SIAB ‘Blog in a Bag’ No. 53: SchoolBag distributions are back!  

It’s been a while, but we are delighted to bring you news that two consignments of SchoolBags have finally been handed out in Nepal and Tanzania this month following an ease in lockdowns and both have a similar thread to them; this being that the projects were inspired by people who were either touched by the work of School in a Bag or the children they felt a strong desire to help.

Yvonne Pederson – Loveland Rotary Club of Colorado: 90 SchoolBags for Shree Sunkoshi School in Nepal.

‘Hi Luke, this is Yvonne Pederson from the Loveland Rotary Club in Colorado who is visiting the UK on a Rotary Exchange” ….said Frank Spurr, treasurer of the Rotary Club of Yeovil as I was banging in wooden stakes marking out the main avenue on the Home Farm Fest site in 2019.  With dirty hands (and not my smartest attire), we were introduced and shared a brief conversation about the work of School in a Bag in amongst radio messages and the tele handler scooting back and forth.  Yvonne’s exchange trip coincided with our busiest week of the year and fortunately, not put off by my appearance, she was keen to learn more.

“If you could come to the farm at 07.30 on Tuesday morning, I can tell you the what, why, where, when and how we work patter” was our parting exchange.

Sometimes when you meet people you get a sense that they are orchestrators and as I told Yvonne about our work, I could already see that the cogs were ticking.  Yvonne left primed with knowledge, resources and I sensed an appetite to want to spread the word in Colorado to her club members and those neighbouring.  We followed up by sending her our presentation and speaker pack so that she could present to the club more formally and she convinced the clubs’ movers and shakers to support her.  With strong Rotary connections through Sudip Koirala in Nepal, a school was identified, a target of SchoolBags to fund was formalised and a district grant was submitted.  Our brilliant in country partner Jimmy Lama in Nepal was briefed so that when the district grant was approved, and sent to Nepal we were up and running.  A time frame and logistics were falling in to place and Yvonne and some club members were excited at the prospect of heading out to Nepal for the distribution of the SchoolBags they helped fund.

And then, in early 2020 news of a spreading virus from China into Europe started to gain media attention and in a sad telephone conversation with Yvonne at the end of January, she let me know that they would not be heading out to Nepal in March given the country’s proximity to China.

And we know what followed…

However, in late July, the Nepalese government announced that they were easing the lockdown prompting Jimmy and Sudip to spring in to action.  We were all delighted that on August 5th the children at Shree Sunkoshi School received their SchoolBags on a hot, humid day in the middle of the rainy season!  And it wasn’t only the children who were happy:

How wonderful!  I am SO looking forward to pictures I can share with lots of smiling faces… I am so happy it went well and you were able to sneak it in before another city closure.  THANKS SO MUCH JIMMY and SUDIP! – Yvonne

Rod and Sue Burnell – Glastonbury:  75 SchoolBags for Maji Moto Primary School in Tanzania.

“Luke…there’s a couple walking around in the yard asking if this is the home of School in a Bag” said Mum.

“Right, send them on up to the office and we’ll put the kettle on” was my reply and just like that, Rod and Sue Burnell introduced themselves and began to tell us of the amazing time in Tanzania that they had just returned from.

It soon became clear just why they had sought us out.  Their guide had taken them to a small Maasai school that had precious little and both Rod and Sue had come away with a strong desire to help.  Over tea, we hatched out a plan of just how we could realistically bring a project to fruition to fund 75 SchoolBags.  Rod had the school contact and had the bit between his teeth to raise £1500 – all we needed now was Wilhard to come on board.

Willhard Mgobela is our in-country partner in Tanzania.  Based in Iringa, in the south of the country, he has coordinated 19 projects for us since 2013 delivering thousands of our SchoolBags to the children that his organisation IRUDI supports.  He has also procured stock and distributed SchoolBags on our behalf to children in other areas of Tanzania, often embarking on day long road trips to deliver them himself and like a true star, he agreed to help us, Rod and Sue.  Willhard liaised with Ole from the Maji Moto Primary School and the delivery and distribution of 75 SchoolBags was planned for March 20th.

And we know what followed…

‘The President has ordered all schools to reopen on June 29th so we will distribute the SchoolBags in the same week once I have contacted Ole’ read the email from Willhard on June 16th.  Finally, Rod and Sue’s dream to help the Maasai children they had been moved by last November would be realised.  True to his brilliant form, Willhard sent us 75 photographs of the children who received their SchoolBags and the accompanying name lists which we sent to Rod and Sue for their keeps sake.  Rod’s email sums up his happiness:

“Well I’m over the moon with what you’ve achieved. What fantastic news – good old you and Willhard.  There will be a lot of children who will have thought it was Christmas I’m sure, and what a super thing to happen to youngsters who have nothing and are going through these horrendous times.  We will sleep well tonight.”

Willhard’s correspondence informed us:

“Some of the students had moved to other villages with their parents searching for greener pastures for their cattles so there were only less than 50 children at school. The head masters decided to surmon some few Maasai children from a nearby Kisaki school as the donation was meant for Maasai children.

We hereby request for 350 more school bags for 5 Magulilwa ward schools.”

And just like that, we are back – back to distributing SchoolBags with a request to fund more.  How we have missed this!  We know that the likelihood of regionalised and national lockdowns in the UK and around the world are a very realistic proposition – but for now, we are looking forward to the schools returning and getting stuck back in to what we know – fundraising and distributing SchoolBags.  With a global blip in the education of children, the need to fund SchoolBags is now greater than ever.  We also know that our response needs to be digital and that we need to find more Yvonne’s, Rod’s and Sue’s – true heroes who have made a difference to the lives of 165 children in two different continents!

Willhard has requested 350 SchoolBags for 5 schools in Tanzania so this seems like a very good place to start at the beginning of a new September term.  If you can be an Yvonne, Rod or Sue hero and help us help Willhard, please support us here.

We wish all of the returning teachers and children the very best of luck for a smooth restart back to school.

Thank you
Team School in a Bag  – Transforming Lives Through Education

School in a Bag is a charity born out of the Piers Simon Appeal, a charity set-up by Founder & CEO, Luke Simon, in memory of his older brother Piers, who lost his life in the Boxing Day tsunami in 2004. To date, over 118,800 SchoolBags have been distributed to children in 45 countries around the world, giving them the necessary tools to be able to attend school and therefore have a lifeline out of poverty and hardship. Equally, if they have been affected by war or a natural disaster and had to flee their home, the SchoolBags provide the tools to be able to gain some stability and normality back in their lives by attending school. To see more of the work we do, please take a look at our website: www.schoolinabag.org

VISIT THE SCHOOL IN A BAG WEBSITE HERE!

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