Despite her devastating illness, Stella was
always thinking ahead and trying to find ways to assist her local community in The Gambia.
One of the things that had been bought to her attention was a stretch of road 7.5
kilometres long, which leads from the villages surrounding Stella's camp to the nearest
town of Kuntaur, which is on the North Bank of the river.
The village women use this road daily to get
to the rice fields, and it is the route to the nearest secondary school, health clinic and
market from which they can both buy goods and sell their produce. Most of the road has
been washed away and during the rains and for some months after the rains, this road is
under water. This causes great hardship and people have to remove their clothes and carry
them on their heads as they wade through seven kilometres of water. It is dangerous for
children going to school and must be very disheartening if you are sick and need to get to
the clinic. People have been known to put off the visit until it is too late and this has
caused unnecessary deaths. We have also treated several horses and donkeys that have
sustained injuries whilst trying to pull their carts along the submerged road.
Sadly, despite her best efforts, Stella was
unable to raise sufficient funds to rebuild this road before her death and on Christmas
night, though she was very ill, she asked me if we would ensure that the road was built. I
made my promise, though I was rather daunted by the prospect, particularly after I had
received some of the quotes for the road!
I discussed it with several
people including Professor Max Murray, who is a Trustee and a friend. He had recently read
a book called Calum's Road, which had inspired him, and when he heard the story of this
road, he immediately said that of course it was possible and of course it could be done
and he advised me to read Calum's Road.'
During our subsequent conversations the road
became known as 'Calum's Road in The Gambia' and it will be built, inspired by Calum and
in memory of Stella.
The road is estimated to cost £130,000 -
£150,000 to build. It will be built with community involvement and we hope to start it
next dry season roughly a year after Stella made her request to me. If anybody knows of
any company or organisation that may be willing to sponsor a part of the road or even fund
raise for it, we would be very glad to hear from them.
Donations can be made to The Gambia Horse and
Donkey Trust (Calum's Road) HERE.
Map Showing location of Calum's Road. Please
on image to view larger version
The rehabilitated horses and donkeys that
belong to the Trust will be playing their part in fulfilling Stella's dream by helping to
carry materials for the road on their carts. Calum's road took twenty years to build,
let's hope that we are able to build ours more quickly.
We would like to thank the following people
for their support for Calum's Road in The Gambia:
Mr. and Mrs. Law
Professor Max Murray
Well we made it and I have the pictures to
prove it! Please click HERE
to view the photos and HERE to watch the 'Calum's Road by
Motorcycle Ambulance' You Tube video.
The rain kept away for the most part and when
it did come served as a water bowser, because the one we hired was faulty. We only lost a
couple of days work to rain. It was a bit touch and go and I had a few sleepless nights,
but somehow we made it and we now have a super highway! It was such a pleasure to see the
horses and donkeys trotting along so happily to the lumo last Monday, rather then
staggering and straining as they did on the old road.
In the end it turned into a real team effort
and our team of contractors worked incredibly hard to see it through and they did it with
much humour too.
Though I had been told to watch the fuel like
a hawk, none was stolen and the operators quite often refused to take their quota because
they hadn't used it all up the day before.
The local communities as well as those from
across the river have all asked me to give thanks to all of you who made it possible for
this road to be built, they are quite ecstatic about it and people travelled from far and
wide to come and see it because they could not believe what they had heard. There were
always lots of people to watch and when we were laying the sticks, the army even turned up
to help as they had heard that we needed manpower!
It turned out to be a real community effort,
with the ladies of each village providing breakfasts and lunches for the drivers and
operators of the machines.
We could not have had a harder working team,
everyone, from the hard working Gambia Horse and Donkey staff who helped to collect the
11,200 litres of fuel and decant it into bidons ready for the next days allocation, to the
lovely lorry drivers of the three lorries which we called Tom, Richard and Harry (we had a
fourth lorry called "Non Starter" as well but he only stayed a few days!) to the
machine operators and the supervisor from The National Roads Authority, were so pleasant,
humorous and dedicated to completing the project before the rains stopped play. They were
up early and finished late and there was a great team spirit.
I would like to extend my very sincere thanks
to you all for all the help and support that you have given me, I shall never ever be able
to thank you enough. After many trials and tribulations, it turned out to be a very
uplifting experience and I met so many really lovely people through it.
Thanks too must go to the local communities
who worked so hard, to Ballast Nedam who surveyed and designed the road and who kindly
provided the culverts, to PIWAMP who helped by loaning me their machines, to Green Impact
who also supplied machines at reduced rates, to the Horse and donkey staff and to The
National Roads Authority who were so incredibly helpful and supportive and who ensured
that the work was carried out to standard.
