BPEC Trustee Mark Antrobus heads to Gambia to work on The Bansang Hospital sanitation project

Life Award 2013

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But there will be little sightseeing involved for Holmfirth man Mark Antrobus who will be working to improve sanitation at The Bansang Hospital.

Holmfirth plumber, Mark Antrobus, who is due out to Gambia to work on a hospital.

Mark is swapping his work van for a scooter when he heads to Gambia later this month.

Later this month Mark, who runs Millside Heating Services, is heading to the West African town of Bansang.

The eight-day trip will see him helping the project to develop and refurbish parts of the hospital in the remote inland town.

Mark is one of a team of three volunteers heading out from the UK to offer their expertise.

The 51-year-old said he was excited – if a little apprehensive – about his journey ahead.

He said: “I’ve had all my inoculations which have cost more than the return flight!

“I have got my malaria tablets and had jabs including yellow fever, hepatitis A and B and tetanus.

“I didn’t have the one for rabies but if I get bitten I’ve got 24 hours to get some medical assistance. The fact that I’m going to be in hospital means I’ll get this within minutes.

“They’ve organised a couple of scooters for us to get around and I’ve never ridden a bike before but I’ll give it a go!

“I’m excited to be out there but I’ve got some reservations about what I’m going to see with the quality of life.”

Mark, a Trustee with the British Plumbing Employers Council, will travel to Bansang Hospital with Watson Carlill, from Stroud, and Derby-based Dave Pollard.

The hospital is situated in the African bush, 200 miles from the coast.

To get there they must take a 10-hour road trip up the Gambia River after flying into Banjoul.

The small 160-bed hospital provides for the health needs of 600,000 Gambians.

The Bansang Hospital Appeal is currently working to transform sanitation provisions at the hospital.

Mark was put in touch with Anita Smith, who founded the charity after witnessing the suffering and deprivation of patients and staff.

He encouraged her to apply for funding through BPEC’s Life Award.

The award was set up to support projects that use plumbing skills to benefit life anywhere the world and the hospital project was awarded just over £15,000.

The money is being used to install new toilets and shower cubicles in the maternity ward, eye unit, labour and female wards.

Mark said: “I will be overseeing an awful lot of the work going on and getting involved with the plumbing.

“As a training and certification body we are interested in the skills of the local plumbers that have been brought in.

“Our focus will be on improving the skills of the local guys, supporting the local economy by buying the materials locally rather than importing them and improving people’s lives through sanitation and having clean water.

“The greatest advance in medical history was the invention of sanitation and clean running water.

“It will greatly affect the mortality rate of the patients. I think we’ll make monstrous progress.”

As well as the plumbing work Mark plans a full energy inspection to enable the hospital to make the best use of its electricity, currently only in use for five hours a day.

He is making a video diary to chart his progress at the hospital.

Dave Pollard kept a diary of the works carried out during their time in Bansang To read about this project go to the BPEC Travel blog.