(By Minerva Chicken)
And I’m still trying to take it all in!
What struck me most about Aquinoe Learning Centre is the pervading sense of confidence and air of optimism amongst staff and pupils alike. It’s a ‘can do’ environment underlined with compassion and kindness.
I’ve learnt a lot from everyone; especially Jean. Josphat calls her the ‘mother’ of the school. Jean knows how to make gentle suggestions; when to speak directly and somewhat paradoxically, when ‘to go with the flow.’ All skilful work.
Aquinoe Learning Centre will always hold a special place in my heart. Deepest thanks to Jean for giving me the opportunity to return to Africa after such a long absence.
During the Drama and Dance performance two girls performed Africa My Pride by Bothkale Boikanyo. It begins:
‘Africa my roots
Africa my pride
Oh Africa, my motherland
I fly so rich and gifted
Our nation filled with diversity of cultures ……’
The Aquinoe Learning Centre has been collecting used stamps for a couple of years. Admittedly, we do have to save up many stamps before we can send them on to ‘Fundraising Stamps’ for payment, so it’s a long term project!
Supporters can either send them to Jean or directly to Fund-raising Stamps.
Jeremy at JLA started to save them for the charity. He has now left the firm, but other staff have continued to save stamps for ALC – so many thanks to Millie and Phoebe for their efforts.
‘A’ level student from Tonbridge, Matthew, has been a volunteer for the ALC for the last couple of years. He did some of this as part of his Duke of Edinburgh Bronze and Silver Awards and, more recently, has been working on his Gold Award.
He is talented in design and has produced flyers and promotional material for the charity and the school in the past.
His most recent undertaking was to research, design and acquire a table runner for the charity to use at a variety of events.
Matthew’s mother, Michelle, generously financed the runner – many thanks for this.
Matthew, his sister Bella and Michelle delivered the runner to Jean and stayed on for a fruitful discussion about future fundraising ideas including foodstuffs, packaging and decorations.
Bella would also like to volunteer her time and skills for Aquinoe, so many thanks for that.
The trustees extend their grateful thanks to the whole family.
The runner was securely packaged and it was only gradually revealed!
Jean T (ALC Chair) attended a coffee morning at Alexander Court, Morden College this week. This is a monthly event, which includes a raffle.
Sandra, a resident of the college, liaised with another Jean (C), who organises the coffee mornings, and invited Jean T to come to the gathering and give a short talk about the work of the charity.
Jean T was made incredibly welcome and several of the residents wanted to hear more about the school and the charity.
Proceeds from the raffle, a wonderful £86, were given to the Aquinoe Learning Centre. This donation will be spent on equipment for Evans, the physiotherapist at the school.
The trustees are very grateful to all concerned.
Jean has now booked tickets for Kenya, the main purpose of the visit being to take ‘colour tent’ equipment and the system to the Aquinoe Learning Centre to help some of the children with multiple disabilities. See previous post for details. We hope there can be real benefits.
Apart from the colour tent information, some brilliant news is Min, Jean’s friend from Zambia days (over forty years ago) will be making the trip with Jean.
The two of them have been making plans over the last couple of weeks and acquiring many items for children and staff at the school.
Suzanne is a highly experienced teacher of children with severe disabilities in the United Kingdom. She is also a good friend of Jean’s and has an interest in Aquinoe – the school and the charity.
She has developed a system of ‘Colour Tents’ to help children with severe disability, who may have shown little of no awareness of their environment previously.
See details here
It may seem complicated but, actually, the idea is simple. Enclose the child in a brightly coloured ‘tent’ and outside distractions – visual and auditory – are cut out and the child can focus on one thing.
If possible, Jean would like to take this system to Aquinoe to be of benefit to some of the children with disabilities.
January is not only the beginning of the calendar year, but also the start of the educational year in Kenya.
One hundred and forty one pupils have registered so far.
It seems that, just two days ago, the power went off for at least three hours in the majority of Kenya and Uganda, although once again, Aquinoe’s solar power meant that it was a shining beacon locally.
Last weekend saw two Aquinoe high-flyers adding to their qualifications.
The Director, Josphat Shaduma, was awarded his PhD in Special Education. He has been working for this for ten years, despite having a full-time post lecturing at Maseno University and overseeing operations at the Aquinoe Learning Centre.
The Chair of the School Board, Lilyan Otagi, has also been studying and was awarded her Batchelor of Education.
The trustees congratulate both Director and Chair. What a brilliant weekend for them both, as well as Aquinoe.
