Present: Christine Boulton-Lane, Eve Martin, Sue Furness, Liz MacKay, Ray Keene, Richard Homewood (chair), Derek Tomblin, Janet Jarvis, Diane Reed, Sue Furness, Nola McSweeney, Lynn White, Roger Mitchell, Bill Evans, Robin Gray (minutes)
- Apologies for absence: Richard Lane, John Geater, Paul Cabban, Melanie Bray, Mandy Hinxman, Jaqui Lockwood, Eileen Evans, Edwin Rew
- Minutes of meeting of 28th Jan & matters arising: The minutes were accepted. §10: The £50 promised from the ‘Clean Water, Safe Children’ gig had not yet come through at the time of the meeting, but Mandy Curtis has since confirmed that £75 is on its way to the Link.
- Treasurer’s Report: The balance has improved by £4712 since the 26/01 figure, though that does not include the profits from the very recent quiz night. (Together with the orange quiz sheets, the latter raised £2846 this year, as against £2300 in 2014 and £1800 in 2013.) Ray noted that the Big Jump actually raised an amazing £2424.69 in total. Charity Checkout now deals with Gift Aid for us. It has just sent a cheque for £1432 for the past year, though in future we will receive smaller, monthly cheques. The staff at the Rare Breeds Centre raised £300 for our Ebola Appeal. Ray will be taking advice on the extent to which it is worthwhile claiming Gift Aid on small ‘bucket’ collections under the Gift Aid Small Donations scheme.
- Recent fundraising events:
(a) The Rotary Quiz. A very successful evening. Chairman George Mighal has written to thank us for our help.
(b) Link Quiz Night. All the feedback has been very positive. It was agreed that the William Parker hall is the perfect venue. Clearing up was very smooth this year, with so many people lending a hand.
(c) Valentine’s Day Party. Richard reported that it had been a very enjoyable party, though the SL party-goers proved to be mean movers on the dance floor compared with the Link members. He hopes we can turn out in greater numbers next year.
- Future fundraising events.
(a) The LOAF Walk. Details are on the LOAF website and in Grapevine. Roger will see if a general invitation to take part can be launched via the Observer.
(b) Other ideas:
(1) Dinner-dance. Lynn has set up a little working group. A provisional booking has been made at Bannatyne’s for October 31st. The Kites have offered their services free, and we hope to have Liane Carroll for an hour. Tickets are likely to be around the £35 mark, to include a glass of bubbly on arrival, a 3 course meal, coffee etc. We need to sell a minimum of 80 tickets, with a maximum of 250. It was decided that the dress code would be smart, rather than black tie, as too much formality can deter some people. Christine suggested encouraging local firms to take a table, use the event as an end of year ‘do’. Agreed that once we have written confirmation from Liane Carol, Lynn should confirm the booking with Bannatynes.
(2) Jumble sale. It was agreed to make the next one, perhaps, a ‘spring clean’ jumble sale, so as not to overload ourselves this autumn.
(3) Musical Quiz. Lesley-Ann Matthews is still happy to organise a music-themed quiz in the autumn. Lynn has since confirmed that Lesley-Ann has agreed to run the quiz on Friday 18th September. Lynn will check availability of St Paul’s School
(4) Half Marathon. We have not heard that anyone is running in the Hastings Half Marathon on the Link’s behalf.
- Schools Report. The teachers have not met recently. They will meet after Easter. There is doubt whether the SL schools will open before the autumn: parents are reluctant to send their children for fear of infection. 10 of the 12 schools have acknowledged receipt of the financial support our schools sent to teachers. Still waiting to hear from Jui Primary and Glory Primary. Lynn confirmed that the invitation for our teachers and Link supporters to come to a BBQ on 20th June still stands. Bring a dish and a donation. Roger will discuss with the teachers. The BBQ and the 7-a-side competition (Fri 22nd May) will help keep the momentum going.
Sue reported that the IPC has unsuccessfully asked the Mayor to have Hastings SL added to the twin towns sign on the Rye Road. The children are now considering raising the money themselves. The IPC is marking World Poetry Day on March 21st by getting our children to write and illustrate poems about SL. It may lead to a booklet that can be sold.
(a) Update. Sallu is working with Concern Worldwide. Christine has a contact with Concern and is trying to establish what Concern is doing for the Hastings Health Centre. It seems to be the construction of an incinerator and a toilet. Sallu is busy running training sessions in the 16 health centres in WARD.
Christine is keen that we press on with pricing and sourcing the equipment that we know Sallu needs. Richard White will have a lot of surplus school furniture soon. Perhaps we can share a container? Richard H wondered if the new ebola treatment centres will distribute their equipment – whatever can be sterilised – amongst local health centres once the ebola crisis is over. Liz confirmed that Sallu’s request for basic technical lab equipment is reasonable – items for blood group matching, urine tests etc. Roger will let schools know that they can start to gather together books and materials, but everything must be correctly labelled and in standardised boxes as defined by Roger & Christine. Eve advised filling drawers with pens, pencils and paper to save space. The meeting agreed in principle to fund a container.
