Hastings Sierra Leone Friendship Link

Minutes of the 2017 AGM

Minutes of AGM- 15 June 2017

Held at St Helens Church Hall, Hastings


 Richard Homewood (Chairman), Derek Tomblin (Minutes), Martin Copland (Treasurer),

Christine Boulton-Lane, Richard Lane, Isabel Hodger, Roger Mitchell, Eileen Evans, Bill Evans, Lynn White, Richard White, Janet Jarvis, Cllr Peter Pragnell, Cllr Nigel Sinden, Ray Keene, Edwin Rew, Adele Rew, John Geater, Michael Foster, Eve Martin, Liz Mackay, Nola McSweeney.

1.Apologies forAbsence

Sir Peter Penfold, Robin Gray, Dain Jensen, Diane Reid.

2.Minutes of 2016 AGM

 These were accepted by the meeting with no matters arising.

3.Chairman’s Report (Richard Homewood)

Richard went through his report, highlighting various items. A copy of the full report is attached (Annex A).

4.Schools‘ Report (Roger Mitchell & Isabel Hodger)

Roger and Isabel both presented their reports on different aspects of the schools’ links. Both full reports are attached. (Annex B)

5.Health Report (Christine Boulton-Lane)

 Christine presented  her report, a full copy of which is attached. (Annex C)

6.Membership Renewal (Bill Evans)

Bill advised that there are still a few membership renewals outstanding.

7.Treasurer’s Report (Martin Copland)

Martin went through his report, explaining some of the items of income and expenditure. He pointed out that it relates to the year ending 31 December 2016.

In view of the healthy funds in the account Ray asked if there was an end date for spending on the proposed projects. Richard said there are various approved projects for the TTC and Health Centre as well as the Sanitation and Water projects mentioned by Isabel. Richard emphasised that all projects need to be sustainable and we need to be sure there are dedicated and responsible people in SL to take them forward. It may be necessary to get the assistance of the Sierra Leone Association in London to motivate their contacts in Hastings, SL. Christine said that there are Head Man elections next year which may help the situation if the right person is elected. The new road which passes along side the TTC could affect the situation as it is changing the dynamics of the village. Nigel said that the old bakery building had been demolished, making room for further development and that the water tank needs to be raised to increase the water pressure. Richard confirmed that the accommodation area of the TTC needs refurbishment but we do need to have a proper business plan for the building to be run efficiently. Currently there seem to be little record of income and expenditure. In response to Nola, Richard confirmed that we should not cease fund raising as the funds we have can be spent very rapidly on Health, Schools and the Community.

Michael asked if the availability of sanitary towls was an issue regarding the attendence of girls at school. John said this was an issue elsewhere. Isabel mentioned a womans‘ group who would know about this. It was agreed that the Trustees would explore this further.

John mentioned the provision of prosthetic limbs due to the numbers of amputees in SL. Christine said she was looking into the details John had given her and would report back to a future meeting.

Ray noted that there was still a large sum in the Cash Account. Martin said this had now been moved to the Gold Account to earn some interest, albeit very small.

8.Election of Officers

Roger took the chair for the election of the new Chairman. Richard was nominated by Michael, seconded by Peter and elected unanimously. He returned to the Chair for the remainder of the meeting.

Vice Chairman- Ray nominated  Derek, Christine seconded and Derek was elected unanimously.

Hon.Secretary-  Nigel nominated Robin, Roger seconded and Robin was elected unanimously.

Hon. Treasurer- Christine nominated Martin, Nigel seconded and Martin was elected unanimously.

Hon. Membership Secretary- Roger nominated Bill, Eve seconded and Bill was elected unanimously.

9.Any Other Business

  (a) Peter asked why visas were not granted to the teachers who were invited to visit in May. Roger was told that there was concern that they might abscond. He had written to Amber Rudd but it was during the national election so she was unable to deal with the question. He will write again. He thought that the British Council may have changed its policy on exchange visits because of the possibility of absconding. Peter Pragnell will have a word with Amber. Michael asked if it might be possible for The Link to provide some sort of Guarantee but what would the consequences be for The Link if a teacher did abscond?

