De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) is to help hundreds of young Gambians to set up businesses through the development of a community hub in the village of Manduar.
Construction of the Manduar Development Hub has been ongoing in the village in West Gambia over the last two years with the help of students and staff on #DMUglobal trips.
#DMUglobal is the university’s pioneering programme giving students the chance to benefit from international experience while they study.
The university’s Pro Vice-Chancellor for Strategic and International Partnerships, James Gardner said: “I am incredibly proud of the DMU students and staff who have been helping the community of Manduar.
“The building of the hub to support future new business in The Gambia will be a vibrant example of DMU’s commitment to sharing our knowledge and skills across the globe.
“With students from more than 130 countries and recently named one of the world's top universities for international impact, DMU has a global instinct which we will continue to harness for the future benefit of communities wherever we are able to.”
BA Criminology and Criminal Justice student Edward Aisthorpe helped build the hub and said: “It feels good my contribution has made an impact on the hub. I also know future employers will be very impressed with the inter-cultural experience I gained here.”
From 2012 to 2015, DMU students and staff spoke to around 500 young people from communities across The Gambia, to find out what issues they felt were important and what they would like to be done to help.
Their ideas inspired the blueprint for the hub – a collection of buildings providing young Gambians with access to learning and business support, as well as technology and accommodation.
The central building of the hub has been named The DMU Hall and has space for up to 300 people for conferences and training, to help share knowledge and to encourage business start-ups.
The hub, which will serve both national and international purposes, has already been used to run important Girls’ Agenda training on Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) for local young women and held the first-ever film festival in The Gambia.
Dr Momodou Sallah, a DMU Senior Lecturer in Social Work, Youth and Community Work organised the trips and said: “Enthused by the findings from our consultation, the great people of Manduar offered their land without cost or condition.”
He then set about raising the money to build the hub with support from the university, #DMUglobal and community engagement campaign group Global Hands.
This weekend, the hub will host the launch of the latest two books from Global Hands Publishing (UK); Baaba Sillah: Reclaiming The Mantle by Dr Pierre Gomez and Malang Fanneh and Patriots: Profiles of Eminent Gambians by Hassoum Ceesay. Dr Sallah directs the publishing company.
Dr Sallah was awarded Most Innovative Teacher of the Year in the country in the UK Times Higher Education Awards 2015 for organising these international field trips to The Gambia, which take the classroom out into the real world and give students first-hand experience of helping develop communities.
He added: “Part of my role as a National Teaching Fellow at the university is to embed globalisation and diversity into the curricula.
“This is not cultural tourism. This is demonstration of a two-way exchange, beneficial to both the students who come back rich with experience and the Gambian communities who benefit from the building of sustainable structures.”
There are plans for a permanent exhibition in the DMU Hall which will show the history of the building in photographs and film, featuring university students and staff, Global Hands Gambia members, and residents of Manduar, who worked together to establish the project.
Posted on Friday 8th January 2016