Hastings Sierra Leone Friendship Link

Minutes of the Link meeting of Thursday 31st May

Here are the minutes of the latest Link meeting. Thanks to everyone who attended!

Minutes of ordinary general meeting of 31st May 2018


Present: Richard Lane, Christine Boulton-Lane, Ray Keene, Nola McSweeney, Isabel Hodger, Derek Tomblin, Bill Evans, Braidie Paton, Richard Homewood (Chair), Edwin Rew, Cllr James Bacon, John Geater, Mandy Hinxman, Robin Gray (Minutes)


  1. Apologies for absence: Asif Khan, Martin Copland, Liz MacKay, Jacqui Homewood, Lynn White, Cllr Nigel Sinden
  2. Minutes of OGM of 25th Jan and matters arising:2. Richard noted that, for fairness, Dain will probably support a different charity this year for his major fundraising efforts. We fully understand that, and are immensely grateful for the huge amount of funding that he has raised for us in recent years.  (See §6 of these minutes for a reference to how a large proportion of those funds is going to be spent.)  §7: Edwin congratulated Nola and the team that put on this year’s Big Quiz Night in April.
  3. Chairman’s Report: (a) Goods shipment. The St Paul’s furniture etc has now been dispatched. Lynn has clarified with Yvette exactly who the goods are destined for. Yvette had secured a discount of £1 per chair on about 200 chairs. We have a quantity of goods we could still send, but must consider that the typical shipping cost goes from £2.5k to nearly £5k because of the mysterious handling charges at the far end. Would it not be better to source the goods in SL? (Except for the medical supplies that the Health Working Group secures here, which cannot be obtained in SL.)  John wondered if the recipients could be responsible for paying handling fees (- they would probably be charged considerably less than we would be charged, and we would then reimburse them).                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     (b) Mudslide victims funding: Yvette and Yvonne have asked for the money provided by CoGS to be used in Hastings for play facilities etc at the TTC, since the children displaced to Hastings by the mudslide would benefit. The Link was already uncertain about taking on the responsibility of dispensing the CoGS money. We accept the idea, but suggest that such facilities could bear a plaque “In memory of the victims of the mudslide”. Richard will write to Yvette & Yvonne, asking for feedback.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           (c) Proposed improvements to the TTC: We are encouraged by the evidence of stronger management of the TTC now that Mr. Frederick Coker has been elected chairman of the management committee. We hope he can set up an email account so that we can receive regular accounts and feedback. Mr Coker has sent a list of items that his committee would like us to fund. With the exception of item nº 13, which seems to come under the category of day-to-day running costs that should be met out of TTC income, we agreed to fund these improvements. Richard will liaise with Martin over transfer of the necessary funds.
  4. Treasurer’s Report: The meeting had the Treasurer’s latest balance sheet. Richard will liaise with Martin over one or two figures which weren’t entirely clear and which the secretary could not elucidate. We noted that all invoices have now gone out in respect of money owed by participants in the February trip. Richard solved the problem that had exercised the Trustees at their last meeting: funds may be “allocated” to a particular area (e.g. education, health), and are subsequently labelled “committed” when it is decided exactly what item(s) they are to be spent on.
  5. Schools Report: See Annex A. Isabel introduced Braidie Paton who, with Mandy Hinxman, is joining the Schools team to share the load with Roger and Isabel. The June visit from SL teachers is still uncertain. If visas are obtained by June 8th, the visit will take place if flights are still available and not prohibitively expensive. Otherwise, we will fall back on an October date. [STOP PRESS: We now know that not all the visas came through, so the visit will be postponed till October.] The primary schools football tournament will still take place on June 25th. Help will be needed to set things up from 10.30 onwards. [On the subject of visas, Isabel explained that the extra £50 per head we are being charged seems to be the intermediary company’s fee. In future, we hope SL teachers will apply for their own visas on-line, with Francis’s help.]               Four teachers, including Isabel, have signed up for the OU course on teacher-education in sub-Saharan Africa. Mandy observed that she found the content rather assumed the availability of IT facilities and electricity, which is more likely to be the case in countries like Nigeria than in Sierra Leone. Still, Isabel is hopeful that we will get useful TESSA resources out of the course.
  6. Health Report: See Annex B. The meeting agreed with Christine that it would be better to replace the Health Centre roof than to patch it piecemeal. Derek advised using aluminium rather than galvanised iron sheeting, even if it is more expensive. The total for the necessary improvements and repairs would be about £5.5k. We have more than that allocated to Health, so Richard will liaise with Martin over committing these funds and transferring them as required. Richard will let Dain know that a large part of the money he has raised over recent years will now be spent on major improvements to the Health Centre, in line with Dain’s wishes.                      John noted that a PRIME tutor is going on secondment to the Connaught under the aegis of the King’s Sierra Leone Partnership: potentially a very useful contact for us out there.  Christine expressed her thanks for the work done by the Health Working Group.
  7. Fundraising events: (a) The Big Quiz – another successful evening.           (b) The fashion show – nothing has come of that idea.   (c) Dinner-Dance at Bannatyne’s on November 3rd. The Kytes have confirmed, but we still have no confirmation from Lianne Carrol. Christine & Richard hope to speak to her this weekend. If we have to pay for a well-known name, that will have a serious impact on the funds we might raise.    (d) Wine-tasting evening 14th July at St Paul’s School. Booking through Lynn on lynnwhi@live.co.uk         (e) Music Quiz at St Paul’s School on 21st  Book tables through Robin on robin.gray1066@gmail.com.
  8. AOB: (a) Sanitation. Richard has been extremely busy but will now move this forward, together with Derek, Richard L and Robin. The meeting agreed that it would be best to prioritise the various schools’ needs when setting up a programme, perhaps starting with Jui Lower, which has neither a well nor toilets. Isabel observed that even where there is a well, it was sometimes too much bother to pump water manually. Could we include solar panels in the project, since they could produce power for both pumping and, say, IT use in schools? Richard promised to look into the idea, though we know from previous experience that installing solar panels is expensive.                  (b) Edwin drew our attention to the SL news feed that appears automatically on our website (www.hastingshastings.org.uk). It often reports interesting facts – e.g. that a Turkish firm will be producing electricity for the national grid at a very low price; that schools are being encouraged to teach Chinese (!); and that the new Government has decreed that schooling is to be free.   (c) Christine mentioned a new initiative to get people to “clean up Sierra Leone” on a voluntary basis.
  9. Date of Next Meeting: Thursday 26th July at 6.15 at Halton Baptist Church hall: 227 Old London Rd, Hastings TN35 5LU (just below the junction of Old London Road and Priory Road).   Please note that we are not meeting this time at St Helen’s – the hall was not available.


