My name is Merete Gustavsen Tvenning and my education is child welfare officer, and some years ago I got back to school and became a family therapist. I have been working with people and mainly teenagers all my adult life. I´m now the manager of my own voluntary organisation, Gambia Care.
 
In 2008 I traveled to Gambia with a friend of mine for the first time. On my first trip I fell deeply in love with the beautiful country and the poor, beautiful, kind and smiling people!! Since 2008 I have been traveling four five times to Gambia every year. The first years I was helping my friend with her project, but I felt very soon that I had to find my own projects.
 
I started to travel alone, but also with my mother and a friend of mine. On one of these trips we met Pa Ansu Bojang, a man that helped us to manoeuvre in this strange country. Pa was going to be a very important person for us later. Pa is today hired in as Gambia Cares manager in Gambia when I´m not around.
 
In the beginning w e were helping schools with school materials – different school every time. We found out that we really would like to find our own school. We found that school in 2012 – a small nursery school outside the capital Banjul in a very poor district. This school`s name is Mr. Jattas Nusery School and it is run by the headmaster Mr. Jatta. The headmaster had two school. The government had decided to close bouth school because the conditions of the facilities was to bad. We mamage to save one of that school. Since then we have given the school electricity, build a fence, new roof on both the school and the toilet, give them school materials, new blackboard, build furniture to the whole school. We managed to collect some money, but mainly we used our own money for this project. Last winter, 2015, we build a new classroom and an office to the headmaster with money from a firm in Norway called Blacktower Nordic.
 
My dream since the firs time I visited Gambia has been to start an orphanage. I guess that is because of my education, but I did not know how to start and where to find the kids. October 2013 I found the first kids. It was two premature twins that lost their mother the day they were born. A friend of the mother was taking care of them, but she did not have a job or a place to stay. I give my promise to that lady that if she was willing to adopt of the twins, I would find sponsors and pay the cost. She agreed to that. The next day a young mother, 16 years old with a baby in her arms, almost fell into my arms. The young mother was staying in the streets with her baby and had nowhere to go. We checked up her story and it was the truth. I’ve asked the lady with the twins if she could take these two kids also – and I promise to get sponsors – and she said yes!! The ladies name was Fatou, we call her F, and so the name of the orphanage became Mama F´s Home.
 
I vent back home to Norway and because of F and the children I felt that I had to do everything correct. I registries a voluntary organisasjon in Norway, called it Gambia Care and started to look for sponsors. Last winter I registered it in Gambia

also, but I wasn’t allowed to use the name “Gambia” so it is called NorGam Care in Gambia. I had seen that I was able to get some sponsors, and I felt that I was ready to let Mama F´s Home grow bigger and to have more kids.
 
The only way I could manage to have the money to pay for a bigger place was to use my private money and buy a house. In April my husband and me bought a house, and Mama F´s Home moved in. At Mama F´s Home there are now eight kids from two years old to ten years old. Seven of those kids has started to go to school for there first time – we have four in nursery school and three in Primary school. Besides Pa and F, we have three more employees working for us at the orphanage.
 
Parallel to this we started a local restaurant in January 2014. The point of starting this restaurant was to give work to four ladies. We was sponsoring the building and helped them with the start, and they are doing the job and sharing the income. The first winter it was running good, but then the Ebola come to West Africa and the tourists didn’t come. They were working very hard so they managed to run the restaurant through the bad season!
 
During the same season, when a lot of people were starving because of the result of Ebola in the neighbouring country(it was not Ebola in Gambia!), we started to collect money to buy oil and rice. The oil and rice was given to people up country who didn’t have anything.

In November 2015 we decided to rebuild Mr.Jattas second school. We started to collect money and in February 2016 we started to build the fence. The same company witch helped us with the first school last winter, Blacktower Nordic, has no given us money so we can start to renovate the whole school. This work will start in April 2016.

Gambia is a fantastic country, but they really need all kinds of help. My plan for the future is to continue helping our schools, running the orphanage, actively work against circumcision of girls, help the ladies at the restaurant and also to have some more project.
 
I´m dependent that I have some people to help sponsoring this. We need sponsors for the orphanage, Mama F´s Home, for school materials and fees for the teachers at both schools, for building our next restaurant, and to help us with the school fees, rice and oil for kids in poor familys and all our small prodjects.

No one in the organisasjon in Norway get payed – we all work as vollintires and pay for our ovn traveling. The only person in the organisasjon who get payed is Pa Ansu Bojang, the Manager in Gambia.
 
 
Best Regards,
 
Merete G. Tvenning
 

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