About 1to3

1to 3 was founded by Meg Lyon and her late husband Ken in 2000 after a holiday trip to Gambia in November 1998. They visited a nursery school in Wellingara where 150 children between the ages of 3 and 7 years were working in tiny, hot, dark classrooms with few learning resources and poor sanitation. Meg and Ken were so affected by what they saw that they felt moved to do something to help improve the situation. They decided to raise money to build a new nursery school at a different site and sponsor a child. This was the beginning of 1to3, which registered as a charity in 2000. Since then it has grown and grown and the Wellingara Community Nursery School now provides education and support to over 400 children from the village.

Later, the need for some health facility became obvious and after four years of fundraising in UK, a purpose-built community clinic opened for just one day a week in November 2008.

The charity is run by six Trustees: Meg Lyon, Marj Jawo, Greg & Celia Keevil and Peter & Pam Nevill. at least one Trustee visits Wellingara every year at their own expense to monitor progress, visit the school and clinic and to meet the sponsored children and their families. This gives them the opportunity to monitor how the money is being used and the progress that is being made on the different initiatives organised by Wellingara Community Initiative Support, (CIS) the partner organisation of 1to 3.

The Wellingara Community Initiative Support (CIS)

In the 1990′s a small group of young men saw the need for educational provision for pre-school children, many of whom were just playing around on the sandy roads. A committee was formed and eventually CIS was registered with the Gambian authorities as a voluntary community-based organisation based at Wellingara Nursery School. The land on which the school is built was given to the committee by a local Senior Village Elder.

CIS is now run by the Chairman and Secretariat, together with a P.S. Accountant and Programme Supervisor. The Chairman receives a small stipend and the staff are paid a nominal salary. A sponsorship scheme for needy children is managed by the Sponsorship Coordinator in conjunction with 1 to 3. He is responsible for paying the sponsorship money directly to families, monitoring the welfare of the children and checking their attendance and progress at school.

CIS and 1 to 3 keep in contact with each other through the Gambian International Coordinator who lives in the UK.

The school

There are many tribal languages in Gambia so lessons are taught using the official language of English. This gives the children a strong grounding in the language before they begin mainstream education at seven years of age. Many improvements have been made at the school since Meg and Ken’s first visit.

There are now eight classrooms and a Dream Corner. One member of staff live in basic (two room) accommodation on site. A generous visitor paid for a borehole to be sunk in the school grounds so now a regular and reliable supply of clean water is available. An extension pipe and tap allows access at certain time of days for local villagers. (same pic)
Nutritious snacks are prepared by local women and are available at break time for minimal cost.

Although the school is registered with the Government Education Department and is regulated and inspected by them the teachers in this community nursery school are not paid by the Gambian government, 1to3 has a scheme to pay a basic salary to the teachers; this is funded through the child sponsorship scheme and this has enabled the nursery to take on more teachers and improve their training. One teacher has graduated from the three-year Early Child Development (ECD) training at The Gambia College, and The Pingle School in South Derbyshire has paid for a young female volunteer teacher to attend the same course. Two other teachers have qualified via. a three-year course at the Gambia College

In the summer of 2008 a large section of the roof on the Lyon classroom block had to be replaced. The ruhm palm supports have been replaced by metal ones which should ensure a much longer life of the roof.

Jolly Phonics in school: This synthetic phonics scheme has been running since September 2005.  The Head Teacher, Mr Sainey Gibba has reported a dramatic increase in the number of children leaving the Nursery school aged 7 years, who can comfortably read and spell. Mr Gibba and 1to3 Trustee Mrs Marj Jawo were instrumental in influencing the Education Dept of the Gambian government to train several hundred teachers in the use of Jolly Phonics throughout Gambia.  This could not have been achieved with the co-operation and generosity of Chris Jolly of Jolly Learning Ltd.

Jolly Phonics training is now being spread throughout The Gambia following its acknowledged success in Wellingara


The Wellingara Community Health Clinic

As there was no provision at all for local health care in 2005 1to3 began an initiative to build a health clinic in Wellingara ; the clinic will serve not only the 17,500 inhabitants of Wellingara but people from many villages around – possibly 50,000. The clinic opened on a part-time basis on Wednesday 10th September 2008 and the first patient was treated for malaria, but is now open Monday to Friday.

The main health concern is in the area of malaria, which is responsible for the deaths of 1 in 5 children under the age of five. It had been hoped to include a small laboratory to help with quick diagnosis, but so far this has not been possible.  A further major objective of the clinic is to reduce and maternal and infant mortality.

Currently and for the foreseeable future, we are in need of funding for essential medicines. “Every little bit helps”, so if you are interested in helping please email or call us on 01604 890144 to make a difference to a child’s life.

Sponsor a child today

You have the opportunity to transform many lives by sponsoring a child for £17.50 per month. All of the sponsored money goes to the family and the community.

To find out more, visit the FAQ page and contact Marj Jawo on 01283 561260 or by email