Caister couple reach charity goal

A Norfolk couple have returned from a trip to the Gambia to celebrate the latest significant development at a school for blind children they opened nine years ago.

Phil and Joan Feller, of Humber Close, Caister, near Great Yarmouth, were the guests of honour at the official opening of a goal ball court funded by a �2,500 donation from the UK Parliamentary Football Club.

Former Yarmouth MP Tony Wright organised the cheque hand-over in Westminster two years ago, but it took about 12 months to clear admini-strative hurdles before construction work could begin.

Mr Feller, 64, a retired police officer who still works in an administrative role at Yarmouth police station, said goal ball – a high speed game involving a ball with bells inside – was popular with students and it had been their dream to create a purpose-built court of Paralympics standard.

Praising the dedication of their Gambian representative, Lamin Saidy, Mr Feller said: 'It was a wonderful surprise to see the completion of the difficult project to such a high standard.'

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The hand-over ceremony, which included a march to the school by groups representing disabled people, was covered by Gambian television and radio stations.

It was nearly 20 years ago that a typical tourist trip round the Gambia's capital Banjul changed the Fellers' lives forever.

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A visit to the Campama school for the blind left them horror struck by the lack of books and equipment and the dilapidated building, with chunks of asbestos falling off its roof.

It led them on a fund-raising mission first to build a new school and then to maintain and develop it.

Nine years after the new school opened, they find it still takes all their spare time to administer the charity they formed, Friends of Visually Impaired Children in the Gambia.

And nine months a year, Mrs Feller's weekends are taken up fund-raising at boot fairs, her efforts boosted by help from other supporters.

Spending nearly all their holidays in the Gambia, they find fresh problems to solve – from rain damage to broken equipment – on every visit. This time they found the school in good condition but needing a thorough clean – and had to sort wages for a caretaker who had been appointed but not paid. The Fellers also agreed next year's budget to supply school uniforms and to fund the breakfast feeding programme.

But despite the problems, Mr Feller said there was tremendous satisfaction in seeing the progress of students who might have been beggars without the help of the school.

Anyone wishing to support the charity is asked to call Mr Feller on 01493 721506.

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