Plaxtol Memorial Hall was the venue for a table top sale to which Lynne and Jean took the remaining items from the Tonbridge Festival stall along with some delightful new decorative reindeer created by Lynne.
There was a steady stream of visitors, many of whom gave the reindeer new homes and £41.50 was added to the £93 raised from the festival last month.
Trustees, Lynne, Clive and Jean along with Dave manned a charity stall at Tonbridge Christmas Festival today. The event included switching on the Christmas lights in the town and fireworks, as well a parade, morris dancers and singers.
Amongst a variety of items on the stall were home made jams and chutney, bird boxes, Christmas decorations, bags, scarves, jewellery and hand-made cards.
Jean received a giant cheque for a wonderful £817.16 from two of the pupils from Colston Bassett Preparatory School in Nottinghamshire on 10th November.
She gave an illustrated talk to the pupils to show them how their money has been spent and answered questions before receiving the cheque.
The pupils, parent and staff from Colston Bassett have supported the Aquinoe Learning Centre with many fund raising activities over the last two years.
Previously, funds have been used to buy musical instruments for Aquinoe, and this year money has been spent on the first phase of a rainwater harvesting project.
The provision of piped water in Kenya is very expensive so any means of using the (often) torrential rain is not only useful but of real benefit to the school, which would otherwise be wasted as runoff.
Purchase of materials for this project started while Tina and Jean were at the school in September so they were able to see the effects immediately.
The Aquinoe annual quiz was held in Five Oak Green on Saturday 7th October 2017.
As ever, the trustees were delighted with the support from everyone at the village hall and also from those who couldn’t attend but still gave donations.
All in all, we raised £714.74, a great total, which will be sent to the Aquinoe Learning Centre with our December transfer.
Twelve teams entered hoping to win the quiz crown which, after stiff competition, was eventually won by the ‘Haywards Heath Hopefuls’ with 111 points, closely followed by ‘Where’s Jap?’ with 108.5 points and ‘One Pickle Short of Bedlam’ with a total of 107 points.
The Newts battled to the end and seemed happy with their wooden spoons!
Many, many thanks to all who took part and who donated prizes for the raffle.
Tina and Jean visited the Aquinoe Learning Centre between September 20th and October 3rd 2017.
The two weeks seemed to pass extremely quickly, but they managed to get through much work at the school and felt the trip was well worthwhile.
The welcome from both staff members and pupils, as well as the Director ad Chairman of the Board of Trustees was wonderful and T and J made many friends while in Kitale.
They wrote a blog while at the school, which can be accessed here
M, who arrived at the Aquinoe Learning Centre just weeks ago in a wheelchair, has been receiving intensive physiotherapy and is now walking.
Her wheelchair is folded up under her bed after two years of use.
Her mother saw this progress and left the school lat week with tears of joy in her eyes.
M has bonded very well with classmates and teachers and seems to be a different girl from the one who turned up at school recently.
What a marvellous transformation. (more…)
Jean knew RG when she taught Jean’s daughter at primary school, before RG made dyslexia her specialism. They have kept in contact over the years and now RG has retired, she has passed on many of her resources, including packs of playing cards, to the ALC charity.
Jean and Tina are going to the Aquinoe Learning Centre school in Kitale on 18th September 2017 and will transport many of the resources to the school. Some of these will be passed on to Sara, the special needs teacher for use with her pupils, while the Diennes cubes/blocks will probably be used by other class teachers.
This week has seen the admission of a pupil at the Aquinoe Learning Centre.
Nothing unusual about that at the beginning of a term, you might think.
Perhaps not, but this pupil (M) is paralysed from the waist down and has been refused entry to several schools due to being in a wheelchair.
The story starts off as a sad one.
At the age of twelve she contracted malaria and was taken to a local clinic. She was given an injection, but this had an adverse affect on some nerves and within a few days her legs were paralysed.
She started a physiotherapy course at home, and improved a little, but the treatment was expensive and eventually her parents could not afford it any more, so M deteriorated.
She could no longer go to school and started to have home tuition, but was very lonely, especially as her four siblings were enjoying themselves at school.
Her father Googled to see if there might be a school in Kenya that would admit her. He came across this charity website and emailed the trustees.
This is where the good news starts.
The Director of the school, Josphat Shaduma, assessed M and was happy to admit her to the Aquinoe Learning Centre. She can use her wheelchair on the tiled areas of the school and can access physiotherapy treatment at the school, as well as learning with others in a classroom.
The parents were very emotional when M started at the beginning of the week as they had almost given up hoping for a placement for their daughter.