Devon volunteers prepare for trip to Gambia

St John in Gambia

Preparations are underway to send three volunteers from St John Ambulance Devon into the African bush to offer unscheduled medical care to remote villages.

Andrew Webber, Derek Earl and Mike Forster, from the Crownhill Division in Plymouth, are heading out to The Gambia later this year to support Plymouth College with their venture.

And now work has started to collect vital supplies from healthcare organisations, including St John groups across Devon for the men to take with them on their medical outreach trip.

Thanks to this project, healthcare is being improved in this Gambian village.

Mark Greenway
Area Training Development Officer for St John Ambulance in Plymouth

About the team

It’s the second time that Andrew, the Divisional Officer of Crownhill’s Combined Cadet Unit, and Derek, the Divisional Superintendent for Crownhill Adult Unit, have made the trip. Both travelled to The Gambia in October 2007 and in 10 days they were able to treat more than 100 people with a variety of different conditions.

With new recruit Dr Mike Forster drafted in for the first time as an extra pair of expert hands, it’s hoped they’ll be able to help dozens more.

The trio are all health care professionals who work as volunteers for St John Ambulance Devon in their spare time.

Whilst in The Gambia they will continue the work started last year in training centre staff in first aid and medical care, passing on vital skills such as resuscitation, treating of infection. The men will also help to run clinics for local people.

In the beginning

Mark Greenway, the Area Training and Development Officer for St John Ambulance in Plymouth, explained how the first aid organisation became involved in the project.

“The initiative has come about through our association with local school Plymouth College. For many years St John Ambulance has provided first aid training to the students of Plymouth College as part of their enrichment activities on a Friday afternoon. For the past 22 years the college has supported the village of Kerewan Samba Sira, annually sending tools, building materials and equipment to construct schools and, more recently, a medical centre,” he said.

Each year pupils fill a cargo container with hundreds of boxes loaded with supplies to be sent to the village. Fundraising takes place throughout the year to pay for the £1,680 container and the school approached us in 2007 to see if we could provide any medical supplies including unwanted medication.

“We contacted divisions throughout Devon and, when the group of college students and teachers set off to meet the container, we sent along our two volunteers aswell to help train the medical staff and get the health station up and running. It was such a success that they are returning this year.”

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Mark Greenway said: “We are delighted to be able to help Plymouth College in this way. This medical centre is in an area where few people would have been able to gain access to proper medical care, and without it many of the people who have been able to get treatment would otherwise have become seriously ill.”

Fundraising events for the trip are taking place in Crownhill throughout the year and medical supplies are being collected now. The men will make their journey in the autumn.