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Big Hearted Pupils Raise Money For Gambian Learning Centre

Issued: 23 Feb 2007

Today is the third Highland Big Heart Day and primary and secondary pupils across the Highlands are busy raising as much money as they can through fundraising activities of their choice.

Originally started to provide help for those affected by the Boxing Day tsunami two years ago, the Highland Big Heart campaign has raised £80,000 to date. This year's appeal is raising money for a Gambian education centre at Kerewan.

The Director of Education, Bruce Robertson, who is also a leading figure in the Duke of Edinburgh's Award Scheme said: "This year we have identified a project in The Gambia for our support. This has come about through the work of The Duke of Edinburgh's Award in Scotland developing a Skills Centre in Bakau during the last 15 years, which has resulted in vocational education opportunities for many thousands of under-privileged young people in one of Africa's poorest countries. This Skills Centre is now delivering Day School education for youngsters whose parents cannot always afford to pay for it. I visited the Centre 2 years ago with a group of Gold Award participants from Highland who established a wonderful computing room and last year a group of our teachers visited the Centre and spent 10 days training local teachers in ICT Skills. Everyone involved found it an extremely worthwhile experience.

"The next phase is to develop a second Skills Centre in a place called Kerewan which is about 40 miles inland from Bakau. We plan to use money raised by Highland pupils to help get the basics established for the second Skills Centre which requires water, a generator for electricity, buildings and equipment. This will allow education and training to take place and in particular ensure that there is a sustainable project in place so that there can be a long-term legacy in The Gambia."

Pupils raising money today will be able to learn first hand how it is being used to help young people in Kerewan as ten senior pupils from Inverness Royal Academy will be travelling to Gambia in the Easter holidays to install computers and will be reporting back on how the Centre is developing.

Pupils Stewart Atkins, Andrew Elam, Niall Harbison, Mairi Hutchinson, Eleanor Jones, Kathryn MacGill, Gordon MacLeay, Claire Reid, Hazel Snelling and Moteh Parrott took a break from taking part in Big Heart Day to meet Mr Abdoulie Bah from the President's International Award Centre in Bakau who is visiting the Highlands as part of a fact finding tour. He paid a visit to the school with the Director Bruce Robertson to see how preparations for the trip were going and to thank everyone for helping the young people in his community.

He said: "On behalf of everyone back home I would like to thank the school children of the Highlands for their hard work and generosity. All the money raised will be put to good use. It will change the lives of young people where I live and give them the chance to learn new skills so they can improve their lives."

Teacher Mr Doug Morrison who is coordinating the trip said: "Since the October holidays, when the plan for a trip first surfaced, the group have been busy fundraising and organising the venture. Over the next fortnight, the group plan a sponsored fast, a disco and a school sleepover for first year pupils. Mid March sees a ceilidh organised by Crown Church.

"We have been lucky to receive help, both practical and financial from a number of sources. Three large crates of equipment have been dispatched free of charge by local haulage company Caledonian Logistics for onward shipping. The crates are full of vital computer equipment donated by The Highland Council including uninterruptible power supplies which are essential in an area with an unreliable electricity supply."

The pupils will be accompanied by Doug Morrison, fellow teacher Mrs Pat Crippin and school IT technician,Mr Alan McCulloch.

Everyone going needs protection against typhoid, yellow fever and malaria amongst other health risks so Big Heart Day ended with the group getting their inoculations which Occupational Health company Abermed have kindly subsidised.

© 2010 Highland Public Services Partnership.
Project part-financed by the European Union (European Regional Development Fund) within the INTERREG IIIB Northern Periphery Programme