Hastings Sierra Leone Friendship Link
Minutes of the Annual General Meeting
St Paul’s School, 9th March 2013
Roger opened the meeting, thanking the Londoners for coming to join us (especially Yvonne and her team for supplying another great lunch) and Tom Collins for once again inviting us to hold the AGM at Little Ridge School.
Present: Roger Mitchell (chair), Derek Tomblin, Carole & Paul Cabban, Richard Homewood, Lynn & Richard White, Janet Jarvis, Peter Agar, Melanie Bray, Judy Irving, Dorcas Johnson, Hector Harding, Tunde Rahman, Cllr Nigel Sinden, Hastings Young, Eileen & Bill Evans, Tom Collins, Christine Boulton-Lane, Gillian Rubi, Victoria Harrington, Jonathan Haddock, Cllr Jeremy Birch, Adèle & Edwin Rew, Nola McSweeney, Margaret Mitchell, Liz Mackay, Yvette John, Yvonne Johnson, Ray Keene, John Geater, Robin Gray (minutes).
- 1. Apologies for absence: Peter Penfold, Cllrs Eve Martin, Peter Pragnell; Sophie Butel, Martin Jackson, Richard Lane, Diane Reed, Sue Furness, James Bacon, Jane Smith.
- 2. Minutes of the ordinary general meeting of 23rd Jan. The minutes were accepted as a fair record. Matters arising: The next general meeting takes place on 15th May (not 8th May – the Town Hall is not free that day). §8: Robin had promised to talk to the Observer about a detailed article on current progress. He appealed for a few of the best photos taken by each of those who went on the February exchange. Please send by email to email@example.com , with explanations.
- 3. Chairman’s Report. See report attached (Annex A). Roger picked out a few highlights, and thanked Derek for ghosting the report.
- 4. Election of officers. There had been no new offers to stand for office, and since the current members of the executive committee were willing to continue for another year, Paul Cabban proposed that the meeting vote to re-elect the officers en bloc. Christine Boulton-Lane seconded. This was carried nem con. For the record, the officers are: chairman Roger Mitchell, vice-chairman Derek Tomblin, treasurer Ray Keene, women’s issues Lynn White, Christine Boulton-Lane (the latter is also chair of the Health Working party), membership secretary Bill Evans, secretary Robin Gray.
- 5. Membership renewal. Bill reminded everyone that the annual membership fee of £5 per head is due. Robin announced that there is now a facility for donating to the Link on our website. He hoped that supporters would use this to set up a small but regular donation, money they would not really miss, though he realised people may already be committed to giving in this way to other charities like St Michael’s Hospice. A good number of people giving even £3 per month would provide some very useful income for the Link.
- 6. Correspondence. Robin had none to report.
- 7. Treasurer’s Report. Ray presented the balance sheet for the 2012 calendar year (since this is how these things are reported to the Charity Commission), together with the independent examiner’s report, which confirms that the accounts are fully compliant. Not counting any grants or other income for the Olympic team visit and the Exchange Visits, our income was £22,952.98 . That figure included certain ‘restricted’ income, that is, monies which could only be used to fund the Health Centre project. In particular, the Link received a generous donation of £10,000 for the project, from a friend of the Link who had offered to match our own fundraising. Our expenditure, including £13,000 on the Health Centre (but not including the Olympic Team visit or the Exchange Visits), was £23,512.72. Sending a container had been expensive, but it was packed full with furniture, medical equipment and supplies. An essential security wall around the Twin Towns Centre had cost £5,000. A donation from Hastings Runners had enabled us to break even on the Olympic Team’s visit. The Exchange trips are self-funding (a mix of British Council grants, monies raised by the schools, and personal self-funding by participants.) We had £7,299.18 in the (unrestricted) cash account as at 31.12.2012 and £14,784.56 in the (restricted) Gold account. The accounts were accepted nem con by the meeting. Roger thanked Ray for his fine work as our treasurer.
- 8. Schools Report inc. recent trip to SL. Roger introduced his Education Links Report 2012(see Annex B). He noted that Castledown School already has a grant in place and will be hosting a teacher from SL in May. Other new exchanges are more likely to start in February 2014. Roger briefly described this February’s visit. The group, led by Roger, included teachers representing Blacklands, Little Ridge, Christchurch, St Mary Star-of-the-Sea, St Paul’s and St Leonards Academy; Christine Boulton-Lane and Edwin Rew to evaluate progress on the Health Centre project; and Richard Lane who intended to firm up the link between Rotary Clubs, but ended up teaching. since several of the teachers fell ill. Illness, and the fact that two national holidays were announced without warning in that week, rather limited the amount of classroom contact this time. Roger thanked Richard Homewood, who ferried the group’s vast luggage to the airport, and Yvonne, who again acted as the exchange’s ‘minder’, an absolutely essential role. There were several presentations.