(b) Nigel suggested that we might link up with a local internet connection being used by the Lottery in Hastings SL to get internet access in the TTC.

 (c) John mentioned a LOAF Project initiative that had sponsored Urban Saints from the UK to lecture in the TTC and wondered if further funding might come from The Link. Richard will ask Robin to look at The Link’s constitution because John had indicated that the activity would extend beyond the Hastings SL area and there might be a restriction on using the funds in this way .

10.Next General Meeting

 Since HBC are now charging for the use of Muriel Matters House and parking is problematic a new venue has been under consideration. Richard W offered a room in St Pauls School for future meetings. Richard H will ask Robin to liaise with Richard W regarding the date for the next general meeting.

Annex A

Chairpersons Annual Report 2016/17


Another challenging year for the Link which seems to have flown by.  A year of optimism with the build up to the tenth anniversary of the twinning link and the news that the teachers exchanges could resume in 2017 and welcoming Isabel on board to help Roger but then hopes dashed by the news that the Sierra Leone teachers had been refused their visas for the return visit.

The year began with the small group visiting Sierra Leone to assess the impact of Ebola on education and health services and what the priorities were for us to support. My thanks go to those who made the journey, Roger, Christine and Richard and to Yvonne, without whose support and guidance, the visit would not have happened.

The visit enabled Roger to assess the impact Ebola had had on the schools and education and Christine was able to establish how the supplies we had sent during the outbreak had been used to support the Health Centre and assess what else we could do to help it continue to provide health care and develop. With Yvonne’s support, the team was also able to start rebuilding relationships with the Head Man and the local Association and to begin to identify future priorities for the community. We will hear from Roger later about his work with Isabel and the schools and from Christine about the progress with the Health Centre.

That dialogue with the Hastings Development Committee and the Hastings Association has led to some interesting discussions on future projects and funding. These discussions will need to continue so that we can finalise and agree the Link Strategy 2017 – 2022 and develop the Action Plan to prioritise projects for funding.

Management of the Link

Moving on to the events of 2016;

Committee Meetings

Our General Committee met on five occasions 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, ably chaired by Christine and Roger respectively.

Trustees Meetings

The Trustees also met on four occasions to discuss and respond to correspondence from the Development Committee in Sierra Leone, work through the detail of and refine the draft strategy, review budget commitments and discuss further ideas for fundraising activities.

Partnership Activities with the Community of Hastings Sierra Leone

 Exchange Visits:

The small team was able to visit Hastings SL in February 2016 to review the situation and identify priorities for future work. Neither the British Council nor the local education authorities here in the UK would support teacher exchange visits so close to the end of the Ebola outbreak.

The exchange visit in February this year was possible however and coincided with the 10th Anniversary of the Twinning of the two towns. Hastings Borough Council’s Deputy Mayor, Cllr Nigel Sinden, was able to join the group of teachers, health sub-committee members and Yvonne and Yvette to support the formal celebrations organized by the Sierra Leone Hastings Association and meetings with fellow dignitaries in Hastings and Freetown.

On their return our Patron, Michael Foster, then High Sheriff of East Sussex, hosted a champagne reception to celebrate the 10th anniversary at the Town Hall accompanied by the Mayor, Deputy Mayor and Leader of the Council.

As Roger will explain later, optimism for the future was unfortunately subsequently dashed when the Sierra Leone teachers were refused their visas for the return visit which somewhat diluted the anniversary celebrations in the UK. We do still however await the unveiling of the new twinning sign on the Borough Boundary!

 Twin Town Centre:

We have been in extensive dialogue with the Hastings Development Committee in Sierra Leone over the needs of the Twin Town Centre. Minor repairs were agreed and funded but there was real concern over the long term sustainability of the building. Efforts were made during the February 2016 and 2017 visits to establish a clear understanding of the need to operate it on a more ‘commercial’ basis and generate income from letting out the residential accommodation and the function rooms to pay for ongoing maintenance and staffing.

