GambiaHELP is a 501(C)3 non-profit NGO based in Seattle, Washington. It is run by volunteers, so 95% of all donations go directly to projects in Africa. Director Shelby Tarutis has been working personally with tribal chiefs, women’s groups and villagers in The Gambia for more than 30 years.
GambiaHELP provides educational funds, books and medical supplies, and supports practical, sustainable projects such as making soaps, mosquito nets, decorative fabrics and rice-milling machines. Such businesses are then managed and expanded by local women’s groups.
GambiaHELP’s projects arise from the needs and dreams of the Gambian people. Each community donates 25% of its project’s cost in the form of land, services or labor. Because of this personalized commitment, GambiaHELP’s projects have lasting results that benefit entire communities.
GambiaHELP is an all-volunteer nonprofit based in Seattle. The organization was founded in 1999 by Shelby Tarutis, following her Peace Corps experiences in rural Gambia, West Africa, where she saw first-hand how much the local people can do with just a little help.
GambiaHELP exists to enable people in Gambia to protect, conserve and improve their own health, the health of their communities, and that of their natural environment. Providing books, educational opportunities, seed money and human resources, the group helps communities build sustainable economies and preserve their environments.
Gambia Health Education Liaison Project
Some of our projects: More Project Information
When we empower women, we empower families. In the village of Banjulinding, we funded a micro-enterprise for a women’s cooperative: With donated yarn, the women learned how to crochet, knit, make shoes and sew clothing. Today they are making backpacks, shoes, handbags and clothes, and have encouraged the local youths to join them. With the older women as mentors and advisers, the girls are now taking the lead. We are still working to help them gain business skills and learn to promote their products in the local tourist industry.
An educated population is less likely to live in poverty. Donations of books and educational supplies (e.g. globes, dictionaries) are collected throughout the Pacific Northwest and shipped to The Gambia. Many books are gathered by Seattle-area students, who have learned about Gambian life and culture from GambiaHELP’s school presentations and ensuing pen-pal correspondences with Gambian children. We have augmented, built and renovated more than 55 libraries in The Gambia.
We provide annual educational stipends to girls and orphans to cover school fees, shoes, uniforms, books and daily lunch. We currently fund 40 students, with pending requests for 95 more primary, middle and secondary students.
Recent Successes and Current Challenges
The Banjulinding Women’s Cooperative has been a great success, and its young members are engaged and motivated to carry on the traditions of their elders and creative projects of their own. They still need some business training, and we hope to be able to fund a consultant to visit and advise them and other villagers with fledgling businesses.