POVERTY-STRICKEN youngsters in Africa are being given a better start in life thanks to kind-hearted volunteers.
Young people and Rotarians from Sunderland have teamed up for Project Gambia.
In December, more than 20 pupils from Farringdon Community Academy funded a trip to the West African country to hand out donations.
They refurbished three classrooms at the Gunjur Upper Basic School, painted murals in a primary school, and delivered 15 tonnes of items, including 18,000 bags of clothes and stationery to schools and orphans.
Rotarian Mick Drake, 60, and youngsters from Box Youth Project and pupils have kept in touch with their new friends through Skype, and are on their way back.
Washington Rotarians joined the drive to collect bikes for villagers and also helped kit them out with life-saving water filters.
Club president Neil McOnie, said: “Keen cyclist Mick thought it an ideal opportunity to help the project, by checking and repairing donated bikes prior to dispatch and then go to Gambia with a small team, to check the bikes are being maintained and if the water filters are being used correctly, also if there is a need for more and how many.
“While out there he will also carry out a feasibility study for a local well in the village.”
Mike spends every Wednesday at the school, servicing donated bikes and has collected about 40 to take with him.
Neil also thanked the school’s head for clearing out an old caretaker’s office for the group to use as a base, while they collect items and fund-raise for the trip.
He added: “Their visit in December was life-changing. They now know not to take things for granted.”