August 2012 Newsletter - Number 1


The charity has been established for less than a year, but has achieved a great deal in a short time.  We hope you have a chance to look at this newsletter  and to see what use we have put to the support  we have been given by dozens, or possibly hundreds of people backing us.


Establishment

We obtained formal recognition from HMRC for the charity last November - which means we can get Gift Ad (an additional 25%, from the exchequer) for every £1 that people give the charity.

Since that time, we have established a presence on
Facebook (UkSohmSchoolsSupportTeamTheGambia),

Twitter (@GambiaSchools) and a

website (www.sohmschoolssupport.org.uk)


Links

We have extremely close relationships with the heads of the two schools in Sohm (the Lower Basic (primary) and Senior Secondary Schools) and their respective PTAs.  We have good relationships with the country's regional director of education and a number of Gambian based NGOs.

We already had close ties with the Jersey Gambia Schools Trust, who inspired us to get involved in Sohm.  Since that time we have established links with two UK charities, Football Gambia and Kit Aid, who have helped and will offer great support to the schools in Sohm, in the future (see below).

We are extremely fortunate to have encouraged a twinning/friendship relationship between the Lower Basic School in Sohm and the Derwentwater Primary School, in Acton (see below).


Garden Party and Fundraising

We held a very successful fund-raising party, in early July; where, despite the alternative attraction of Mr Murray on the Centre Court and the pretty grim weather, we raised almost £3,000.  With the assistance of Mr Osborne and one more push, we are confident we can make that £4k, gross.  Fantastic, and it really did feel like a fun - raising party!

In addition, we have a dozen people sponsoring individual students' education in Sohm (fees, books, uniforms etc) and have regular monthly direct payments to the charity of more than £100 per month.
So, we are pretty happy - but not complacent!  All offers of support, suggestions for income generation, for the future, most welcome!


Twinning

The twinning arrangement between Derwentwater Primary School and the Sohm Lower Basic school has resulted in a flurry of exciting initiatives.  These include: us presenting to a number of year assemblies in Acton, and the school  raising several hundred of pounds through a school fair,  a "dress down" day, raffle ticket sales etc.

The Derwentwater pupils held a very  successful International Week at the end of the summer term, which resulted in some very creative work by the Acton pupils, including a song contest, production of scrap books and diaries, dancework and poster creation (see below).


Children in both Acton and Sohm are enthusiastic about this link and will be exchanging course work, exhibitions, scrapbooks and letters, over the coming months.  We will actively promote this excellent initiative, that benefits so many youngsters.

We are now on the look-out for a secondary school link.  All offers or suggestions most welcome!
These links will be among the most exciting outcomes of our charity, benefiting pupils in both countries and extending the hand of international friendship and understanding.


Progress

Even with the Olympics as a massive preoccupation, we haven't been complacent over the last month!  Our friends at Football Gambia will be sending a container to The Gambia in September and have given us some space in it.  So, we've been busy putting some of the funds raised to good use. People have generously donated laptops that they have upgraded and we have bought 10 litres of blackboard paint, brushes - so vital for an education system that is so dependent on "talk and chalk", where blackboards quickly get worn out and become almost impossible to see and use.

In addition, we've raided every Poundshop for miles, for stationery supplies.  So, yesterday we dropped off seven well-packed cases to the container depot, ready for despatch to The Gambia.  In addition to the laptops and paint this included:


  • 1,000 ball point pens, 1,000 pencils, 1,000 crayons (enough to give every pupil in both schools two of each), 500 document wallets/folders
  • Fully equipped pencil cases (geometry sets, pens, pencils, erasers, rulers , pencil sharpeners, bundles of colour pencils/crayons etc.) for each of the 12 students sponsored by the charity
  • 30 textbooks for the primary school, which can be photocopied locally, for all pupils to gain access, 33 educational wall posters, 40 sets of geometry sets for use by whole classes
  • A dozen tennis balls, rackets and Frisbees
Much needed help, packed,
and ready to go to The Gambia!


All of this, for less than a quarter of the funds we have raised to date!

We will work with the schools to ensure that all of the above is well cared-for, and is put to good and proper use. And, rest assured, every penny of the money spent - under our supervision - in The Gambia will be used to directly benefit the education and life chances of the young people of Sohm.


The Future

Sandra and I will be going to The Gambia for six weeks in January (well, somebody has to do it!), totally at our own cost, I should add.  And it will be a busy time.

Our good friends at Football Gambia will be in the country at the time and will be visiting Sohm for a day's activity.  The party of 40 will be leading some education and leadership games, offer 2 hours football skills training and run a match, between themselves and the village.  They, together with our friends at Kit Aid, will be donating new/nearly new football kits to all those involved.

The school are already preparing a pitch, our charity will pay for woodwork and metalwork teachers to build posts etc.  It really will be like a mini-Olympics coming to the village: international friendship, skills transference, a generation inspired, legacy for the future etc. And a good time, and feel good factor will be shared by everyone involved!

A couple of weeks later, Sandra's primary teacher-daughter, Natalie and a work colleague will go to the Gambia for their half term break and spend time working with teachers and pupils alike, in both the lower basic and senior secondary schools, upgrading skills, and hopefully inspiring teachers and pupils alike.

That's enough from us, for now.  Until the next time,

John and Sandra Walker
(Trustees, Sohm Schools Support)

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