Aquinoe Learning Centre

The News

Stroll-athon Update

Amazingly, Dave’s Stroll-athon has now raised over £3,000!

Many, many thanks, not only to Dave for creating and completing the event, but also to all those who contributed.

It is a wonderful feeling to know that I have such generous and committed people as friends and family members.

All at the school will be immensely grateful.

“Stroll-athon” raises over £2,300 for Aquinoe

Jean’s husband Dave Thompson successfully completed his special “stroll-athon” on Monday helped by Aquinoe chair Jean, long-time supporters Min and Tim Chicken, son Chris Thompson and near-neighbour Liz Baker, who turned 80 last month.

All walked part of the journey with Dave who had set off at 08:00 to stroll 11 times round Tonbridge Recreation Ground for a total of 21.1 km — the half-marathon distance.

Fantastic sponsorship from so many Aquinoe supporters has raised over £2,300 to help pay teachers at the school which is closed until January because of Covid-19.

On a perfect summer’s morning Dave was joined first by Jean, then Min who had travelled 50 miles by car with Tim from their home near Folkestone after also securing valuable sponsorship, then Chris, who caught a train from London to surprise his dad, and finally Liz, fresh from an osteopath appointment !

Dave, 75, said: “It took under five hours and I’ve been doubly overwhelmed – first by everyone who sponsored the stroll and secondly by all who joined me on Monday morning for our very own walk in the park.”

Dave has run various half-marathons in the past but gave up running last year. When he heard of the teachers’ plight he came up with the idea of strolling a half-marathon, rather than running it.

“It was such great fun this morning we’re already thinking of making it an annual event,” he says.

Jean says: “Aquinoe is so lucky to have the best supporters in the world.  Thank you so much to all who participated and contributed.”

Min says: “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. We stepped out today and bridged the thousands of miles between Tonbridge and Aquinoe Learning Centre.”

Liz says: “I think Stroll-athons are great fun and I am still feeling a sense of achievement.  Anyone can participate, so stroll-athons are inclusive, which is really appropriate for Aquinoe.”

Chris says: “With all the chaos here in the UK it’s easy to forget that there are other people all over the world who need support right now. Congratulations to Dad for making us all proud and for making so much money for Aquinoe.”

No salary is being paid to teachers in schools such as Aquinoe and the charity has already stepped in twice to secure wages until the end of July as well as helping families of those children who would normally be sponsored during term time.

 

 

Dave Set For Fund-Raising “Stroll-athon”

Jean’s husband Dave is hoping to raise funds for Aquinoe by attempting his very own brainchild — a stroll-athon.”

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He plans later this month to walk round the Tonbridge Recreation ground about 10 times in all for a total of 21.1 km — the half-marathon distance.

Dave, now 75, says: “I’ve run various half-marathons in the past but my running days are over and in any case under the current lockdown there aren’t any events like that in which to take part.

“When I heard Aquinoe had to stay closed until January because of the pandemic, placing even more strain on the children, their parents and teachers, I tried to think of possible ways to help and came up with this one — at about three o’ clock in the morning.”

Dave will likely be accompanied by Jean for at least part of the way and plans to set off at 0800 on 20th July. He says: “It should take four to five hours and now I’ve finally had my hair cut I reckon I’ll be streamlined for the big day.”

No salary is being paid to teachers in schools such as Aquinoe and the charity has already stepped in twice to secure wages until the end of July as well as helping families of those children who would normally be sponsored during term time.

Aquinoe Closed Until January

Aquinoe and all schools in Kenya are to remain closed until January because of the coronavirus pandemic, the education minister George Magoha confirmed this week.

The move is a massive blow to children, staff and families who have all been struggling to cope since the initial shutdown on 22nd March.

Aquinoe director, Josphat Shaduma said: “Lilian [Chair of Governors] and I are very worried about the situation.  We are monitoring it with concern.”

Josphat in happier times

The charity trustees stepped in twice earlier this year to pay teachers’ salaries for a total of four months to the end of July and also help the families of the children who would normally be sponsored during term time.

Josphat says: “May I continue to thank the trustees and all Aquinoe supporters for thinking about the children and our staff.  All of you will be in their minds and spirits for a long time.

“No salary is paid to teachers in schools like ours in this country during this pandemic.”

