper River Region, which received D360,000 for community empowerment.

The US Ambassador’s Special Self-Help (SSH) program is a grassroots assistance program that allows US embassies to respond quickly to local requests from small community-based development projects.

This year the program awarded a total of US$45,000 to eight communities nationwide:

The Gambia Association for the Physically Disabled (GAPD) in West Coast Region received a grant amounting to D68,000 earmarked for livelihood skills training for physically disabled persons;

Kambeng Kafo Kiang Jali in Lower River Region benefitted D280,000 for a rice and coose milling machine;

Chilca Concern Association in North Bank Region received D200,000 for construction of a hand-pump well for Sameh Kuta Lower Basic School;

Fiidawsy Village Development Committee (VDC) received D242,000 earmarked for the construction of a community clinic and toilets;

Baja Kunda Health Center Catchment (CAC) in Upper River Region - North was granted D225,000 for a Baja Kunda Heath Center solar water and electricity project;

The community of Kartong in West Coast Region received D8,250 to help combat environmental degeneration (mangrove plating);

Saaba Fandema Kafo in North Bank Region was granted D134,680 for the purchase of a rice threshing machine; and finally

Starfish International Bathrooms for Children’s library in Lamin Village West Coast Region was granted money for sanitation and education.

The US Ambassador to The Gambia, Pamela Ann White, said: “This project shows the Embassy’s commitment to working with The Gambia on democracy, human rights and community development issues.”

White commented that she can truly appreciate the positive impact of the self-help projects on local communities, she said : “Over the past year, I have travelled throughout the country often visiting previous project sites. I can honestly say that the milling machines, clinics, wells, gardens, have really touched the lives of those in these communities.”

Pamela Ann White, who will soon leave The Gambia for Haiti, is confident that the communities will experience the same type of benefit the previous beneficiaries have enjoyed saying: “These projects, however, are not a one way street.”

She explained: “The eight Self-Help Projects are different from most development programs, because they are community-driven. In addition to designing your projects, each of you has agreed to contribute in some manner to the project, either through land, or money. I applaud you for your contribution, as we can only succeed if we work together.”

She called for partnership and working together to make the projects a success.

The ambassador further told the beneficiaries that the DHRF provides financial assistance to small scale activities that support democratic institutions, promote political pluralism, and protect and advance human rights.

She said the DHRF is one of the many mechanisms that the US government uses as part of its strategy to promote democracy and good governance.

Jainaba Nyang- Njie, vice chairperson of TANGO, Abdoulie Jawneh, president of the Gambia Association of Physically Disabled; Kemo Conteh, executive secretary of the Gambia Bar Association; Kebba Sillah, director of WASADA; Babucarr Camara, Rep of Kiang Jali, all beneficiaries of the grant, spoke at the signing ceremony, and commended the US Embassy for the support, describing the embassy as a “true partner”.

They assured the ambassador and her team that the projects would be successfully implemented, and would impact positively on the targeted communities and organizations.

The signing ceremony was co-moderated by the programs coordinator Yusupha Gomez and Zachary Bailey, political and economic officer at the US Embassy in Banjul.

Both officials of the Embassy urged the beneficiaries to ensure full implementation of the projects, adding that there was a vigorous selection process and they were lucky to be chosen.