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August-September 2021 | News

Champions of Change Winner: Chris Hayter

Champions of Change Winner: Chris Hayter

Introducing Chris Hayer, from Milton Keynes Grand Union Rotary Club, who has won a Rotary Champions of Change award following her work with the Bakau Drainage Project.

The Bakau Drainage project has helped reduce the incidence of Malaria in Bakau by constructing, developing and maintaining a drainage system to address poor storm water management.

It was following a holiday to The Gambia in 2006, that Chris developed strong bonds with the West African country.

By clearing the existing drains of Bakau, water has been prevented from flooding the nearby area

In particular, she connected with the Bakau community, a village on Gambia’s Atlantic coastline to the west of the capital, Banjul.


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After seven trips in seven years to The Gambia, it became evident there was a need to improve the education, health and environment of Bakau, and Chris needed to galvanise the community to work towards a solution.

So the seeds were sown for the ‘Oasis Project’, a charity which began in 2007. Chris founded the Starlight School which is responsible for the education of 200 children in Bakau. 

Champions of Change Award recipient, Chris Hayter

Alongside that, she worked with community leaders to start health screening programmes, including eye testing.

In 2013 Chris, who was then not a Rotarian, worked with the Milton Keynes Grand Union Rotary Club on a drainage project in Bakau, a village subject to terrible floods during the rainy season.

The project aimed to reduce the number of cases of malaria by addressing the long-standing issue of poor storm water management. 

The key was to reconstruct village drains, starting with the outfall to the river, reducing the amount of waste accumulating which blocked the drains. 

This project required working closely with the local planning authority, the cleaning and environment agencies, as well as the National Roads Authority.

Existing drains were repaired, cleared of rubbish and silt which was blocking them, and then covered to prevent further debris build-up, clearing the water course. The idea was to provide a safe sanitation system which could be easily maintained.

The project started in 2017 thanks to initial seed money from Milton Keynes Grand Union Rotary and supported by a Global Grant from The Rotary Foundation. In The Gambia, they were supported by Fajara Rotary and the total project cost was in excess of $46,000.

The result has been immense.

Work on the outfall started in 2019 and, although not completed, it has proved effective in taking the water away from the village, reducing the amount of standing water which mosquitoes breed on.

The Drainage Project has reduced the incidence of malaria by 70% in Bakau

Bakau no longer suffers from devastating flooding of homes and the amount of standing water has been reduced.

More importantly, the incidence of malaria has been reduced by over 70%. They are awaiting malaria figures for the second year which the community in The Gambia expects to be even better.

The drainage project has heightened community awareness, and changed behaviour towards maintaining safe sanitation. Training has been provided in environmental sanitation including anti-littering and waste management.

By 2019, Chris decided to join the Milton Keynes Rotarians and further the work of Rotary. 

Chris’s enthusiasm, dedication and determination in supporting change in the Bakau community has proved profound.

Website: www.theoasisproject.org

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