Hastings Sierra Leone Friendship Link
Minutes of Ordinary General Meeting
Wed 22nd November 2017 at Halton Baptist Church
Present: Richard Homewood (chair), Derek Tomblin, Roger Mitchell, Isabel Hodger, John Geater, Lynn White, Cllr Nigel Sinden, Liz MacKay, Richard Lane, Christine Lane, Eve Martin, Edwin Rew, Robin Gray (minutes)
- Apologies for Absence: Ray Keene, Martin Copland, Cllr James Bacon, Jacqui Homewood
- Minutes of OGM of 20th September: The minutes were accepted. Matters arising were dealt with in the course of today’s meeting.
- Chairman’s Report: Richard gave details of two current issues. (a) Donations from CoGS and the Hastings Association (UK). Lori Spragg of Build on Books has given some information about how the money is being spent: initially on emergency aid, food, medical supplies etc; and more recently on grants to help those who have lost their livelihood in the disaster (e.g. tools for a builder, a sewing machine for a seamstress). However, we are waiting for a full written report with useable photos of BoB workers wearing Link tee-shirts, and an outline of how BoB would use the £3k that we have in hand. When we have the right material, Richard will issue a press release stressing the role that the funds raised are having in helping people rebuild their lives so that they can stand on their own feet. (b) The Twin Towns Centre. A party of American doctors (working in the Hastings/ Waterloo area) will be using the TTC from December 8th. We are asked to put money into the building to put right various deficiencies. There was much discussion of a request to fund a fire-escape. Derek has looked into this with a fire prevention officer and recommends that a system of wirelessly interconnected smoke alarms plus an enlarged window on the first floor with removable bars on the inside and a ladder to help people get down to ground level (Nola suggested a soft landing area of rubber chips) would be a perfectly adequate and far cheaper alternative to the proposed concrete fire-escape. The latter would in any case impede any future extension work on that end of the building. Derek also proposed two steel fire-doors. The meeting accepted Derek’s recommendations. Although it is the Link’s firm intention not to invest in the TTC until the Village Development Committee has come up with a sound management plan, it was accepted that we should distinguish between putting right certain existing maintenance issues and funding future developments. As Mr Olu Palmer and Mr Edwin Jarrett are in SL helping to sort out the TTC’s problems, it was agreed that we are prepared to release money for urgent repairs, including work on the electrics, some repainting, replacing a broken water pipe and raising the height of the water tank. (Nigel explained that the present lack of pressure was causing the furring up of pipes on the upper floor.) The meeting agreed that we should remind all concerned that the village itself and the Hastings Association (UK) are joint owners of the TTC and hence responsible for maintenance. The Link sees its own role as providing funding, where possible, for new developmental projects. However, it was agreed to earmark up to £2k for a current repairs programme, but Richard will ask Yvette to obtain quotes.
- Treasurer’s Report. Martin was unfortunately unable to attend today’s meeting because of illness, but sent his usual detailed Treasurer’s Report together with a spreadsheet documenting our commitments under a variety of headings. The meeting expressed its admiration and thanks for the continued fundraising efforts of Dain Jensen and his colleagues, who raised over £8k with their coast-to-coast walk. Richard will ask Dain, who is one of the Link’s three Patrons, if he would like to join the Trustees.
