Father and son Ian and Jack Brayshaw join National Police Aid charity convoy to transport ambulances to The Gambia

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A father and son from Garstang have launched a Just Giving appeal to support a mercy mission to get ambulances to The Gambia.

Father and son Ian and Jack Brayshaw are raising funds to join a mercy mission taking ambulances to The Gambia

Father and son Ian and Jack Brayshaw are raising funds to join a mercy mission taking ambulances to The Gambia

They are also helping a special bear called Ollie will help them with their fundraising.

Retired Lancashire police officer Ian Brayshaw and his son, Jack, a serving Police Support Officer, from Catterall, near Garstang, heard just days ago that they could join a 2,000 mile plus charity journey which it’s hoped will culminate in gifting more than 30 ambulances to communities in The Gambia.

Operation Zephyr will see ambulances, support vehicles and fire engines delivered to the West African nation to form the core of a new emergency service throughout the country.

Ollie Bear is being made and sold by Ian's wife Jean to raise funds for the mercy mission to The Gambia

Ollie Bear is being made and sold by Ian’s wife Jean to raise funds for the mercy mission to The Gambia

The mission from the U.K. is being led by National Police Aid Charity UK (NPAC), which provides aid to impoverished communities around the world in war zones or in developing countries.

Ian, who is Chairman of Catterall Parish Council, served in the Lancashire Constabulary for more than 34 years. His son Jack, 20, now works at the Constabulary’s Hutton HQ. The pair will be helping, along with other volunteers, to drive and navigate the fully equipped vehicles thousands of miles to their new homes.

But first they have a target of raising £5,000 which will go towards paying for the fleet of ambulances and transport costs. Ian and Jack will be funding any personal expenses themselves, including food and accommodation, but are hoping individuals and businesses will step up to support their appeal.

As part of the fundraising Ian’s wife Jean is making toy bears called Ollie Bear which can be purchased for £10. Ian and Jack will be taking a bear with them and posting pictures of it online on Instagram so donors can see how their journey is progressing. Ian said: “If anyone want to buy one they need to contact Jean on jeanbrayshaw@hotmail.com and we will send one out. If anyone wants one from the Just Giving page they can message us – providing the donation is £10 or above and we will send one out on request.”

Ian, whose roles with the Constabulary included more than a decade as a family liaision officer, now works as operational security manager at BAE Systems, Warton. He said that in his police career he had always been called upon to help people and The Gambia expedition continues that work. He said: “This opportunity gives me the rare chance to help the children and their families in an entire country. As a member of the International Police Association I saw the request for volunteers to take part and instead of just donating I thought I should take up the challenge and Jack jumped at the chance to help as well.”

The current lack of ambulances in The Gambia means doctors have to cycle from village to village or critically ill patients are carried by relatives or transported miles to their nearest hospital by whatever transport is available, sometimes in a wheelbarrow.

The ambulance convoy was due to set off in March but the trip has now been postponed until September due to the COVID pandemic. It is anticipated that the left hand drive emergency vehicles will come from France, Portugal or Spain. Ian and Jack will travel over to mainland Europe to collect their ambulance.

On their Just Giving page the pair state: “We intend to travel from the U.K. via France and Spain through the north west of the African continent all the way to Banjul the capital of Gambia. The intent is to provide functioning emergency vehicles, radios, equipment, training and uniforms to this emerging but very poor African nation. Organised by the UK’s National Police Aid Charity, National Police Aid Convoy and working with the International Police Association and other organisations, we have decided to help end suffering and unnecessary deaths caused by the absence of any form of ambulance service in The Gambia.”

Jack said: “None of us chose where to be born, we feel that by helping out in the Gambia we are trying to reduce the health inequalities across the globe, especially under the current pandemic situation. This is an exciting challenge, I’ve never done anything like this before … The Gambia is one of the poorest places in the world and we’re trying to give them an entire ambulance service, providing support from the 30 key locations where they can be of optimum use and effectiveness.”

Teams of three will drive each ambulance taking it in turn to navigate, drive or sleep. It is estimated that the journey will take around 10 days. Once the vehicles have been delivered to their chosen destination local doctors and healthcare professionals will be trained to use the vehicles.

Their Just Giving page also notes that corporate sponsorship to the charity, is welcome. It is costing around £10,000 to purchase and transport each ambulance to The Gambia. Ian and Jack suggested: “Perhaps you could help with fuel costs by providing a company fuel card, or by providing much needed equipment, tools or supplies, for the convoy to use or for us to take with us. Everything will be left with the Gambian Emergency responders.”

Their donation page also emphasises the urgent need for the ambulances and equipment in The Gambia: “The levels of maternal mortality in the Gambia are unacceptably high and are ranked among the highest in Africa, estimated at 1,050 per 100,000 live births and are higher in rural than in urban areas. The manner of those deaths for mother and child do not bear thinking about. The number of deaths and amputations through late presentation of infected fractures and wounds is unbelievably high.We are reaching out to everyone to play their part and donate to this important lifesaving mission, by doing this you will be helping create a better, safer, happier world.”

To donate see: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/ian-brayshaw1

*Ambulances to Gambia 2022 – The Journey

After crossing Europe and assembling at Algeciras, Spain, the mercy mission will cross to Tangier in north west Morocco. In convoys of no more than eight vehicles the volunteers will travel via Casablanca and West Sahara to Dakar, Senegal. At the Senegal/Gambia border the convoys will separate to deliver the vehicles to the chosen towns with the volunteers returning to Banjul to fly home.