HOPE-19 team lead by Baa Drammeh , Manki Drammeh, and Hassan Drammeh Jr. presented $816 worth of food items on behalf of donors to The Gambia Federation of the Disabled - a non-profit organization representing the disability sector in the country.

Food insecurity is a special vulnerability in The Gambia, a small West African country on the Atlantic coastline known as the “The Smiling Coast of West Africa.” The coronavirus pandemic has hit the country especially hard and has only increased the vulnerability.  Madison’s Mustapha Drammeh felt it was his duty to step up and raise money to help the people in need in his home country.

“With the COVID-19 pandemic, everybody is worried about not getting sick and the government basically made an executive stay-at-home order. The problem with The Gambia is that 25-30 percent of our GDP is based upon tourism – that’s how people get employment,” Drammeh tells Madison365. “Another 20 percent is based upon foreign relatives, people like me who live outside of the country that support families back home.

“With the government shutting down the national and territorial borders with other countries, they basically slowed down the flow of goods – from outside, as well,” he adds. “80-90 percent of our food is imported from outside of the country. So people have run out of food to eat.”

Mustapha Drammeh with mother Fatou Drammeh and son Abdou Karim

The Gambian government also employs a large percentage of people who had been working and are now laid off.

“These are individuals who had already been struggling even before the pandemic,” says Drammeh, who has dual citizenship in the United States and The Gambia. “With the pandemic and them not having any job or any income, I feel like that is a disaster waiting to happen.”

Out of that sheer concern, Drammeh decided to launch the Hope-19 for The Gambia GoFundMe campaign on March 29. The campaign will help the poorest of the poor in his native country and supporting the poor, elderly, and disabled Gambians in extreme poverty through a partnership with individuals, non-profit organizations, and village committees.

 “These are people who were already suffering before the pandemic and now things have gotten worse,” he says. “So I”m reaching out to neighbors and friends that I already know who were poor even before I left the country to help point out people that they think are even poorer and then giving them the opportunity to go around neighborhood and neighborhood to serve those individuals with food.”

Food is delivered to the village in Sintet where all the village heads came out to distribute the goods to the people. The village head, called the “Alkalo” in Mandinka, presides over the distribution.

Hope-19 for The Gambia is looking to raise $10,000 to feed the poor and underprivileged families in The Gambia for the next three months. To meet this goal, Drammeh’s team is partnering with national fundraisers to make sure that donations collected from this platform are distributed to those in dire need of food and basic essentials such as rice, sugar, oil, etc.  

“So far, we’ve raised over $3,000. For the average family, we donate between $25-30 per family. That is enough to feed a family of five for up to a month because Gambian’s staple food is rice,” Drammeh says.  “My team and I have served over 130 families and have worked with three organizations.

Drammeh, who immigrated from The Gambia back in 2003, is a data and visualization analyst in Madison with experience working in the utility, technology, and supply chain industries.  He has been involved in advocacy work for more than six years and is a board member and diversity officer serving on the governance committee of The Road Home of Dane County.  

“My role there is to help families with children to achieve self-determined goals. I’ve been engaged with the board for the last six years,” he says. “This is the first time that I have looked back to help friends, neighbors, and people I grew up with on a public platform.”

The last several weeks have been pretty emotional for Drammeh and his friends and family back home and he hopes that when people hear the story that they will be encouraged to join him in his effort by donating between $1 and $100. 

“Every little bit helps. Absolutely,” he says. “There’s one thing about The Gambian community is that when you bring something to the spotlight, they become active in wanting to help and to share the fundraiser.”