During a journey in October 1994 – it was the first flight of Air Holland from Schiphol directly to The Gambia – Jan Willem van Besouw visited among other locations the primary school of Pakaliba, situated about 250 km from the capital Banjul.
He was introduced to Alhagie Sarr, one of the teachers of the school.
Since he was stricken by the poor conditions of life on the one hand, and on the other hand by the enormous brightness of life of the local population, the plan to ‘adopt’ children of this primary school took root.
11th May 1995 he founded, together with his wife Nell and friend/colleague Cor Bertrand, the Foundation for Children of The Gambia.
First, the foundation’s goal was to support the children of the school in Pakaliba with educational tools. Also, if possible, they had set their minds to support other needy schools, hospitals and other organizations, all who take care of the well-being of children.
Thanks to the support of some small benefactors, the first funds were brought together. In 1995, a so called instant-lottery held at the yearly market festivities in the first weekend of August in the province Limburg, in Wahlwiller, brought in an amount of more than € 1.615,00 (ƒ 3.560,00). Educational tools were bought and shipped to the Gambia from part of this money. A second lottery, a year later, brought in even more. Thanks to accurate cooperation with the management of the Foundation for the Market Festivities in Wahlwiller, an amount of € 2.702,00 (ƒ 5.955,00) was produced. This could be realised by a deal: visitors of the market festivities got a free lottery ticket in exchange for their admission ticket.
Every first weekend of August, a number of members of our foundation are present at this yearly market, the oldest in Limburg, supported by some volunteers.
Late October 1997 Nell and Jan Willem van Besouw visited the Gambia again and they brought with them a large amount of educational tools and they gave the head of the primary school of Pakaliba another ƒ 500,00 to go shopping al the local wholesale business.
Their visit of the school became an anticlimax. The roof of one of the three school buildings appeared to have been blown off by a heavy storm some months before. The doors were also wrecked by the storm.
For the time being, lessons were taught in the shadow of some trees. However, this could only be a temporary solution, because during the rain season it would not be possible to teach in the open.
On request of the head of the school, the remaining money – about ƒ 6.000,= – was not spend on educational tools but was stored on a Gambian banking account, in order to serve as starting capital for the reparation of roof and doors. Costs for the reparation of the building were estimated at ƒ 13.000,=, while a complete renovation would cost about ƒ 25.000,=.
Thanks to a fund doubling action, in cooperation with the Dutch Foundation ‘Wilde Ganzen’ and donations of other organizations, foundations and of private persons, the school building, which was completely destroyed by now, could be renovated.
Numerous new projects speedily followed after the successful realisation of this first project. These projects can be found on this website for more information.
In 1995, the committee consisted of Jan Willem van Besouw, chairman, Cor Bertrand, secretary, and Nell van Besouw-Walters, treasurer.
In 1998, the committee of the foundation was enlarged with two new members: Rita Reith from Nunspeet (The Netherlands), who had been exerting herself for years already for charitable purposes for The Gambia, and Lamin B. Sarr, former employee of the Catholic Relief Services in Banjul (the Gambia). His assignment is to locally lead and coordinate the projects of the foundation.
In 2003, Ms. Reith stepped back because of her busy activities elsewhere and she has been replaced by Ms. Marijke Mosk from Hoorn (The Netherlands).