Our Honorary Presidents Hildegunde and Siegfried Pape have summarized for us the following report on the beginnings and early visions of our activities in Salikenni

"How it began

The German-Gambian Youth Group Salikenni initiated by “Aktion Friedensdorf e.V. Bochum”

The idea of a German-Gambian youth group was created when Hildegunde and Siegfried Pape visited their son Gerald in The Gambia in Eastern 1987. During this visit, they accompaied Gerald on a visit to Salikenni to install a pump and a "water tower". Both installed to improve the ailing water supply of the health center in the difficult-to-reach village Salikenye located on the other side of the Gambia River.

A happening with consequences

The station was managed on behalf of a group of doctors from Bochum, Germany and supervised by the medical doctor, Dr. Gerald Pape, who assisted in the surgery of the Royal Victoria Hospital in the capital Banjul. Accompanied by Lamin Saho, the counterpart of the group of physicians, Papes visited together with her son Gerald the village Salikenye. Their spontaneous commitment with which they procured the equipment and transported it to the remote village, was a happening with many villagers participating and watching during installation. The well of the health station was deepened and cleaned, surrounded by a wall and covered by a concrete slab on which the hand pump was mounted. Thereafter, the water tank with the rotting wooden scaffolding was removed and replaced by a steel frame. This framework was been designed with the help of an Italian construction company, who worked at the Royal Victoria Hospital, so that it could be deconstructed in single parts and transported  with a pickup to Salikenye where it could be screwed together. 

This action, carried out within a three-week vacation, impressed the citizens so much that the Chairman of the Youth Committee, Foday Travally,  requested if they could not  help to build a youth center next to the football field on the outskirts of the village. He was supported by Dr. Lamin Saho, then Secretary of State in the Ministry of Agriculture, who argued that by promoting the village with youth facilities could reduce the exodus of young people. Dr. Saho proposed to set up a German-Gambian Youth Group.  

Hildegunde Pape has spread the idea among her colleagues of Erich Kästner School; Siegfried Pape suggested this to the board of Aktion Friedensdorf e.V. Bochum, a NGO which he chaired since the founding in 1969. Both got positive feedback.

Pilot project with the Erich Kästner School in Bochum/Germany

Out of the German school, nine high school graduates of the advanced course geography were willing to travel with their teacher Udo Müller to Gambia to build a youth center together with Gambian youths in a three-week lasting workshop. The board of “Aktion Friedensdorf e.V. Bochum (AFBo)” was ready to take over the construction costs of the project. However, an alternative source had to be found for funding the flight and accommodation costs. And so the family 'von Renesse' came on board. They were in close contact with the NGO “AFBo” and their daughters Sandi and Dorli also wanted to support the project. 

Ernst Albrecht von Renesse made contact with the “Carl Duisberg Gesellschaft (CDG)”. The CDG manages the resources of the program "Concrete Peace Service", launched by the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia. The program was designed to encourage the co-operation of young people in development aid projects. The CDG funded all travel expenses of the young people participating. Thus, the preparation of the first workshop - scheduled for December 1987 - could start.

In preparation for the task and the conditions in Salikenye regular meetings and a weekend seminar were held, in which the young people and their coaches got to know each closer. At the first visit to Gambia schools and development projects were visited. Then the workshop started.

It was a success! In hard work and under extrem sleeping and food conditions, they created a single-story building, about 40 m long and 7 m wide (280 square meters), with airy grid windows and several steel doors, a large meeting room with a "stage" and a small side room. The inspiring commitment of the Gambian and German youth group was the basis for friendships, more workshops and thus the development of the Youth and Sports Center Salikenye.  

In May 1988, a group of eleven Gambian youth leaders came for a return visit to Bochum. They were welcomed by the first gambia visitors and supervised by the counterpart of the project, the rector Mustapha Dibba from Salikenye. However, this exchange could not be repeated due to the high cost.

The workshops of the youth

From then on three more workshops took place in the years 1989, 1991 and 1992 with altogether 112 mostly artisanal educated students from colleges and universities. Some came with musical instruments for evening entertainment and contact support. The preparation of the workshops were intensified because of the experience and in view of the planned tasks. At the same time visits in the village were somewhat relieved by prchasing additional food in Banjul and making stretchers on site.

During the following two workshops and in consultation with the Youth Council a small photovoltaic unit and lamps were installed, a volleyball and basketball court furnished and equipped with devices, soccer goals built and benches and tables timbered. A teacher from Erich Kästner school performed sewing classes with imported sewing machines and locally purchased fabrics. In addition, volleyball and basketball was trained with the youngsters, football played to win a trophy and music and dance evenings performed. They witnessed baptisms and weddings and punted on canoes through the mangroves on the edge of the river. Before or after the stay in the village they occasionally visited places worth seeing and markets if transportation were available.  

After each workshop, the groups recovered a day or two at the Atlantic coast before returning to Germany. There the young assistants experienced their culture shock caused by the luxuriant range of tourist events in contrast to the simple life in the village that they had experienced.

The restless Youth Committee

Inbetween the workshops in 1989 and 1991 also Papes and von Renesse visited Salikenye. They brought fundings and thus prepared the extension of the compound to a multi-purpose center. The Youth Committee has used these funds to fence the land with a high wall, to built a women house in agreement with the Women's Committee, a traditional round house with reed roof, as well as two washing and toilet facilities. Last but not least they created a well on the property. The young people from Germany helped to finalize these facilities during the following workshops.  

