Friday, August 30, 2013
Our Ramadan Project Was a Huge Success. Here is Why
By Kawsu Sillah and Mamadou Salieu Jallow
- The Authors Kawsu Sillah Mamadou Salieu Jallow
Recently, Friends of Basse (FoB) embarked on a Good Samaritan project to provide meals to nearly 1000 people during the recent holy month of Ramadan. The project provided four Iftars ("Huntari") and a dinner on the night of Lailatul Qadr (Night of Power) and five bags of sugar to each of the satellite communities of Koba Kunda, Manneh Kunda, Mansanjang and Kaba Kama.
The project was a huge success thanks to the spirit of volunteerism and the remarkable helping hands from the team on the ground in Basse and the Kombo-based executives. The meals were cooked by Haja Inna Sey and her team in Sey Kunda and they received small amounts of money as payment for their services. This was done, among other things, to motivate and encourage our sisters to join the cause – anything it takes to close the gender gap in Friends of Basse.
We are delighted with the way the project went; everything was just smooth and transparent. Funds were received accordingly and on time; and the teams were always ready to assist whenever their services were needed. We can attest that this has been one of the most successful projects ever implemented by Friends of Basse.
The project was applauded by the elders and members of the community. They said that the project came at the right time as the month of Ramadan is time for sharing, helping those in need and asking GOD for forgiveness. They went on to say our "Sadaqa" was already accepted and GOD will bless us all abundantly for doing this.
They finally encouraged FoB to continue giving back to its people for the betterment of the town and the region at large; and they’ve promised to keep praying for FoB to succeed in its future endeavors.
How We Did It
From the onset, we opened lines of communication between Basse and the Diaspora. A six-member committee was formed to oversee the Ramadan project. Prior to project implementation, a steady flow of communication ran among the following: project manager Kawsu Sillah in Basse, former FoB president Alhaji Mamadou Sellou Jallow in Banjul and current president Momodou Bilo Krubally in the US and Chief Financial Officer Mamadou Salieu Jallow in the UK.
We found cooks in town. They went through an informal interview to ascertain their dependability. The task was made easier by the cooks’ willingness, appreciating the humanitarian gesture behind the Ramadan project, to come on board and be of service to the community.
We established the Basse-based businessman Alhaji Malick Jallow as the go-to-guy for the money wires and for goods needed for the Ramadan dinners. One Alhaji Yaya Kanuteh in Gambissara was contracted to supply lambs for the four dinners and a bull for the Lailatul Qadr (Night of Power). We ensured that the lambs would be delivered each Friday morning without delay. Our plans went according to design. The lambs and the bull arrived as scheduled. We experienced no delays.
The first dinner started in earnest. A representative from Imam Cherno Sheik Bah of the Basse Lay-out Mosque graced the first lamb. He offered prayers and thus marked the commencement of the Ramadan project.
To ensure accountability and transparency, the project manager went provision-shopping with the cooks on many occasions.
FoB V. P. Maimuna Sey (in blue), PRO Abubakarr Krubally (in cap) and colleagues Shopping Groceries in Town
Initially, we were all nervous. We worried over the possibility of the first phase of project implementation going wrong. But it didn’t. It was a good start. It even got better with the subsequent dinners. Experience, they say, comes with time and maturity. We got a better handle of things by the second, third and fourth dinners.
At first, we thought Lailatul Qadr was going to fall on a Saturday; so it was initially decided that we were not going to host dinner on the final Friday to give the cooks a break and help them prepare for the big dinner. But then Lailatul Qadr fell on a Sunday; and thus, a decision was made to have a fourth dinner. A lighter menu (porridge, boiled and fried eggs and chicken Yassa) was made.
The Bull for the Lailatul Qadr Dinner
By the time Lailatul Qadr arrived, news about the Ramdan project had gotten wider. Many more people came to know about it. For the final dinner, the cooks received a lot more helping hands; it seemed as if the whole idea about the Ramadan project had been bought into and appreciated for its communitarian and humanitarian value.
Our colleagues in Kombo, led by FoB vice-president Maimuna Sey, arrived in Basse to help in the preparations of the big dinner for the Lailatul Qadr and also in the distribution of bags of sugar to the neighboring communities of Koba Kunda, Mansajang, Manneh Kunda and Kaba Kama.
