The Marlborough Brandt Group’s 26-year link with the Gambian fishing village of Gunjur has inspired the Government to put millions of pounds behind similar community linking programmes across the UK.
The Department for International Development (DFID) has selected the charity as a model of good practice for linking UK communities with developing countries. On the back of its own research into the charity’s work, DFID is putting £3 million behind a national scheme designed to build many more bridges between communities around the country and people in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean. “Marlborough should be proud of its long relationship with Gunjur, but there is still more work to be done and we are always on the lookout for new people to become involved with the charity, to visit Gunjur and to understand for themselves the positive impact that the Gambians can have on our own lives,” says MBG’s Hon President: Dr Nick Maurice OBE.
As a result of lobbying by members of BUILD (Building Understanding through International Links for Development) DFID, in its White Paper to the Government outlining its strategy for the next three years, stated that it would put money into a scheme linking communities in the UK with communities in developing countries. Over the last few years the experience of the Marlborough group has spilled over to good practice by group's based in Swindon. These includes Swindon College students visiting Gunjur to undertake building projects, close links with several primary schools, such as Tregoze Primary, and work by Neil Griffiths of Corner to Learn and Storysacks fame who sponsors the nursery in Gunjur.
Swindon's Greendown Community School has built close links with Moriteng Wa Thutu School in South Africa has worked closely with the Marlborough Brandt Group to develop the principles of its relationship with its partner school. DFID researchers stood on Marlborough’s High Street 18 months ago asking 237 residents, picked at random, about their knowledge of, and attitudes to, the developing world. They then compared their responses to a control group of people in Alton, Tewkesbury Cirencester, Oswestry and Rugby. The results showed the link has sunk deep into Marlborough’s consciousness as nearly two thirds of those questioned were aware of the town’s relationship with Gunjur. And the link is also affecting the levels of concern that townsfolk have about overseas poverty.
A higher proportion of Marlborough residents (61% compared to 56% in the control group) believe it is important that the Government spend money to help tackle poverty in poorer countries. Almost two thirds felt the link was benefiting the Gambian community by reducing poverty and improving health, but that not all the benefits are one way as almost half recognised that the link boosted their own understanding of development issues. The report states that the link may be having a ‘spill over’ effect on Marlborough residents’ general understanding and attitudes towards poorer overseas countries.
When asked which African country (from a list of eight) they knew something about, a higher proportion of Marlborough residents claimed some knowledge about each of them compared to the control group. The concept of a link with the Gambia got the thumbs up from over 80% of those questioned, who also believe that other towns should be developing links with poorer countries. “We are delighted that the Government is taking our work so seriously that it is actually putting funding into other communities to help them learn from us and repeat what we have achieved,” says Nick.
If you want to learn more about the work of MBG please come to its Annual General Meeting to be held at 7pm on Wednesday June 18th at the Town Hall in Marlborough.