The year 2020 has been defined by one major issue: the coronavirus pandemic. It has been a very bad year all around but one which brought out the best in Gambians. With the pandemic raging, people, especially the old and the infirm and those with “underlying conditions” were dropping dead like flies. Government had to give extraordinary powers to the Minister of Health to impose a regime of quarantines, lockdowns and strict social distancing. Businesses ground to halt and whole industries like travel and tourism which offer livelihood and economic lifeline to hundreds of thousands of Gambians were put in cold storage. Schools, places of worship, restaurants and places of recreation were closed. Hundreds of thousands lost their jobs or had to endure drastic loss of income. Whole communities of the rural and urban poor faced starvation. Essentially, people’s lifestyles and livelihoods were imperiled. The Gambia like most other countries in the world faced an existential threat.
Then as if waking up from a collective psychosis, Gambians rose up and demonstrated unprecedented altruism and generosity. Whether it is Sait Ceesay a corner shop owner in Kaur Wharf Town, The Three Sisters sorority in Brikama Santo-su, Bakau’s Faro Kono natives resident in Europe, businessman Salifu Jaiteh in Banjul or the ever-charitable lawyer Essa Faal as well as the government of President Adama Barrow much to its credit, Gambians extended a helping hand. Even those with very little learnt share to be their brothers’ keeper.
Nobody epitomises this selfless spirit and philanthropism like Momodou Turo Darboe and his Vision Development Foundation. At the height of the pandemic, he officially gave out 130,000 bags of rice, sugar and cooking oil to communities across the country, emergency and security services, student unions from tertiary institutions and others. “This is what we have on record but he gives out a lot more privately which we do not have records for,” VDF spokesman Saikou Fofana stated.
This is in addition to his traditional Christmas and New Year donations to the members of the Christian community; the Eid-ul-Adha donations when he routinely gives out up to 500 rams and bulls to communities across the country; and the daily rice, sugar, meat, fish and dates distributions throughout the entire month of Ramadan at VDF’s regional office in Churchill’s Town offering much-needed succour to economically challenged families and individuals.
The Vision Development Foundation was officially incorporated in 2006, but it has been active in its philanthropic work for the past twenty years. For Momodou Turo Darboe the roots of his philanthropism extend much further back. It is an inherited legacy. His father the renowned Turo Darboe who hailed from Salikenni in Baddibu was credited with charitable work all his life.
“I am doing the work he tasked me to do. That is why even when some powers ordered me to stop the Ramadan distributions, I went ahead because I was doing my father’s bidding,” Momodou explained.
In the cool evening of Sunday, Independence day in 1968, a bouncing baby boy was born to the businessman and philanthropist Alhaji Turo Darboe and Mrs Tiya Conteh. He was named Momodou and when he came of age, enrolled at Salikenni and Latri Kunda primary schools, St Peter’s Technical High School in Lamin and later Fredericksburg Technical School in Copenhagen, Denmark where he obtained a diploma as an electronic technician.
Upon his return to The Gambia, he worked as an electronic technician before establishing Sankajula Holding Company which engages in imports and trades in commodities. As his fortune grew, Momodou set up Vision Development Foundation as a charitable organisation. As the scope and activities of the charity expanded, it was turned into an NGO. Today, VDF is probably unrivalled in terms of its activities, scope and impact as a private, locally funded autochnous
NGO in The Gambia.
“Momodou Turo is a philanthropist whose commitment to social responsibility as bedrock of philanthropic ethics has snowballed into active service to his motherland,” VDF board chairman Fatajo stated.
For his outstanding philanthropic work, Mr Momodou Turo Darboe has been garlanded with many insignias and awards. These include:
Master of the Order of The Republic of The Gambia (MRG) 2009;
Officer of the Order of The Republic of The Gambia (ORG) 2010
Person of The Year, The Gambia 2014
Councillor, Kanifing Municipal Council 2008
Gambian Icon at the People’s Choice Awards 2018
Merit Award by League of Africa Development Students.
He has received certificates of appreciation from:
The Gambia Police Force
The Gambia Fire & Ambulance Services
The Gambia Armed Forces
The Gambia Ports Authority
The Edward Francis Small Teaching Hospital
The Gambia Radio and Television Services
Sutusinjang and Brefet villages for donation of ambulance
Serekunda General Hospital
The Gambia College for donation of 10 computers, printers and photocopiers
The Association of Non-Governmental Associations
The Gambia Student Nurses Association
Ekun Baba Odeh Hunting Society
Banjul International Marathon League
The School of Journalism and Digital Media
National Sports Awards.
Mr. Darboe also sits on the board of the NGO Affairs Agency at the Ministry for the Interior and Charles Jow Memorial Academy. He is married with children.