Gateacre School has its charity donations reach Swaziland

Gateacre School had a recent World Challenge initiative to assist with building works and aid teaching in South Africa, recently came to fruition after an important shipment of donated items finally reached the village.

The World Challenge expedition saw the school assist a Neighbourhood Care Point (NCP) in Phosela, Swaziland.

NCPs are set up by a member of that community, it is totally voluntary and gives the community’s orphaned children a place to go during the day. Unfortunately, these children are mainly orphaned due to lack of control over HIV and Aids.

The children can only be accommodated overnight by other family member or members of the community. Sadly, they are then are left to roam the area and scavenge whatever food they can find.

There are 39 orphaned children in Phosela and the NCP is set up specifically for 2-7 year olds – unbelievably after seven years old, the children are deemed able to work and fend for themselves and are normally homed by then as they can work.

Local woman, Thandazile started the NCP under a tree eight years ago, giving the children a place to meet, a meal and to also teach them some basic English.

Gateacre’s assistant head of sixth form, Jane Thomas and Ian McMillan, music/theatre technician, built this relationship in Phosela via All Out Africa – a company based in South Africa who link western schools and agencies such as World Challenge to these impoverished communities.

Having visited the village in the summer, students and staff helped to build a classroom and worked with the children. It was an emotional challenge for the team to see how little they had, both in school and out of school. There were no resources to teach with, not even a blackboard.

Thandizile and two other ladies, Mumcy and Debbie, would spend up to six hours a day, on and off, in a smoke filed 2x2m corrugated iron shack with an open fire in it, preparing and cooking whatever they could for the orphaned group, this kindness also extended further to other children within the community above 7 years old and also the local builders, therefore, they would be trying to produce up 60 meals out of local maize and sometimes vegetables – which is classed as a luxury.

Such regular exposure to smoke from the kitchen often leads to various eye diseases and conditions which they normally contract in their early thirties. It was this that inspired to Gateacre to source industrial cooking equipment and somehow get it to them.

The school acquired an industrial, stove, oven and prep table from Hilderthorpe Primary School in Yorkshire which was closing down. With contacts at Britannia Fleet, a shipping company based in Liverpool, Mal Fleet, the company director, generously donated a shipping container and covered some of the export cost and most importantly oversaw the logistics of the shipment.

As well as the cooking equipment, a further package was sent to the village comprising clothes and shoes, safety building clothing, educational resources, toys and games, sports equipment, nursery resources (donated by Moncton Nursery Rose Lane), knitting supplies and sanitary products.

After a 15 month effort, the shipment of clothes and resources finally arrived on the 16 October 2019, whilst the cooking equipment was delivered the following week.

Ian McMillan said: “I think the most amazing aspect of this story and certainly one that will inspire me forever was the, positive attitude, resilience, stoicism attitude of this community. They literally could not have do enough for us in their attempt to make us feel safe and welcome.

“Not once did they ask for anything, their only concern was what they could do for us as they were so grateful for our presence and help. We are still in touch with Thandizile and simply consider each other friend. We are planning to continue an annual charity event in order to provide funds towards gas bottle supplies.”

This inspiring project has been shortlisted for this year’s Community Partnership Award at the Educate Awards.

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