Aquinoe has 22 staff, teaching and non-teaching, while pupil numbers vary between 100 and 170.

Charity chair, Jean said: “We are monitoring the situation closely and will need to consider the way ahead.”

Latest figures (8th July) show Kenya to have 8,525 coronavirus cases after a recent surge and 169 deaths.

Earlier this week the government lifted restrictions on travel in and out of Nairobi. Domestic flights will re-start on 15th July with international travel resuming from 1st August.

Colleges and universities are set to re-open in September but only if they meet strict requirements.

The country’s President Uhuru Kenyatta had urged Kenyans to continue to take precautions, describing the path to recovery as “rocky and uneven,” but “navigable.”

A nationwide nightly curfew has been extended for 30 days and Kenyatta has warned the country could be locked down again if things get worse.

Kenya’s economy, badly hit by the pandemic, had already been undermined by the worst attacks in the country for 70 years of huge swarms of locusts, which continue to strike a large part of East Africa destroying crops and livelihoods.

 

Charity Steps in to Help Aquinoe Teachers

The charity has stepped in to pay all teachers’ salaries for April and May as Aquinoe, in common with all schools in Kenya, remains closed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Trustees met courtesy of Zoom last week and agreed to transfer 263,500 Kenyan Shillings (£2,055) from charity reserves to the Kenyan charity account.
Aquinoe director Josphat Shaduma wrote: “Some of the staff had been calling in at the school to find out if I could do anything for them but now there will be a smile on their faces.
“We are very grateful for the assistance and we have no words to express our thanks to all of you. Please inform other trustees and supporters how grateful we are and particularly at this time when everybody is indoors with no income.”
Kenya has no system for helping people who are not working and therefore not being paid.
The school currently has twenty-two staff (teaching and non-teaching), with all but three confined to home.
When chair Jean emailed the charity’s supporters telling of the decision last week to help the school staff many came up within days with donations currently totalling over £900, even though the email had not been meant as a further appeal.
Jean says: “It brought tears to my eyes. Even though I know from experience how generous our supporters are, I was overcome with emotion.
Coronavirus is still with us and we continue to review the situation.”
Aquinoe has been closed since 22nd March when all services and educational establishments were shut down.  A strict curfew during lockdown has been extended until 6th June leading to recent violence in Kitale where bodaboda motorcyclists, who transport passengers, clashed with police leaving two dead. Tension remains.
As of 18th May there had been 963 confirmed coronavirus cases in Kenya with 50 deaths.

At the school gates in happier times.

County Athletics Competition

Pupils at Aquinoe participate at the County Athletics competition in their smart sports kit.

                                              

          

     

    

Valentine

The new tailor, Valentine continues to work hard with pupils, both male and female, who wish to learn sewing skills.

  

Music To Their Ears

Musical instruments, funded by Crieff Baptist Church, are being used in Sunday church services, and also in classrooms.

The pupils love music, singing and dancing and really enjoy being involved in making music.

    

  

It is unusual for girls to play the guitar in Kenya, so this is a new instrument for them.

Here the girls are learning how to play and accompanying singers at the same time.

Sports Hoodies Arrive

The 130 sports hoodies kindly donated by Barsleys department store of Paddock Wood and shipped free to Kenya courtesy of delivery company Interparcel have arrived at Aquinoe to the delight of pupils and staff alike.

The garments are brand new but there was a problem with the name label so rather than let them go to waste Richard Barsley, head of the store, offered them to Aquinoe.

Trustee Jean says: “It was a fantastic offer, and the charity was very excited about it.

“We know from past experience just how much pleasure the pupils get from previous sportswear we’ve been able to send over the years.

“I’m sure they’ll all be just as thrilled and it certainly looks like it from the pictures Josphat, Aquinoe Director, has sent us.”

Josphat says: “The school is into excitement.

“Please send our deepest-felt thanks to the people who donated them. We feel very much lucky to have friends like this.”

The hoodies were transported in six boxes which would normally have cost hundreds of pounds but Crawley-based Interparcel stepped in to ship them free of charge.

Interparcel is a major partner of the world’s best parcel delivery firms and as such delivers to over 200 countries worldwide.

Barsleys, founded in 1891 by Charles Barsley, is a noted family firm and going as strong as ever as the 130th anniversary approaches in 2021.