I was reduced to tears on my last day when one
of the Sambel ladies started to cry, when I asked her why, she said, " wherever she
is, I know that Stella will be happy now, but I wish she was here".
THANK YOU ALL so much, we could not have done
it without you.
Top of page
MAY 15th 2010
Great progress is being made on Calum's Road.
Ballast Nedam, a Dutch engineering firm who are working on a major road building project
in The Gambia, have very kindly offered to help us with this project at a vastly
discounted price, though at around £65,000 it is still a HUGE amount of money to raise.
Thanks to the motorbikers and a number of fundraising events, we have managed to raise
just under £50,000 and just need to raise the final £15,000. Ballast Nedam, with their
incredible kindness and generosity have extended the time required to pay the final
instalment in order to help us to meet our target.
If any of you know of any organisation, grant
making trust, individual or even media who might be interested in the Calum's Road story,
please contact us as we need all the help we can get to complete this road.
Calum's Road in The Gambia crosses a swamp so
will need to be raised quite high to rise above the rainy season water levels. I am no
engineer, but apparently if you just raise the level of the road without giving it time to
settle, it will quickly break down again unless other measures are taken.
Ballast Nedam have decided to design this road
as they would a Dutch dyke, this means that the local community are heavily involved
preparing bundles of sticks and sewing "geo matting" together, enough to cover
the 1.3 kilometres of the lowest lying piece of road.
The communities have been coming out in force
to help and have pooled their money together to enable the ladies to make their breakfast
and lunch on the "work" days. They are hoping that by next week, (20th May,
2010), they will have completed their part of the road and the heavy machinery will then
be able to come in and complete it. Ballast Nedam hope to begin early in June and hope to
complete the road by the end of June which will hopefully be just in time for the rains.
A family friend, Nigel Orbell, went out for a
month on a voluntary basis to organise and supervise the community efforts and we are very
grateful to him for his sterling efforts.
You will see from the pictures HERE that the people arrive from far
and wide to help, from across the river, on foot, on bikes and motorbikes, by tractor and
trailer and someone even came in an old Mercedes!
We are so close to the end of our journey for
Calum's road now, if you feel you can help at all with fundraising for the final push, it
would be a great help to us, to the community and to the animals who have to pull heavily
laden carts on this road.
Top of page
For a BBC video of extended footage of the trip from Raasay
to Gambia please click *here
NB The BBC video may not be
available for those resident outside the UK
(Before Road was Built)
Click on Image to View larger Version
Top of page
Sponsored Bike Ride
for Calum's Road
The Heroes arrive!
On the 31st January after some 4,700
kilometres our heroic motor bikers arrived. The day had started in great excitement, they
had phoned ahead to tell us that they were on the Senegalese border. The news spread like
wildfire and the "bush telegraph" which is now helped by mobile phones(!) worked
its wonders. For the last 27 kilometres of their journey the bikers were given the warmest
of Gambian welcomes and by the time they reached Horse and Donkey in the dark and
completely exhausted, I think they had realised just how important this road was to the
people of our area!
Many toasts were drunk to absent friends,
sadly not everyone who had fundraised was able to make the trip, some were physically
unable to make it due to the inclement weather conditions when they left, for others, the
economic recession had bitten too hard and though they had bravely managed to raise money
for the building of the road, they didn't have enough to pay their own way on the trip.
This reflects the incredible spirit of selflessness of the Calum's Road Motor bikers.
Both the community in and around Calum's Road
and all of us at Horse and Donkey feel privileged and humbled by what a group of men who
were complete strangers have done for us. They have managed to raise in excess of £40,000
for the building of the road and are helping to make Stella's Dream come true.
HUGE thanks and hugs to each and every one of
you who took part in the fundraising and planning of this incredible event, you are ALL
heroes and I hope that you will take comfort in the knowledge that through your efforts,
the lives of a great many people will be transformed for the better. We hope to meet you
all in May and as soon as the road is complete and we have organised the official opening,
we shall be sending out the invitations! Thank you all so much!
Post script. As if receiving help from the
motor bikers was not enough, we have also received help from a Dutch road building company
called Ballast Nedam. We originally approached them for help and advice with the culverts
for this road and they have given us so much help with surveying and suggestions and plans
for the road. It is hard for me to describe just how much having such willing expertise
means to me and it is hoped that work on the road will begin in the next three weeks,
subject to approval from The National Roads Authority. Saying "Thank you" seems
completely inadequate for the help we have received. I just hope that one day in some way,
we can return the incredible kindness and generosity that we have received from this
Please click HERE to view the photos!
Some of their fundraising exploits can be seen on *You Tube.
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