SEPIA - Supporting Education Projects in Africa

Registered Charity Number: XT26516

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Newsletter 7 Dec 2014

Date posted: 25 Feb 2015

It’s December, it is nearly Christmas so it must be time for the annual SEPIA newsletter. I recently read an article that suggested that expressing gratitude makes you happier, and may even make you live longer! So by the time I finish this I should be one of the happiest people around because this newsletter is largely about saying thank you to all of the people who have worked hard to raise funds for us throughout 2014. It will also explain to you what we have managed to achieve this year as a result of this money. I hope you enjoy reading it J

Money in...

This year we received £7157 as a result of our various fundraising activities. This is the most we have ever raised so whether you were a fundraiser or a funder (I know many of you were both) then on behalf of SEPIA and the schools we work with let me say a huge THANK YOU. (I feel better already!) Our year kicked off with a generous donation from our friends at Ropley School. They have supported us since our inception and this is largely due to the efforts of Clare Molyneux and Clare Farrell who are kind enough to keep inviting me back in to share news with the children. Between January and April we focussed on collecting sponsorship for my London Marathon run, as many of you will no doubt remember to your cost! We were collecting funds to construct a bridge in order to link two sides of a village in Kute Buem, Ghana (mentioned in last years newsletter) and thanks to a list of people too long to name here we were able to raise £1500 towards it. In May, this total was boosted when the amazing P.E. staff at Perins School organised their own marathon event. Under the direction of Rorie Whybro, supported by volunteers, almost 400 pupils ran 100 metres in relay in order to complete the 26.2 mile distance of the marathon. They managed to complete the distance in the very speedy time of 2 hours 4 minutes which was over twice as fast as my own run and only just outside the marathon world record time! July saw the return of Team SEPIA and another run through the streets of London. This time it was the British 10k London Run involving friends and family. Organised by my son Aaron and niece Gemma, a team of 6 runners, all dressed in Ghanaian outfits added another £1200 to our funds. Thanks go to Aaron Clarke, Gemma Fehrenbach, John Fehrenbach, Laura Blissett & Emma Farwig plus all those who sponsored them. Another school to use the 26.2 mile marathon distance as an inspiration was Oakley Infants in Basingstoke. Oakley is also one of our long term supporters and their pupils took on the challenge of completing a range of physical activities and repeating them 26 times! The children, aged between 5 and 6 years old, were so keen to get involved and with the help of some generous parents raised £856. I am looking forward to going back in to the school in January to show them how their funds were used. During the summer, thanks to my former teaching colleague, Jon McKenzie, I was invited to speak to the New Alresford Rotary Club. I found this a very useful experience as it enabled me to discuss our projects with people from a variety of professional backgrounds. It was an enjoyable evening and I was very pleasantly surprised when, a couple of weeks later, they told me they were going to donate £1000 towards our Kute Buem bridge project. This opportunity also gave me an introduction to the Rotary International group and, as you will see on page two, I am trying to use this to our advantage! As Autumn arrived Gemma Fehrenbach, of British 10k fame and one of our trustees, and I ran in the first ever Festival 10k at Worthy Farm, the site of the world renown Glastonbury Festival. To be honest, this was largely for my own enjoyment but it did give us one more chance to wear our Ghanaian outfits and, of course, raise a little more for our projects. My highlight though was not the run, which was very hilly and muddy, but meeting Michael Eavis the organiser of the festival. I would like to claim that he is now one of our supporters (see photo below) but in reality I am sure he was just being polite. As a teacher, it is rare that I am lost for words. However, when I received a call from a friend asking for me to pop in to see her I was not ready for what happened. Jo Davies, Head of Science at Perins School, has shown a keen interest in our work for some time now and often helped us with donations of teaching materials so when she told me she had something for me I certainly was not expect a cheque for £1000. I was genuinely stuck for words. With permission from Jo we have decided to use the money to buy new desks and tables for the three classrooms we are building at New Tafo Methodist Basic School. In November we put in the order with a carpenter in Koforidua, the nearest large town to the school, and we hope to have them in place in the New Year. Lastly, our thanks go to our constant friend Lesley Jones who supports us every month through a direct debit. Regular payments are brilliant for us as they allow us to plan ahead so if you feel that you could help us in this way please contact us at and we will be very happy to give you our details.

