The United States Peace Corps in collaboration with the Gambia Basketball Association (GBA) last weekend concluded a three-day voluntary HIV testing and a Senior Secondary School Basketball clinic dubbed "Takecharge initiative" at the Independence Stadium in Bakau.
The free HIV testing commenced at the American Corner along the Kairaba Avenue, and ended at the Independence Stadium, which also hosted the basketball clinic for both boys and girls.
Speaking to Observer Sports, Yankuba Ceesay, a US Peace Corp volunteer, explained that the whole idea behind the "Takecharge" initiative was to create more awareness about HIV through sports. "We use sports as a medium of communication, whereby we send messages to the general public through a senior school basketball championship. In addition we also educate all the participants especially teenagers about the dangers of substance abuse," he said.
Yankuba further explained that as Peace Corps volunteers, their mission in the country is geared towards cultural harmonisation, and experiencing the Gambian way of life. He added: "My emoluments as a Peace Corps volunteer is equivalent to a teacher's salary in The Gambia." For his part, Muhammed Papa Njie, the president of the GBA, said such an initiative avails them (GBA) the opportunity to collaborate with the Peace Corps to promote basketball, while using sports to create more awareness and offer free counseling and testing for the HIV virus.
"This is a Peace Corps initiative, and I like the whole idea, but its sustainability largely depends on the availability of funds. The good thing about the whole initiative is that we have been able to use some of the national team players to coach the participating teams, which I believe will definitely help them," he remarked. Papa Njie applauded all the participants for their brilliant performance throughout the championship. The Gambia Senior Secondary School won the female category and went home with a trophy, while the male category was won by Kotu Senior Secondary School who were equally rewarded with a trophy.