Aquinoe Learning Centre

The News

New Solar Panels for Aquinoe

In an exciting move, three new solar panels have been installed at Aquinoe Learning Centre and maintenance work on the old panels completed at the same time.

The school had its first solar equipment installed in January 2016 at the suggestion of Aquinoe supporter Phil Humphreys who researched and saw the project through after volunteering there.





2016 solar installation 

Contractor Joseph Mwita, who has carried out all the solar work, says: “Replacement of old batteries, installation of additional panels and maintenance on the old panels is complete …. and the system is now working well.”

Solar panels are a huge bonus, guaranteeing economic energy supply in a region where power cuts and failures are not uncommon.

Charity chair Jean Thompson says: “This latest work cost about £2,000 but it’s well worth it. A recent donation of £500 from St Giles Church in Shipbourne in Kent has been a huge help. We’re most grateful.”











2021 solar installation 

Trustees and officials at the school have long been keen on the solar project because of the high cost of electricity and the unreliability of local supply.

Phil H, who now lives in Berlin, says:

“The ALC has been a true beacon school with its lights continuing to shine while the buildings around it are plunged into darkness during the outages.

“These additional panels should now further reduce the school’s draw on the grid, saving valuable funds for where they are needed most.”

In common with schools around the world Aquinoe has been struggling through the Covid crisis but is gradually getting back on track.

Patrick Raises £1,250 For Aquinoe – Marathon Next?

Patrick’s great March-a-thon challenge has raised a grand total of £1,250 – and now he’s eyeing a marathon.

In March, Patrick, 42, ran four half-marathons round Reading, setting a series of personal bests and ending with a time of one hour 46 minutes 52 seconds which beat by 49 seconds the mark set a week earlier.

He says: “I would just like to say a massive thank you to everyone who supported me and donated to the cause. It is such a fantastic charity doing a wonderful job.

“I’m pleased to be able to help in any way and if it involves doing something I enjoy, then great.

“It was a tough challenge but I love running even more after completing the half-marathons – and now my aim to is to do my first ever marathon.”

Aquinoe chair Jean says: “Wow!  The feat is amazing, Patrick is amazing! He has trained every weekend for ages and has done a wonderful job.

“For a small charity like Aquinoe, this injection of money is a real ‘shot in the arm’.

“I’m so proud of him and what he has done.”

Patrick is eyeing the London Marathon although it can be difficult to get into and he says: “I’m sensing a more likely option may be something less famous around the south east of England.”

Jean states: “Whatever you choose we’ll be honoured that you apply.”

Patrick’s wife Helena says: “I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again. I think he’s mad but I’m super proud of him!”

Speedy Patrick Rounds Off March-a-thon With Another Personal Best

Patrick (Jean’s son) wound up his amazing March-a-thon challenge in style with yet another personal best, running his fourth half-marathon of the month round the streets of Reading in one hour 46 minutes 52 seconds.

That eclipsed the 1:47:41 set a week ago by 49 seconds and is over 12 minutes quicker than the original target mooted when Patrick first had the idea of a fresh fund-raiser for Aquinoe.

He has been running a half-marathon every weekend in March to raise money for the charity and the final figure is poised to exceed £1,000.

Patrick, 42, says: “I surprised myself with the times. I originally thought just completing four half marathons would be enough of a challenge. Then as training went well, I set myself the target of doing them in under 2 hours. I am delighted with times but suffering slightly now the morning after completing the fourth run.

“However, it is well worth it to try to help support Aquinoe, raise awareness of the invaluable work they do, which is so important for children in Kitale, and also raise some much-needed funds. A huge thank you to everyone who has supported me and the charity.”

Patrick got the March-a-thon idea from stepdad Dave’s fundraiser (the Stroll-a-thon) in 2020 when he walked/strolled round the local Recreation ground in Tonbridge for the half-marathon distance of 13.1 miles.

Jean says: “What a son, what a runner, what a hero! Patrick has put in a huge amount of time into training over the last few months and has finished March triumphant.

“What a boost for the charity and the school. Wonderful.”

Patrick’s wife Helena says: “I think he’s mad but super proud of him!”

After the run, Patrick and Helena joined the regular Saturday family Zoom where there were congratulations all round from Jean, Dave, Patrick’s sister Rachel, husband Ed and step-siblings Chris, Marie and husband Craig.

Dave says: “I’m so proud of everyone in the family. Well done all.”



Patrick Hits The Heights Again


Patrick ran his third half marathon in March as his wonderful fundraiser for the Aquinoe Learning Centre and yet again achieved a personal best time!