(b) Solar panels. Derek explained why, in this instance, we are going for a single negotiable tender rather than competitive tendering. The contract will be between Alex Robbin and St Leonards Rotary Club, with the Link advising. We meet Alex Robbin on March 23rd. He is going to SL in April, so Rotary will try to get the installation included in the work he is doing this summer. Wet weather is not a concern. We know that Rotary can afford to install 2 panels, upgradable; but Derek advised that it would make sense to go for a 4 panel array from the start. It was agreed that we could advance the balance, and discuss with Rotary whether they could continue to fundraise and pay us back eventually. On Monday we will discuss with Alex Robbin the question of LED lighting. At the moment, his quote for that is surprisingly high. It was agreed that the Link can fund LED lighting if the price is right.
- Report from SLUKDERT conference on ‘Education beyond ebola’. Richard summarised the problem. (See Appendix A.) Schools may have been broken into, resources stolen. Some girls may not be able to resume their education. The situation is full of uncertainty. All the equipment and resources we can send out will make a big difference. Richard was inspired by the people he met at the SLUKDERT conference, in particular Education West Africa (See educationwestafrica.info), Build Africa (www.build-africa.org) and Educaid Africa (www.educaid-africa.org). Education – of parents as well as of children – will be the key to post-ebola recovery. Richard suggested we might be able to put in a combined bid with the Waterloo Partnership, and other charities working in the Western Area to, say, Comic Relief. He urged that we consider our longer term strategy. What do we want to achieve in the related fields of education and employment over the next 5 years? Can we work with parents? Train teachers in the TTC? No funding bid can be formulated until we have been able to do a proper assessment of the situation, including a detailed inventory of the fabric of the buildings. Roger advised that the cultural differences can be an obstacle. It might be that one would concentrate on the practical possibilities of simple teaching aids like, for example, hand-held white boards, or flashcards, or relevant reading materials.
As far as our teacher exchange goes, even February 2016 is by no means sure. Perhaps, though, we can bring SL teachers here in Autumn 2015?
Richard will produce a draft strategy for consultation.
As far as food aid is concerned, Yvonne is waiting for a list of beneficiaries, details of orphans etc, from our village contacts. Act On It has generously donated £300. We have asked Sidney Lefebvre to organise another £3000 worth of foodstuffs, but things are slow. Matthew Kamara (a Scouting contact in the Hastings area) has told Roger that quarantined families are in urgent need of support. We will ask Yvette and Yvonne if they can look into this.
- Date & Venue for AGM. It was hoped that we could meet at St Paul’s School on Saturday 20th June. Lynn has since confirmed that Richard White is happy to host the AGM at St Paul’s School on that date, from 12.30.
10.AOB. No items were called for as the meeting was running over.
- Date of next meeting: May 20th at 6.05 in Hastings Town Hall – this date has been confirmed.
Appendix A: Feedback from SLUKDERT conference on ‘Education beyond Ebola’
The background to the Conference and the notes from the various sessions are set out below. Several key themes came out of the discussions.
The Education system in SL used to be good but successive governments allowed it to decline. The SL Govt. needs to take control of a dysfunctional education system. Introduce good governance regime, raise standards of teacher training, improve and maintain the condition of schools and equipment, start to pay teachers a decent wage, make them accountable, introduce a code of conduct and make it a profession that people want to go into and that is respected in the community alongside other professionals.
SLUKDERT needs to lobby the SL Government and submit a proposal for an Education Pillar to encourage serious Govt. investment in education. SLUKDERT should seek the support and alliance of the Sierra Leone Teachers Union (SLTU).
Recovery after Ebola will be difficult and the March opening of schools is now in doubt.
Schools will need infrastructure investment to repair and improve them as they will have inevitably been vandalised and robbed during the closure.
After almost a whole academic year lost it will be extremely difficult to get children back to school, especially girls. There will be issues around teenage pregnancy, abuse, care of siblings, orphans etc.
With a failed economy affordability of uniforms and fees will also be a major inhibitor.
Numerous voluntary organisations like the HSLFL are active in SL but are all working in isolation. There is a desperate need to make links with each other and for a body to draw us together to work more collaboratively if we are to have a greater impact.
Could SLUKDERT act as the catalyst for this collaboration and bring us together?
Could we submit a joint bid to Comic Relief or other funders which would have a greater impact?
We need to review our approach to supporting education and improving lives in the communities we support and perhaps think more long term to create sustainability.
8 March 2015