Two members of Gambia's Fire Service are the latest to benefit from a unique relationship that has developed over the past three years between emergency staff in Gambia and Sussex Ambulance Service.

Sulayman Marong and Habibu Camera from the Gambian Fire Service, took the Ambulance Technician Training Course within Sussex and passed their exams, enabling them to return to Africa as the first recognised ambulance technicians in Gambian history.

The partnership was launched during 2000, with the visit of the first team of SAST staff to West Africa. As Gambia currently has no separate ambulance service, they took up the challenge of helping to develop and equip colleagues with medical skills and obsolete equipment, at the same time as learning more about African culture and diversity.

2002 saw the third visit, with staff continuing the training courses that teach basic first aid and ambulance aid to Fire Fighters.

During each visit, a team of SAST staff, normally consisting of a paramedic, a technician and a communications/Patient Transport representative, spend two weeks running a training programme for approximately 30 members of the Gambian Fire Service. The courses concentrate on the most common causes of death in Gambia, including road traffic accident management, airway maintenance, basic life support, burns and spinal care. The students have all been identified as particular "high achievers" within the Fire Service and work hard during the courses, often travelling for many hours per day to attend.

Sulayman and Habibu arrived in the UK on July 22 to undertake the Technicians Course, with their training funded by the Gambian Government and passed their exams with flying colours. They returned to Gambia ready to practice what they have learned as well as sharing their newly-found knowledge with colleagues. The Gambian Government are supporting the on-going work and have committed to a further three years of visits.

Martin Lewis from Sussex Ambulance Service, who has been the driving force behind the scheme said: "We are very proud of the students and their achievements whilst in Sussex. The knowledge they have learnt will make an immediate and positive difference to the care of patients in Sussex and I look forwards to continuing to develop the relationship between our two services."