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Meltham fabric shop extending fundraising links with Africa

Bob irwin and Magie Relph determined to help support Gambian clinic

African Textiles, Meltham. Magie Relph and Bob Irwin with some of the African fabrics stocked at the company.

The owners of a fairtrade fabric shop in Meltham are making good use of money raised for an African health centre.

Bob Irwin and Magie Relph have spotlighted several ways to help the clinic in The Gambia - where they have personal links with a volunteer.

And now they plan to do even more.

Their friend Musa Jaiteh dyes material for their African Fabric Shop. And the couple helped in a scheme which raised nearly £4,000 through selling off pieces of a huge quilt.

Bob, who runs the Holmfirth Road enterprise with his wife, Magie, said: “On a recent buying trip we met the head nurse of the clinic along with village elders and identified a number of areas where we could constructively spend the money to help the centre.”

Bob and Magie got involved about 18 months ago, aware of the clinic as Musa - who uses indigenous dyes on the fabrics - volunteers there in his spare time.

“Having been there on a few occasions we know the clinic operates on a shoestring and struggles with minimal resources to keep up with the community’s health demands,” said Bob.

When a friend called Helen Conway made a huge quilt called The No 1 African Fabric Shop and wondered how to use this to raise money for something in Africa, the idea of Musa’s clinic was put forward.

Musa Jaiteh, one of the Gambian textile printers that trades with The African Fabric Shop

“After all, most of the fabric in the quilt was dyed by Musa,” said Bob.

The quilt was cut into 28 pieces and sold to other quilters to make 28 new versions for sale, raising £3,900 for the Sukuta Health Centre.

Sanitation is one of the areas earmarked for funding.

“We are commissioning work to repair and rebuild the toilets - currently barely functioning - and sewage system,” said Bob. “We have also bought cleaning materials for volunteers to spruce up the clinic and raise hygiene standards.

“We have also bought a digital blood pressure machine, several thermometers and a nebuliser - asthma is a growing problem because of the dust.”

Bob and Magie are moving the shop around the corner to Green End Road and a celebratory open day will be held on February 13 when they return from a trip to Ghana. They spend several weeks a year in Africa, visiting suppliers and seeking new contacts.

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