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All Aboard for AfricaFriday, January 16, 2009 - By Ben Rayner The Sound
David White is proof that one person can make a difference - a big difference. Inspired by a professor's challenge, David has recently embarked on creating a non-profit that's delivering furniture to schools and homes in Gambia, a beautiful but poverty stricken African nation.
Locally, David works at Universal Hotel Liquidators, but describing David as a used furniture salesman is like saying James Bond has a government job. David's international business experience and his commitment to his educational alma mater have allowed him to be part of a noteworthy effort to help the people of Gambia.
David says a professor and friend at W&J, Buba Wisawa, helped inspire him to take a trip to Gambia. David says he immediately became dedicated to lending a helping hand to the kind and welcoming people.
"Buba is a political science professor and had asked me about accompanying him on a trip. He takes students every year and shows them what Africa is really about," says David. "I finally said yes. Most people who see Africa see it on safari in a five-star tent and we saw another side. I can say that it was truly a life-changing event."
The Republic of the Gambia is the tiniest nation on the African mainland, encompasses slightly more than 4,000 square miles. Completely surrounded by the nation of Senegal except for a sliver of access to the Atlantic Ocean, the country hugs the Gambia River and, though it's small, is home to a wide variety of ethnicities.
David says he was overwhelmed with taking take on such a massive mission but was inspired to make a difference in the most direct way by experiencing a town in which even the chief of the village's granddaughter slept on a dirt floor. After his first trip, flying straight from the capitol Banjul to a relative's in Aspen, David says the transition left him deep in thought for days.
"I was in Aspen, but I was walking around in a daze. I started thinking about a solution right away," says David. "It was a lot to take in...my goal was to provide furniture for these people."
With a background in shipping and moving large quantities of furniture, David, along with Professor Wisawa and a local partner, are forming a non-profit that will bring donations and overstock furniture from U.S. auctions to schools and homes in Gambia. The project is already up and working, bringing much needed furnishings to schools.
David's group is scrambling for funding - the cost of shipping cargo containers of furniture halfway around the world is close to $7,000 a pop - but David says the effort is already paying off. The current goal is to open a local shop that would sell furniture, providing jobs for local residents and much needed funds to run the operation.
Creating this project with students from W&J has been a rewarding experience, according to David. Helping implement the college's mission, David takes students on his trips to Gambia and says the impact on young minds is swift as it is apparent.
"To take a 20-year-old to this part of Africa?" David asks. "It is an incredible experience for them. This is a life-changing thing for these students. These people have almost nothing, not even toothbrushes. To come from our experience in America to that is something you can't hide from."
Originally Published by The Sound Blog