(a) Christine Boulton-Lane showed photos of the Health Centre. The extension has doubled the size of the centre. Plugs and switches are in place. The cesspit is not finished, and rubbish is still being burnt in a pit; but the well is finished, although water has to be taken indoors in buckets. There is very little medication to dispense. Sallu Lansana, the manager, has given Christine a list of what is needed, though we must consider whether we should send money for supplies to be bought in SL, or source supplies here and send them. The waiting mothers receive very useful health education information while they wait. The intention is to extend the waiting room. Sallu urges that a perimeter wall be constructed as soon as possible, to stop Health Centre land being squatted on. (Christine is hoping that local building firms here in Hastings UK may be prevailed upon to sponsor the building of such a wall. ) Other improvements needed: a covered area between the two buildings; the septic tank to be completed and proper waste disposal to be organised – children still scavenge on rubbish tips. Christine also visited the hospice and handed over a laptop to Melanie’s contact there. It is too much for us to take on supporting the hospice at the moment. It would be good if we could involve St Michael’s Hospice in a link.
Edwin Rew felt he had made some useful contacts in SL. Like Christine, he found the trip a moving experience, and has vivid memories not only of sights, but of sounds, too, and smells – the acrid smoke from burning waste tips.
(b) Richard Homewood reported briefly on HBC’s waste management project. It seems that the compost bins are not seen as a priority by the villagers. Of the 9 biogas generators, not all are working, but their value is clear, and Richard and his colleague Kevin continue to look for funding with which to extend the project.
(c) Gillian Rubi (St Mary Star-of-the-Sea/ Regmel link) explained that their two schools had started co-operating on healthy eating, and had now moved on to issues of ‘pupil voice’ – with a Unicef award as a ‘rights respecting school’ in view. They worked with the Regmel children on their ideas for children’s rights, to help them write a school’s charter. They played games to illustrate ideas of rights and responsibilities, but Gillian felt that even the staff had little understanding of what child-centred teaching could be. (Roger observed that there is a danger we are seen as a provider of resources. Some partnerships are really worthwhile, but it is not always appreciated that the Link is meant to be a bridge for mutual understanding, not just a charitable organisation.)
Jonathan Haddock had compatibility problems with the school’s AV set-up, but his experiences at Jui Lower School, where Andrew Kamara is the dynamic head. He found he was to teach a class of 60 children from 3 ½ to 8 years old. He introduced them to the idea of a storyboard as a first step towards writing a story. He taught tag rugby, which went down very well, and found the idea taken up by another teacher. Jonathan thanked Roger and Yvonne for making such a memorable experience possible.
Victoria Harrington of Blacklands (in its 3rd year of exchanging) praised head-teacher Sylvanus Campbell’s commitment. Sylvanus had prepared detailed work schedules for herself and Richard Lane. REC Hastings is using all the resources that have been sent out, and developing its own ideas. In the context of the recycling project, Victoria taught the children how to make beads out of paper. She, too, worked on a school charter, but found it hard to get the children to think for themselves.
Sophie Butel of St Leonards Academy was unable to attend the AGM, but sent a Powerpoint presentation on the work she did with the Huntingdon pupils on ‘rights and responsibilities in our different societies’.
Roger told us that a party of 10 is coming in May, and he encouraged us all to join in the programme of activities.
- 9. Future events, fundraising: (a) LOAF Walk is on 4th-6th May (Canterbury- Ashford/ Ashford-Rye/ Westfield area), though most would be interested in doing a short or a moderate distance on Monday 6th. Walkers can opt to raise funds for any international project, including their school’s SL work. (b) 30th June – Music on a Summer’s Afternoon at Friary Gardens. 2.30-5pm. Nice music, and strawberries for tea. (c) Friday July 12th Barbecue & folk music in St Helens Woods, 7.30. (d) 18th October (Hastings Week) – Sussex Brass Concert in aid of the Link. Details to be announced.
10. AOB: (a) Dorcas Johnson asked if we could not have an affiliated group membership. Roger promised to put that on the next agenda. (b) Lynn expressed thanks on behalf of all the schools, to Roger for his inspiring leadership and to Margaret for her unfailing support.
(c) Roger told us that, as part of the Exchange teachers’ programme, the traditional football tournament will take place on 24th May on the Darwell Campus – organisation again by Teresa Bennett.
11. Date of Next Meeting: Already decided: Wednesday 15th May (not as previously announced).
The meeting closed at 4.10pm.
Chairman’s Report 2012
The most significant event for our charity this year was the hosting of the Sierra Leone Olympics Team, Ola Sesay (ladies’ long jump) & Ibrahim Turay (men’s 400 meters) from 12th to 14th July, to train before going to the Olympic Village (see photo). They stayed, with their officials, as guests of the White Rock Hotel and had unlimited access to train at the William Parker Sports College. They attended a Civic Reception at the Town Hall, generously gave their time at charity events and presented prizes at the Primary Schools’ Sports Day. They were presented on stage at The Stade upon the arrival of the Olympic Torch for its overnight stay in Hastings.
