As well as constant communication with our Gambian members, we ensure that we have quarterly visits from the UK, each time for 3/4 weeks. These visits involve those who can spare their time and money. Usually, this means our core members, but it also includes our UK board members and trustees. Often, friends and associates travel with us too - at their own cost! This maintains our hands-on approach. We have negotiated a deal with Thomas Cook Travel, which means we are allowed allotted carriage space, giving our donated items free passage. Whilst there, we insist that everyone gets their hands dirty and helps with the builds, projects and more. We intend to consolidate the work we have already done, plus concentrate on realising the potential of our football teams. Included in our strategy is more contact and communication with the Gambian government, with the aim of showing how support of projects like the football teams can result in benefits that go much further. We see this as a beginning, not the end. Projects like ours extend beyond borders and constructively influence countries throughout Africa. When it comes to actions, we're not an island, we just need support and belief!
Results are happening, with four teams including a girls team raring to go. We also have 11 teams in outlying regions waiting for our support. We are making inroads across the country, politically and with the media in terms of showing the benefit of true support involving sport. We at Karmic Angels recognise that sport and music are two of the most unifying and empowering influences in our troubled world. We aim to focus on these alongside our important grassroots work.
In terms of 'results', how long is a piece of string? Happy, healthy, smiling faces, with a sense of hope and direction is the result we aim for! - so far, so good!
Through our support with basic building work and teacher involvement, we aim for self determination for village populations. The football teams could be the cream on the cake, a young, hopeful mix proving they can look beyond poverty. Gambia suffers from an ironic situation. It's generally not had the problems of despots/dictators/war in recent times so has tended to go under the radar. Nonetheless, it suffers the same African problems such as 2 out of 5 children dying before the age of five from Malaria;HIV/AIDS, other diseases and conditions.
What will it take for your project to be successful over the next three years? Please address each year separately, if possible.
The will of the footballing people we work with, our own determination and support from where we can find it.
1st year: consolidate the work we've already done, select a group from our young players to decide directions. Look at attracting more girls for future teams.
2nd year: National recognition: aim to get our senior team into a higher league and enthuse the younger teams, plus girls, with that possibility. We would hope by that point to have attracted some media recognition and have started a momentum that will pay dividends for future success. This will also provide a window that will highlight the further reaching issues experienced overall by the bush villages. We would also hope that by this point we have integrated street children and orphans sufficiently to the point where they are accepting school places as well as on-going support from within the community. The international climate, too, must be taken into consideration - many changes occur, even the volcanic eruption in Iceland can impact on how the world's struggling regions are perceived. Our aim at Karmic Angels is to continue highlighting our work. We see the world in global terms, not just regional, and consider our efforts in the Gambia to be valuable long term for the benefit of us all. In particular, we hope regional football leagues can be created, also including cup competitions. This would encompass the various age groups respectively. We hope to create similar opportunities for girls' teams.
3rd year: While our work, both with football initiatives and our wider remit is so far focussed on the Gambia, with the right backing and financial support, we envisage taking our services to countries throughout Africa that could benefit from what we do. As for our 3rd division team, we'd like to see them progress and find themselves competing at a higher, national level. This would be a fantastic bonus to the bush regions as a whole, helping instil pride, hope and enthusiasm for all there, young and old!
Included in all the above is the need to work on promotion and publicity. This, of course, requires funding just as the basic football scheme project development does. We see as a priority the setting up of local and regional football management teams, able to oversee progress on a day-day basis as well as promote, publicise and fundraise, independent of Karmic Angels input.
What would prevent your project from being a success?
Lack of: funds/support; resources/equipment; team management; training; commitment; health education/awareness; disease and epi/endemics
(not to mention complacency; a lack of self belief from within the various communities; divisive external and internal politics!).
Having said that, the nature of Gambian life, particularly in the bush, is such that disease, poverty and infant mortality are never far away - it's why the wider remit of Karmic Angel's work is vital for projects such as our football teams to flourish. We incorporate elements of health education and awareness in all our projects and the wider communities.
Another possible drawback involves technology. Our core team meet face to face on a regular basis, as do board members and trustees but, given that I am now back in Edinburgh after 30 years of working and living in England, Ireland and abroad and Alan and Stephanie live in Liverpool where our Karmic Angels HQ is based, we rely heavily on our ability to communicate online and by phone etc. This is also a factor regarding our ability to keep lines of communication open with our Gambian members, government and supporters etc. Remaining positive, though, it's important to remember that it's technology that has helped power many aid successes and will allow more success in the future!
Travel, too, is an important consideration. Firstly, internationally, the recent scare from Iceland's eruption has shown how plans can be disrupted before we know it. Compromised air travel could impact on long planned project builds/initiatives/important meetings etc. Secondly, more relevant and immediate in terms of current and ongoing problems in the Gambia, lack of suitable transport - ability to transport teams/core members/volunteers/equipment etc - will compromise plans and risk our football teams never reaching their potential.
Other than that, short of natural or political disaster, there is little to stand in the way of our projects' progress