The Vision Development Foundation (VDF) was officially incorporated as a charitable organisation in 2006 and later transformed into a non-governmental organisation in The Gambia. However, it has been operating informally for many years before. It has its main offices at the former NTC Complex in Banjul with a very active regional office in Churchill’s Town and branches in Senegal including the Casamance.
Momodou Turo Darboe is the founder, CEO and chief financier of the foundation. The foundation has a secretariat and a board of directors.
VDF public relations officer Saikou Fofana expounded on what the foundation stands for and what it does: “VDF focuses on key developmental areas of society like education, health, the environment and provision of social services. As you know, VDF is led by our chairman, prominent Gambian businessman and philanthropist, Momodou Turo Darboe and it is registered with the Association of Non-Governmental Organisations in The Gambia (Tango). The services and support we provide are diverse. We provide support services in education, health and social care, support to farmers, entrepreneurial development, provision of safe and clean drinking water, urban regeneration, humanitarian and relief services and we invest in the development and welfare of the youths and women.
“Over the years, the foundation has provided farm inputs and implements to thousands of farmers, most of them women. Life for rural women isn’t easy. Women don’t have the same rights as men and often have to juggle domestic duties and agricultural work – sowing, weeding and harvesting crops, but also making food for their families and collecting firewood and water.”
Mr Fofana who juxtaposes his work at VDF with running a training institute said his organisation has worked with 1,350 women kafolu; given 15 milling machines to communities from Barajally to Badumeh Kuta; dug 13 boreholes for villages from Foni Gifanga to Kiang Keneba and provided power tillers and starting capital for others. “We have also reconstructed key access roads in about 13 areas in the Kanifing municipality and West Coast Region including Tallinding, Bundung, Faji Kunda, Tabokoto, Ebo Town and Latri Kunda Sabiji,” he enumerated.
“Our founder puts a high premium on security. He believes that in the absence of security and peace, nothing meaningful can be achieved and that is why we work with all security organisations. It was along the same line that in July this year he presented a modern traffic control car to the Mobile Traffic division of the Gambia Police Force. The car is fitted with different alarms and sirens used for VIP escorting, emergency missions and transporting traffic offenders to police stations. The vehicle was accompanied by a D1,000 monthly fuel voucher for the next six months and another six months warranty maintenance cost, all funded by the VDF.”
“Our founder always emphasised to us that we should not be discriminatory in our work. That is why for example we gave out 3,500 bags of sugar and 300 bags of rice to all the political parties in the country in May of this year. It was refreshing to see members of different parties under one umbrella having conversation, sharing laughs, and respectfully interacting amongst each other. This demonstrated the one Gambia we all knew and cherished. VDF aid activities are guided by the four humanitarian principles: humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence. These principles govern the way our humanitarian response is carried out. We see no religion, political or ethnic affiliation whenever we extend a helping hand. Our humanitarian aid service extends to the provision of material or logistical assistance to humanitarian agencies and government institutions typically in response to humanitarian crises including natural disasters and man-made ones,” Mr Fofana told The Standard.
Helping the poor and the needy
He explained: “Our social and humanitarian aid support provides material and logistic assistance to people who need help. It is usually short-term help until the long-term help by government and other institutions replaces it. The primary objective of our humanitarian aid intervention is to save lives, alleviate suffering, and maintain human dignity. Aid is given to meet the immediate needs of victims of disasters or violence. It can include food, water, medical supplies, tents, and other things required by those affected by everything from floods to pandemics.”
Combat infectious diseases
Community support is strongly connected to good health and wellbeing throughout life, alongside accessible and affordable health care services. The VDF spokesman said this is why the Vision Development Foundation provides medical assistance in the form of funding surgical camps, provision of equipment, building facilities and sponsoring medical trips for complicated surgeries abroad.
“All our health care support initiatives are geared towards supporting the health sector to perform, provide, or arranged logistics to promote, improve, conserve, or restore the mental or physical well-being of the poor and vulnerable groups of people. There is a high prevalence of communicable and non-communicable diseases in The Gambia. It is an established fact that infection, poverty and lack of access to health care facilities have led to inappropriate health-seeking behaviours thus contributing to ill health. We understand medical intervention alone cannot solve these challenges. So, we support health advocacy programmes geared towards encouraging sustainable social and behaviour change towards greater recognition and understanding of health messages, and the need for communities and individuals to maintain healthier lifestyles and habit.”
Educational and social enterprise
Mr Fofana said VDF’s support to education and social entrepreneurship is aimed at institutions and individual businesses with a social mission central to their business objectives. “Social entrepreneurs strive to create change and solve problems. So do we. Institutions such as colleges and universities help develop people develop analytical tools that support social action and nurture the solutions that they create.
“VDF supports institutions and individuals who pursue novel causes and pathways that have the potential to solve community-based problems. We provide tuition, scholarships and educational materials for these reasons. Our Entrepreneurship support seeks to provide students and other individuals with the knowledge, skills and motivation to encourage entrepreneurial success in a variety of settings. We encourage people with great ideas to come forward with their ideas for collaboration. We look forward to meeting you if you have these personality characteristics of a good social entrepreneur: creativity, the ability to think differently, to find innovative solutions where others do not see any change possible is a gigantic quality to lead a social enterprise, self-confidence, perseverance, leadership, team spirit,” he espoused.