Mattishall Founder of Gambian charity seeks successor 

After recently being diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, Janet Clark, the Norfolk founder of the Christian charity Gambian Aid Through Education, has launched a search to find a successor to lead this small charity that is carrying out vital work in communities in The Gambia.

Janet Clark from Mattishall in Mid Norfolk founded the Christian charity Gambian Aid Through Education (GATE) with her husband Les in 2005. Since then it has transformed thousands of lives in one of the poorest countries in the world by building wells, supplying allotments, sponsoring the schooling of children, funding mosquito nets and installing milling machines. 

Les Clark retired from the charity five years ago and now Janet, who is both a Trustee and Secretary, is looking to hand the work over to a successor as her health deteriorates. She said: “My greatest wish is that GATE will carry on and grow. The work we have done has changed the lives of hundreds of women and children. God has blessed us, and I trust him to raise up those challenged to help.”

Janet started the charity when she was 60 and has devoted much of her retirement to raising funds and coordinating aid to the Gambian communities in which GATE works.

The couple first visited the West African country on holiday in 2000 and were invited to visit the home of a hotel worker. Seeing the living conditions of local people inspired the couple to get involved in charitable work in the country. They started GATE five years later.

Janet said: “Initially I didn’t want to start a charity. I said I can’t run a charity, I don’t know where to start, and God said to me ‘you do it in my strength and you can walk on water, just keep your eyes on me. And we’ve had so many God instances over the years.”

The Christian charity works in the inland communities of Bakardarge and Farafenni. GATE employs a local coordinator who oversees the work on the ground and they work alongside the local village elders to identify needs.  This has resulted in the creation of 18 wells, mosquito nets supplied for 11 villages and currently around 100 children being sponsored through education.

Janet said: “And we send out two consignments of around 70-80 boxes of shoes, clothes, football strips and school resources – all donated”.  They also collect seeds and, with them, GATE help to set up vegetable gardens in schools and villages to supplement the food communities receive from the World Food Programme.

Janet, often accompanied by another Trustee, has visited the area for a fortnight each year paid for at her own personal expense. When in The Gambia they buy local craft such as wood carvings, ethnic jewelry, bags and clothing at a fair price to sell in the UK to raise funds for the charity.  The charity has a turnover of around £20k per year.

Their project of the year in 2019 is to raise funds for a third milling machine that will serve six villages. Janet said: “Each one gets 400 children into school by making the women’s lives easier.” Treasurer Jane Moore adds: “Instead of spending two or three hours a day pounding grain, women are able to look after their babies and so the older children can go to school”.

Janet’s health condition is currently life-limiting but not immediately life-threatening, and she believes she has time to work alongside someone to hand the vision and work over.

Jane said: “We need someone with a passion and faith to come alongside Janet to learn what Janet does and be prepared to pick up the reins. GATE needs a leader with a passion and heart for people in The Gambia to lead us forward. We know it’s a big time investment, it’s a financial investment, it’s an investment of life really. Janet has poured her life into it and its affected the lives of thousands of people. She’s done no mean feat over the years”.

Janet said: “It has brought me friendship, joy and closer to God.” Jane agrees: “It gives you a focus. It gives you purpose.”

If you would like to discuss the opportunity of taking on a leadership role with GATE please contact Janet on l.w.clark@btinternet.com or call 01362 858221. 

There are other volunteering opportunities with Gambian Aid Through Education that would help Janet and the Trustees in this transition period. Click here to read more.

Janet would also be willing to talk to groups who would like to know more about the work of GATE.

Photo: Janet Clark (centre right) and Treasurer Jane Moore (centre left) with a newly built GATE-funded well in The Gambia. 

Network Norwich and Norfolk > Regional News > Mid Norfolk > Mid Norfolk Founder of Gambian charity seeks successor
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