- Schools Report: Isabel was not able to report on any progress with getting the schools’ sanitation needs surveyed – we have lost contact with the engineer who was going to do it. She is trying to get clarification from the ministry for whom he works, and may go back to enlist the help of Chris Berry of DIfD. Roger reported on the recent visit from 7 teachers from SL. He thanked all those who had helped. Isabel’s contribution to maths training maths for teachers had been particularly important. He hopes that a language training course will be possible next time. One lesson that has been underlined this year is that the personal qualities of the visiting teachers are key. Enthusiasm, flexibility, openness and willingness to learn are vital. Roger & Isabel will work on guidelines for what is expected of SL teachers working in our classrooms. Our Mayor has agreed to issue next year’s invitations in the name of HBC, which should help to avoid the visa problems we had this year. Isabel has helped schools with their British Council grant applications. Grants have been agreed for all 5 schools requesting a grant (two teachers per school). Richard & Christine Lane will be going in February, and another person will be needed to support Isabel – someone with experience of the schools in Hastings SL. The group flies with KLM on Friday 9th Feb, returning on Sun 18th/Mon 19th. The intention is that schools will invite an SL teacher back in May. The present round of grants ends in 2018, and there is no indication as yet as to whether there will be a new round. Roger expressed his concern that schools are too often slow in paying their contribution. Fortunately he has been able to rely on the Link’s funds to fill the gap in the meantime. The meeting expressed its thanks to Roger and Isabel for the huge amount of work they do on the schools front. Other news: Sue Furness is trying to encourage the International Students Council to be more active. We have made no progress with involving Battle Abbey School in a partnership. There is the possibility of Chantry Infants School in Bexhill joining the consortium.
- Health Report: There have been no recent sub-committee meetings, but Christine has been in frequent contact with Binte, the CHO. Binte is currently working on obtaining official permission to use a small room as a dedicated area for TB patients, to keep these separate from mothers and their babies. When this permission comes through, we may need to put in a little more funding above the £250 already agreed for the upgrade.
- Fundraising events: (a) The Orange Quiz Sheets. These are selling well. They appear to be a little easier this year. Supplies are available from Nola, Robin and other Link members, and from the HIC. Members are asked to push sales of the sheets at their workplace, church, club etc. (b) Big Quiz Night in March. Still no response from Ark William Parker, in spite of Nola’s best efforts. Roger will approach Jane Fletcher, who has been very supportive in the past; and also his contact at King’s Church (the Hastings Centre) to see if that might be an alternative venue. Failing these two, perhaps we could approach the Hastings Academy on the Rye Road. (c) Lynn has been investigating the possibility of a fashion show on an African theme. It seems that it would be too ambitious for Sussex Coast College students, but Lorraine Roberts and her students at the University of Brighton expressed enthusiastic interest in taking this on as a multi-media project, though Lynn has not heard back from them for some time. St Mary-in-the-Castle was suggested as a possible, high profile venue, and the meeting thought this would be good. (d) Bannatyne’s has offered Lynn a dinner-dance booking at the same rate as two years ago. The meeting asked Lynn to go ahead to make a firm booking for November 3rd (Robin to arrange for a deposit of £200 through Martin.) Lynn, Richard and Jacqui will approach Lianne Carroll and The Kites. It was not felt that there would be clash with Bonfire Night celebrations – the target audience is rather different. We should all start thinking about securing a small number of really attractive, high value raffle prizes. (e) There will be a wine-tasting evening in July and a music quiz in September. Robin suggested that members with musical contacts should be looking for a prestigious local musical group – choir etc – who might make the Link the beneficiary of a Christmas concert in 2018.
- Any Other Business: (a) The Hastings Association’s Valentine’s Day Ball will take place at the Royal Regency Banqueting Hall, Manor Park on 17th (b) Derek will liaise with John Lyttle to arrange for the Link to have a table at the Unity Service on January 21st. (c) Robin asked members to consider using Give As You Live, especially in the run-up to Christmas. One simply signs up at www.giveasyoulive.com, naming the Link (say) as one’s favourite charity, and when one buys goods on line from a wide range of stores and retailers, including Amazon, a small percentage (usually 1% to 1.5%) is passed on by the seller to that charity, without any further cost to the buyer. Seven Link members are currently doing this, and the Link has benefited to the tune of over £60 in recent months.
- Date of Next Meeting: We thanked Edwin for arranging for us to use the excellent facilities of Halton Baptist Church. Unfortunately, as we want to move meetings to Thursdays to enable Richard to get over from Surrey more easily, and since Halton Baptist Church is not available on Thursdays, we must look for a different venue. Derek will look into the availability of St Helen’s/ St Barnabas’s on a Thursday. We have pencilled in Thursday 25th January for our next meeting. This date, and the venue, to be confirmed. (Confirmed as 25th Jan at St Helen’s Church.)