Help from local restaurant for footballer’s family

A NEW business opened in the town recently is set to benefit a family and community in Gambia by meeting the costs of health care.

Pandi’s restaurant opened in Murray Street last week and owner Jackie Learmonth, who is behind the venture, is determined that some of the profits from the business will be used in memory of her friend Bubacar Camara, who died earlier this year.

Mr Camara was a keen footballer and nicknamed Pandi after his favourite star Walter Pandiani. He died in hospital in February from injuries he suffered in a car accident which also claimed the lives of two of his team-mates at the end of January.

Mrs Learmonth now intends to set up a fund which will help to meet the costs of future healthcare for Mr Camara’s family as well as children from a local school at which he volunteered.

She has been a regular fund-raiser for, and supporter of, the Kunta Kinteh nursery school in Fanji Kunda, in western Gambia. She also sponsors the football team attached to the school for which Mr Camara and his friends played.

Healthcare in Gambia is not free and Mr Camara’s family was unable to pay for treatment. The true extent of his injuries was only discovered after Mrs Learmonth herself paid for him to be moved to a private hospital where he received an MRI scan.

As well as suffering multiple broken bones he was found to have swelling on the brain and required an operation.

The three men worked in Senegal and had been returning from Dakar, where they had renewed their visas to allow them to continue working in the country.

The accident happened just a day or two after Mrs Learmonth returned to Montrose from one of her regular visits to Gambia and when she learned what had happened she issued an appeal for help through the Review. Sadly, Mr Camara died just two days after it was published.

This week Mrs Learmonth said she was certain that Mr Camara would not have died if the treatment costs had been met and she is determined that other families will not be faced with the same situation. She has worked for more than a month with son Scott to get the business up and running.

She said: “I opened the restaurant in Pandi’s name to try to help his family, as he was the bread-winner.

“There’s no health insurance in Gambia and they have now been left with nothing so I wanted to set up the fund because I’m still convinced that if he had been treated this wouldn’t have happened.

“The fund will be there for them to get treatment if anything like this happens again.

“In the near future I’ll try to raise some funds with a couple of race nights, some will be for them but some will go to the fund directly for medical treatment.”

Mrs Learmonth added that the fund would also be administered through the Kunta Kinteh school for the benefit of its pupils.

She added: “But if someone else comes along who needs help, there’s no chance I’ll say no.

“People coming in to the restaurant will be helping directly with that. I was approached about the restaurant before I went to Gambia in January but just said I’d have to think about it.

“When I came back and this happened shortly after I was interested, as I felt there was an opportunity there to make money for Bubacar’s family.”