Hastings Sierra Leone Friendship Link
Annual General Meeting
held at the Town Hall, Hastings, on 10th May 2014
The formal business was preceded by an African-style buffet lunch provided by Yvonne, Yvette and Janet. Once again the Link would like to express its appreciation for our London friends’ hugely generous kindness and support.
Minutes of the meeting
Present: Yvonne Johnson, Yvette John, Janet Seisay, Tunde Rahman, Emmanuel Nylander, Eileen Evans, Bill Evans, Margaret Mitchell, Liz Mackay, Linda Astell, Tania Kavanagh, Ray Keene, Christine Boulton-Lane, Alison Day, Janet Jarvis, Corinne Harris, Mandy Hinxman, Carole Cabban, Paul Cabban, Cllr Peter Pragnell, Cllr Eve Martin, Sue Furness, Jacqui Lockwood, Roger Mitchell (chair §1), Nola McSweeney, Richard Lane, Richard Homewood (chair §2), Derek Tomblin, Lynn White, Cllr Eve Martin, Melanie Bray, Cllr Nigel Sinden, Cllr Jeremy Birch, John Geater, Robin Gray (minutes)
1. Apologies for absence: Angela Gartland, Richard White, Diane Reed, Jane Smith, Michael & Rosemary Foster, Amber Rudd MP, Anne Hanney, Stella Underwood, Ernie Grice, Edwin Rew.
2. Minutes of AGM 2013 and matters arising. With one correction (the AGM 2013 was held at Little Ridge School, not at St Paul’s School as indicated erroneously in the heading), the minutes were accepted as a true record and signed by the chairman. There were no matters arising.
3. Chairman’s report. Roger presented his written report for the calendar year 2013 (see Appendix A), and commented on some events that have taken place in the early months of 2014. February ’14 saw the largest exchange visit to SL to date: 20 participants. Much more work was seen to be done at the health centre; most of the 2 schools partnerships are going well. Roger thanked all those who have helped to make the Link’s work so successful, though he urged that we make every effort to involve more people in order to spread the load.
4. Election of officers. Roger having decided to stand down after a two year stint as chairman, nominations for the chairmanship had been invited. Richard Homewood had been proposed by Ray Keene and seconded by Lynn White, and had agreed to allow his name to be put forward. There being no other nominations, this was put to the vote and carried unanimously, and Richard took the chair for the rest of the meeting.
Richard thanked Roger for his great work as chairman, and said that no doubt he will turn to Roger for advice as he endeavours to follow such a hard act. As no nominations for the other executive officer posts had been received, and since the current officers (Derek Tomblin: vice-chair; Bill Evans: membership secretary; Ray Keene: treasurer; Robin Gray: secretary) were willing to continue for another year, this was put to the vote and carried unanimously.
5. Membership Renewal. Bill asked members to make sure that they let him know if they change their email address, since Bill depends on email to send out membership reminders etc. We consider our friends from the Hastings Association UK Branch to be automatically members of the Link, but Yvonne insisted that her association will be paying a lump sum donation of £50 to cover their affiliation.
6. Treasurer’s Report. Ray presented his accounts, together with a written explanation (for the latter, see Appendix B). Ray reminded us that the accounts are complicated by the fact that payments in and payments out straddle the end of the calendar year. The quiz sheets and quiz night in 2013 raised £1867, whereas in 2014 they raised £2323. Our thanks go to all who help with these, and in particular to Nola. Nola will not be able to devote such a lot of time and energy to selling the orange sheets in future, and hopes that it will be possible to set up a team to cover this work, this autumn. She will be happy to advise. Roger observed that even if we made a small loss (about £500) on the calendars this time, their publicity value was still considerable. Mandy wondered if the format was quite right: perhaps a smaller, narrower calendar might sell better. It was agreed that if we decide to produce a calendar again, we will discuss the format.
Ray noted that the accounts had been accepted by the Trustees.
7. Any Other Business.
(1) Roger reminded us that the second half of the exchange runs from 17th to 24th May. The soccer tournament takes place on Friday 23rd at St Leonards Academy (ex-FVS) at 1.30. All are welcome. Cars should be parked in Filsham Road.
(2) Christine reminded us that the BBQ on July 12th is to be a family affair, running from 3pm to 7pm. Details to follow.
(3) Roger told us that this year’s Thanksgiving service for the twinning link takes place on Sunday 14th September at 3pm, followed by a meal. He hopes we will be well represented.
(4) Roger announced that there will be a fundraising concert on 17th October at 7.30pm in St.Mary-in-the-Castle. Music by Sussex Brass and others.
