Our experience has taught us that it can be very challenging for our young people to transition from the family network provided within the orphanage to that of independent living as they reach adulthood, which is why our NGO has been renting two apartments close by since 2022: The ‘Youth House’ and the ‘Fatou House’.
The ‘Youth House’ offers girls the opportunity to develop themselves into independent young women within a safe environment and they live under the guidance of ‘Mama’ Elizabeth, a staff member of the orphanage. Although all the children in the orphanage enjoy equal opportunities, such as a good education, traditional gender roles still predominate and play a key role in The Gambian society. Girls are expected to perform a major role in the family household and only the girls reside in this semi-supervised environment. They stay at the ‘Youth House’ during weekends and school holidays and are split into two groups. Here they get the opportunity to learn and experience how to go shopping at the market, how to cook healthy and delicious meals and how to organise a household.
In May 2022, one of our ‘Mamas’, Aunty Fatou, moved into a flat in the same compound, which has been serving as our ‘Youth House’. This gave us the idea of having one of our children, 19-year-old Ramatoulie, move in with Aunty Fatou. This experience provides her a chance to practise independent living and to learn how to face the challenges in her life now and in the future, with resilience and confidence.
The opportunity to live semi-independently at Aunty Fatou’s offers young women like Ramatoulie a chance to become confident to carry out tasks on their own (or assisted where necessary), therefore giving them greater opportunities to lead a successful and fulfilling life.