One hour, forty seven minutes and forty one seconds, beating the new PB he set last week by over a minute.

His total of over £850 is a brilliant reflection of his dedication and enthusiasm.



Patrick Defies Elements For Personal Best in Aquinoe Fund-Raiser

Patrick (Jean’s son) produced a personal best in his second half-marathon in seven days on Saturday, defying chilly winds gusting up to 40 mph to come home in one hour 48 minutes 56 seconds.

That eclipsed the time he ran seven days earlier by nearly three minutes and was 28 seconds quicker than his previous personal best mark.

It was also over 10 minutes quicker than his original target a few weeks ago of 1:59:00.

In a personal “March-a-thon,” Patrick is running a half-marathons every weekend in March through the streets of his home town of Reading to raise money for Aquinoe.

He has already easily surpassed the initial £500 target, with £761 the latest figure, and two more half-marathons are planned before the end of the month.

Patrick, 42, says: “I’m delighted with the run and getting a personal best in the wind today was a very pleasant surprise. I was spurred on knowing stepdad Dave was doing his bit at the same time.”

Patrick got the March-a-thon idea from Dave’s fundraiser (the Stroll-a-thon) in 2020 when Dave walked/strolled round the local Recreation ground in Tonbridge for the half-marathon distance of 13.1 miles.

On Saturday, Dave and Aquinoe chair Jean were at Tonbridge Rec again to “synch” with Patrick at the same time he left home around 0840.

Patrick adds: “A big thank you to my family and friends who have supported me and of course to everyone who has very kindly sponsored me. The amount raised is incredible and inspiring me to push on. Two down, two to go.”

Jean says: “Four half marathons in a month is demanding enough, but to achieve a Personal Best in yesterday’s challenging conditions is amazing.

“Patrick’s idea is a wonderful fundraiser for Aquinoe and the trustees are extremely grateful.”

Patrick’s target some weeks back of around 1:59:00 was a tribute to Kenya’s world record holder Eliud Kipchoge, 36, who set the fastest time for the marathon (26.2 miles) in a special event in Vienna in 2019 when he won in 1:59:40.

That made him the first and only man so far to beat the two-hour barrier.

Meanwhile, on a more modest note back in Tonbridge Dave, 75, walked for two hours, covering 4.6 miles before heading back.

In Reading, Patrick’s wife Helena battled it out superbly for an hour on the treadmill at home, observing: “I’m a fair-weather walker.”

Patrick’s sister Rachel, 50 miles away, was also impressively active, running and walking nearly nine miles in total on the morning, though admitting: “There was a long breakfast and shower-break in the middle!”

Further moral support came from step-sister Marie in Dubai and her brother Chris in London with all the family congratulating Patrick later in the day in the regular fortnightly Zoom catch-up.

Dave says: “I’m so proud of everyone in the family. Well done all!”

Last Training Session for Patrick

Patrick has been training hard for his amazing fundraiser – his March-a-thon – see here

His last training run was today (Saturday) and he says:

“Final training run complete for the Marchathon. I’m doing my own 1:59 challenge that Eluid Kipchoge did and will try to do all 4 half marathons in under 2 hours.”

Go Patrick, Go!


Patrick’s Fundraiser

Following Dave’s fundraiser (the Stroll-athon) in 2020, Patrick (Jean’s son) intends to do his own fundraiser in March. He has been training for months, and is aiming to run a half marathon every weekend in March – see here for full details.

Despite a bad back a few weeks ago, and a rest from training, he completed a serious run today.  His comment: “That’s the furthest I’ve ever ran and I’m knackered but ready for the March-a-thon!” How can he look so relaxed after 16 miles?



I (Jean, Chair of the Aquinoe charity) am lucky enough to be one of three sisters.   We all get on extremely well and care for each other very much.

One of my sisters is fellow trustee of the charity, the other is a long-standing supporter who sponsors children at the school and fundraises too.

She knows that I like to send out thank you cards with a Kenyan flavour to donors and has now used her skills with photos to produce some lovely cards for the charity.

Thank you so much, Ann.

Aquinoe Pupils Return

A return to school at Aquinoe by pupils and staff has been made possible through the purchase of masks, sanitiser and washing with money transferred by the charity.

The school has been inspected and allowed to open.

‘Social distancing’ is somewhat suspect, but hopefully pupils and staff will get used to following regulations and all will be well.