Despite concerns, British Council funding was again made available for exchange visits by linked schools’ teachers. The UK teachers visited Sierra Leone in February and again returned full of enthusiasm. The Sierra Leone teachers came to the UK in June and experienced Morris Dancing, Crazy Golf with fish & chips, an Old Town Tour, a Civic Reception and the 7-a-side Linked Schools’ Football Tournament, as well as their daily teaching experiences. More details are given in the Schools’ Links Report.
After discussions with the District Medical Officer for WARDC and some senior medics, during the February visit to Sierra Leone, a decision was made to extend the Health Centre, rather than to employ two maternity nurses, in order to improve the appalling infant mortality rate. There are now sufficient trained nurses and their services are free. The catchment population has doubled since the original building was provided, so it is infrastructure that is needed. A very generous matched funding donation was received from a member and the structure of the building has now been completed. Further funding will be used to provide finishing works, refurbish the existing building and provide equipment, instruments, books, etc.
Further Commonwealth Local Government Forum funding was obtained for two more visits by the Hastings Borough Council team to develop their waste management initiatives on the Hastings pilot projects for WARDC. They constructed anaerobic digester units, which use animal and food waste to produce methane for cooking, thus saving on the use of wood and charcoal. Composting and recycling are also being introduced. Education on these matters is essential and this is being co-ordinated with the schools’ links.
A Thanksgiving Service to mark the 5th Anniversary of the Twinning, held at Christ Church, Blacklands, was very well attended. The linked schools gave presentations and displays and the pilot of a film, comparing the aspirations of secondary school pupils in the linked schools, was shown.
It was decided to hold two Quiz evenings this year and these were the main fund raising events. Sponsorship on the LOAF walk and a LOAF music evening raised further funds. Further donations were received from churches and business. Wrist bands, badges, T-shirts and donated copies of an African cook book were sold.
The new Kankaylay school, funded by their link school, Christ Church, was officially opened and the security wall around the Twin Town Centre was completed. Crutches and wheelchairs were collected for the charity, Operation Rise to distribute in Sierra Leone, including Hastings. A further container was sent out with furniture, equipment and books for the linked schools and the Health Centre.
We had displays at The Unity Service and St Leonards Festival. Efforts were made to develop or establish links with Sussex Coast College, Brighton University, St Michael’s Hospice and Hastingues, France.
For the year ahead we look forward to the next Teachers’ Exchange Visits, making progress with Maternity and Neonatal care and developing Waste Management improvements in our namesake town.
Education Links Report 2012
At the start of the year seven of our schools were continuing to develop partnerships with schools in Sierra Leone and work continued throughout the year both here and in the Hastings area in Sierra Leone to enhance the understanding of pupils in a range of global issues. I must congratulate teachers involved for their hard work and dedication to such worthwhile projects. Some of these partnerships have resulted in impressive initiatives which have made an impact on the whole school communities. Others have yet to capitalise so extensively on the possibilities inherent in such partnerships.
These seven partnerships are:
Blacklands CP School with REC Hastings Primary and Infant School
Little Ridge CP School with REC Jui Lower Primary School
St Leonards CE School with REC Rokel Primary School
Christ Church CE School with Kankalay Islamic School, Hastings
St Mary Star of the Sea RC School with Regmel Preparatory School, Hastings
St Paul’s CE School with REC Kossoh Town School
St Leonards Academy with Huntingdon Secondary School, Jui
In February a party of 9 teachers and teaching assistants from these schools, some grant funded and some self-funded, spent a week teaching at their partnership schools in Sierra Leone and in May three teachers from Sierra Leone returned here for a week. During that week school children contributed brilliantly to the Thanksgiving Service mentioned in the Chairman’ Report and the annual Soccer Tournament provided the usual excitement, hosted again by St Leonards Academy. A member of staff from Sussex Coast College travelled with the party in February exploring a link with the Government Technical Institute in Kissy. From there a member of staff joined the return party in May. A partnership is still being considered.
During the year we were delighted when the British Council announced a new grant scheme – “Connecting Classrooms”. £3000 is available for a partnership to exchange teachers involved in global curriculum projects during any particular year and five of the above were successful in their applications to fund exchanges during 2013. A further school raised sufficient funding from their own resources to send out a teacher in 2013.
In September a conference was held for staff from 6 more schools interested in forging partnerships in Sierra Leone. The intention is to take these forward in 2013.
These potential partnerships are:
Castledown CP School with St Mulumba RC Primary School, Hastings
Dudley Infant School with Edest Nursery and Infant School, Jui
Elphinstone CP School with Beckley Preparatory School, Allen Town
West St Leonards CP School with Glory Primary School, Hastings
Robertsbridge Community College with Kelly’s Technical Secondary School, Hastings
William Parker Sports College with Maynard Secondary School, Kossoh Town.
Exchanges of staff are planned from these schools in 2013.
All schools involved in the partnerships have representatives on our International Pupil Council which meets on a termly basis to share information and experience from the various schools and to consider such issues as Rights and Responsibilities in society both here and in Sierra Leone.
Roger Mitchell (Education Links Officer)