Forgotten by most of the Banjul area, the shanty town of Ndangan is nestled in the murky, dank swamps of the River Gambia’s upper section, on the outskirts of The Gambia’s capital city.
Ndangan (pronounced Nn-dan-gan) means ‘fishing-place’ in the language of the native Serer tribe. It was first settled upon in 1967 by a group of Senegalese refugees, escaping violence on the Gambian-Senegalese border at Casamance. For over 40 years, the people of Ndangan have lived a hand-to-mouth existence, scooping oysters and small fish in their nets from the muddied banks of the river and travelling long distances to collect drinkable water. Today, the settlement is inhabited by 52 people, over half of which are school-age children.
They live in ramshackle huts, some built from mud and straw, and others pieced together with driftwood and corrugated iron. Families of up to 15 people can live in and occupy a single hut, in dirty and cramped conditions.
With no roads leading in or out of the settlement, the average visitor to Banjul can be forgiven for not noticing the community’s existence. Child Aid Gambia first visited Ndangan in 2011, before the implementation of any aid to the area, and found that high levels of seasonal malaria among the children, swarms of flies and contaminated food all had a link to the dirty water they were drinking and bathing in. With no clean water source of their own, Ndangan’s water was the offal from a sanatorium in Banjul, riddled with bacteria and disease. Summer rains only increased the problem, as stagnant water rose from the fragile riverbanks to flood the village, polluting and damaging the unprotected huts and causing raw sewage to seep into where the children ate, slept and played.
The Ndangan Water Project
We met with community leaders on our first visit, to assess the most urgent needs of the children and young people living in Ndangan. It was decided that the village needed clean, safe drinking water more than anything else, to halt the spread of preventable diseases and deter the swarms of mosquitoes attracted to dirty water. The Ndangan Water Project was launched in 2012 to provide a safe water pipeline running directly into the settlement, and after two years of planning, fundraising and building, we were able to complete the project in 2014. Today, the children of Ndangan can access clean water from a tap right outside their homes, safe in the knowledge that they are no longer at risk from deadly water-borne diseases such as cholera and dysentery. Read more about how we were able to provide safe drinking water for Ndangan with the Ndangan Water Project.
Long-term support for Ndangan
However, our support to Ndangan continues beyond the water pipeline, to further support the children and young people of the shanty town in every aspect of life. The youngest children are educated within the village in their own nursery school, and donated school equipment such as stationary, posters and exercise books are essential to aid in their learning. Sponsorships provided to the children attending lower basic (primary) and upper basic (secondary) schools provide uniforms, school meals, textbooks and extra tuition, as well as caring for the children in times of hardship and emergency.
With the nearest hospital miles away in Banjul, first aid kits are vital for Ndangan, and can provide for the community in a time of medical emergency. The first aid kits we distribute contain medicines, bandages, dressings and other equipment to care for injuries and illness before a hospital can be reached.
Ndangan is a minority Christian community, with less than 8% of The Gambia’s population identifying as having Christian faith. For the people of Ndangan, having access to Christian education and resources is a vital part of their spiritual welfare, that reaches beyond their physical needs. We believe strongly in helping children of all faiths, values and backgrounds to feel emotionally and spiritually fulfilled when we know they are physically safe – and so a vital part of our work in Ndangan is facilitating the spiritual needs of the community. Since 2013, we have been providing the people of Ndangan with physical Bibles as well as audio Bibles in Gambian languages, visual picture-books of Bible stories for the children and other faith resources, to strengthen their relationship with God despite the hardships of poverty.
We met eighteen-year-old Eku when she was just ten, on our first visit to the community of Ndangan. With no father and her mother suffering from poor health, Eku felt the weight of responsibility for her family on her shoulders from a young age. Illnesses caused by dirty drinking water put her life at risk, and she was unable to concentrate fully at school with so many worries. As a young woman in The Gambia, Eku’s opportunities were limited compared to those of her male peers. She was obliged to cook, clean and care for younger relatives, and putting her education first was something she could not afford to do.
Eku was one of the first girls to receive a school sponsorship in the community of Ndangan in 2014. Since then, she has been attending a secondary school in Banjul, where her teachers commend her on being a conscientious and exemplary student. Eku is studying Humanities, with the hope of gaining the necessary grades to attend The Gambia Law School and become a lawyer.
It is a privilege to watch Eku grow into a bright and independent young woman. Her mother is incredibly proud of her, and Eku’s sponsorship means the world to her and her family. Since her sponsorship began, Eku has become more confident and sure of herself, safe in the knowledge that someone is looking out for her future.
How you can help
Our relationship with the people of Ndangan is profound and personal. The strength, resilience and love they display through terrible circumstances continues to inspire us to work to build a brighter future for Ndangan’s children. We want to do more for the community of Ndangan, but we cannot do so alone.
Many children in Ndangan are still waiting for sponsorship. Like Eku, young girls in Ndangan are often hit the hardest by the effects of poverty. A sponsorship with Child Aid Gambia cares for the entire child, not just their education – so they can focus on flourishing without fear of falling behind. By prioritising girls in need like Eku with a sponsorship, you too could play a vital part in a Gambian family’s happiness and success. Learn more about sponsorships here.
You can help us to continue our work to keep the children of Ndangan safe. More first aid kits are vitally needed to save lives in medical emergencies, and donations for Ndangan will allow us to provide education on first aid to the whole community.
In removing the shackles of poverty and disease in Ndangan, we are helping these children to realise their value – bolstered by proper education and spiritually comforted, they are able to flourish. For as long as there are children living on the banks of the river, Child Aid Gambia will be there to support them.
Donate today to be a part of our life-changing work.