Free speech comes with responsibilities

Letter published in The Independent, 20 January, 2015.

I was in Berlin a year after the wall came down and asked an East German journalist how it felt to young people to now be free. He replied: "It's great – the problem is we don't know how to use that freedom."

My community of Marlborough has had a 32-year relationship with the Muslim community of Gunjur in The Gambia. In conversation with friends there since the events in Paris, they have said they are all appalled at the murders that took place, supposedly in the name of Islam.

At the same time, they are confused by the demands for the protection of freedom of speech when that speech is gratuitously offensive, not even humorous and is fundamentally about making money through the sale of a magazine.

Hands up, those who do not think that with freedom comes responsibility.

Dr Nick Maurice
Marlborough, Wiltshire

Business Entrepreneur Scheme December 2014 - Nick Maurice

The 8 students (six young men and two women) that we are supporting for three years of study at the Gambian Technical Training Institute were all enthusiastic about the studies they are doing. They were delighted to hear that MBG, thanks to funding from St James' Place, has agreed to continue sponsoring their training for the next two years so that they can achieve higher diplomas in their various courses (which range from computer studies, plumbing, electrical work, secretarial, construction etc). They were also pleased to hear that we will be making a contribution of £30 per term per student towards their travel expenses to GTTI from their digs.

interviewAn issue that was raised by Buba Touray, the business programme manager, was that while we had one student from each of the kabilos (wards) in Gunjur none of them came from the minority (Christian) tribal groups and that if we repeat the exercise and send a further eight students to GTTI next academic year we should try to ensure that Karaninkas and Manjakos should be included. Buba, seen here interviewing a new entrepreneur who is requesting a loan for her tie dye business.

Small and Medium sized enterprises
We visited some of the entrepreneurs that we may support in the future and I was pleased to give grants to two groups. Alieu Darboe is working with a team of volunteers, collecting plastic rubbish from the streets of Gunjur with a view to a) cleaning the streets and b) compressing the plastic into building blocks and floor tiles. I accompanied the group in a truck to the metropolis of Serrekunda where we purchased 23 rubbish bins which are to be distributed to different parts of the Gunjur community and accompanied by a public education programme about the importance of their use.

bins maimuna beehive

Likewise we gave a grant to Maimuna to purchase a second sewing machine to enable her to employ another woman to help her keep up with the demand for reusable sanitary towels which will prevent girls from dropping out of school when they start menstruating.

steveWe visited a wonderful beekeeping project where Sulayman who is passionate about his bees and doing extraordinary work selling honey and beeswax candles was keen to invite volunteers from UK to support his work for shorter or longer periods. And, Steve Atyeo MBG/WGEC volunteer has his beard trimmed by Ndey Janneh, who has been busy expanding her hairdressing business.

At a meeting with the Business Steering Group led by an old friend of MBG who has been to Marlborough many times, Kebba Barrow (KKB) we heard that Buba Touray the programme manager has received over 70 applications for loans. The cut off date for loan applications is the end of December and the first loans will be given out during the first week in February. A loan committee is being set up to agree on who should receive loans based a) the recommendation of the Manager b) on their applications and an interview and c) a visit to their businesses. The total sum available from MBG for these loans is £1500.

Thanks for Donations
We are very grateful to the many people who made donations to support this entrepreneurial activity by giving alternative Christmas gifts to friends and family. The total amount raised over the Christmas period was £1160. Thank you to everyone.

Interested in going to the Gambia for your DofE Volunteering Section?

Lloyds2014

MBG offers three month plus volunteer placements to work in Gunjur, the Gambia. You may work as teaching assistants in the Upper Basic School, as medical assistants in the health centre or as supporters to TARUD and its development programme. The work you do largely depends on the skills you have to offer and the ability of the school, health centre or project to accommodate those skills. Combined with fundraising for MBG before and reporting/publicity when you get back will make up a whole DofE Gold section.

Download 2014 Gambia Trip Summary

Read more: Interested in going to the Gambia for your DofE Volunteering Section?