  All pupils in new blue jerseys

 Pupils with special needs and house mother

  Class Eight

  Class Seven

  Class Six

  Class Five

  Class Four

  Class Three

  Class Two

  Class One

  Pre-Unit

  Baby Class

 

 

Tailoring at Aquinoe

The sewing machines at Aquinoe were serviced prior to the beginning of term.

 

The school is benefitting from a locally trained tailor, who is working at the school on a trial basis.

Several of the South Sudanese pupils are very keen to learn a vocational skill.

 

Equipment for physiotherapy department

Pupils with disabilities at the Aquinoe Learning Centre now have the benefit of some wonderful new equipment in the physiotherapy department.

The money was generously donated by the Thrift Shop at Monymusk in March 2019, but most of the items were not available for purchase locally in Kitale, so had to be ordered from Nairobi.

Lucky pupils!

 

   

 

  

Scores of Sports Hoodies Aquinoe-Bound

Around 130 sports hoodies kindly donated by Barsleys department store of Paddock Wood and to be shipped free to Kenya courtesy of delivery company Interparcel are all set for pupils at Aquinoe.

The garments are brand new but the school name on the back proved the wrong size for the original recipients so rather than let them go to waste Richard Barsley, head of the store, offered them to Aquinoe.

Trustee Jean says: “Barsleys have supported us for many years, not least with donating raffle prizes at our annual quiz and this is just another example of their kind backing. We are really grateful.

“We know from past experience just how much pleasure the pupils get from previous sportswear we’ve been able to send across over the years. I’m sure they’ll all be so thrilled.”

The hoodies will be transported in six boxes which would normally cost hundreds of pounds but Crawley-based Interparcel stepped in to ship them free of charge.

Head of pricing Jo Lomax says: “This is a very worthwhile cause so we are delighted to lend our support in getting these supplies to the children.”

Interparcel is a major partner of the world’s best parcel delivery firms and as such delivers to over 200 countries worldwide.

Barsleys, founded in 1891 by Charles Barsley, is a noted family firm and going as strong as ever as the 130th anniversary approaches in 2021.

Colston Bassett Donation

What a surprise this morning to receive the news that the Aquinoe Learning Centre has received a fantastic donation of £271.35.

Many, many thanks to Colston Bassett Preparatory School for raising this money at their Christmas Fair, and to the School Council for deciding to donate it to the Aquinoe charity.

                   

 

 

Great fundraiser for Aquinoe

Aquinoe’s stall at the annual Christmas Fair in Tonbridge High Street raised just over £130 on Sunday — a super figure for the charity.
With the road closed to traffic for most of the day the occasion, run by Tonbridge Rotary Club, has become a popular curtain-raiser for the festive season.
Lucky dip proved a big attraction once more on the Aquinoe stall with presents lovingly wrapped earlier in the week by trustees Lynne, Clive and Jean who set up and manned the stall all day along with Jean’s husband Dave.
Jewellery, hand-made Christmas items and ladies’ bags also attracted interest.
Jean says: “We are grateful to members of Rotary for all of the organisation for this event and welcome funds have been raised for the Aquinoe Learning Centre in Kenya.
“It was lovely that several people with Kenyan connections stopped to chat and find out more about the charity and school.”
Dave says: “We were there for nearly seven hours and happily it was dry with temperatures around 15°C which is not bad for lateish November.”
Thousands of shoppers with families walked the length of the street, taking in the many stalls, eating places, promotions and displays.
The day also featured a live concert and a splendid fireworks display. In addition, a brass band enlivened proceedings, marching along the street, while a group of Morris dancers added colour and song with various excellent displays.
Dave says: “It was great to have the road closed. They should do it every Sunday!”

Grade Eight Pupils Sit For National Exams

Pupils at the top end of the Aquinoe Learning Centre have been sitting papers for the KCPE (Kenya Certificate of Primary Education) examinations in the last week.

Lilyan Otagi, Chair of Governors (and herself a senior teacher at another school) came in to school to talk to the pupils and give advice about the exams.  All of her children have passed through the system at Aquinoe, so she has had a lot of experience, both professionally and as a mother.

Pre-schoolers at Aquinoe graduate

The pre-school pupils who will be joining Grade One in January were invited to an official graduation ceremony, along with parents and friends.