What became clear was that the TTC needs a major injection of funds to redecorate it, carry out repairs to the residential accommodation and plumbing, replace the generators and generally upgrade the facilities so that they are attractive to rent. Numerous ideas have been submitted by the Hastings Development Committee and have been discussed with the Hastings Association UK but there is a nervousness of funding this work without the assurance that it can be operated on a business-like basis to generate income to sustain its future. The discussions will continue.

 Health Centre:

Christine will report in detail on the work with the Health Centre and the local Health Authorities. The two key successes during the year were the drilling of a new borehole and the refurbishment of the laboratory in the Health Centre, both funded by the Link.

Our thanks must also go to Christine and the rest of the Health Sub-Committee for their determined efforts.

Waste and Recycling

I was unable to accompany the team in February 2016 and no progress has therefore been made with the waste and recycling projects. There is however still support for the Biogas project from the local community but it would need constant supervision.


Ably assisted by Isabel, Roger has made significant progress with the schools twinning but with every new school twinning they seem to suffer a set back with another withdrawing from the scheme.

In addition to the work on sharing good teaching practice investigations are underway to develop proposals for improving basic sanitation and water supplies in schools as the lack of these is often the reason children, especially girls do not regularly attend school.

Our thanks must go to Roger, Isabel and all of the teacher team for their continued efforts to maintain the links between the schools and to rebuild them now visits are possible once again.

Fund Raising

Fundraising efforts continued at a pace during 2016. Work to raise the profile of the Link through increased press coverage and the Facebook site continued alongside further development and updating of the website.  Our thanks must go to Steph for his time and efforts on the web site.

There remains however a concern that we have not gained greatly in committed membership as a consequence and we need to continue to develop ways of marketing the Link, presenting it in a professional manner and attracting new members.

We must offer our special thanks all of our members and our friends and colleagues in the community for the tremendous efforts they have made during the year. We must also thank Hastings Borough Council for its continued support even in the face of severe financial constraints it faces and we hope this will continue.

A range of events took place during the year and raised significant sums for the work to continue:

  • Over the Christmas period 2015 and into 2016 the ‘orange quiz sheets’ designed by Robin Gray and Nola McSweeney proved extremely popular once again.
  • The traditional annual quiz night masterminded by the same team was held in March at the William Parker School. It proved extremely popular attracting over 30 teams and raised over £2,400.
  • A third ‘Cheese Fest’ organized by Jo Avery raised another £317.
  • Most memorably one of our patrons, Dain Jensen ran the infamous Marathon Des Sables across the Sahara with colleague Adam and raised over £4,000.
  • A wine tasting evening in July proved extremely popular and raised another £650.
  • In September we held a Music quiz which again proved extremely popular and raised over £550.
  • The year ended with a very successful Christmas Concert supported by a varied group of musicians, vocalists and choirs which raised £2,500.
  • We have also received generous donations from fundraising by the local community and from our partners in the Sierra Leone Hastings Association (UK) and the Church of the Good Shepherd.

Partnership with the Sierra Leone Hastings Association (UK):

We have continued to be privileged to have such good friends amongst the Sierra Leonean diaspora in London. They have been extremely helpful during our discussions with their counterparts in the Sierra Leone Hastings Association (SL).

Yvonne Johnson and Yvette John and others were regular visitors to our events in Hastings, always bringing a choice buffet – to the BBQ, the AGM, the School Soccer Tournament, and the Gala Concert.

We warmly thank the Association and the Church of the Good Shepherd for their generous support and donations throughout the year.

In Conclusion

2016 has been another extremely challenging but successful year.  There is no doubt that without the efforts of all of our members and friends in the community we could not have achieved what we have.

