Update July 2022 – the school was successfully built and open in April 2021. Unfortunately Alusine Kamara passed away shortly after. He is sorely missed, but his legacy lives on through all the lives he will change. He left behind the best gift of all: access to an education for future generations!
I’m building a school!
What?! That’s the most common answer I get when I tell people I’m building a school. I should probably specify that it isn’t me who is doing the building! My hands won’t be getting dirty, however, I have taken on the project to make sure enough funds are raised to see it through to completion.
How did building a school come about?
Last Christmas I signed up to run a half marathon in Sierra Leone to raise funds for Street Child, a charity that works across the poorest countries in the world making sure all kids have access to a safe home and an education. The plan had been to spend a week with Street Child, and then another week exploring what Sierra Leone had to offer. And that is how I met Alusina Kamara, or simply Kamara, as his friends call him. He was going to be my guide for the week.
Of course, COVID put a stop to any illusions of travel and I ran my half marathon at home, not wanting to disappoint everyone who had donated. I then pledged that in 2021 I would run a marathon in Sierra Leone instead of just a half. Why I would want to put myself through it, in 30 degree heat and 90% humidity, I do not know. I should probably also say at this point that I don’t like running. However, I said I would do it and I will.
But this school project is separate to my marathon. This is actually Kamara’s project.
So what is Kamara’s project?
With no tourism to speak of, Kamara decided to put his time to good use by building a school in his home town of Kangbor, in Kambia, a northern district of Sierra Leone. Currently the town doesn’t have a school, and kids have to walk 7 miles to school each day; that is, if they go at all. One of his past customers, and now a good friend, decided to support Kamara on this project by providing the funding. Between them they have built a 4 classroom school, with a staff room and a head teacher’s office too. The construction was finished when disaster struck.
Kamara’s good friend and philanthropist, the person making this project possible, passed away from COVID-19.
How did I get involved?
Although the structure is finished, the school is at risk of never opening as the classrooms need benches and desks and blackboards, and the school also needs a well to provide water, all the things that had been planned but that tragically were no longer available.
I saw a post on Facebook where Kamara was asking his friends to support him building the school, and keen to help, I offered to donate some money and asked how I could do this. Kamara didn’t have any fundraising set up and my only option was to do an international bank transfer.
I instantly saw a problem:
- International bank transfers aren’t the easiest to set up; would people go through the hassle when they realized they couldn’t simply log on to their banking app?
- He was limiting any donations to people who knew him. We have after all been warned time and time again of all the African scams. Would strangers know that this was a genuine plea?
I suggested he set up a fundraising page which was met with an “Ermmmm, how do I do that?”. I realized at that point that my time would actually be much more valuable than my donation and thus I inadvertently took on the project.
It all started with a JustGiving page, which straight away attracted donations from Kamara’s friends and past customers. And then an idea popped into my head. What if I run a raffle? Can I get a number of prizes and raffle them off online? The answer is YES!
And that is how the Epic Equestrian Raffle was born.
I’ve been overwhelmed with the support, particularly from the top riders in our industry. I sent out an email explaining the situation and they came back to say YES, we would love to help! So it is with much excitement that I am launching an EPIC Equestrian Raffle which includes lessons with William Fox Pitt, Bill Levett and Jonty Evans; a meet and greet with Art and course walk with Lucinda Green!! In addition we have over £1,000 worth of products to give away from WeatherBeeta, Dublin and Collegiate. And, if that wasn’t enough, Cian O’Connor is putting on something really special for us in February!
If you are not an equestrian and are reading this, the names I have just read out are equivalent to me telling a football fan they get a coaching session with Ronaldo, or a NBA fan a game with Michael Jordan. These are the best in the industry and they have come together to help our little project in Sierra Leone.
I am humbled beyond words. The equestrian industry certainly is the best!
How can you support us finish building the school?
If we raise more than the £2,500 needed to finish the school the rest will be donated to Street Child UK, the charity I am running my marathon for and which work across 16 of the poorest countries in the world making sure kids get access to a safe home and a basic education. After all, an education is the best opportunity for progress and prosperity. So let’s give the kids of Sierra Leone the best gift of all this Christmas, the gift of an education!
If you would like to enter the raffle please click here.
If you wish to simply make a donation to Kamara’s project then click here.
Or if you would like to support my marathon efforts please click here.