MBG welcomes Karen Bulsara as their new Director

    karen low res

MBG are very pleased to welcome Karen Bulsara as our new part time paid Director, as of February 2016. Karen lives locally and is a governor at St John's in Marlborough. She has considerable understanding of international development, with wide ranging experience in working overseas as a consultant in that field. Most recently she has been helping to evaluate malaria programmes in Africa and Asia and has worked in Nigeria to promote private sector growth. Karen will join Caroline Harmer and the WGEC teacher study visit in Gunjur this February.

Karen says "I have been aware of MBG for some time and recognise the significant challenge ahead in securing its future after the departure of its incredibly dedicated and inspirational founder, Nick Maurice. I aim to meet with everyone involved with MBG in the coming weeks before putting together a strategy. I hope to maintain and grow the continued good work of MBG both at home in Marlborough and, of course, in Gunjur. I very much look forward to the challenge and trust that my marketing and international development experience will provide a solid foundation on which to take MBG forward into the future."

Nick Maurice's devotion to MBG has been tireless since its foundation 34 years ago, and will be maintaining his interest in the future of MBG. We will be celebrating Nick and his important contribution to MBG, the people of Marlborough, Gunjur & beyond and the field of international development later on this year.

Impressions, Reflections and Revelations! Andrew Mallinson Nov 2015

Fears & Hopes
How easy would it be to slip into the African way of life, where time has a different meaning, where levels of hygiene and comfort often fall short to our Western/European norms, where poverty is all too visible and sometimes uncomfortable to view, where illness and malnutrition are so evident, where issues which to the 'Western eye' are so solvable are yet so unsolvable in the African context...how could/would I adapt to all this?

Initial Impressions
Introductions, lots of smiles, cries of 'Hello Dr Nick' from all corners, dust everywhere, grubby hands proffered, heat and glorious sunshine, sense of community, children playing in the street with no fear, life being lived 'day to day with little security for many, mutual respect for different faiths, cries of 'toubab, toubab' from the children, sense of ritual and the sound of Muslim prayers being echoed through the streets by dated megaphones, importance and respect for the 'elders'...

Read more: Impressions, Reflections and Revelations! Andrew Mallinson Nov 2015

Relections after a first visit to Gambia as a new MBG Trustee

Trevor Kearley reflects on his first visit to Gunjur.

I had travelled to and stayed in a dozen or so countries in the Dark Continent, including West Africa, before - on business and as a tourist visiting relatives or friends. So my first visit to Gunjur as a new MBG Trustee was not entirely novel. The totally different visual environment, the searing sun, bustling dusty towns and shanty villages and the brightly dressed women were familiar. This, though, was my first in depth visit. I was to stay with an African family in their compound - albeit a fairly upmarket one.

I am ashamed to say that in the first 48 hours I found myself thinking "I'm not a celebrity but get me out of here". No running water, flushing loo, electric light, drawers or hanging space. A thin patchwork foam mattress on a vast bed that collapsed under me at 1.15 am on the second night. The not so hot food. A cockerel outside my net window, his raucous and unpredictable squawk from 3.15 am onwards piercing the other sounds of an African night.

A saying I try to heed is "If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change the way you think about it." So on day three of my visit I did just that. It wasn't difficult. A less shameful part of me rose up and reasoned. We are all human beings on this planet and purely as an accident of birth they are Africans and I am a western European reared in different circumstances and environments through no fault or merit of them or us. Poverty and wealth are only perceptions. I am not in Gunjur to pity or condemn what I find here. I am here to learn about, and from, them. And what is quickly becoming clear is that the Gambians are far better at obeying the Commandment to love thy neighbour than I am.

The genuine sincerity of our greetings and meetings with the Gunjur people at all levels warmed my heart and jerked a few tears, not least their obvious love for immediately-recognized "Doctor Nick", as we moved among them in the town and they mourned his imminent retirement as MBG Director after 33 years and 61 visits. Countless traditional hugs for him (a good five-second tight embrace right shoulder to shoulder - not the mwah-mwah kissing of westerners). An outstretched hand and a smiling "You are welcome!" for me, the newcomer. The many children of my compound's family running to greet me on returning home at day's end. The girls proudly wearing bracelets made out of the WH Smith kit of beads from my various presents. The boys wanting to know my favourite UK soccer team. A wall map of the world, also from Smiths, now stuck (slightly askew) on one of their otherwise totally blank walls and creating great debate about where America, Russia, China and Australia actually are on the globe. Even where tiny UK and Gambia itself are!

At the end of my stay I learned that the African name they had given me is "Father Ebrahim" and I had the honour of being presented with a specially made Kaftan in purple cotton. It was a truly sad parting, mollified by reassuring "my" family that I would return one day.

You can read elsewhere about the achievements of the Marlborough/Gunjur link. I have written here only about the warmth of an African welcome and kindness - because these are the abiding images from my 10 days in Gunjur. Smiling faces with dazzling white teeth, sparkling eyes and an embrace that is physically and emotionally strong. True family and community love and respect for old age. Those are the memories that I shall treasure. To have experienced them is a real privilege and they will always remind me that we are indeed all children born in the image of Allah/God. We must not abandon our precious link there.

Trevor Kearley
5 December 2015