Annex A: Schools  Report

The new team

Braidie Paton and Mandy Hinxman are joining Roger Mitchell and Isabel Hodger to form a team to lead the teacher group. We thank Mandy and Braidie for their interest and commitment.

Visiting teachers

Six teachers from Sierra Leone have been invited to visit this year accompanied by Francis Mason, with the original plan for them to arrive on 23rd June.

Battle and Langton – Cordelia Sannah – Jui Lower

St Leonards Academy – Sylvanus Huggins – Huntingdon Secondary

Battle Abbey Senior School – Christiana Palmer – Kellys

Christchurch CE – Osman Kamara – Kankalay

All Saints CE and Dudley – Jo James Kaindo – Edest

Hollington- Serrah Conteh – Jui Upper

Unfortunately we still have not heard whether they have their visas, and time is getting short now for booking flights and organising the programme. If the visas come through before the week-ending 8th June, and we can get flights at a reasonable price, teachers will meet again on Thursday 14th June to plan the programme.

If this is not possible, we will postpone the visit until October as last year, and meet sometime in September, date to be advised.

Meanwhile the football tournament will go ahead as planned on Monday 25th June at St Leonards Academy. We have 11 schools attending.

We are currently working on a safeguarding check list for schools to use when hosting teachers from Sierra Leone.

British Council

We are in an interim period and waiting for the next British Council programme to be announced, probably in September. We await this programme eagerly and hope we will be able to access grants for a February 2019 visit.

Open University Course – Future Learn

Making Teacher Education Relevant for the 21st Century

Several of the Education group have signed up for this Open University course which started this week. It is a free course, with a commitment for 4 hours for 4 weeks. It will help us to learn how we can help our teacher colleagues in Sierra Leone, give us a common starting point and lots of new ideas.


Annex B: Minutes of HSLFL Health Sub-Committee held on 21st May, 2018

Present :-   C. Lane, C. Chinery, E. Martin, L. MacKay, D. Tomblin and R. Keene

Apologies:-  E. Rew, J.Geater, M. Southwood

Building work/Trustees funding decision/ Chairs.   Christine reported on the Trustees’ meeting held on 19 May with regard to the work needed at the Health Centre. The Trustees have agreed a budget of £,3500 to cover work detailed in an estimate received from CHO Binta  Bah which totals L29,910,000 – equal to around £2900 at the current rate of 10520L to £1.

It is hoped that this will bring the Centre up to a reasonable standard and allow a small fund for incidental spending on small repairs or purchases. The committee discussed whether the building was still fit for purpose but, after discussion, it was decided that the Link could not undertake a major refit of a Government building.

Before proceeding with any work CL is to clarify if the costs for roof repairs includes a total replacement with zinc as it was felt that a partial repair would not be sufficient. The cost of this work is cf £150 so it is hoped that even if more work is needed it could still be within the total budget or close thereto. We will advise Binta that we consider the roof work should be completed first followed by the electrics then the tiling, painting and door replacement as required.

Christine advised that Binta had reported that the District Medical Officer was happy for us to proceed with any work without formality.  However, since the election changes have been made including the DMO and areas of responsibility but we are of the opinion that as the decision has already been relayed to us we will be able move forward to complete the work.

A consignment of chairs from St Paul’s School is on the way to Sierra Leone and we believe some of  these  will be suitable to replace the chairs in the Health Centre and provide chairs for school use as well. For future reference Christine will try to find out if such items can be supplied from within SL or nearby at reasonable prices which could assist the local economy.

Goods to be shipped to SL  CL will be liaising with the linked schools to see if they will have goods to be sent out in addition to several bags of medical supplies which are waiting to be sorted and packed. The committee understands that Binta is unable to source batteries for the head lights supplied previously and we are looking to either provide the batteries or alternative units. These lights are particularly useful at times of loss of electrical supply. Once the total number of boxes is known we may be able to arrange to send a part load with the boxes being collected from Hastings.

Ebola outbreak in Democratic Republic of Congo. The committee trusts that the experience gained during the outbreak in 2014-2016 will enable the authorities in SL to react swiftly and positively to any spread of the disease from DRC.

Any other business

Liz McKay produced further knitted items which can be sent out with other goods.

Chris Chinery enquired whether the Link can assist with paediatric care in SL.

CC also enquired about perinatal, infant and maternal mortality rates and changes in these rates. CL to check with Edwin Rew.

The next meeting will be arranged dependent on developments with goods to be despatched