Holiday led to fundraising triumph

A SUFFOLK couple's dream holiday has led to a fund-raising effort which has led to them building a new school for children in west Africa.When Murray and Sallie Staines first visited Gambia they were looking for sunshine and relaxation after the winter months in Woodbridge.

A SUFFOLK couple's dream holiday has led to a fund-raising effort which has led to them building a new school for children in west Africa.

When Murray and Sallie Staines first visited Gambia they were looking for sunshine and relaxation after the winter months in Woodbridge.

Friends had warned them about the perils of visiting the African country. But Mr and Mrs Staines loved their trip.

They met some fantastic adults and wonderful children – and they decided to build a school to give something in return for such a great holiday.


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They had visited a school, little more than a hut, with no sanitation, no desks, nowhere to play and only the most basic education equipment all of which was at risk because the community did not own the school site.

Mr and Mrs Staines embarked on a fundraising campaign and today the couple, with the help of hundreds of supporters in the Woodbridge area, have seen the school starting to be built and the promise of a happy future for hundreds of boys and girls.

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There is the possibility the school will be named after the Suffolk town, cementing the link which has grown between Woodbridge and part of Gambia.

Mr Staines, fundraising and marketing manager at St Elizabeth Hospice, Ipswich, said: ''One of the reasons we started this project was that in Gambia there seems to be a real desire to help themselves. They are doing a lot of work themselves and what we enjoy is seeing our small efforts mean so much to 600 children.

''I think people in this country are happy to support it because they know that all their money is going to the cause. The money raised is not being siphoned off by politicians or whoever and we have been careful to make sure that people in Gambia are keeping all the receipts and accounts."

In 2002 the couple wanted a sunshine holiday and they admitted that all they knew about Gambia was that it was in Africa. That was the extent of their knowledge until they received more details from Fred Olsen travel agents in Ipswich through whom they made their booking.

They packed pencils, chalks, rubbers and exercise books in their luggage and they were delighted when they were able to visit a school, the Bintang Bolong Nursery in Serekunda, the largest town in Gambia, and see where their gifts would go.

On their return to their home in Grove Road, Woodbridge, they set about raising money to enable the school to buy a plot of land to build new premises.

In March 2003 the couple made their second visit to Gambia where they met community elders and a school committee to choose a plot of land. This was bought the following month for £3,225 to serve three communities and the decision was taken to increase the number of classrooms.

There have been three more trips and during that time sand and cement has bought to make building blocks and the foundations and boundary walls have been laid. The roof has been erected on the first two rooms and three toilets will soon be finished.

Money has been sent out on a regular basis – so far nearly £9,000 has been raised – and the couple want to raise £5,000 in 2005 for the project.

The school will have six classrooms, a toilet block and a tuck shop to supply fresh fruit and drink for the morning break for the children aged three to eight.

Anyone who would like to make a donation or book a talk on the project can contact Mr and Mrs Staines at 45 Grove Road, Woodbridge IP12 4LG or by e-mail at mursal@supanet.com

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