Gambia: Gunjur Marlborough link founder nominated for Nobel Peace Prize 

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Gunjur Marlborough link founder nominated for Nobel Peace Prize

The founder of the Gunjur Marlborough link, Dr. Nick Maurice, has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of his sustained efforts in promoting international development and partnerships between communities in the North and South over a period spanning more than 40 years.

The nomination was made by the Majority Leader of The Gambia National Assembly, Kebba K. Barrow.

The top law maker said the move to nominate Nick was made “in recognition of his services to the people of Gunjur and the Republic of The Gambia as a result of the Community Link between the Community of Gunjur in the Gambia and Marlborough in the County of Wiltshire United Kingdom”.

Commenting on Nick’s nomination, the Director of press and public relations for the office of the President of The Gambia, Amie Bojang-Sissoho enunciated:

“It is good that Nick is being considered for the Nobel Peace Prize. His link with Gunjur has created multi-cultural bonding between people from different races, religions and social groupings. Dr Maurice, has been humble and dedicated to building human relations in a democratic space where freedom of expression, self confidence and respect are the values that bound them together”.

She added: “Often people who impact on the lives of ordinary people are not considered for such great awards, but it is worth recognizing that Dr Maurice through the Gunjur-Marlborough Link has created opportunities for many Gunjurians with academic accolades who are building the human resource base of the small West African country, The Gambia”.

We have read from Dr Nick Maurice’s autobiographical book “Never Doubt…” that he was born in Marlborough in 1943 and educated at the Public School of Marlborough College from 13-18. He was much later in 1977 to become the sixth generation of his family to be a General Medical Practitioner in Marlborough, taking over from his father when he retired.

On leaving Marlborough College aged 18 he volunteered with the newly formed agency Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) and was sent to teach English for one year in the Collège Moderne in Sokodé, Northern Togo. .

In Togo Nick Maurice lived for one year with the Akouetes, a Muslim family while teaching in the Collège Moderne. At the end of the school’s academic year, Nick Maurice worked for two months with the US Agency for International Development exploring the needs of small farmers in the rural North of Togo as a result of which an agricultural development programme was established by the US Government.

Having worked his passage home to UK on a cargo vessel, he studied medicine firstly at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge University and then at St Mary’s Hospital in London. But while still a student, in 1967 he volunteered with VSO once more, and was sent to Papua New Guinea to work for one year in the paediatric department of the hospital in Mount Hagen in the Western Highlands of PNG. In addition to caring for and indeed saving the lives of infants suffering from e.g. septicaemia, meningitis, acute gastroenteritis etc he also undertook 2-3 week patrols through the jungle of the Highlands armed with the facilities to inoculate children against, diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough.

On returning to UK in 1968 he finally qualified as a doctor in 1969 and having married Kate Vercoe and with a 15 month old baby, Daisy in 1973 he volunteered to work for the Britain Nepal Medical Trust and flew to Nepal with his wife and baby Daisy where they lived in the remote Hindu and Bhuddist community of Ilam in East Nepal. Here, on the recommendation of the Nepali Government, Dr Nick Maurice focused his medical work on the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of tuberculosis, 15% of the population, it was estimated, suffering from this disease.

After 18 months in Nepal he returned with his family to UK and in 1977 took over from his father on the latter’s retirement from being General Medical Practitioner in Marlborough.

In 1980, we read from Dr Maurice’s book that, having heard about the appalling genocide in Cambodia, via a television programme “Year Zero : the Silent Death of Cambodia” produced by the Australian journalist John Pilger — the first Western journalist to film in Cambodia following the overthrow of the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot by the neighbouring Vietnamese —  Nick Maurice volunteered to join an emergency team being sent to that country by the UK NGO Oxfam. Here he worked as a nutritionist recognising the very high incidence of malnutrition in the country as a result of the actions of the Khmer Rouge in forcing the population out of urban areas and into what became known as the “killing fields” and in which an estimated 1.9 million people out of a total population of 6 million had died.

He spent four months in Kampuchea, as it was then called, training women in rural areas to measure the arm circumference of children and thus discovering the communities in which malnutrition was particularly rife, and to which Oxfam should send the nutritious food which the NGO was importing from Singapore on barges tugged across the South China sea.

But, as importantly, was the fact that for the first time in four years the people that Dr Nick Maurice and the Oxfam team were working with, recognised that here were people they could trust and with whom they could share the horrors that they had experienced in the “killing fields”. Everyone the team met had lost close family members at the hands of the Khmer Rouge.

On his return to Marlborough and following the publication in 1980 of the Brandt Report “North South – A programme for Survival” Dr Maurice and colleagues set up a new charity The Marlborough Brandt Group. They sent a letter to the High Commissioners in London of ten counties in Africa, Asia, Caribbean and Latin America explaining the intentions of the Marlborough Brandt Group to form a partnership with a community in their country, based not primarily on the need for the people of Marlborough to help the people in his country, but about mutual learning and understanding through exchanging people between the two communities, recognising that the people of Marlborough would have as much to learn from living in a community in the South as the people of the Southern community might have to learn from living in Marlborough.

