Basse Reunion, Germany
Wednesday, August 29, 2012
A Reunion, And Then a Chance to Meet Some of the Challenges of Running an Organization From Afar
How does the Friends of Basse do it?
Except for the visibility of its undertakings in Basse, the organization resides mainly in the virtual world. Membership is spread around the globe, from The Gambia to Senegal, East Africa to Scandanavia, USA to Europe. And the executive committee is a scattered lot: the president lives in The Netherlands, his deputy in The Gambia, the secretary general in the USA. Creating and maintaining an organization where, in the main, folks can only meet up in cyberspace but not in the real world, provides some interesting insight into the practicality of social networking.
“We are functional mainly because of technology,” says Cherno Baba Jallow, a member of the executive committee in Michigan, USA. “The website, the mailing lists and other technological facilities have helped us in building and strengthening the organization.” He said had there been no technological help, it would have been almost impossible to carry on. “How can you bring together people who are spread all over the world?”
It is one of the many challenges facing Diaspora organizations: how to bring people together and more importantly, how to get them to know one another and keep them motivated about lending a hand to their respective communities in their native lands. The Friends of Basse, in its three years of existence, has continued to reach out, through emails and telephone calls, to folks in every part of the world. At its inception in 2009, the organization formerly called Basse Association, had only four members, but now it has over 200, of which 50 are active and paying. The goal, according to the executive committee, is to continue talking and convincing others about the ideals of community support; that it is only fitting one gives back to a community that raised you and contributed to your growth and development.
Flashback: FB Pres. Alhaji Mamadou Sellou Jallow (right) at the 2009 Summer Jam in Germany
Moving away briefly from the solicitations through phone calls and emails, the Friends of Basse will be launching Basse Reunions in Dusseldorf, Germany and in Maryland, USA, on September 1 and 29 respectively. “The purpose of this reunion,” says FB fundraising officer Alhaji Saibo Drammeh and who leads the Europe reunion side, “is to bring Basserians across Europe together to have fun as well as know each other better. In the first place it is a fundraising event, but we will also use this opportunity to enlighten people about the aims and objectives of FB Inc. We are expecting more that 200 people on that day.”
On the US side, FB senior adviser and one of the reunion managers Wuyeh Yorro Sanyang, in Pennsylvania, USA, believes a get-together will enable Basserians to know and recognize each other when they meet or see each other in the streets or on Facebook. “There are so many folks whose voices I recognize from our usual phone conferences but do not know them facially. The reunion will give us an opportunity to meet and interact in real life.”
In the Beginning
It was a Basse reunion of some sort and by accident which led to the formation of the Basse Association, the forerunner of the Friends of Basse.
“I remember on arrival at Ousainou Krubally's house in Cologne, Germany, all four of us (including myself, Mamadou Sellou Jallow and Alhagie Trawalley) had some interesting discussions about how great it is all of us meeting again, and the fact that we are all located in different parts of globe yet still are able to maintain the relationship developed from childhood, makes it even more touching,” recalls founding member and Washington, DC-based Pa M. L. Joof, the webmaster and content manager of My Basse.
Flashback: At the 2009 Germany Summer Jam, Basserians (from left-right), Sellou Jallow, Amadou "Teneng" Jallow, Pa M. L. Joof, Alhagie Trawalley and Malley Fatty
They all relished memories of Basse and shared their respective experiences of their occasional trips back home. “For the most part, we all felt that the town was lacking in many developmental aspects, and an idea of joining hands to give back came up. That's how the association came about! We decided to share our plight with the Basserians that were present at the 2009 Summer Jam as well, and agreed on a 100 Euros pledge from each as a start. The four of us ended up fulfilling our pledge, the website was created, Basserians worldwide were invited and the rest is history.”
As the word spread around, and with the website as the main medium of communication, more people came on board. A constitution was set up and Joof became president following elections. And the organization solicited partnerships, through a Memorandum of Understanding, with some existing Basse organizations in The Gambia.
Even though Basse is its target area, the Friends of Basse is yet to lay solid organizational structures in Basse. Membership from the area is small or non-existent, casting the organization as more Diasporic than local.
“I believe,” argues Sanyang, “that we are yet to discover a proper organizational structure that will be able to carter for folks on the ground and elsewhere to see the organization as their own, structures that will engage them in such a way that they will see themselves as the pioneers of the organization.” So should a Basse reunion have been launched first in Basse rather than outside to tackle the membership apathy in the town? “Well a reunion in Basse is a very good idea, but will definitely need a long and proper planning for folks to prepare, organize and budget for it,” says Sanyang.
“As for a reunion in Basse,” FB president Alhaji Mamadou Sellou Jallow in Deventer, The Netherlands balks, “I rather have that at a later stage because I firmly believe we are trying to get the youths understand or have some insight into FB because the info was distorted to the extent that people don't know who we and what our aims are.”
Flashback: Gambian Author and FB Basse Facilitator Michael Hamadi Secka at a Townhall Meeting in Basse in 2011; Wuyeh Yorro Sanyang looks on (right)
Getting folks in Basse to join the Friends of Basse or come together under one umbrella has been an on-going hurdle. “When I visit Basse and talk to people about joining, some will ask me, 'why do you join a Diaspora organization when you should be joining the ones in Basse' … and I tell them it is all the same ...we are all working towards the same goals,” reveals FB vice president Maimuna Sey in Banjul. “Let’s just keep sensitizing and encouraging them … maybe they will come forward one day, I am sure it’s just a matter of time.”
President Jallow thinks similarly: “By engaging them it only gives us more access into their world and I believe that gradually we will get them onboard once they have our trust.”
It is the Friends of Basse’s wish and hope that through its Europe and US reunions, ideas would be shared and strategies mapped out to, among others, bring many more of its community folks together and make itself more relevant to its focal point: Basse.
The Dusseldorf, Germany Reunion Program Activities
- Date, September 1, 2012
- Time, 12pm to 19pm
- Place, Volksgarten (Central Park), Dusseldorf. Connections: Dusseldorf Oberbilk S-Bahnhol: S-Bahn: S6 and S1; U-Bahn: U77, U79 and U74; Strabenbahn: 715; Bus: 721 and 722. Phone: 0049152/36680937
- Speech by President Alhaji Mamadou Sellou Jallow. Theme: the graciousness of giving back to your community
- Football match (Basse Eleven against the rest, for both kids and adults)
- Food and drinks for sale (fundraising activities)
Compiled and written by the Editorial Board, My Basse