Aquinoe Learning Centre

Crieff Fifty Plus Group

Crieff Fifty Plus Group

This is part of an article in the Crieff & Comrie Quair from November 2010.

At a well-attended meeting in October, members were delighted to welcome the guest speaker, Tina Panton, a Trustee of the charity which supports the Aquinoe Learning Centre, situated in north-east Kenya.

In a detailed and fascinating talk, she spoke about her involvement with the charity which had been founded by her sister and another Trustee in 2004.

Having travelled to the Centre to do some voluntary work, Mrs. Panton’s sister had discovered the poor state of the buildings and equipment. She resolved to do something to rectify this and so the charity was

The Aquinoe Centre prides itself on taking in pupils who are disabled or orphaned, offering them a chance for education which they otherwise may not have received. Mrs. Panton stressed that there is nothing wrong with the Kenyan education system, but because funds are extremely limited, disabled children cannot get the personal tuition or treatment to enable them to take full advantage of the schooling provided. Not only can children be boarded at Aquinoe, but the disabled ones also receive as much remedial treatment as possible in an effort to improve their lives and mobility.

The parlous state of the school buildings was illustrated by pictures taken in 2004. Corrugated iron, rotting wood and mud walls were the main constituents. Determined to do something positive for the teachers and the children, the Trustees embarked on a programme of fund-raising and planning for the necessary improvements. Photographs taken in May of this year demonstrated how much had been achieved in a relatively short time. New buildings had grown up around the compound in which the school is sited; equipment and books had been provided, sometimes by manufacturers who gifted them and paid for their transport costs; employment of a physiotherapist and librarian; the creation of classes for practical instruction, such as sewing and garment making, to give the pupils an income in later

Mrs. Panton then showed a number of video clips of daily life at the Centre, which brought images to Crieff’s doorstep which were both stimulating, informative and yet, at times, heartbreaking.

Despite the conditions in which the teachers and 300 pupils still live, they were shown clearly to be happy, with broad smiles, laughter and with a song on their lips. They break into dance at the slightest opportunity, even those small children who are disabled. Members present underwent very mixed emotions, laughing one minute, close to tears the next.

Despite raising many thousands of pounds so far, much more money is needed. Amongst many efforts to find cash, Mrs. Panton makes scarves, aprons, shopping bags and other craft items of a very high standard, which she sells at craft fairs and at meetings such as ours.

At the close of her well-received talk, she was inundated by prospective purchasers of her wares and it is understood that the afternoon raised around £150 from the Fifty Plus Group in aid of this worthwhile charity.