Next Link meeting: another change of date – Sorry!

Sunday, September 6th, 2015

I’m very sorry that we can’t, in fact, have the Town Hall for a meeting on October 21st. As a result, we’ve had to bring it forward to Wednesday September 30th. We’re particularly keen to start to discuss the way forward for the Link, using Richard’s Draft Strategy as a basis for discussion. (See the link in the green box to your right.)

Again, my apologies for the short notice.

Robin Gray

Hon Sec

Charity Ball – October 31st

Thursday, July 23rd, 2015

Charity Ball gold 7 2Hastings Sierra Leone Friendship Link  presents an amazing CHARITY BALL in aid of our Twin Town on 31 October 2015 in the Montgomery Suite, Bannatynes Hotel, Hastings. Enjoy good food, great company and fantastic entertainment from London born, Hastings raised, award-winning jazz singer-pianist Liane Carroll and superb local band, The Kites. Bring along friends and family and take a table of 8 – 10 people and have a great evening, whilst raising funds for a good cause. Don’t miss out, book early as places are limited.
Ticket price includes three course meal, a glass of bubbly and of course the entertainment!
For further information or to book tickets contact Lynn on 01424 853356.

Music Quiz fundraiser a great success

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2015

We had a great MUSIC QUIZ NIGHT recently, with the questions set by Lesley-Ann Matthews. 17 teams battled it out to show off the breadth (or otherwise) of their musical knowledge. Richard kept things going at a cracking pace with great good humour. Michael, in his inimitable style, auctioned a very nice watercolour that artist Keith Collins had donated.

The Winners!

         The Winners with Lesley-Ann (far right)

After expenses, the evening raised a healthy £558. The winners were ‘Grinling Gibbons’, who just pipped ‘Unit 4 + 1/2’ after a nail-biting finish and a sudden death tie-break question. Our thanks to everyone who came, and to everyone who worked so hard to make the evening a success. Look out for our Big Quiz Night in February or March 2016!

Rotary Club’s Africa Evening a Great Success

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2015

AFRICA EVENING A Great Success! A great time was had by all at the Rotary Club’s Africa Evening at the Elphinstone Sports and Social Club on July 15th. Guests were entertained with African music and singing and dancing by King Masco and his African Dancers. Bruce Forsythe look-a-like Derek Tomblin played his cards right to help raise funds for the Rotary Club’s Health Centre project. Yvonne Johnson and colleagues from London provided a banquet of traditional Sierra Leone food

In full swing

In full swing


King Masco shows us how it's done

King Masco shows us how it’s done

Play Your Cards Right with Derek and Miki

Play Your Cards Right with Derek and Miki

. Funds raised will go toward re-instating and improving the lighting and power supply to the Health Centre in Hastings, Sierra Leone and our thanks go to Eric and his colleagues at the Rotary Club for their efforts. Thanks also to Yvonne and co for the excellent food!

Minutes of the Link meeting of 15th July

Tuesday, July 21st, 2015


Richard Homewood (Chair), Christine Boulton-Lane, Nola McSweeney, Edwin Rew, Bill Evans, Ray Keene, Cllr Nigel Sinden, Diane Reed, Janet Jarvis, Roger Mitchell, Eve Martin, Liz MacKay, James Bacon, John Geater, Tanya Kavanagh, Sue Furness (minutes).

Apologies for Absence

Robin Gray, Lynn White, Derek Tomblin & Jacqui Lockwood.

Minutes of OGM of 20th May and Matters arising

Minutes were agreed and any matters arising would be covered by the agenda.

Treasurer’s Report

Ray outlined the Treasurer’s Report. There had been membership fees (£50) paid by the London group and donations including money raised at the BBQ at the White’s house. Total funds £27477.10. Ray confirmed the Gold account (£14770.10) is purely for the Health Centre. (further details under ‘Health’)

Schools’ Report

Roger reported that the IPC meeting had been held earlier today. This was the last meeting of the year and the children judged their poetry. The IPC meetings are seen as an important way to keep the links strong. An article had appeared in the Hastings Observer reporting the IPC children meeting with the Mayor about the twin sign.

The Sierra Leone football tournament had been a great success, with St Mary Star of the Sea sweeping the board.