We need to ensure that every penny we raise is put to good use and has a maximum and sustained impact. We must maintain the dialogue with the Head Man and the local committee members and work toward a better understanding of the priorities and how we can develop sustainable solutions for the future.

I close by thanking my friends and colleagues here, officers on the Committee and Trustees of the Link for their support and hard work throughout the year. Beyond those with specific roles there are many others who attend our rather ad-hoc Ordinary General Meetings and support us at various events and in many different ways during the year.

Richard Homewood,

15 June 2017


Annex B

Education Links 2016/7  – Report to HSLFL AGM 15th June 2017

In 2016 there were no teacher visits from the UK in February as recovery from the Ebola outbreak had not been confirmed early enough to plan. I went myself to visit all the schools to maintain personal contact.

However, in May 2016 two teachers, Esther Tommy and Letitia Huggins, were invited to the UK by All Saints/Dudley and Ark Little Ridge and worked for a week in those schools to the benefit and pleasure of all involved.

In June Francis Mason came over and stayed with me for a week and together we visited all our partner schools.

We started the year with 11 partnerships involving 12 of our schools and 11 schools in SL. (All Saints and Dudley teamed up as one end of a partnership with Edest School in Jui).  These were joined by Guestling CE Primary Academy setting up a link with Maynard School in Kossoh Town and by Hollington Primary Academy joining with Jui Upper Primary and Infant schools.

In the summer of 2016 the British Council announced the terms of its new 3-year grant system. This involves each pair of schools attending two sessions of a course on Critical Thinking and Problem Solving in the curriculum both here and in SL. Access to travel grants is dependent upon satisfactory completion of the course including attendant work in schools and the completion of specific forms. The grants only allow two teachers to visit SL and does not include funds for return visits.

As the time approached for applying for grants there was some confusion as to which schools had attended the course in SL and this led to two switches: St Leonards CE School switched from partnering with REC Rokel to linking with the New Baptist Model School in Grafton and St Mary Star of the Sea School moved from Regmel Preparatory School to join with St Mulumba RC School. It appeared that Regmel was no longer interested in a link.

In the event 11 of our schools completed the training but only 4 partnerships succeeded in achieving grants – All Saints/Dudley, St Leonards CE, St Mary Star of the Sea and West St Leonards. Others will be applying or reapplying with a view to visiting SL in February 2018.

In February 2017, two members of staff from each of the above partnerships accompanied Isabel Hodger and me to SL. This was a very successful visit. Again, the arrangements made for us by Francis Mason were invaluable. Logistically it was difficult for us and for Francis as there was a large party from the Hull/Freetown partnership that he coordinates as well. We were expected to take part in events organised by the British Council as well as working in the schools. The education party stayed in the El Campanero Hotel in Rokel. This proved very convenient for our needs. In addition to the work of teachers in the schools Isabel organised a workshop morning at the Twin Town Centre for teachers in mathematics. This was well attended and greatly appreciated. Isabel found that Letitia Huggins showed great potential for being developed as a teacher trainer.

Since then we had been working hard to arrange a return visit for seven partner teachers. Each of the schools represented in February and two others raised the funds to invite a partner to spend a week here while Isabel invited Letitia to come again so that she could develop her skills in mathematics teaching. Francis too was hoping to return for a week with us.

In the event all requests for visas were rejected. If we cannot overcome this problem it will have a seriously depressing effect on our work, decreasing significantly the benefit to our own children. The programme we had prepared for the week had mostly to be abandoned though the soccer tournament and the final concert at St Matthew’s Church with Sussex Brass went ahead. The former was a huge success, thanks largely to Teresa Bennett at St Leonards Academy. Ten schools entered both girls’ and boys’ teams, necessitating establishing a fifth pitch. The concert was not as well attended as it would have been if our guests from SL had been with us but nonetheless raised a goodly sum with the Band giving their services free and St Matthew’s also making no charge.