Left: Gemma and I with Michael Eavis

Right: Team SEPIA at London 10k


Money out …

This year has been all about Building for the Future. Our major project has been the construction of a footbridge to link the two sides of Kute Buem, a village near the Togo border in Eastern Ghana. As I mentioned on page one, Kute straddles a river and since the last bridge collapsed a few years ago many of the villagers, including school children, have been forced to wade across in order to access certain facilities, such as the school. During our visit in November 2013 I agreed to raise £2000 to fund the construction, this figure rose to £2800 by April due to the country suffering from 23% inflation. Thanks to the generosity and enthusiasm of our supporters the fund raising part was, in relative terms, the easy bit; the difficult part was buying the specific materials we needed. We could buy the wood locally but the tension cable being used for the supporting structures had to be purchased from the Electric Company. One issue we often find when staying in Ghana is that the electricity supply being generated by the Volta Dam is often quite erratic and at some point during every trip we witness power cuts. This year has been no exception and as a result the Electric Company had itself run short of cable. So even though the basic bridge was constructed by August we have been waiting for the materials to finish it ever since. In November, however, we at last received the cable and the final work on the bridge is underway as I type. I am hoping to show you a finished picture in the New Year but until then I have included ones showing it being used, very carefully, by the villagers. Whilst the main reason for supporting this project was to ensure that the children were able to access the school safely it has been very satisfying to know it will benefit the village as a whole. We are hopeful that this will help reinstate the trading route that existed from villages to the east and that this will, in turn, boost the income of the community. A committee has been formed in Kute to raise funds to look after the bridge, headed up by the village elders. In addition, thanks to the Rotary Club of New Alresford, we have also created a contingency fund to ensure the longevity of this project.

Our other main project this year has been building and refurbishing classrooms. Since the introduction of free primary education in Ghana the numbers attending have spiralled. Whilst this, of course, is a good thing, the consequence has been that classrooms have been overcrowded and the infrastructure insufficient. In the larger towns and cities the government has funded development to lessen this problem but in the more rural communities little has been done. Our policy has always been to only offer help where there is no government funding available as we believe that it is the role of the state to maintain its schools. However, in the schools we are working with there has been no response to the requests for financial assistance and we are faced with a situation where children are being denied an education due to the lack of facilities. We are currently working in four schools. At New Tafo Methodist Basic School we are helping them to complete a three classroom block which will serve their younger pupils. This will include the new desks and tables being funded by Jo Davies as mentioned above. At the Salvation Army School in Asafo we are replacing the rotten wooden supports with metal ones and building side walls to complete the three classroom project started last year. At Bomponso Primary School we have recently completed the walls, window and door frames of a classroom block and are now adding the roof. Finally at Kute Buem Junior High where the classroom block was crumbling, we have put in supports and cemented the structure so that it is safe to use and we are now plastering the inside walls. In total we have spent £5600 on these four school projects this year.

In addition, we are continuing to support three students. George Tegah and Ishmael Oburi who are both in their first year at Senior High and Seth Osei who is now in his first year at the University of Development Studies in Tamale. In all three cases we are helping them to pay fees to ensure that they are able to maintain their education.

So, what’s coming up in 2015? Well there are two very exciting projects already in the pipeline which I hope will come to fruition next year. Firstly, I am trying to unite the New Alresford Rotary International group with the Rotary Club of Ho, near Kute Buem with the idea of putting together a joint project to support the schools in Kute. Secondly, together with the four Head teachers of the schools highlighted above we are going to set up a group to be named ‘SEPIA Ghana’. The main aim of this group will be to hold events in the schools to encourage greater involvement from the parents and local people. Both of these ideas are aimed at sharing the responsibility between the charity and the beneficiaries to ensure that any project undertaken is truly a joint initiative. Our intention is that through local involvement we can reduce the chance of aid dependency so often associated with charity projects abroad.

In 2015, we will also be putting together yet another version of Team SEPIA ready to take on the British London 10k race. I am pleased to say that 4 people have already ‘volunteered’ and that the last two places are reserved awaiting confirmation. Look out for the sponsorship link in the Spring.

For the latest information on the projects please check out our website and follow the link to our Facebook page.

Finally, Helen, Aaron and I would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year!


Michael Clarke


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