The story of Kaira Konko
The story of Kaira Konko begins in 1989 when a Hampshire Scouts Expedition (HSX) spent 6 weeks building classrooms at Soma and Jiroff Schools. Through this trip great friendships were formed and two years later HSX sponsored three Scouts, Lamin Kinteh, Lamin Jarjue and Lamin Manjang to participate in Hampshire Venture One, an International camp. Soon the Scouts were boarding a plane for their first trip to the UK. For part of the time they stayed with the Christmas family, whose son Paul had been on the original HSX expedition.
When, eventually the time came for the Scouts to leave, Marion Christmas (AGSL 2nd Bentley Scout Group) asked of them ‘Of all the things you have seen here, what would you most like to have in The Gambia?’ ‘A Scout Centre like Ferny Crofts (the Hampshire Scout Centre in the New Forest)’, they replied. So with this mission in mind, Marion Christmas and the 2nd Bentley Scout Group fundraised money in Hampshire. The land was purchased and the Gambian Scouts built Kaira Konko. In 1998 a Group of Venture Scouts and leaders from Bentley in Hampshire went to join in the celebrations when the British High Commissioner opened Kaira Konko Scout Lodge.
Since the opening of Kaira Konko and the formation of Kaira Konko Scout Active Support it has gone from strength to strength but Scouting is still the centre of day to day life.
Over the past twelve years a bantaba has been built which provides a kitchen, store and office and a large covered area for Scout meetings and dining; a separate building of two en-suite bedrooms with veranda; and the original building has been completely refurbished and upgraded with en-suite rooms.
The aim of Scouting at Kaira Konko is to try to offer opportunities for training and, where possible, employment to the Scouts of Soma. Any profit that is made from guests is reinvested in Kaira Konko to improve facilities and Scouting equipment.
Donations from the UK support the Scouts' education, provides rice for the poorest families and emergency funds for house repairs, medical fees and emergency community projects such as well repairs.
That is the short version of course, but ask the KKSAS members and they will tell you stories of fundraising, campaigning, events, expeditions, friendships, goodwill and determination that have made Kaira Konko what it is today.
Many other projects have developed from the Scouting links such as the New Soma Fire Station and new classrooms for Soma Primary School, getting disabled students into school, a women’s adult literacy programme (Towns Women’s Guild) and links at local government level between Hampshire County Council and local councils in the Gambia through the Commonwealth Forum, to mention just some.
Everyone involved with Kaira Konko and the other Hampshire projects in Soma were delighted that Marion Christmas and Lamin Kinteh have both been awarded an MBE for services to the people of The Gambia. This is recognition of the success and significance of this very special project.
By employing local labour for all the various projects we have put a lot of money into the local community which in turn supports local families.
photos of the building
building in progress
newly built and painted kaira konko
the new veranda