Heather Ritchie – Rug Aid in The Gambia

ISSN 2207-001X

I’ve been following on Facebook, Heather Ritchie and daughter Chrissie’s two-week stint in The Gambia where they run a Rug School for the blind.

Images and Heather’s descriptions are posted with her permission so her friends in Australia who are not on Facebook can see how their donations are helping the Rug Aid organization.

In particular, the Narrawilly Proggy Rugmakers, whose annual “Fashion Show” raises money for Rug Aid.   Follow this link to the Rug Aid organization to read about the establishment of Rug Aid’s first project started in The Gambia in February 2007.

In 2009, Narrawilly members, Miriam Miller and Jacqui Thompson, travelled with Heather to The Gambia – helping her take supplies to the Rug School and they saw first-hand what a tremendous difference Heather is making to the lives of the blind students and their families.

Thanks to Editor, Lesley Close, Rug Aid’s Newsletter can also be viewed online, this link giving a report of Heather and Chrissie’s 2016 trip.

Below, are Heather’s images and comments on this year’s trip with Chrissie …

2017 – first day at the Rug Aid workshop.  Mayhem ….. as ever! A fabulous welcome.

Adamsa is introduced to her new cane with Chrissie Ritchie.

Mums and daughters working.

Heather sorting a new consignment of fabric scraps from the tailors.

A picture for Valentine’s day ………..

Fatou with her bowl of fruit ……..

Ernest doing his house-keeping, he is so proud of the workshop, keeps it so clean. 

Some of my blind students were interviewed today for a television program about the empowerment of women and disabilities in The Gambia. They were asked how the Rug Aid program had enriched their lives and what they spent the money on from the rug sales. They are confident this will promote our project and attract more visitors to our Workshop.

This is our beautiful journalist who always promotes Rug Aid on the radio. We always do a live discussion about our project every trip … a few weeks ago she did a debate about the past president. A soldier, a friend of the family came to warn her to run and hide as there was a warrant out for her arrest. She hid her children in one part of the country and found a safe place for herself. She is totally blind and was absolutely terrified listening for every sound, she hid for some weeks before she was able to come home. Many journalists here have disappeared never to be heard from again.  Poor Nay she is traumatised now and won’t work as a journalist any more. Thank goodness they have a new president adn she is safe and they have freedom of speech. We wish her well.


Here is Isatu showing her new teeth fitted last trip, by a kind donation – she has a new baby…..

and Senabu cutting new fabrics after being to market ….

and making tea in the compound.

 Playground equipment – damage & Repair:  On their arrival, Heather and Chrissie discovered the childrens’ playground had been damaged and was unusable. Images of the broken equipment were posted online and donations were immediately received and repair began on the playground equipment. 

Playground getting mended ,,,,, yipeeee

Rug Aid rugs going into Timbooktoo book shop for sale


Farewell message received from Heather ……….

Just to say this is the last post from The Gambia.  We travel home tomorrow after a very eventful, productive, hot and tiring 2 weeks … some of you perhaps will be as ready as us for the break. Sorry if I have over-crowded your FB pages but so many are interested and have been so supportive, also visiting and working with us in the past.  I wanted to share our experiences with you and keep you up to date and to say a Huge thank you from me and Chrissie.

Editors Note:    Heather is the current President of The International Guild of Handhooking Rugmakers – a position which will keep her busy leading up to the 2018  Triennial Conference to be held at Reeth in the Yorkshire Dales but we know that won’t stop her tirelessly seeking funding and visiting The Gambia.

Well Done Heather and Chrissie!

Jo Franco, Editor



Leave a Reply