It was agreed that Theresa Bennett should be thanked for her organisation of the event. Roger to contact Ken Barne to source a gift up to £25 for Theresa along with a letter of thanks.

OVPA are now twinned with Maynard School in Kossoh Town. Mandy Hinxman is moving from Little Ridge to All Saints. The link will be managed by another member of staff at Little Ridge. St Leonards Academy – Roger is to meet Jenny Jones regarding who will continue the link there as Lewis has been promoted and Melinda is now a full time mother.

There will be no teacher exchanges next year due to the Ebola crisis although it may be possible for others.

At least 5 schools have equipment for the container.   Roger will try again to contact Richard White for a date for schools to move their boxes to St Pauls.

Communication with Francis has improved and he has been meeting with his link teachers. It is very difficult for them – morale is very low.

James Bacon thanked Roger for his recent talk at Blacklands.

Health Report


Christine briefly outlined the Health report (attached) from their meeting on 22nd June. She drew attention to the fact that Melanie Bray was no longer part of the Link and thanked her for her contribution.

The Health committee had met again yesterday and decided that although most of their ‘wish list’ could be purchased here, some things would be better to be purchased in Sierra Leone.   After Ebola, it is like starting from scratch and a real opportunity for us to do something. John Geater stated that more than 80 health workers in SL had been lost to Ebola and there was a reluctance to train to work in the health sector. Any child mortality gains over the last 10 years had been wiped out.

A discussion took place on committed funds from the Gold account and whether monies to be spent could be increased.

It was agreed that money to be spent by the Health committee in the UK could be increased from £2,500 to £3,500.

It was agreed that money to be spent in SL could be increased from £2,500 to £3,500. (Proposed by ER and seconded by JG).

Other funds committed from the Gold account – £1000 towards container cost and £3,500 for rewiring, leaving £3270.

It was agreed that photos were the best way of confirming what equipment had been purchased for the Health Centre from funds sent to SL .

Ray Keene stated he had received a letter about policies and procedures re payments to other counties. RH said we needed to be conscious that money going abroad is scrutinised by the authorities in connection with their counter-terrorism activity.

Liz mentioned the problems of IT equipment sent out being stolen. – Nigel will talk to IT dept at HBC re advice for security attachments.

Solar Panels

RH reported that he and Link colleagues had met with the Rotary club. The cost of a full solar power installation for the Health Centre would be £17-18K and there was a worry about the capability to maintain the system and maintenance costs. The logical conclusion would be to concentrate on rewiring so it is safe, use mains electricity and sorting out the generator as a back up for essential equipment. Rotary Club are focused on raising money for this.

RH has asked for quote on a small scale emergency lighting system run by solar energy (waiting for reply).

Outstanding electricity bills have now been paid so the Health Centre has power.

Fundraising & Future Events

The Rotary club dance had been very successful. Unsure as to how much money was raised.

Musical Quiz – 18th September

This will be held at St Pauls – the committee were urged to support it.

Charity Ball

31st October – this needs to be promoted. RH handed out flyers and poster. Need to encourage people outside the group to buy a table – an opportunity to introduce new people. Lynn is leading the organisation and the sub group will meet on 29th July. Raffle prizes needed!

Orange Quiz Sheets

Nola would like someone else to take over the orange quiz sheets (or at least help!).   RH asked everyone to think about it.


JG suggested carol singing.

JB suggested a float for the Hastings Carnival for 2016.

Cake sales.

Christine said she would like to host a garden party.

Nola suggested another quiz next year, maybe in the autumn.

Draft Link Strategy (Click here to read it in full or to download)

RH spoke about the impact of Ebola on schools. Education is the key to creating a sustainable future – we must help them help themselves. He outlined the draft link strategy which focused on four three key strands, education, creating employment and business opportunities, health and communication – Christine had input into the health aspect and Roger into the education side. RW and SF were also going to comment on the education side. Yvonne would be helping with consultation with the Hastings community in SL. We need to know and understand their priorities.   He stressed that if the link is to go on successfully, evolve and grow it needs a clear strategy which it can promote and publicise. RH asked all members to read through and give feedback at the next meeting but a vision for the future is essential if we are to continue to attract donations and potentially corporate sponsorship from local businesses such as Hastings Direct and/or Link Signs.