(5) Derek proposed that we release two tranches of £5k from the Gold account in order to allow work to start on the perimeter wall around the health centre, to safeguard the site and the well. Ray seconded the proposal, and it was carried nem con. Robin noted that he has put in a bid to the British High Commission for some funding towards this, but we have not yet heard the result of this application.
(6) Christine confirmed that she will be organising a team to run a ‘posh jumble sale’ in September or October. The church hall at Christ Church in London Road is available to us. Liz Mackay has kindly offered storage. We are all encouraged to start putting items aside.
(7) John urged that ‘Hastings Sierra Leone’ be added to the list of our twin towns on the sign on the Rye Road. Jeremy promised to raise the matter with the Council.
(8) Robin noted that the Round Table has invited local charities to bid for a pitch at the Beer & Music Festival in early July. The winner will run, and have the profits from, a ’bungee run’ plus £500. Two runners-up will have a pitch for their information stand plus £250. He will put in a bid.
8. Date of next ordinary general meeting: Wednesday 11th June at 6.05 in the Town Hall.
The formal business of the AGM was followed by presentations arising out of the February trip and updating us on current progress.
(1) Alison and Corinne spoke movingly of their experiences as first-time visitors to Sierra Leone, and about the work they did with the teachers and children in their partner schools. They were deeply impressed by the welcome they received, by the dedication of the (often unpaid) teachers, and by the children’s thirst for education.
(2) Derek outlined the work that has been done to supply wells to Edest School and Jui School with funds raised by Dudley Infants and Little Ridge respectively. Derek explained why a well is the best option for supplying water in the area. The two wells now have fully functioning hand-pump systems.
(3) Christine described the multi-faceted work that Sallu Lansana and his team are carrying out at the health centre. She showed pictures of an important meeting at the Twin Town Centre for the launch of an important Helen Keller Foundation project to provide a programme of injections for babies. Since the visit, Sallu has reported that the two boxes of medicines sourced by Liz and handed over by Christine had already saved the lives of 4 women. Looking to the future, Christine stressed how important it is that we work with the SL health authority and the health centre, supporting them and not imposing our own expectations.
(4) Richard echoed Alison’s description of the emotions one feels in Hastings SL. He described the huge waste management problems the Freetown area faces, and re-capped the initiatives undertaken in 2010 & 2011 – composting, education, a British Council schools seminar, a mini-conference in the UK etc. He felt that that much of that early momentum is lost; but that although national projects are too big for us, he will continue to refine the biogas digester system he has introduced, in the hope that it will be more and more widely adopted in the Hastings area.
Chairperson’s Annual Report 2013
Management: Committee Meetings: Our General Committee met four times during the year to hear reports from the Treasurer and the conveners of sub-committees and to discuss all issues affecting the work of the Link. Sub-Committee Meetings: Regular meetings of the sub-committees for Health and for Education took place throughout the year.
Partnership Activities with the Community of Hastings Sierra Leone
Exchange Visits: In February a party of 12 travelled to Sierra Leone accompanied by Yvonne Johnson. Of these 10 worked for a week in schools and two worked with the staff of the Health Centre. Five of the teachers benefitted from British Council grants while the rest of the party were either subsidised by their schools or funded themselves. In May a party of 9 teachers from Sierra Leone spent a week in their partner schools and enjoyed a full programme of activities in the locality.
On-going Projects: Health Centre: During the year the building of the extension to the Health Centre continued and at the end of the year was nearing completion. During and since the visit to the Health Centre in February the sub-committee has been increasingly concerned about building a perimeter wall around the premises, both as a protection against vandalism and ‘land-grabbing’. This is a costly undertaking since the area concerned is about an acre. The enhancement of the equipment and drug resources available to the Centre has also been a concern that has met with some success.
Waste and Recycling: Richard Homewood reported mixed success in the development of this work in the absence of a grant to enable personal visits to trouble-shoot some of the difficulties that arose in the operation of bio-digesters. Materials used in the construction of recycling containers were stolen. It has been encouraging to have some local technical support, particularly from the Kissy Technical Institute, and plans were made for Richard and others to join the exchange party in 2014.
Schools: We were encouraged as 5 more pairs of schools (making 12 partnerships in all) were recruited as partners during the year and applications for further grants from the British Council were successful. This enabled plans to be laid for even larger parties of teachers to be to be exchanged in 2014. The enthusiasm of schools involved is spreading. Despite this there was concern that, as some schools moved to academy status, this enthusiasm might not be shared by their new managements.
Fund Raising: The main concern during the year was to raise sufficient funding to secure the Health Centre. A range of events took place:
- Over the Christmas period 2012 and into 2013 the ‘orange quiz sheets’ designed by Robin Gray and Nola McSweeney were very popular as was the hugely successful quiz night masterminded by the same team in March.
- Some used the LOAF Walk in May to raise sponsorship.
