Action Guinea Bissau: our featured charity
(Guest post by Linda Ruas)
Most towns outside the capital have either no electricity at all, or electricity for only two hours a day. For a few years now, schools have closed for at least 3 months of each academic year due to teachers striking. All they ask for is a reasonable salary. Roads made of earth or broken tarmac are usable during the dry season, but then the heavy rains and storms come between May and October and wa
sh them away. Hospitals have no equipment. Malaria and typhoid are widespread. And there is hardly any running water outside the capital, so people rely on old wells and toilets in various states of disrepair.
And then coronavirus came and, due to lockdown, tripled the prices of basics like food and transport, stopped all the part-time jobs, and meant no school at all until the end of September.
But the Bissau Guineans are such a resilient people. The roofs of their houses blow off in storms every year and they get neighbours to help repair them. The teachers have no school materials, so they group together and write their own. They support people with disabilities by providing them with wooden wheelchairs and plastic Braille ‘readers’.
I started working with a group of English teachers in the capital, Bissau, in 2018, via WhatsApp, and have since been there 3 times to run training courses, travel around the country visiting schools and offering support, and find out more about life – and all its difficulties – in Guinea Bissau.
I’ve worked on various projects – buying land to grow crops on, setting up micro-credit projects for women to start small businesses, organising conferences for teachers and sending solar panels – and have now joined up with a partner determined to work with me to raise money that will make a real difference in Guinea Bissau – all leading up to us setting up a small charity: Action Guinea Bissau.
Through a combination of sponsored events (including my first ever half marathon with my daughters in October 2020) and funding proposals, we are going to raise money to repair as many wells and toilets we can in the villages. We are also going to buy tools for growing vegetables to make many people more self-sufficient by growing their own food. We are working with a small group of trusted English teachers in Bissau, who will report on the progress of the work, and who I will also visit (coronavirus permitting) in early 2021.
Guinea Bissau is one of the smallest Portuguese ex-colonies and only became independent in 1974 after an 11-year-long war of independence. Unusual for West Africa, their socialist government valued education and women, and created a harmonious balance between the Muslim, Christian and animist religious groups. The lack of stability, due to several coups and a year-long civil war 1998-9, meant that many charities and embassies left the country and are yet to return.
They finally have a new, hopefully more stable, President and government, who promise to prioritise education and health. Now is such a good time for new beginnings, sorting out the old wells and toilets, planting and growing food, setting women up with small microcredit businesses and helping with emergencies, we want to raise and send as much money as we can. Can you help?