Most of the young Gambians now in school with scholarships from GambiaRising are from families headed by a single mother, widowed, divorced, or abandoned - or sometimes by a grandmother. In a nation with so many needs, we have chosen to focus on education, and we make the promise that we will use our donated funds to directly support students' education.
As in the U.S., the COVID crisis has led to a national shutdown on non-essential businesses in The Gambia. These include nearly all the ways that a woman with a family to support can find some small income outside of the farming season: selling in the lumo (daily market), sewing or other handicraft selling, etc. Outside of farming, the two pillars of the Gambian economy - tourism and remittances from abroad, are also decimated.
And as poor as you may think the U.S. safety net might be, in The Gambia there is none. In the urban areas and even upcountry this long after the harvest, the staple of the diet is imported rice. And that price is skyrocketing.
The COVID Emergency Fund is a discretionary fund for our Coordinators to use to give direct assistance for food to the most desperate cases among the families we work with. We don't plan to keep this fund going after the harvest (assuming the rains come in July), but we do want our poorest students to live through that period of time. Not a few of these families were already depending on supplemental charity from their neighbors or relatives; that is now drying to a trickle. We are making a one-time exception to our policy of providing these other kinds of assistance, and on in situations where we believe we will not contribute to creating dependency. Whatever you choose to give, whether on a monthly basis or lump sum, will be put to use within a matter of days.