Background concerning the friendship work with Sutukoba
1) In 1982 the first 3 students from Gambia came to Risør Junior High school. Norway had opened for students from developing countries.
2) The same year I guaranteed kr. 45 000 for the residency of the students because they were about to be deported within 3 days. They were lacking the residency permission during the holidays. However, this was a mistake and the students did have the permission. At that time I had a 33%work at the administration of Risør Vocational school and I was also the chairman of Risør Save Children. So it was natural for me to be involved in the situation of these students.
3) Kemo Jabai was one of the students from Sutukoba village in Gambia and we were engaged for 4 years. After the Second World War, we in Germany received many packaged of clothes and other things from the United States. The fresh memory of this gave the idea to send tons of cloths, which were collected around Risør, to Sutukoba. In 1983 I personally traveled to Sutukoba to see if the help was in the right place and also to see the Kemo’s family.
4) Sutukoba is located in the Sahel area and it was strongly affected by the 7 years drought disaster. Many of the young people had left the village. The biggest wish of the people was to grow vegetables. Growing vegetables needs water and in Sutukoba wells were needed. I was struck by the poverty in the village and the lack of water and medical assistance.
Almost no children were attending the school and even the parents were planning to close it since they did not believe in the western education.
5) When I came back to Norway I sold all my belongings: my furniture, jewelry, weave, my collection of stamps and the house was under the debt in order to finance the first wells for the agricultural project. At that time I was the deputy of the assembly of Save Children and Rolf Wergeland was a member. Rolf supported the farmland project financially and also convinced Save Children to support this project and other projects as well.
6) I also was the foreign contact person at Aust-Agder Women Organization and Risør Women Organization. This gave me the chance to spend some time with Ingunn Bjørndal. These organizations started to actively support the friendship work between Risør and Sutukoba.
7) In 1982 there was a serious disagreement in the village about the ownership of a huge fertile land by the river (the nowadays rice project area). The disagreement accelerated and became a violent conflict. The government had to interfere and confiscate the land. As a result, this land was confiscated from 1982-1996 namely 14 years. In 1996 we finally had the permission to use the land for the rice project, a project that will benefit the whole village.
8) The youth of the village formed a football-team called Helga Team and Mamadi Jabai was the coach. The players wanted to play together although their parents represented different sides in the conflict. This was the start of the Friendship Work, a work that crossed “the Calibos” and both the disagreements about the land and the parents’ different views on education. Helga team was sponsored by Risør Football Club and Addidas. Later on the team was given a traveling trophy by Aust-Agder Sports Club and even today the tournaments for winning this trophy are organized in Wuli District.
9) The inspiration from the Helga Team and the collaboration with Norway made the youth want to organize themselves in a youth association with the aim of developing their village. This was difficult because people in the government were afraid they would develop into political groups. In the end we managed to get the Youth Association registered, led by Mamadi Jabai. This shows the success of the friendship collaboration. With our support it became possible for the youth to get registered.
10) After that, the youth association carried out all the projects cooperating with the committees.
11) The correspondence was conducted either with the Youth Association and copies to the committees and the chief or with the committees and copies to the chief and the Youth Association. A part of the correspondence was sent to the chief directly. At the beginning we could not contact the district chief, but we could solve that problem later. No private persons got the support and there was no contact letters with the private persons. This was recommended by the Youth Association.
12) All the projects were defined and carried out by the village itself. We mainly contributed with resources for buying cement. By contacting the specialists, the Youth Association obtained the knowledge was required for accomplishing the projects. Mamadi had a great role; he was a fantastic organizer with a great vitality. If one would estimate and evaluate the projects, one would presumably find out that 2/3 of the values are created by the village itself (the school’s support is not included; it is measured in another way). The only projects which are defined in Norway are saddler, health and car projects.
13) The overview over the projects and the support form Norway are sent out with last induct.
14) Bakary Jabai, who was one of the best students in Sutukoba and was called “teacher” got 3 years studying in Risør Business High School. He got good characters in Norwegian language. Harald Opsjon was his teacher and he praised him very much. I paid for Bakary’s staying, the trip and his studying at Non- Degree Granting College. After that he got a loan form the government and went to The Norwegian School of Management in Oslo but he did not finish it. Today he is the contact person and the representative of The Norden Association in Wuli.
15) Friends of Sutukoba started in 1983 and Kemo Jabai and Bakary were the first to sit at the first board.