JG spoke of the need to have a ‘contract’ with SL – discuss their needs with them and create a partnership.

ER asked whether the Headman had been consulted. It was agreed that it would be really helpful if we could engage in a dialogue with him.

RH said Yvonne and Yvette were working on exchanging ideas with SL – may be through Cecil Coker, Sam French and others in the first instance .

Christine talked about raising the profile of the link and the town twinning. JB suggested a presentation at the Hastings Chamber of Commerce or other events.

RH and JB to meet to discuss how communication channels can be exploited and marketing opportunities.

Any Other Business


13th September, usual venue.


RM to contact RW re storage.

RH will contact the council re storage unit.

RH to also contact Yvonne re lead time.

Date of Next Meeting

Wednesday 16th September at 18.05 in the Town Hall.






  1. We again considered the list of equipment needed for the Health Centre, comparing the prices of items both in Sierra Leone and UK. We have agreed to purchase items including sphygmomanometers, stacking chairs and beds/mattresses. Liz and Chris will lead on this and request reimbursement from our Treasurer (initially up to £1,000 each). We have agreed that we will make purchases by the end of July in the hope that the Container will be arranged soon after that date. It was hoped that some money would be sent at that time to enable the purchase of some equipment that would be better sourced in SL and that we would be able to assist with the purchase of the remaining items when the next visit is made.
  2. Consideration was given to the section of the draft Strategy for the Link concerning Health. It was agreed that members of the sub-Committee would consider it and report back at the next meeting. An initial statement was that we should be asking the Staff at the Health Centre what assistance they would want from us and that it might be that concentration on Child Health including a dedicated ward for the treatment of babies/children might be the way forward.
  3. Disappointment was raised about the news that the ultrasound equipment had not been able to be used because of the unstable electrical voltage and Christine was asked to ascertain whether either a surge protector, dedicated small generator or an invertor would assist in enabling the use of this lifesaving equipment.


  1. Melanie Bray announced that she would no longer be a part of the Link although was happy to attend fund raisers. Christine thanked her for all the work that she had done for us and said she would be welcome to come to our meetings as and when she wished.


  1. It was agreed that we would meet again on TUESDAY, 14TH JULY at 11.00am at Glenwood.




This was an interim meeting primarily to discuss the purchases that were being made for the Health Centre.


  1. A number of items from the list of equipment required had been purchased and a number of items given free of charge, including such items as 2 laptop computers, 2 desktop computers and 25 chairs from the Conquest Hospital. It was felt that we needed to know when the container would be going as we would experience difficulty in storing items that had been given or purchased. The team felt that some items would be better purchased in Sierra Leone and would therefore wish that money would be available for this and a request was made for further funds to be made available for purchases prior to collection for shipment and it was hoped that the Trustees would agree to set a figure for both these requests.


  1. It was suggested that smoke damaged items might be available from the Hospice and an approach to the Hospice could prove fruitful.


  1. John Geater brought to our attention the recent report in the Lancet Global Health and stated that it was more important than ever before that in the aftermath of Ebola we should be helping the Hastings Health Centre in every way possible.



  1. It was agreed that we would meet again on MONDAY, 17TH August at 9.30am at Glenwood, SUBJECT TO CONFIRMATION.







Another great ‘cheese fest’ at Ashdown House

Wednesday, July 1st, 2015




Jo Avery and her friends have raised an astonishing £345 for the Link (plus £86.25 in Gift Aid, which shows how important Gift Aid is!). Jo writes on the Ashdown House internal website:
Staff at Hastings had a brie-lliant time, at the 2nd staging of the Cheese Fest. This saw staff supply and sample all sorts of cheese related fare. Just some on offer this year were;- Cambozola, Wensleydale with Cranberries, and specialist Sussex cheeses, a variety of homemade cheese scones and straws, cheese crisps, chutneys and accompanying savoury biscuits. A new attraction for 2015 was ‘guess the cheesy grin’ from photos of the Permanent Secretary, Director Generals in amongst celebrities.
There was a raffle of cheese related goods, including support from local businesses, from the Electric Palace Cinema and Penbuckles (cheese tasting session for two with glass of wine), and in total £345 was raised for the Hastings Sierra Leone Friendship link. This charity connects the people of Hastings UK and Hastings Sierra Leone to promote reconstruction and friendship. It raises money through events and donations to help build Hastings Sierra Leone following its devastation in 1997 during the Sierra Leonean civil war. The link also promotes official twinning, informal exchanges and school to school links.

