Appeal to help African project

Pupils trying on their Morecambe High School tops.
Pupils trying on their Morecambe High School tops.

Teachers Karen and Jamie Reynolds wanted to encourage their pupils to learn more about the wider world and help make a difference.

Little did they know, their idea would turn into a life-changing mission helping underprivileged communities halfway around the world.

The project first started in 2013 when the pair set about raising cash, along with sixth form students, to make a journey to Naro Moru, an underprivileged farming village near Mount Kenya in Africa.

The 10-day community building trip had more of an impact than they could have ever imagined and now they are fundraising again for a return expedition on July 19 this year.

Karen, head of geography at Morecambe Community High School, is preparing for her return with Jamie, a history teacher and assistant head of sixth form at Lancaster Royal Grammar School plus 25 enthusiastic students.

Karen, 32, who grew up in Garstang, said: “Most of us left all our belongings there for the locals and came home with empty bags.

“They have so little yet are so happy and optimistic about the future.

“The problem in the area, apart from the poverty, is the concern with the destruction of the surrounding forest, as over time the villagers have become accustomed to building homes with wood taken from their natural habitat.

“As a result most of the wildlife has migrated out of the region.” An ambitious scheme to redevelop the community and preserve the natural forest habitat was set up by a dedicated village committee and voluntary projects have played a key part in making it happen.

The group spent eight days working on replacing traditional wooden homes.

Each day, the students-turned-builders were put to work digging foundations, painting frames and putting in windows, cementing and bricklaying, with their ‘down time’ spent teaching local youngsters.

Despite being DIY novices, the students were not afraid of some hard graft.

Karen said: “I was so impressed with the level of commitment and muscle power from the students.

“The project lacked resources, so after the first day there we had a collection and went into town to buy more tools.

“One of the most memorable and moving moments was when we visited the primary schools with all the resources we had collected in our school - jumpers, books, toys and stationery.

“The locals were so grateful for all the gifts. It was clear from the attitude of the children that despite having holes in their jumpers and no shoes on their feet, education was a key part of their future.

“It made us wish we could have taken more.”

A fundraising drive is under way for this year’s trip, with donations sought towards the £1,200 per head cost of the trip as well as an appeal for clothing, textiles, and any resources the group can take out to help the village community.

Karen added: “We’d be so grateful of anything people could offer - baby and kids; clothes, you name it, they need it.”

Anyone wanting to support Karen’s appeal can leave donations, clothing and items at the Wheatsheaf pub in Park Hill Road, Garstang.