Present: Rebecca Ellis, Femi Gilpin, Yvette John, Yvonne Johnson, Rev René Jarrett, Dorcas Johnson, Mohammed Koroma, Elizabeth Koroma, Edwin Jarrett, Emmanuel Nylander, Janet Siesay, Raymond Georgestone (Sierra Leone Hastings Association (UK);
Bill & Eileen Evans, Eve Martin, Tom Collins, Ray Keene, Richard Lane, Richard White, Margaret Mitchell, Roger Mitchell, Richard Homewood (chair), John Geater, Christine Boulton-Lane, Alison Day, Lynn White, Janet Jarvis, Nola McSweeney, Derek Tomblin, Jacqui Lockwood, Robin Gray (minutes).
1. Apologies for Absence: Paul Cabban, Sue Furness, Diane Reed, Corinne Harris, Liz MacKay. Michael Foster.
2. Minutes of the AGM of 2014: These were accepted (proposed Ray, seconded Lynn). There were no matters arising.
4. School Report: (Taken at this point as Roger had to leave for another engagement.) Roger summarised the essential points of his report for 2014, and gave an overview of developments so far in 2015. (To read his report in full, click here.) He thought he might have overstated County’s attitude towards teacher exchanges: the post-Ebola ban may not be as long as a whole year. Roger advised that teachers had raised some £6,000 to help the teachers who had been unable to work due to the Ebola crisis and that this had been sent to Head Teachers at the schools in Sierra Leone. Members confirmed that they have had messages of thanks from some of the teachers who personally received financial support raised by our schoolchildren. Roger is waiting to hear from the British Council as to whether the grants may be used in another way, e.g. to fund resources for the SL schools. John suggested that if teachers could not travel before the January deadline for spending the grants ran out, perhaps other representatives such as school governors could. Such people would not be limited to travelling in the February half-term, as teachers are. Roger thanked members for some excellent ideas, which he will put to the schools and to the British Council.
The meeting expressed its thanks to Roger for the extraordinary work that he continues to do in inspiring and organising the schools consortium.
3. Chairman’s Report: Richard presented his report for 2014. (To read the full report, click here). He emphasised the challenge that Ebola had presented, and thanked all those who had worked so hard to raise funds during the year and helped to organise the distribution of basic foodstuffs (rice, oil, sugar etc) for the families affected by Ebola. We saw some of the video footage that SLHA(UK) had obtained, showing this distribution and the local people’s reactions.
Richard stressed the need now to focus on how best to go forward over the next few years. He presented a Draft Strategy that analyses the situation under such headings as Education, Creating Livelihoods and Promoting Health and proposes a number of detailed goals together with a possible timetable for achieving them between now and 2020. The draft strategy is simply a starting point for discussion. All are asked to read it (Click here to read the full text) and to let Richard know their reactions. We will be discussing the strategy urgently in forthcoming general meetings.
Richard reported on the efforts of St Leonards Rotary Club to raise funds for solar panels in the Health Centre. On the basis of two studies we have had done, we believe that a mix of mains power, solar panels and the diesel generator is the most cost-effective way of providing power for the centre. The Rotarians’ next fundraising event is an evening of African Music on July 10th. Members are urged to support what will be a great evening of African food and music. For details, see the post on this website.
Richard finished by thanking Christine’s Health Working Group for all they have achieved in support of the Health Centre, collecting packing and sending consignments of equipment and protective clothing etc. . Christine emphasised that the group has benefited greatly from the help of several local health professionals, including local doctors in the UK.
Rev René Jarrett thanked Richard for all the work that had gone into the report and the draft strategy, and the Link for its efforts to help Hastings Sierra Leone.
5. Membership Renewal. Bill reminded us that £5 annual membership is now due. (Please contact Bill Evans on email@example.com or 01424 427265.) If anyone would like to commit to ‘regular giving’ in the form of a small monthly donation via the Charity Choice button on our website, that would actually cover life membership, too.
6. Treasurer’s Report. Ray reported on our income and expenditure for 2014. Income included items such as £800 from HBC for Ebola educational material for distribution in Hastings and the surrounding villages; some £2871 for the sale of quiz sheets and quiz night; £3487 from the Ebola Appeal; £1265 raised by Dain’s Beachy Head Marathon and over £2500raised by the Big Jump; over £2000 from the jumble sale (including £1000 match-funding donated by a generous Christ Church School parent); two anonymous donations of £2000; and donations from others including St Helens Church, Halton Baptist Church, and the Church of the Good Shepherd, Romford. After expenditure of over £25,400, we ended the year with net income of £3,853. These figures do not include monies relating to the exchange trips and the teachers’ collection. Note that we spent £12,700 on the perimeter security wall for the Health Centre, which, in the light of the Ebola crisis, was money well spent. Other major items in 2014 were the cost of a shipping container (£3424), the first round of food aid (£2,650) and further work on the health centre (£2650).
The accounts were duly accepted and signed off.
7. Ownership of the Twin Towns Centre: Derek gave a résumé of the position. It was clear in February 2014 that ownership of the TTC needed to be legally established so that nobody could take control of the centre. The registration document is now nearly ready to be signed, but it must state who the owners are. The SLHA(UK) proposes that ownership be registered in the names of both the SLHA and the Hastings Sierra Leone Friendship Link. Derek reminded the meeting that when we handed the TTC to the village in 2010, we undertook to cover maintenance costs for a year or two, but expected the TTC to be self-financing, thanks to the visitor accommodation built in. Would the Link being named as co-owner mean that the Link would be liable for future maintenance costs? Yvonne insisted that the only issue was to get the building legally registered. The meeting took advice from Richard Lane and agreed to consider the matter urgently at the next general meeting (on July 15th).
8. Election of Officers: Since the current members of the Executive Committee (Richard Homewood, chair; Derek Tomblin, vice-chair; Bill Evans, membership secretary; Ray Keene, treasurer; and Robin Gray, secretary) are willing to continue, and since no other nominations had been made, the meeting agreed nem con that the Executive Committee should continue unchanged for a further year.
9.AOB: (i) Lynn thanked Richard for his very successful year’s chairmanship of the association, and in particular for the draft strategy. As a fervent believer in the importance of the Link’s work with schools both in our town and in Hastings SL, she valued the importance the strategy gives to education, which is in great danger of being lost sight of in the present climate.
(ii) Mohammed was concerned that waste management did not figure in the strategy, and was keen to see our work in this area being developed. Richard advised that he would continue to work on this issue but it might not fall within the Link strategy
(iii) Rebecca asked why the contact with the Kissy Technical Institute had broken down, and whether it could not be re-established. Richard replied that, although the students had been very interested in the bio-digesters and Mohammed Kamara had said the technology would be included in the curriculum, we now seem to have lost contact with Mohammed since the Ebola crisis. Richard will do his best to make contact again.
10. Date of the next ordinary general meeting: Wednesday 15th July at 6.05 in the Town Hall, Hastings.
Richard thanked our friends from London for supporting our meeting yet again, and Yvonne and her team for providing yet another fine African meal.
The meeting closed at 3.25pm.