A Chapeltown couple who fell in love with Gambia have devoted the last 30 years to helping the people of the impoverished West African country.
David and Lynda Chambers first travelled to the paradise beaches of the so-called ‘Smiling Coast’ in the late 80s, and were immediately struck by the people’s astonishing warmth.
But they were also hit by the region’s unbelievable poverty and – over the course of the last three decades – have tried to do something about it.
The pair, who have been married 51 years, now go back at least twice a year, taking clothes, shoes – and copies of The Star.
David, aged 69, said: “You don’t go out there to do charity in the first place – it just happens.
“You get a lot of people saying why don’t you help some of our own but the poverty out there is difficult to believe – this is the third world.
“The copies of The Star do about seven different jobs. They use it for reading material in the schools and also sell bread in them. You see people reading it at the side of the road.”
David and Linda, who have lived in Chapeltown for 40 years, have three grown-up sons, 10 grandchildren and five great grandsons.
Lynda, 68, initially travelled there with David after she contracted sepsis and found the area’s tropical climate dramatically improved her health.
She said: “We fell in love with the people and the culture but they have absolutely nothing.
“At five years old ours have phones and everything but they are happy with a pen and a piece of paper. When our lot are finished with clothes, they get sent off too.”
They collect clothes from schools including Windmill Hill, Coit Juniors and Yewlands Academy, football strips from the local pub including the Norfolk Arms up the road and old newspapers from The Star’s distribution team.
These are then sent almost 4,000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean in shipping containers in which they cram suitcases at a cost of £25 per square metre.
As well as taking over supplies, David and Lynda have also now put about seven young people there through school, including Lamin Marong, 27, who was just three when they noticed him selling to tourists on one of the country’s beautiful beaches.
It only costs between £100 and £160 to put a young person through school in Gambia, and David and Lynda have also paid the medical bills of countless destitute people who have knocked on their door.
For their recent 50th wedding anniversary, the couple decided to have a break to themselves in nearby Cape Verde but ‘hated it’.
So accustomed have they become to working hard on their lengthy stays in Gambia that a relaxing beach holiday just simply wasn’t interesting or rewarding enough.
Their next project is to find a school which is getting rid of old tables and chairs which could then be shipped over.
To get involved, visit www.schools4gambia.co.uk.