Kommer Van Trigt is from Amersfoort in Holland. He is a good friend of The Gambia and is fondly known as Omar Kebba. We caught up with him at a restaurant in the Senegambia area to talk bout his activities in the country.
What’s On-Gambia: How and when did you start visiting The Gambia?
Kommer Van: I started visiting in 2001. Normally, I go to the Caribbean, but all of a sudden my wife saw an advert in the newspaper about Destination Gambia. I was like: Where is Gambia?
We didn’t have any idea where Gambia was located. But we came and since them we have been visiting three to four times every year.
What was your first impression of the country when you arrived in 2001?
Very nice people! But the level of poverty was a shock to us and the cars were very bad.
Can you tell us why The Gambia is very popular among Dutch tourists?
I can explain! First of all, Gambia has a very nice climate, lot of sunshine and nice beaches. The people are also nice – that is what we are missing in Holland.
What about the bumsters on the beach, are you not bothered by their presence?
During my first years, they were a problem. But now, it is not a problem anymore. The Police and soldiers are always on the beach to control them.
What type of activities do you do in The Gambia?
Projects! All kinds of projects.
Two school projects, already finished. We sent a lot of children to school. Every year, when we are here we distribute mosquito nets. We already distributed more than 12,500 nets all over the country.
Do you have a Non-governmental Organisation (NGO)?
How do you operate?
As a foundation called Wilko Gambia Foundation, established in 2006.
Do you have Gambian partners?
Yes, we do! We can’t do it alone.
Where do you live right now?
Oasis Apartments in Senegambia.
Why are you not living among the locals?
I am not a young guy anymore, unfortunately. My wife is almost 70 and when we live in the community people will always come to us. At the Oasis, we have our privacy. When people visit we are always informed in advance.
What do you take – bush taxi or tourist taxi?
I have my own car. A friend brought it to the car for private use. He died and I bought it from the wife.
Are you thinking of settling permanently in The Gambia?
It is only one answer. Then I will miss our European seasons – summer, winter, autumn and spring.
How comes you are so popular in the country?
Because I am friendly to people. Listen, when you do good, good will come to you.
Anything you want to share with our readers?
In 2013, we came to The Gambia and one of our Gambian friends asked me to bring bed nets to his community, Jiffarong in Kiang. We gave them 600 nets and the distribution took place in a clinic which was ‘a rough building.’ One of the villagers told me they would like to have a proper labour ward for their women to deliver. I spoke about it with several Dutch friends and a couple of weeks later we visited the clinic again to hand over some items to them, but that weren’t even enough.
When we came back to Holland, I continued speaking about the clinic and the result was really amazing. In 2014, we went back to Jiffarong and gave them tiles for the floor, paint, sand and cement bags and also items for the ceiling. Unfortunately, that was still not enough.
In February 2015, we officially opened the labour ward. We brought them a lot of medicine and baby clothes for the little ones.
We are still supporting the labour ward. The Minister of Health, Omar Sey is also assisting us. He gave the community a qualified nurse. He also provided an ambulance, including a driver. Whenever I go to Jiffarong, the minister provides the car. That is a big gesture I think.
Jiffarong is surrounded by 14 villages and they are all benefitting from the ward. Now, we want the nurses to also start visiting the neighboring villages and for that I have talked with a good friend in Holland. We are now expecting a car from Holland sponsored by Go For Africa. It is fully equipped and the driver
of the ambulance will use the car.
Good luck with all the projects, and thank you for helping The Gambia!