This philosophy was developed by Dr Nick Maurice in recognition of the immense amount of personal learning from which he had benefited, through living in poor communities in Togo, Papua New Guine, Nepal and Cambodia.

It was the High Commissioner of The Gambia, Hon. Abdoulie Bojang who responded with the greatest enthusiasm and suggested that the town of Gunjur, in which he had been educated, would be an ideal community to link with Marlborough. And thus it was in 1982 that the partnership between the two communities began.

In 1983 two visitors from Marlborough spent three weeks in Gunjur, learning about the community, its people and their different ethnic groups, local government structures, its faith (Islam), its position in the wider country of The Gambia, its commerce etc.

The following year three visitors from Gunjur spent time in Marlborough, learning about the different culture of that town and being introduced to key individuals from the Mayor to the Church leaders to doctors etc.  One visitor, a student, remained for two years studying history and sociology in St John’s secondary school in Marlborough.

And thus began an exchange programme of young individuals from Marlborough who on leaving school would spend a year teaching in Gunjur

always living with families but without access to clean water, sanitation, electricity etc.  Likewise young people from Gunjur would travel to Marlborough to gain training in different skills whether, early childhood education, hotel catering and management, business development, refrigeration mechanics etc.

The management of these programmes was led by Dr Nick Maurice and colleagues in Marlborough and by the Gunjur Link Committee in The Gambia, led initially by Dr Bakary Touray who happened to be the Chairman of the Commonwealth Veterinary Association, but later by Mankamang Touray who had visited Marlborough and later trained in Marlborough in business management.

In alternate years from 1985 until 2010 groups of 10-15 young people, led by adults, travelled from Marlborough to Gunjur to live with families in the community and work alongside community members engaging in a development project whether, for example, the construction of a classroom block for the primary school, the building of a pre-school for children aged 3-8, the erection of a fence around a 12 acre women’s vegetable garden, construction of a library, the books supplied from Marlborough, and a carpentry workshop in which local carpenters might collaborate and develop their business etc.

Likewise in alternate years from 1986 until 2010 groups of 10 -15 people from Gunjur visited Marlborough, again staying with families in the community and working on projects, e.g. the construction of an adventure playground in a deprived area of the community, the construction of a cycle track along the site of a disused railway line, but more importantly spending time in schools in Wiltshire in which there was no racial diversity, engaging with students, teaching them about their culture, their faith (Islam), their food etc.

Thus it was that young people at both ends of the partnership were gaining vital global learning through first-hand experience.

The impact of this learning has been that many of the young people from Marlborough were introduced to and attracted by a very different culture in a poor community, which led them to work in the field of international development. And many Gambians reached senior positions in the country or through the training they had received, set up successful businesses or became qualified teachers.

It was as a result of the successful partnership between Gunjur and Marlborough and all the learning he had gained from that partnership that in  2000 Dr Nick Maurice became the Director of the UK One World Linking Association which brought together the many UK communities, schools, local authorities etc that were forming links with communities in the global South.

Recognising the vital role that these partnerships could play in bring peace prosperity and justice to the world Dr Nick Maurice created the organisation BUILD (Building Understanding through International Links for Development) which explored the dream “How can we in the UK get the point where nobody escapes life without being touched by a partnership with a community in the Global South whether that be through their school, university, Church or Mosque, hospital, orchestra, Scouts or Guides group, hospital etc.”.

In 2001 BUILD was instrumental in setting up an All Party Parliamentary Group “Connecting Communities” in the House of Commons, Westminster and as a result of meetings with Ministers gained millions of pounds worth of funding from the Department for International Development for UK schools and hospitals in particular to form many hundreds of partnerships with counterparts in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean etc.

According to the Norwegian Nobel Committee, there are 329 candidates, including 234 individuals and 95 organizations that were nominated for the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize by the Feb. 1 deadline.

According to Associated Press, the 2021 nominees include exiled Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya and two other Belarus democracy activists, Veronika Tsepkalo and Maria Kolesnikova; the Black Lives Matter movement; Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny; Stacey Abrams, the former Georgia gubernatorial candidate who has become a leading voting rights advocate; and former White House adviser Jared Kushner and his deputy, Avi Berkowitz, who negotiated a series of Middle East agreements known as the Abraham Accords.

Groups nominated in 2021, according to the report, include the World Health Organization for its role in addressing the coronavirus pandemic; NATO; Reporters Without Borders, known by its French acronym RSF; and Polish judges defending civil rights.

The U.N. World Food Program won the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize.

The Nobel Committee announces winners in October. The peace prize and other Nobel prizes are presented Dec. 10, the anniversary of Alfred Nobel’s death.

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