Empower the Gambia was established after a visit by Jo Heaven in 2007 to Samba Tako, Central River Region. A previous visit to The Thar Desert region of Pakistan that year with Future in Their Hands showed the success of empowering communities through training to improve their own lives. Using this model, Empower the Gambia’s aim was to train and resource women and children to alter their destinies. While libraries, a deaf unit and dinning facilities have been built, it has been by using local builders, suppliers and in agreement with the communities they serve. First aid, football and organic gardening training has been offered to the villages and schools provided by local speaking trainers or supported by UK based charities such as First Aid 4 Gambia. Sponsoring children to go to school who were nominated by their own communities, while employing the local tailor to make their uniform. These are all examples of what Empower the Gambia has been able to achieve through donations, tithes, sponsorship and grants.
The charity is run by four trustees, three of which have visited the projects several times. Empower the Gambia was registered with the Charity Commission in 2015.
Jo Heaven is the founder of the charity and has taken out many groups and individuals to visit and support these projects. Her husband Ben sponsored Ada, our driver, to complete his electrical qualifications at Gambia Technical College.
Chris Lee has been a trustee since 2017 and has been on four trips to oversee the projects in The Gambia. As a former social worker she was appointed our safeguarding officer and has conducted training with our Gambian team in 2020.
Sue Read has been visiting The Gambia for almost as long as Jo and is actively involved in linking schools in Essex and Berkshire with the schools we support. Her family and friends sponsor over 20 children. She became a trustee in 2020 when Ben Heaven passed away.
Ryan Heaven, Jo’s son, is a solicitor and provides legal advice as a trustee. He has been on the committee since 2023.
Yerrow Jallow is our co-ordinator based in The Gambia. Yerro links with the community through appointed people so we can provide a line of support. Yerro has worked with Empower the Gambia since 2020 but we were impressed with his organisational and people skills since our trustee Sue met him in 2014 when he was working as hotel manager on the coast. Yerro has a daughter of 9 years and a son of 4 years. Asked why he likes working for Empower the Gambia he said “because I am contributing my effort to help an organisation that is there to change the life of the needy and less privileged children who have little or no hope to support their education
Ada Kebbeh is our minibus driver and recently qualified electrician and solar technician. As well as organising the shipments he is also able to maintain our solar power projects.
Ada is married to Fatou with two sons called Lamin and Alhagie