We have recently been dismayed that two of our schools have withdrawn from their partnerships – ARK Little Ridge and Robertsbridge Community College. The former breakdown is particularly sad as the school had been supportive of and worked hard at their link from the outset in 2007.

However, we have been able to recruit three schools to replace these and to maintain a link with REC Rokel mentioned above. Battle Abbey Senior school will be linking with Kelly’s Vocational School and the Prep School with Jui Lower. Battle and Langton will pick up the link with REC Rokel.

Schools are now working on reapplying for grants to enable a good visit to take place next year but our major concern must be the obtaining of visas for any guests hoping to come to the UK.

In relation to visas we have another problem with the cost of obtaining them. Officially, according to the UK Government website, they cost £87. We, however, had to pay the equivalent of £140. This cost was notified to us by Francis and corroborated by the British Council in Freetown. It seems that the issue of visas is now in the hands of a private company which must be making a mint out of the process. This is something that we need to get to the bottom of as soon as possible. We will be raising it with Sir Peter Penfold next week.

RM 15.6.17

Roger invited Isabel to add some comments.

She remarked on the success of the Mathematics training and that it had been asked for specifically at a meeting of Headteachers with Roger during his visit in 2016. Help in this area is greatly appreciated and is of real value.

She then spoke of plans to survey the sanitation and water supply needs of our various link schools. She had been in contact with the head of DfID who had introduced her to a person who could be relied upon to provide expert surveys of the needs of each school.  He has offered a quotation of the cost of such surveys. This possibility will be studied by the Trustees at their next meeting. The outcome could be a major factor in improving the health and attendance of pupils, particularly of girls.

Annex C

Report to the Annual General Meeting from the Health Committee

My visit to Hastings in February exposed a number of problems as well as much pleasure in seeing the facility in full use and well run.  In particular it was a pleasure working with CHO Binta Bah who has taken over from Sallu Lansana who is now working within the Waterloo Area Health Authority which covers our facility.

Both the Laboratory and Pharmacy needed to be completed – This was put in hand during my visit and both these areas are complete including painting.

There was damage to a number of electrical sockets in the main area caused by the benches knocking into them – these have been replaced together with a damaged door to the Aids/TB Room.

There was a need to repair the wall which had been broken during the flooding in the rainy season last year.  A plan to divert the water near the rear perimeter wall of the Health Centre land and direct it into the gully outside which was where it would have been before the wall had been built was conceived.    It was quite a comprehensive plan which had to been agreed (in retrospect) with Waterloo Council but it has now been built with a cover and we are confident that this will solve the problem of flooding, not only of the neighbour’s property, but that surrounding the Health Centre building.

It was also found that the bore hole for which the link had provided funding the previous year was not working and there was very little water.  However, I am pleased to report that I heard only this week that the Engineer who dug the bore hole has agreed to return and dig deeper in order that the Centre will have water – and at no extra cost.

I returned in March in order to facilitate a Prime Workshop (which was not part of the Link) and I am pleased to report that a number of the Health Centre staff attended the course held at the Twin Town Centre along with Doctors and Staff from other facilities and Hospitals in Freetown and gained much benefit from it.  Two further events are being planned as a result of this course.  During this visit it became obvious that there were basic items that were required for the day to day running of the Health Centre.  These included things such as ordinary scales for weighing patients and blood pressure monitors.  Items have been obtained or purchased and nine boxes were dispatched for shipping recently.

I must bring to your attention the members of the Health Committee without whom none of this would be possible – and I wish to name them – Liz Mackay, John Geater, Melanie Southwood, Chris Chinnery, Edwin Rew, Derek Tomblin, Eve Martin and Ray Keen. They are all extremely well qualified within their field and without them, none of this would be possible and I am indebted to them for their help.

Whilst appreciating that there are plans for the Link to take on other projects within the area, it is felt that HSLFL should continue to support the areas within the Health Centre which we have provided and for which funds have already been raised.  The Health Centre serves all the people and children of the area and without it the health of the whole village is at risk.

CBL    15 June 2017




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