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From Ashfield to Africa – students proud of their engineering mission

Posted: 13 February 2020

Student mechanics at West Nottinghamshire College have expressed their pride having seen refurbished ambulances which they have worked on, make it on a mission to The Gambia.

Back in 2017, Mark Hammans, a retired police sergeant, approached the college’s mechanical engineering curriculum to ask for their help in refurbishing four out-of-service ambulances ready to be taken out to The Gambia to help support communities and clinics in his Aid2Gambia charity mission.

Over the past couple of years, classes of student mechanics at the college’s Engineering Innovation Centre, have worked tirelessly to put the old emergency vehicles back into roadworthy action, so they could be driven the 4,000 mile trip to West Africa.

The Aid2Gambia convoy of four ambulances set off on their mission with Mark and his friends on 4 January, driving through France, Spain, Gibralta, Tangiers, Mauritania and Senegal, Morocco and into The Gambia. Each vehicle had all brake systems, suspension and steering repaired by the engineering students so that they could tackle the great journey and begin their new lives abroad.

Staff and students at the college have watched the team’s journey via Twitter and Facebook with interest as they made their way to Africa.

Student Alex Wilson, 20, who has worked on the refurbishment project since it began, said: “The project allowed students to gain lots of new skills. I really enjoyed being part of this as it was for such a good cause and it’s given me a feeling of great accomplishment and we’re delighted to know everyone got there safe and well.”

Tutor Andy Gray said: “I’m so proud of all of the students who supported the project over the last two years. In particular Simon and Phoebe who won a charity award through college in the first year of the project, and donated the £100 prize winnings to the charity.

“I also feel very proud of my own involvement in the project ensuring timely completion of each individual ambulance and quality controlling the work carried out by our learners. The ambulances’ arrival has doubled some villages’ capacity to support A&E services as some are still taking expectant mothers to clinics via donkey and cart.”

Mark’s charity helps hard to reach and poor communities in The Gambia all year round with routine shipments of clothing, toys, baby milk, chairs and tables and much more. His contact abroad is a man called Baba Bojang, a Gambian national who calls himself ‘the boy from the jungle’. It’s Baba who runs the Aid2Gambia charity shop which raises money for projects in schools in The Gambia.

Mark Hammans said: “It was certainly a fantastic trip and knowing the work on the vehicles had been professionally undertaken by Andy and his students, this filled us with confidence and the ambulances were fully-ready for the trip and their future work.

“One of the really important things the students did was changing the cam belts on the older engines which ensured they would be in the best shape for the journey and new lives in The Gambia.”

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