Brilliant Boys

Jack and Alex are cousins of May, Amelie and Harry – see

Their Aunt, Alexa, spent some time volunteering at Aquinoe two years ago and wanted to give her nieces and nephews special presents at Christmas.  She had the inspired idea of giving them money to be spent on items of their choice for Aquinoe.

Alex wrote, “I have thought hard about my decision with regard to where the money can be spent on the children and their school. I would like my portion of the money to go to computers so if they are struggling on a question they can use the chrome books \ computers and also they can have some fun with it if they are having  break-time.

“I had a good look at the website and maybe I can come and visit at some point and have a look at the wonderful work you’ve done.”

Jack said, “I have had a really good look at the Aquinoe website. I would like to spend my £25 for the kids of Kenya for play equipment so they can learn and play together and find out skills that they have yet to find out about themselves. I have chosen this because if you never have the chance to play and create then you won’t ever find out what you would like to do in life”.

Fantastic Family

May, Harry and Amelie are part of a family that has been instrumental in raising money for the pupils at Aquinoe several times in the past few years, both individually and as members of Colston Bassett School in Nottinghamshire.

Their Aunt, Alexa, spent some time volunteering at Aquinoe two years ago and wanted to give her nieces and nephews special presents at Christmas.  She had the inspired idea of giving them money to be spent on items of their choice for Aquinoe.

May said, “This year I am studying for my GCSEs and I feel fortunate that I have the resources to help me achieve the grades I want. I understand the importance of education and therefore I would love to help others learn.”

Amelie wrote, “I’ve done some research on the website and I would like my portion of the money to go towards some play equipment for young children …. as they enjoy it, but there is not enough.”

Meanwhile Harry texted, “I looked through the website and I decided that I would like to give my money to some equipment for the physiotherapy department. I thought this is very important because I want to help the children feel better.”

Former Aquinoe Pupil Graduates



Cynthia Hellen Otagi

Many congratulations to Cynthia, former Aquinoe pupil, who graduated from South Eastern Kenya University on 29th December 2020 with a bachelor of Science degree in Public Health.

Cynthia’s mother Lilyan, who is also Chair of the Board at Aquinoe, would have loved to be at the ceremony in person,  but COVID19 meant that was impossible.  Cynthia’s parents will be proudly watching on Kenyan television instead.

Another Wonderful Donation

£500!  That’s the figure on the cheque which dropped through the letterbox this week.

Completely out of the blue, the PCC at St Giles Church in Shipbourne has sent us another donation for the Aquinoe Learning Centre.

The money will be added to the tranche being sent to the school in the next few days and will be spent on staff salaries and food for the children that have returned in the last couple of weeks.

The trustees and all at the school send their grateful thanks.

St Giles Church

Looking Forward to Next Time

Aquinoe Learning Centre

Pupils Return

A limited number of pupils have returned to lessons at Aquinoe.

The government ordered pupils in Grades Four and Eight back to school, albeit with strict safety measures in place to combat the spread of Covid 19.




Update on Table Sale

The trustees heard today that another £100 has been transferred to the Aquinoe Centre, adding to the £350 (plus £50) already given to the charity from HB’s Table Sale.

The total of £500 is a wonderful total in these days when many charities are suffering from reduced income.

The trustees are immensely grateful.

My fundraiser for Aquinoe Learning Centre Charitable Trust

Helen Benton writes:

As a long time friend of Jean, chair of Aquinoe Learning Centre Charitable Trust, I have for some years supported her fundraising efforts for the trust in various ways. With the emergence of the Covid pandemic and its effects on the staff and pupils at Aquinoe I tried to think of a way I could help further and that would be acceptable during the current situation.

As the road past my house carries a considerable amount of through traffic, I conceived the idea of a ‘table top sale’ on my drive which I hoped would attract the attention of passers by. Over the last couple of months I have been able to collect items to sell from neighbours and friends, many of whom have spent the lockdown turning out their lofts, sheds and garages. Additionally my garden has grown in abundance giving me a surfeit of many plants and in my spare time I have amused myself knitting toys and other items, all of which I hoped to sell at my sale.

Originally I planned to hold the sale in September when the weather was warmer and, in the early part, more settled, but unfortunately I was unable to find a convenient date. Then my planned date in October was a washout, but yesterday it finally happened. It was cold and we did have a little light rain, but not enough to deter us, and my husband had managed to erect a large gazebo over the width of the drive so all stayed dry underneath. We had a reasonably steady stream of visitors to the stall and were delighted with our final total of £360 raised for Aquinoe.

11 October 2020




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.