16) Bakary was without a job when he went back to Gambia. I found him a job at Cysarda. Cysarda is a Gambian Help Organization. They wanted to benefit from his skills in organizing and management in URD- area. I supported this organization by paying Bakary’s salary. I also bought Bakary a motorcycle, which was a wish from both Cysarda and Bakary, so he could visit the villages in Wuli and also help us in our district work. He never got the motorcycle because the organization, Cysarda, kept it to itself. Bakary found out about some situations in the organization which he thought to be wrong, so he stopped working there. He was again without a job and money.
17) By then I had paid Mamadi’s salary as a coordinator and Bakary’s who was hired in Cysarda.
18) Mamadi was exposed because of slandering and jealousy and this strongly affected his family. Then Geir traveled to Gambia and lived in the village for 3 months to negotiate and get better understanding about the culture.
19) Mamadi could not explain some of the project’s money. Rolf Wergerland has sent with Mamadi, who was visiting Norway, kr.15000 for the village’s library. Mamadi could not explain that amount of money. It was suspected that the money was embezzled. It was never delivered to the Youth Association.
20) In connection to the Norden Association’s wish to support the projects in Wuli District, a District Organization was established. Mamadi became the manger of it and the district chief was the counsellor. Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) has been working through The District Organization. We have not used the organization since we were concerned about the project resources meanwhile some money were gone for completing a well. Now Lami from Briff is chosen as a new chairman. The District Organization represents 41 villages.
21) At the board of Friends of Sutukoba there were disagreements about Mamadis further role in the Friendship Work. There were also conflicts between Mamadi and Bakary. We traveled to Skien to see the leader of The Nursing School whose specialty is solving conflicts. We received advices to use Mamadi’s skill for the project works and Barkar’s ability as accountant, money administrator, and translator and as a contact person as well between Norway and Sutukoba. Bakary was familiar with the tow cultures.
22) At an annual meeting, I have been requested by the board to stop paying Bakary’ and Mamadi’s salary. Free effort was expected like here.
23) Bakary needed an income to be able to stay in Sutukoba, so due to my recommendation the Risør Junior High School has offered him a job as a teacher at the Day- Care Center. Phoday Touray, who was a teacher, had resigned. Risør Junior High School was paying his salary. The village in cooperation with Bakary had already appointed a successor for Phoday, so there were some difficulties to cut out that person in favor of Bakary. Bakery has reappointed this man as his assistant and possibly he is taking over Bakary’s job in the Day Care Center now.
24) Mamadi stopped working for the Friendship Work because he could not afford working for free. He had a big family to support. (He said with a big excitement that he has been offered a god job at the Refugee Work due to the experiences he had earned by working at the Friendship Work). Bakary could continue at the Friendship Work because he had salary by working at the Day Care Center.
25) The Friendship Work between Risor and Surukoba are built on the equality, respect and duration. A good friend is for the life time. You can talk and listen to a good friend. The village itself has defined the projects. The villagers have implemented the projects and they were managing them afterwards. This process gave the village experiences and skills which were valuable achievements. For us it was important to show the power that lies in a friendship work. We deliberately have focused on the meaning of the culture and the equal value of the different cultures, but it was still difficult for both sides to recognize that very different way of thinking in different cultures. We have also worked to make the youth come back to the village after they finished their educations. This work should have been strengthened. There has been an attempt to make the emigrants, those who have moved away, members in the Youth Association. They are human resources who can bring in worthfull knowledge to the village. We ouselves became members in the Youth Association but we did not follow up. Through our official visits we have had meetings with the different committees to get information and this has given deeper knowledge about the village and led to involvement.
Friends of Sutukabas started in 1983 and the first board was consisted of:
Chairman: Helga Arntzen
Second chairman: Uwe Arntzen
Treasurer: Kemo Jabai
Secretary: Bakary Jabai
Member: Laila Arntzen
On 20th August1983, Bakary Jabai came to Norway through an invitation by Helga Arntzen. She paid for his studying at Risør High School. Bakary went to Risør Business High School and accomplished it with good characters. He has been at Norwegian School of Management in Oslo and he got support for this too. Bakary went to the board of Friends of Sutukobas as a secretary. Today he is a project manager in Sutukobas and Wuli. Risør Junior High School and Risør High School are paying Bakary’s salary as a project manager. Since 1982 till now Friends of Surukobas has involved in many big and small projects.
The activity was great in both Sutukobas and Risør although there were difficulties in communication. During that time we have learned a lot form each other.