Thanks for taking the time to visit my JustGiving page and for your donations so far.
As you probably know, I have for some time been planning to go overseas as a development volunteer with VSO, and since December when I applied for a placement in West Africa I have been waiting for approval from the Ministry of Agriculture in the Gambia. I have meanwhile been studying to gain some of the skills I lack, and in mid January I received the news that the authorities in Gambia had given me the green light although my departure date had been postponed a month. So I will finally be leaving the UK on 6th March for a year in the Gambia where my role will be to help support the Department of Agriculture vocational training staff as they share knowledge and information with the farmers, encourage them to grow improved varieties, use new production skills and by doing so increase their crop yields to a level where they can not only provide their families with three meals a day, but also a surplus to raise extra income.
While I am there I will be living alongside the local people in an area where temperatures range from a low of about 70 degrees to a high of over 100 degrees so conditions will be quite a change from rural North Yorkshire! I have no doubt my life there will be extremely challenging at times but I hope while I am there not only to help the local communities build secure livelihoods for themselves but also to gain from the experience myself.
At this stage I don't know exactly where I will be based as it could be either at Bakau on the coast where I can expect to have the benefit of an electricity supply and piped water, or "up country" where such luxuries are rather more limited. However, assuming that I have access to the internet on at least an occasional basis, (and that I don't get eaten by a crocodile!) I am planning to document my travels in a blog at www.martinwatts.wordpress.com and I hope you will visit from time to time for news of my journey, and perhaps email me with your comments and news from home.
Meanwhile however I would ask you to please support the valuable work done by Voluntary Service Overseas by donating through this site. It is simple, fast and totally secure. Your details are safe with JustGiving – they’ll never sell them on or send you unwanted emails. Once you donate, they’ll send your money directly to VSO and make sure Gift Aid is reclaimed on every eligible donation by a UK taxpayer. So it’s the most efficient way to donate - I raise more, whilst saving time and cutting costs for the charity. The money you give is used to send volunteers such as myself to developing countries to share skills that may not be available locally rather than sending less sustainable help such as food or money which may lead to a dependency culture or get "lost" in transit. I hope you will agree this is a worthwhile cause to support, and give generously.
Thank you so much