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The Gambia
Gambia mother and child
At present SOS Children's Villages supports over 23,000 people in The Gambia through 2 Children’s Villages, a youth home, 2 Nursery Schools, 2 primary schools, an SOS Vocational Training Centre, a Family Strengthening Programme and a Medical Centre. … more about our charity work in The Gambia

Moments make families: Growing up as a family

Malik and Mbye, two of the children on the Family Strengthening Programme
Malik and Mbye, two of the children on the Family Strengthening Programme

The SOS Family Strengthening Programme (FSP) in The Gambia supports families living in extreme poverty, many affected by HIV/AIDS. Yama and her three children are beneficiaries of the programme, which has enabled them to stay together and grow up as a family.

After Yama’s husband passed away, she was left with no money and three children to provide for. Struggling to support her two boys, Mbye and Malik, and her daughter Aisatou, Yama had no choice but to put her self-esteem aside and start begging in the street. On good days she made enough money for a meal for her children, but the majority of the time they all went hungry.

Yama eventually managed to save up enough to set up a small home-made business selling cous cous. However, her income was unreliable and she didn’t earn enough to meet her children’s needs. The marketplace was over 12 miles away and she would not return home until after midnight. Walking home alone in the dark, Yama was attacked several times.

At risk of family breakdown, they were referred to the Family Strengthening Programme by an SOS social worker. The family were given food supplements, bedding, and the children’s school fees were paid. "Since SOS Children is helping us, we have good beds to sleep on and mosquito nets to prevent us from having malaria", says Malik. "Before, we used to sleep on the floor. Now we are well rested to go to school."

SOS decided that the best way to support Yama to care for her children in the long-term would be to help her improve her business. Yama was given financial support and business advice to establish a 'safer' business selling vegetables in a market closer to her house. Yama is concentrating all her efforts into making the best of her business. She is now very positive when it comes to her family's future and hopes to bring in enough income to renovate the family home.

"Before, it was very difficult for me to take care of my family and I often thought of giving up” Yama explains, “today, SOS Children are helping me to cater for my children's nutrition and education. They also supported me in setting up my little business and I want to use my profits well."

The children understand their mother is working hard for them and try their best to help her with household chores. "When she is in the market, I cook lunch" says Malik, "when I have time, I also help her in the market to carry and sell items like onions and tomatoes." Mbye helps by supervising his younger brother and sister whilst they do their homework.

SOS social worker Kumba N’dure has worked closely with the family and is impressed with the difference she has seen. She says “in such a short period of time, they have managed to change their situation substantially." Working as a team, the family have been able to stay together and improve their prospects for the future.

Yama and her family are now like any other, able to experience moments that make them a family everyday. Find out how you can give a child family moments to remember.