A Word

Fresh Start Foundation: How it started by Jacqueline Alexander
First published in the Henley Standard 2012

Run by Lamin Daffeh and his wife Rebecca, Fresh Start, a charity formed to help rural Gambian villages, is built on a foundation of first-hand experience of the struggles faced by many remote communities in west Africa.

In 1988, Lamin was 11, living in Kwinella in The Gambia, and attending a run-down, local primary school without the resources or facilities required to provide adequate schooling.

Lamin Daffeh, founder of FSG

Lamin, a bright student, was lucky. His parents were determined that he would receive a full education. In 1989, Lamin was sent to a school with better facilities and resources but, unfortunately, that school was 10 miles away. Every day, Lamin would rise at 5am, leave home at 6am and return at 7.30pm.

After moving to the capital, Banjul, to attend the Gambia High School, Lamin successfully completed his education to the highest level available in The Gambia at that time.

He then came to Britain to study criminology at Worcester University. It was here that he met his future wife, Rebecca. After gaining his degree, Lamin worked for the charity Turning Point, helping to reintegrate former criminals and drug addicts into society. During this time, he was already sending money back to The Gambia to fund the education for bright students who were too poor to pay school fees.

In 2000, Lamin and Rebecca visited The Gambia and realised they could do more to help the villages struggling to survive. For the next few years, they raised funds with the help of friends and family and in 2006 the Fresh Start Foundation was established.

For three years, the charity continued to raise funds through events and activities while Lamin and Rebecca continued to work full-time.

Lamin Daffeh appears on Deal or No Deal

Then, in 2009, Lamin appeared on Deal Or No Deal. He was devastated to leave the Channel 4 show with just GBP20 but his appearance had captured the imagination of the public, who were inspired by his story.

Cosmetics company Lush contacted the charity to offer long-term support which enabled Lamin to leave his full-time job and devote his time to Fresh Start. In 2010, fund-raising resulted in a borehole and water tower being constructed near Kwinella Lower Basic School, which provided the school and some villagers with access to clean water for the first time.

The charity has also been able to sponsor children through secondary education, renovate disused classrooms and provide schools with pens, pencils, exercise books, tables and chairs.

Fresh Start has also funded an eye-screening programme resulting in more than 150 cataract operations so far.

"We have been able to help many people but there is still so much to achieve," says Mr Daffeh.

"The Gambia is a poor country with few resources so charitable help is essential to give people the opportunity to help themselves. Through providing water, education and sustainable farming, our three key areas, we can really help the community provide for themselves. Any support is welcomed and appreciated."

To donate or arrange fundraising, call the Fresh Start Foundation on 01905 20058 or email rebecca [at] fsfgambia [dot] org. For more information, visit www.fsfgambia.org.

by Jacqueline Alexander
Copyright 2012

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