If the world worked with the same level of co-operation as is enjoyed between Marlborough and its West African twin of Gunjur in The Gambia, then it would be a better place, according to the town’s new Quaker mayor.
Cllr Guy Loosmore was speaking at reception for Britain’s High Commissioner to the Republic of The Gambia, David Morley, who was taking a whistle-stop tour of the town.
“We have a special relationship with The Gambia; several mayors have been,” he said. “It’s a good example of a two-way flow. We need to look at other cultures and how they do things. If the world worked like that, we’d all get on much better.”
Cllr Loosmore noted that around 1,500 people from Marlborough had visited the predominantly Muslim country since the special relationship between the two communities was established in 1982.
He noted that then-mayor Lillian Ross, who died earlier this month at the age of 97, had been instrumental in getting the link off the ground.
“She started all this off, and she would have been delighted to see it grow,” he said.
He showed councillors a photograph taken by a Kennet Valley Arts Trust colleague on a recent visit to The Gambia: a sign that proudly declared ‘Gunjur – Linked With Marlborough, Wiltshire’.
And he said he hoped to become one of the serving mayors to visit Gunjur, but not – he insisted – in lieu of his honeymoon: he is due to marry his mayoress, Fiona Lawson, in August.
Earlier, Mr Morley and his wife Jacki met members of the Marlborough Brandt Group’s board of trustees and discussed the current situation in The Gambia and MBG’s programmes there.
Mr Morley told Marlborough News Online that MBG had a ‘wonderful’ operation in Gunjur: “There’s not really a civil society in The Gambia – so it’s all the more laudable that MBG have made things work there. MBG has formed a relationship with the Gambians whom they trust and the Gambians trust them.”
“Gambians appreciate long-term relationships. With a full partnership like MBG’s, they will deliver what they say they will – the people of Gunjur are reliable and disciplined and MBG has the right structures in place.”
MBG’s Director, Dr Nick Maurice (one of MBG’s founders) chaired a round table discussion with local peopleinterested in The Gambia.
The Pewsey-based Afrikaya charity is building a nursery school at New Yundum with a community, medical and skills centre attached.
They have been operating since 2009 and Di Miles says they aim to make the centre sustainable and long-lasting and will leave when it is fully up and running.
Also there were Honor Sturley and Lynne Scragg from the new Gamset charity in Chippenham which is supporting education and training for 16-26 year-old Gambians. They are currently sponsoring a student from The Gambia who is studying at Bath College.
Steve Atyeo is a volunteer with JOLE Rider which since 2006 has sent 12,000 bicycles to schools in The Gambia so their students can cycle the often long distances from their homes to school. (If you’re wondering it stands for John O’Groats to Lands End – and the charity cycle ride that raised their initial funding.)
One of the many Wiltshire schools with links to The Gambia is Chippenham’s Abbeyfield School. Assistant head teacher Mark Fuller told the High Commissioner about his school’s successful link with Mahaad School in Birkama.
Later, Mr Morley met staff at Marlborough College before rounding off his trip at St John’s Academy, where he heard a presentation from International Baccalaureate students who recently visited Gunjur.