We faced some minor hiccups. For instance, the elders weren’t happy being photographed while eating their dinners. They contended that since this was a charity, we should just let the people have it without us having to take pictures to showcase what we were doing. After a short dialogue with them, and having affirmed to them that this was a community affair, we were briefly allowed to take pictures. The elders, however, stressed that we not continue taking pictures. We were walking a fine line: how to show proof to our donors without infringing upon the religious and cultural sensibilities of the community.
One of the Three Lambs Bought for the Ramadan Dinners
Notwithstanding, the Ramadan project was a tremendous success. It was well received in the community.
The Ramadan project report meets our commitment to provide a clear financial accounting of the whole undertaking from the start to the finish. The aim is to cover all stages of the project and include the names of all the donors, the total amounts pledged, collected and the budget allocations for the whole project.
The Ramadan project was conducted in an open and transparent manner; all funds spent have been accounted for and receipts will be made available in due course.
The fundraising event was a success and donors were given the option to remain anonymous. The general membership was furnished with periodic updates of the donated amounts during the fundraising phase including the final amounts pledged and received.
• In total, D106 940 was pledged. In total, D106 440 was received; but we are confident of receiving the outstanding pledges for this noble cause.
• A majority of the total amount donated ($1870 equal to D71 995 at the time of transfer) was donated from the USA from 34 donors.
• 8 donors in Europe donated €340 which was equal to D18 190 at the time of transfer.
• £130 was collected in the UK from 5 donors and this was rounded up to D7 700.
• In The Gambia, D9 700 was pledged from 10 donors.
The transfer of funds was done to get the best rates using local channels to avoid any transfer charges. This ensured that the maximum amount of all donated funds was spent on the Ramadan project.
• In total, $1800 was transferred from the USA with the help of one of our colleagues. He gave us the best possible rate with no transfer charges at a time when the exchange rate was volatile. Therefore, $70 is still left in the FoB USA account for future Ramadan projects as promised.
• Similarly, another colleague of ours also facilitated the transfer of €340 donated in Europe at the best rate available at no charge.
• From the UK, the chief financial Officer Mamadou Salieu Jallow also transferred the £130 donated in the UK in a similar vein, avoiding any charges.
• The budget was set after the executive voted to provide Iftar dinners for the two Basse mosques for four Fridays during Ramadan and on the night of Lailatul Qadar.
• We also budgeted for 20 bags of sugar for the four satellite communities of Basse (Koba Kunda, Mansajang, Kaba Kama and Manneh Kunda).
• The team on the ground led by the project manner Kawsu Sillah did a great job of managing the budget at all times. The executive was well informed throughout the implementation phase of the whole project.
• In total, D29 915 was spent on four Iftar dinners at the two Basse mosques (Iftar provided at the two mosques for each Friday during the holy month of Ramadan).
• A total of D23 667 was spent on the night of Lailatul Qadr for the two mosques in Basse.
• D27 000 was spent to buy 20 bags of sugar for the neighbouring communities on the night of Lailatul Qadr.
• Three lambs each costing D4000 and a cow costing D15 000 were bought as a package deal prior to the start of the Ramadan project. The agreement was that the lambs and the cow would be delivered to Basse on the day required to be handed to the project manager.
• Local cooks were hired and paid D1000 per session with the understanding that FoB would be providing the provisions.
• Funds were released to the project manager on the ground as needed on a weekly basis.
• FoB bought catering items worth D4000
Overall, a total of D89 652 was spent for the whole Ramadan Project and D11 598 remains from the total amount collected.
The money left is earmarked for future Ramadan projects.
To see the list of donors, the amounts of cash received per region and the budgetary allocations for the entire cycle of the Ramadan project, please click on the link below:
*** M. B. Krubally contributed to this report from Los Angeles, California.
Kawsu Sillah and Mamadou Salieu Jallow are respectively the Project Manager and Chief Financial Officer of Friends of Basse. Sillah lives in Basse and Jallow in Portsmouth, UK.
Editor's Note: Due to ethical reasons, we decided not to publish most of the photos taken during the Ramadan project.