We’re very grateful to Jo and her helpers – and very impressed by their ingenuity. If anyone fancies doing something at work on behalf of the Link, we can provide leaflets so that people know exactly what it is they’re supporting.

Another great Link football tournament!

Monday, May 25th, 2015

Richard writes:

The Link's info stand (with the new banner)

The Link’s info stand (with the new banner)

Friday saw St Mary’s Star of the Sea footballers victorious in both the boys and girls group matches at the Friendship Link soccer tournament on a rather windswept and chilly Friday afternoon. Jackie and Sue leapt with delight as their teams were presented with the trophies but everyone who participated put in a huge effort and all received well deserved tournament Medals kindly donated by Eve Martin and presented by Deputy Mayor, Judy Rogers.
It was a huge success even though our friends from Sierra Leone were unable to attend due to the Ebola outbreak. Our thanks must go to Roger and Theresa for organising the event, to Ken Dullaway and his FA Youth Council Team for their help and the Sierra Leone Association members from London who travelled down with African food for the event.   Well done everyone!

Cheering the boys & girls on

Cheering the boys & girls on

“African Evening’ on Friday 10th July

Sunday, May 24th, 2015

Our friends at St Leonards Rotary Club are continue to raise funds for the Hastings Health Centre, specifically for a solar panel array which will back-up the other forms of power available.  Their next event is an African Evening, with music by King Masco and his troupe, and an African supper by Yvonne and her team. It will be a great evening. Please tell your friends about it – and book a table, of course!Africa Evening_2

Jeremy Birch

Monday, May 11th, 2015
Greeting schoolchildren in 2007

Greeting schoolchildren in 2007

Jeremy as Quizmaster

Jeremy as Quizmaster

All friends of the Hastings Sierra Leone Friendship Link will have been deeply saddened to learn of the death of Jeremy Birch.

Jeremy played a key role in the Link’s development. He was the first, as Leader of the Council, to propose that the strong bond being forged between the two Hastings should be recognised in an official twinning. The idea gained all-party support, and Jeremy was present at the twinning ceremony in Hastings SL in 2007 to see his idea become reality.

For a time he generously combined chairmanship of the Link with his many other duties and interests. In the difficult financial climate of recent years he steadfastly argued in favour of Hastings Borough Council’s continued support for the Link’s work. Above all, he championed a clear vision of the Link as a two-way relationship, with both Hastings learning from each other in friendship and mutual respect.

Of course, we will always remember Jeremy as the witty and energetic chairman of our annual Quiz Nights. He will be very, very much missed.

Robin Gray

Great Quiz Night raises £1785 for Ebola relief

Sunday, March 15th, 2015

Richard writes:

Link Annual Quiz Night a roaring success! Hot on the heels of the Rotary Club quiz night, the Link’s Annual Quiz Night held at William Parker School was a roaring success raising £1785 on top of over £1,000 raised by Nola’s quiz sheet sales. 33 Teams struggled valiantly with Robin’s questions and the Blackbirds were victorious scoring 102 but only 3 ahead of their nearest rival. Our thanks go to Nola and all of those in the Quiz Team and to William Parker for hosting the event. Generous auction items kindly donated – including £250 of carpeting by our patron Dain Jensen, a bottle of House of Commons whisky signed by David Cameron and donated by Amber Rudd MP,  and a voucher for ‘Posture assessment’ – raised over £350. Our thanks also go to all those who attended and contributed to this successful fundraising event.

The Quiz in full swing

The Quiz in full swing

The Winning Blackbirds with genial Questionmaster Jeremy Birch

The Winning Blackbirds with genial Questionmaster Jeremy Birch

The money raised will help us provide more short term help to the community in Hastings SL as they struggle to maintain their daily lives alongside Ebola. We are also beginning to look beyond Ebola and plan what we need to do to help them rebuild their lives and recover from this dreadful disease. Please keep the donations coming, every penny will reach the community in Sierra Leone and just a few pounds can make such a huge difference.