An Uckfield couple who have been helping schoolchildren in Gambia over the last few years have set themselves the challenge of raising £12,000 to buy land and build a new school.
Tanya and Tim Catt got engaged on their first trip to Gambia four-and-a-half years ago and Tanya said it was immediately apparent that people needed help there.
They helped the local hotel staff as much as they could on that trip and returned again determined to find a school to help.
Tanya said: “I took loads of stuff with me, colouring books, pencils, rubbers. I filled my suitcase up.”
They were lucky to meet a woman who worked at their hotel who also volunteers at a school for three-to-eight-year-olds.
Tanya, who works part-time at Chapter Three in Uckfield High Street and Tim, who works for an insurance broker in Croydon, went to the concrete building occupied by the Jola Kunda nursery at Sakunta, and were shocked at the conditions.
There was no electricity or running water, there were holes in the floor and it was stiflingly hot. The children shared a cup to drink water from a bin next to the classroom door.
In the first week of their holiday Tanya and Tim arranged for electricity and a fan to be installed, a floor to be laid and the walls painted. The following week all the work had been done.
The couple were worried to be told that the school remaining open depended on the landlord receiving his rent of £1 a child each term.
When they visited in February this year the school was £64 in arrears and threatened with closure. “We immediately handed the money over. To us that is the cost of a meal out. In Gambia that was the future of the school,” said Tanya.
They hadn’t realised how primitive the toilet was but this time discovered it was a hut with no roof, and a drain that the children squat over. There was no form of hygiene.
The couple started thinking about a long-term solution to the school problem and learned it would cost about £7,000 to buy a piece of land and £4,000 to build a school with two classrooms, an office, a toilet and install electricity and running water.
Now they are determined to raise £12,000 to make that possible.
Tanya has enlisted the support of her daughter Hayley Page, who works at the Cinque Ports Club, and a friend Michelle Wright, from The Village Hairshop in East Hoathly, to organise a fund-raising event at the Cinque Ports Club on Saturday, July 29.
It will be an Anything Goes Sale, raffle, and tombola with refreshments available too.
Goods donated include a table and chairs, worth £600, from Westminster Outdoor Living, on the Bellbrook Estate, Uckfield, which is going to be raffled with tickets costing £5 each.
Another donation is a child’s bed designed to look like a castle, being made for the appeal by Sharpies of Hailsham. Tanya is planning to run a silent auction for it – enabling people to put their bids on sheets of paper instead of through an auctioneer.
And also singled out for its own raffle is a Crystal Palace signed shirt. Then there will be a general raffle with prizes including a kid’s bike from Halfords, a shopper bag from Sew n Sew Haberdashery, afternoon tea for two at Buxted Park Hotel, car valet, hampers, and vouchers. See the full list on the Our Gambia Project Facebook page.
The Anything Goes Sale of new and nearly new items will be split into difference sections, for children, sports, garden, books, DVDs, cakes and coffee.
It will run from 11am to 3pm on Saturday, July 29. Look out for balloons in the High Street as a reminder.
It is also possible to contribute to the fund-raising through a crowdfunding page on Justgiving.com where £630 has already been donated.
Tanya and Tim are being kept in touch with what is happening at the Jola Kunda nursery thanks to pictures being sent to them via phone donated by Kevin Markwick of The Picture House, Uckfield.