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  • Writer's pictureElena Edwards

WE BUILT THE FIRST SCHOOL IN 2015

HOW HARD CAN IT BE TO BUILD A SCHOOL IN AFRICA?

If you have a great team on the ground to help you organise everything then the answer is "very easy". 

HOW HARD CAN IT BE TO RAISE THE FUNDS TO BUILD A SCHOOL IN AFRICA?

Well, it depends on so many variables.

Are you going to fund the building of the school yourself?

Are you going to organise fundraising events to raise the money? 

Are you going to ask the corporate world for sponsorship, in exchange of some PR for them?



WHAT IF ALL THE PEOPLE WHO PROMISED THAT WOULD SUPPORT YOU BACK OFF AND IN THE END NOBODY GIVES YOU ANY MONEY? WHAT THEN?

You must think of "What if nobody supports me?" and "What if I don't get enough support to build a school?"

You see, I have never lived in the shadow of "What if?". I have always fought for everything I wanted to achieve in life and I've achieved pretty much everything I wished for in life.

But I learnt along the way that sometimes you cannot rely on everyone. A few people would drop off from your journey. Some would jump on. Some will face their own fears and doubts. Some just change their mind at the last minute. Not everyone keeps their promise...

I get it, you might think! But what if everyone abandons you?

If you make a promise to a local community that you are going to offer them something, please work out a plan before you make that promise. I don't know about you but I cannot sleep at night knowing that I promised something to someone and then I disappear. I know that many people can do that. I can't.

When I promised the local community in Busumbala Village that I would build a school for them within a few months, I knew I was going to cut the ribbon that year, with or without help from other people.

It has been a long overdue dream of mine to build something before I die, to leave a legacy, to know that I impacted someone's life. I've never anticipated that I would change so many peoples' lives forever. It never crossed my mind that I would ever go to Africa. But once I was there and once I made a promise, I knew that my dream was going to come true. I could see the new school, right in front of me. I could hear the children singing inside. 

If you are planning to setup your own charity in the UK on your own, please be aware that there are strict regulations about setting up a charity that operates outside of the UK. It could take a few months and a few rejections from the Charity Commission, before your charity is approved. It took me nine months and three rejections, before I was trusted that my work in Africa was indeed a charitable work.

Being rejected by the Charity Commission did not upset me that much. I knew that one day they would accept my application. It was only a matter of time before I could collect all the materials which would prove that what I was doing was charity work. My advice to you is: Never Give Up on a cause that is right, even if you are in a minority of one!

Having been left alone on the fundraising side was heartbreaking. Suddenly, nobody offered their financial support. People no longer answered my calls, emails, and messages. Now, what?!

Based on similar projects in the area, I budgeted the building of the school at £8,000, without the furniture. I had the money in my savings bank account so I decided to go ahead with the project, even if nobody was going to help.

Then things started to change from one week to the other. We've never planned to buy the Mahogany wood for the roof from Senegal. That meant extra costs and delays in the building process. If I was to build a school in Africa, I might as well buy reflective glass, to keep the heat away from the children, right?! The furniture and all the metal works had to be handcrafted by the local craftsmen. It would have been so much cheaper to buy Ikea furniture for the classroom, instead of making chairs and tables from solid wood. Now I know that Ikea furniture wouldn't have "survived" so solid wood furniture was a great idea but equally a large chunk of money added to the budget.

But hey, just go with the flow, and everything will be alright, I was telling myself evey single day.

In the end the total cost of building the first school was of £16,000! 

I am so excited that I managed to fund the whole project and that I was able to offer a place for education for 100's of little people. 

The school has 2 classrooms that accommodates 100 children at any one time. There is a little office in between the 2 classrooms, where the school records are kept. 

You can see the complete photo album of how this school was built here.

I visited the school late 2017 and you can see in the last 2 pictures attached to this blog that the school is still there and the African team is buzzing as always.

We are now looking for sponsorship to build a kitchen. It will cost close to £3000 to build the kitchen that would be able to feed  all the children on the daily basis.

This is Africa. They don't have packed lunches like in the Western world. If the children are not offered a meal at school then they need to go home at 11:00am missing half a day of education.

It costs £200 per month to feed the children. If you'd like to support the children's meal then please get in touch.

We receive funds via JustGiving page. The JustGiving page will keep 5% of your donation and also charges us an account maintenance on a monthly basis. If you'd like to make a large sum donation, we would like you to transfer the money directly into our charity bank account. If you are a UK tax payer and you are paying tax on your income of a value greater that 25% of your donation then we can claim Gift Aid on your donation. There is a form that you need to fill in for us to be able to put this claim through to HMRC. Please contact me via email at elena@elenaedwards.com for more information. Thank you.

Please click here to reach our JustGiving page. 

If you ever wonder why Gambia then please have a look at this photo-album that I created during my travels in the Gambia. It is a beautiful country with loving people and amazing natural reserves. Click here for the photos and book your flights. I am taking you on holiday :)!





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