Hastings’ teachers Sierra Leone visit was ‘humbling and inspirational’

A group of 14 teachers have just spent ten days in Hastings’ twin town in Sierra Leone, also called Hastings.

The trip built on longstanding friendships that have been established between teachers in the schools in both towns.

Isabel Hodger, one of the Education Liaison Officers for the Hastings Sierra Leone Friendship Link was team leader and she was assisted on the trip by fellow teacher Mandy Hinxman.

aPicture-17Some of the children living in the Sierra Leonean Hastings.

Mandy said this week: “In a world of inequality it’s refreshing to see the determination and perseverance of the passionate youngsters in our partner schools (in Sierra Leone) and how collaborative projects can help to begin to enhance teaching and learning for all children.”

The group was chaperoned by Yvonne Johnson, who grew up in Hastings and Freetown in Sierra Leone and is now one of a large group of Sierra Leone ex-pats living in the UK and supporting the work of the Friendship Link.

British Council grants enabled the visits to take place and teachers in both UK and Sierra Leone studied courses and set up joint projects.

The Sanitation Super Heroes project run by Emma Hughes and Laura Renesto, teachers from The Baird,  encourages children in both countries to create their own avatar to decorate toilets, to reinforce the importance of washing hands after toilet and playtime and before eating.

Alice Hillen a teacher at St Leonard’s Academy talked this week about the Sierra Leonean children she met: “Seeing their enthusiasm for learning has been one of my best teaching experiences. It has strengthened my belief that all children, regardless of circumstance, deserve an education which fosters their ambitions.”

Isabel and Mandy visited schools and brought messages and work back for schools in the UK not represented this year. Isabel also ran a Maths workshop with the help of Chloe Hinxman a teacher at Chantry Primary School.

Aaron Kamara, one of the link teachers who attended the workshop wrote about one of his lessons: “Today’s lesson was fantastic. There was 100 per cent class participation again…”.

Teachers also had the opportunity to explore some of Sierra Leone’s Western Peninsula. They visited the beach, and the big market in Freetown, as well as having a tour of Hastings Village.

Faith Rew a teacher at Guestling Bradshaw CofE Primary says: “It was an incredible experience. Everyone was so welcoming. But what stands out for me is that children are so happy but they have nothing.”

Isabel says the visit was a huge success, with many new friendships being made, and many new ideas being developed to take the partnership further in the future. For Wendy Parker a teaching assistant at Christchurch the trip was,  “an incredibly humbling and inspirational experience, which she says will never be forgotten.

The group of teachers was also accompanied by Christine Boulton-Lane, chair of the Friendship Link’s Health Sub-Committee who worked with local health workers to improve healthcare facilities and Richard Lane helped Isabel with further work on the Schools Sanitation Project while Yvonne Johnson visited organisations working to support victims of the mudslide with donations from the Church of the Good Shepherd, supporters of the Link’s projects.

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The Hastings Sierra Leone Friendship Link connects the people of Hastings, UK and Hastings, Sierra Leone to promote reconstruction and friendship. It also raises money through events and donations to help rebuild Hastings, Sierra Leone following its devastation in 1997 during Sierra Leone’s Rebel War. The Link also promotes official twinning, informal exchanges and school-to-school links.

You can find out more about the Friendship Link and the work it is doing in Hastings, Sierra Leone at by clicking on this link https://www.Hastingshastings.org.uk/about/

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