Tenant gearing up for African mercy mission

One of our residents is getting ready for his annual trip to Africa to help children and adults in need.

Kind-hearted Bill Bayly single-handedly collects unwanted, secondhand clothes which he distributes to local people in Gambia.

It’s a labour of love the Stoke pensioner has been doing every year since the early 2000s.

Bill first went over to Gambia for a holiday when his marriage broke down and fell in love with the place.

He’s been going back every year since – with bagfuls of clothing, mainly for children.

His idea to collect clothes and donate them to locals was born out of the poverty he saw in Gambia and a chance conversation with his nephew.

Bill said: “My nephew’s daughter, my great niece, had twins and had lots of extra clothes. He said some of them never got worn. I suggested taking them to Africa.”

It’s become an annual event and now friends and family offer him clothes.

Bill organises it all himself, paying for the donations to be flown over to Africa in shipping containers. This year he’s got five suitcases – he reckons about 150 kgs in total.

As well as being a mercy mission, it’s also an extended holiday for Bill.

He said: “What I’m taking this time is more than I’ve ever taken before – I’ve had to buy more suitcases. I’ve got friends and contacts over there and I’ll get some to help me sort it all out ready for distribution.

“I have to be careful where I distribute the clothing. If you hand them to individuals, they could sell it. I want them to go to the right people so I give them to an orphanage.

“There are very poor people over there. There seem to be a lot of twins for some reason. These poor girls have twins and they often end up giving one of the babies away.

“They are always glad of the stuff. People are ever so grateful. I’ve had girls burst into tears when they’ve been given things.”

Bill, who served in 29 Commando, once drove with two friends to Gambia from the UK in a Citroen Picasso. It took them 19 days and they camped out along the way.

He added: “The Gambians are very friendly people. There’s no conflict over there. You may get some opportunistic crime from time to time.”

“There have been lots of changes over the years,” he adds, “When I first went out there, there was only one main road and one set of traffic lights – not that anyone paid any attention to them. It was chaos!”

Pictured: Bill packs the bags up ready for his trip