A workshop dedicated to mangos

Every time Hildegunde Pape visited Salikenye she had noticed that large amounts of harvested mangoes in the village but afterwards spoiled in the markets because they could be neither exported nor consumed. Than she brought in the idea to dry this valuable vitamin-rich fruits by using solar heat and thus preserve them for some time. In addition to the primary goal to improve nutrition, the dried crops could be offered to tourists or perhaps even exported. It would create an additional, more profitable business, because at that time dried mangos from the Philippines and Brazil were offered in Germany for 3 Euro per 100 gr. in so called “Third World Shops”.

In July 1991 Hildegunde Pape has made a successful attempt to dry mangos during a short stay at the property of Lamin Saho. After a greater number of plywood  manufactured drying equipment called “Darren” was prepared on site and transported to Salikenye. At the same time the preparation of a national survey of mango tree started. The amount of annually harvested mangoes should be determined.

The maps required could be procured from a geographical institute in London. On them the way to the villages could be detected and the riverine areas in which mango trees grow. Within the fourth workshop, scheduled for April 1992, the mango tree populations and harvest volumes should be identified and a greater amount of dried mango slices should be prepared to demonstrate the method in the village. Together with the young people who had signed up for this workshop, including some who had several times been involved in Salikeyne, four teams of two people each were chosen.  They should investigate the mango tree populations in the villages on both sides of the Gambia River. For this task they chartered rental cars and drivers and started the journey on pre-recorded routes with fixed accommodation and meeting points. The village headmen (alkaldes) and owner of the trees were to ask after the mango varieties, the yields and by the consumption of the fruits. Because the small country on both sides of the river is not very wide, and about 400 km long ten days were estimated and also needed for this exhausting journeys. The remaining group in the village would meanwhile produced - with the help of the villagers - larger quantities of dried mango slices to whet the appetite of the locals and to become familiar with the method and benefits.  

Presentation of the results on site

During an election rally in the village about 100 bags of dried mango slices were distributed. Even the President of the Republic, some ministers and parliamentarians and the chiefs, alkaldes and many visitors from the district of Central Baddibu participated. The President was presented a model of a “Darre” and the method of drying and preserving demonstrated. A report with proposals on how benefits of the drying method could be achieved among the population longterm was handed over. 

As a result, it was found that out of the annual harvest they could made a surplus of about 75 tonnes of dried mango slices for their own consumption and sale. For the distribution of the method and to awaken the need it has been proposed to provide schools with “Darren” and mangoes for practicing. For the promotion of this conservation program, the German “Welthungerhilfe” should be persuaded in cooperation with the Gambian Food and Nutrition Association (GAFNA). The GAFNA, responsible for improving the nutrition, already dealt with drying of tomatoes.

The military coup in 1994

The report of “Aktion Friedensdorf” was delivered to the Gambian Ministry of Agriculture, the GAFNA and “Deutsche Welthungerhilfe”. After several discussions with “Welthungerhilfe” Papes traveled to Gambia in March 1993 to move the GAFNA to an application for funding. There was, however, no quick progress. In spring 1994, the military coup happened and swept away not only the government but also the counterparts, Dr. Lamin Saho and Mustapha Dibba, as well as the interlocutor of GAFNA. Because of their membership in the former ruling People's Progressive Party (PPP) they have been removed from their functions. Thus, the basis was broken for further cooperation. There was initially no contact to the Youth Committee in Salikenye because during that time communication was difficult. No phone or internet connections existed to the village. 

End of the funding assistance of the German state, North Rhine-Westphalia

Through intermediaries, the contact was re-established and money transfered to further expand the center or to repair the damage on the buildings and walls during rain storms. Götz Bering transmitted the money. He had participated in several workshops and visited Salikenye in December 1999.  At this time the youth house was used as a school and “Aktion Friedensdorf “ had been asked to fund the construction of two classrooms.

So far it has been possible to obtain funding from the Development Assistance Fund of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia for the group operations of the association „Konkreter Friedensdienst“. With this changed circumstances and without the support of a counterpart in Banjul it was too risky to organize a workshop and raise further buildings.

So Siegfried Pape traveled to Salikenye in June 2000 and delivered the remaining funds of the association for the construction of a school building on the estate of the center. This amount was then used instead to start building a guest house for foreign football teams because school tuition could no longer be performed. The government had canceled the support for tuition of 5th and 6th classes in Salikenye and the parents were unable to raise the salaries of teachers for this group.

Establishment of a new NGO

This was the last visit of a member of the association “Aktion Friedensdorf e.V.” in Salikenye and also its last, substantial financial support. As a result of declining membership, the association could not afford to promote the multipurpose center at Salikenni with the remaining active members. In fall 2007 the former Gambia visitors  were invited to a meeting to discuss with them the formation of a new association as a future sponsor. Twenty years after the first workshop in Salikenye in 1987.

Then Dorothea von Renesse visited Salikenye in June followed by Thomas Hegenberg and Rüdiger Kurtz in December 2008 and discussed with the committee to establish a nursery school. Through their initiative, the NGO "Future in Salikenni / Gambia" was created with different focus and new spelling of the city name. It was founded in December 2008 and will continue the long-lasting activities of “Aktion Friedensdorf e.V. Bochum/ Witten.

Bochum, 25. Juli 2009     Siegfried und Hildegunde Pape