- Attendance at the St Leonards Festival raised some interest.
- A Prom Concert given by Sussex Brass in Hastings Week drew a good attendance. It was wonderful to have a large contingent of our Sierra Leonean friends from London joining us and donating a very significant sum that had been raised by them and a further gift from the Church of the Good Shepherd in Collier Row.
- Robin Gray worked tirelessly to produce a calendar. Prints of places in 1066 Country by local artists made a beautiful Christmas gift but sadly did not sell as well as had been hoped.
- Robin has made application to a number of grant-making trusts including Comic Relief without success during the year. The expenditure of so much effort for so little return is discouraging.
- Two schools committed themselves to raising funds to provide wells at their partners’ premises. Other schools undertook a variety of fund-raising efforts to enable teacher exchanges beyond the British Council funding and made significant educational resources available to their partners.
Goods to Sierra Leone: A container was sent out at the end of 2012 and arrived safely. Goods for a second were assembled at St Paul’s School and packed at the end of 2013 for transit. A large quantity of educational material was assembled along with medical supplies for the Health Centre. The gross cost of sending such a container, needing to be bonded until opened by reliable people in Hastings, amounted to nearly £3500. Whether such an outlay is good value was of concern to the committee.
Partnership with the Sierra Leone Hastings Association (UK): We continued to be privileged to have such good friends amongst the Sierra Leonean diaspora in London. Your chairman and his wife were warmly welcomed at the Association’s Valentine Dance. A group of 21 from the Link attended the Association’s annual Thanksgiving Service in September and were royally received. Yvonne Johnson and Yvette John and others were regular visitors to our events in Hastings, always bringing a choice buffet – to the LOAF Walk, the AGM, the School Soccer Tournament, and the Hastings Week Concert.
To sum up, 2013 was a successful year for the Link in many ways with significant advances in Health and Education cooperation. Our concern must be that we have not gained greatly in committed membership. We need to find ways of communicating a clear vision of what we can achieve in future to a wider constituency.
I close by thanking my colleague officers on the Committee and Trustees of the Link for their hard work throughout the year. Beyond those with specific roles there are many others who attend our rather ad-hoc Committee and support at various events and in different ways during the year .The encouragement we receive from within Hastings Borough Council and among its officers is greatly valued.
Roger Mitchell. May 2014
Hastings Sierra Leone Friendship Link
Treasurer’s Report for year ended 31 December 2013
Firstly let me say that the figures within these comments relate to the last financial year and as such are somewhat historical.
In the year income totalled £50,941 (all figures to nearest pound) of which £18,813 was normal income with the balance of £32,129 relating to the visits to & from Sierra Leone in early 2013 and the advance payment of air fares by those who travelled in February 2014.
Similarly the expenditure for 2013 totalled £54,400 of which £34,179 related to the exchanges in 2013 and the payment of air fares relating to the trip in February 2014.
There was a shortfall of £1,408 between income & expenses before the exchange trip transactions which increased to £3,458 in total. The exchange trip timings mean that the income & expenses for these events bridge two financial years but all costs are covered from the schools & individuals concerned except that our charity pays the costs for Mrs Y Johnson who is invaluable in assisting the smooth running of the visits to Sierra Leone.
The main income was derived from the quiz in early 2013 which, together with the sales of the Orange quiz sheets, raised £1,867 after costs. The LOAF walk raised £625 whilst the Sussex Brass concert raised £755 net of costs.
We continue to receive support from Hastings Borough Council in connection with the official twinning with Hastings, Sierra Leone both financially and in the provision of a meeting room and other services.
Robin Gray, our Secretary, produced and distributed a calendar for 2014 with sales being made through outlets in the town and through supporters. The printing and design costs were £4,810 and in the financial year we received sale proceeds of £2260. With further amounts in 2014 a total of £4,289 was received. A further £151 was retained by our linked schools for their own funds.
During the year we received donations of £1,000 each from the Church of the Good Shepherd and the Hastings Association Sierra Leone (the London group) which are shown as part of the sum of £2420 received specifically for the Health project and further unrestricted donations of £1,546.
Our expenses are specified in the Income & Expenditure statement and are self-explanatory – the sundry expenses were mainly the football medals (covered by a donation) and a new screen used when making presentations to schools and other groups. During the year we transferred a total of £13,000 from the Gold account (ring-fenced for this purpose) towards the work on the Health Centre extension which was offset by £5,000 transferred from the Cash account to the Gold account as the cost of the erection of the security wall round the Twin Town Centre had been understated, resulting in funds from the Gold account being used rather than the Cash account.
The income and expenditure figures having been independently examined in line with Charity Commission rules and accepted by the Trustees are presented for your information.
Hon.Treasurer, Hastings Sierra Leone Friendship Link