The headteacher, Linet Isinyen Mackenzie, and the Director, Josphat Shaduma, issued certificates.

 

Barsley’s Donates Clothing

Jean met Richard Barsley this morning (October 17th 2019) to talk about the donation of some sports “hoodies”.

The garments are perfect, except that the embroidery on the back is the wrong size.

Richard wishes the “hoodies” to go to a good home, where they will be appreciated, so has donated them to the Aquinoe Learning Centre. The trustees are now looking for a carrier that will deliver them to Aquinoe.

Many many thanks to Barsleys, the independent department store in Paddock Wood.

Annual Quiz Tops £10,000 Mark

The annual quiz at Capel Village Hall on October 12th raised just over £700 for the charity, bringing the total over the years from this one event to more than £10,000.
“People in Capel have always been most supportive and it’s a fantastic figure so sincere thanks to them all, ” says Dave, husband of Jean who set up the charity in 2004.
There was a thrilling finish on the night in the packed hall with “Corridor of Uncertainty” pipping Foghorns by just two points, with Hastgate another point away, third of the eleven teams.
Among the winning side were chairman of the Parish Council, Hugh Patterson and his wife Sandra.
Jean who set all the questions  says, “I’ve been collecting quotes throughout the last year, and began setting questions in May, so there’s a lot of hard work involved, but I get a real buzz from the world of quizzes.  The support we receive each year and the amount of money raised makes it extremely worthwhile.”
Her sister Tina, a fellow trustee who once more travelled all the way from Perthshire (almost five hundred miles away) with husband Charlie to help organise and score says, “It’s always a pleasure to be involved in the quiz, and catching up with some supporters I don’t see very often.  Jean does the lion’s share of the work, but it’s good to help in a small way.”
The following day saw the AGM with fellow trustees Lynne and Clive in attendance helping plan for 2020 and beyond.
The quiz topped an exciting few weeks for the charity following Jean’s international award in New York in September for her humanitarian work in aid of Aquinoe.

Inspection Ratings High

An Education Officer arrived to inspect the Aquinoe Learning Centre on Monday 7th October.

The “new” curriculum was discussed and she was impressed with the work of the teachers and the support given to the children with special needs.

Apparently some local schools have been closed recently because of poor infrastructure, but developments at Aquinoe have been recognised, especially the the existence of the Resource Centre and the work going on inside.

Damacline, the physiotherapist was able to show the Education Officer around and show how she gives individualised treatment to the children with special needs.

It seems the Education officer asked Josphat to thank the charity on behalf of the County Education Office for supporting Aquinoe, and promised to find out from the county government how financial support can be given to the school.

 

Unsung Hero Jean Wins Top Charity Award in New York

Jean’s 15 years devotion to Aquinoe was recognised on Saturday with a top international honour in New York.

Jean, 71, won the humanitarian section of the annual Mwape Peer Awards which are now in their 10th year.

They were founded by New Jersey-based Zambians James and Ruth Mwape to pay tribute to unsung heroes from around the world who have made a difference in Africa through their energy, tenacity and creativity.

Since founding the Aquinoe charity in 2004 well over £150,000 has been raised by Jean with the unflagging aid of fellow trustees (Tina, Lynne and Clive), family, friends and supporters.

Jean, who spent some of her early teaching career in Zambia, has visited Aquinoe many times, often with her sister Tina.

In addition, over the years various friends and family have visited The school to lend a hand as volunteers.

Jean and husband Dave flew to New York for Saturday’s gala event held in a banqueting hall on City Island.

Dave, 74, says: “It was a fantastic evening and we are all so proud of Jean for all she has done over the years.”

Son Chris, 39, who was also there, said “It was a wonderful reminder what an extraordinary woman Jean is and how blessed I feel to have her in my life.”

About 180 people were at  the event, including the co-founders James and Ruth Mwape, Mayor of Yonkers Mike Spano, and a leading figure in international law and economics Professor Kenneth Mwenda.

Other categories apart from the humanitarian sectio(n for which Jean was recognised included education, nursing and professional leadership.

Jean and Dave have kindly been hosted in New York with Mbums, a former pupil of Kaoma Secondary school in Zambia, where Jean taught in the 1970s.