Local schools supporting schools in developing countries - and how you can get your school involved too!

In the Summer of 2018 I was lucky enough to be a part of a school group trip to Tanzania in order to help at KYGN (Kilimanjaro Young Girls in Need), a non-profit organisation aiming to improve the opportunities of young girls in the Kilimanjaro Region. KYGN initially started as a small community project but soon became a registered school that provides education, healthcare and safe house accommodation to some of the most disadvantaged children in Tanzania. After a wonderful experience, spending time with the children there, stocking the library and teaching lessons, I was able to see how Surbiton High School's support of KYGN helped the school as well as being a life changing experience for pupils from Surbiton who took part in the expedition.

Surbiton High school (SHS) has been supporting KYGN since September 2014, the link between the schools first came about when Joseph Humphreys, Surbiton High School Librarian, was travelling around Tanzania and Zambia in the summer of 2014. During his travels he wanted to do some volunteering after having previously done some in Uganda. He first found out about KYGN through the hostel he stayed at in Moshi and then proceeded to volunteer at the school for two weeks. He states he was, "really affected and inspired by its wonderful children, and wanted to do more than I felt I could offer in two weeks." Fortunately, while there, KYGN were discussing building a new school and stated one thing they wanted was a library. In an effort to help them achieve this, once he returned home, Joseph Humphreys proposed supporting KYGN in their endeavours to Surbiton High Schools previous Head Mistress. After hearing about it, she was in full support and thus the link between SHS and KYGN was formed.

Similarly, Kingston Grammar School, another local school, supports Sacred Heart, a school of 150 pupils aged 2-16 in Accra, Ghana. As part of their link with the school they have launched a gap year programme for their upper sixth leavers or alumni, to spend three, five or nine months teaching English, Maths, Science or another specialist subject at Sacred Heart.

Both students from local school and those from schools in developing countries can benefit from these programmes. For KYGN, the financial assistance provided by Surbiton High School helps ensure that the school can stay open as in Tanzania even state schools are fee-paying and are the main source of income. At KYGN it is free for its children to attend and so is dependent on donations from supporters and partners like SHS to keep it open. However, mainly, having partners and supporters like SHS meant that KYGN could build their library which has made a significant difference to the children's achievement, particularly their literacy levels, so much so that over the past 2 years KYGN has been rapidly rising up the Tanzanian school league tables. SHS's new KYGN book project will help advance this even more as pupils create books that are designed to improve the English of the children at KYGN. The children at the school also love meeting the new expedition groups from Surbiton High School when they come to help.

For Surbiton students, when they go on the expedition to Tanzania and go to KYGN, it lets them experience an entirely different culture and its education and engage in a life altering experience. Students who've been on the expedition in the past have said that their time at KYGN had made them realise not to take education for granted as all of the KYGN kids were so grateful and happy to simply be in school. On the whole, the expedition ethos teaches the students team-building, organisation, budget management, self-reliance and even more useful skills for life.

This is similar for other schools that support schools in developing countries, seeing the benefits that these supporting links have for both the schools in the UK and the schools in the developing countries it would make an even bigger difference to more children if more schools got involved.

So, how can you? One easy way of establishing links between schools in the UK and schools in developing countries would be to ask an Overseas Expedition company that specialises in providing expeditions for young people to find a project for your school. In order to make this a long standing link, your school should contact the project you are lined up with before going out there and explain to them you would like to build a sustainable relationship and why. When engaging with them, listen to what they want rather than assuming what you think they should have. There are also other ways of finding a project, you can go via a company/charity that is in line with what you want to do such as building a library and go to websites like http://africanlibraryproject.org/ .

Establishing links between schools like this has huge benefits for both sides like helping the schools in the developing countries improve their facilities and education for the children and students from UK schools being able to help the school and have some life altering experiences. So, why not get your school involved?