By Tomas:

I have a good friend, Philip, who is from the Gambia, and with him and a childhood friend of mine, me and my family made a trip to the Gambia in December of 2009. I became fond of the country and the people right away and what I fell for was the fact that they, in spite of great poverty, always were friendly and helpful.

Since I like fishing, I got help from a good friend of Philip, Lamin, who had everything set and ready when we got there. In addition to booking a boat for me, Lamin had promised Philip to take care of me during these fishing trips and make sure I had everything I needed (drinks, food, transport etc.). He did all of this simply because Philip had asked him, as friends and there was no talk of payment. I was only allowed to pay for the expenses which he had together with the fishing. Since he also came along during the fishing we got plenty of time to get to know each other, and this time led to us becoming very good friends.

It was also during one of these talks that I learnt about their tough living conditions and how much he and many others had to fight just to afford food. He also told me of a dream he had, to open a store and sell used items from Europe. A big part of the trading in the Gambia is actually based on used items, and it is mostly people from the Gambia who live in other parts of the world that, using containers, provide for these shipments. Of course there are also new things to purchase in the country, but most of the citizens cannot afford it and that is why a large part of the economy is based on used items.

Out of respect and gratitude to him as well as Philip’s family and relatives (who also took care of us in an admirable way) I promised to look into the possibility of helping him, and in May of 2010 we sent our first container. Lamin has now got a store in the Gambia which we have filled with items from Sweden and this has contributed to a lot of people in the Gambia getting great goods at low prices and have also created employment for a lot of people. It should, however, be mentioned that some items, such as toys etc. have been donated.

This occupation has, as said, created work not just for Lamin but for many who, in exchange for payment, help him at times. The incomes from the store have also been used to create a small construction company in another building and this has also created job opportunities. We also took the opportunity to send all kinds of necessary items to Philip’s family and relatives.

Some might think that you should donate all the items, but personally I think this is a good way to contribute. Additionally it costs quite a lot to send a container to the Gambia and if we hadn’t brought some of money home from the first container we simply would not have the financials to send more containers. At the moment we have not got back all the expenses and a lot of it is because of the fact that we bought a lot of new items, which was a miscalculation. We also decided to lend out money, which would go back home, into the construction company that I mentioned.

Regarding the containers, we have at the moment sent four of them and we feel like that is enough for now. You should never say never, but before sending the fourth container we decided to develop businesses that are independent of these transports from Europe and we decided to, in addition to Lamin’s construction company, invest in tourist trips on the river and ocean for fishing or nature experiences. Therefore, with the fourth container in December 2014, we also sent, along with many other things, our own fishing boat which had been used by me and Ken on many fishing trips, including deep sea fishing in Norway. The idea was to use this boat for the tourist trips. We sent all kinds of fishing equipment that could be necessary along with the boat. Lamin got hold of the boat and the equipment and stored it in a facility, and then in March 2015 me and Ken went to Gambia to get the boat into the water and arrange all permits and alike. That time we unfortunately did not get much time for fishing, because of the time it took to get all things running. However, we went to the Gambia once more in December of 2015 and with more time on our hands we managed to learn much about the fishing as well as bought a larger boat for up to thirty people. You can of course fish using this boat, but it is more intended for nature experiences along the river. With the purchase of this boat, I believe we have gotten quite the way to becoming independent of international transports. 

It could be added that we originally planned to build houses/apartments to rent, but it did not turn out to be a very good idea financially. We have gotten ourselves many contacts throughout the years, though, so there aren’t any problems in getting a good resident, cheaply.