Towards the end of November 2011 Mike and Andy hit the road again to visit new potential client schools, and had the pleasure of arranging a meeting at Fulston Manor School in Sittingbourne, Kent. What a great visit it was too. We received a very warm welcome from Sarah Palmer, Community Cohesion Manager, and we are excited at the prospect of working with Fulston Manor going forward, not least because they’re already doing a lot on Fairtrade, as well as much general charitable activity. Sarah even managed to raise over £300 for Children in Need this year by managing to remain totally silent for an entire 24 hour period. Rumour has it her family couldn’t believe it!
As Andy was standing with Sarah at the school reception on departure, Sarah told him about her inspirational recent visit to Lesotho, where as part of a Co-operative College team they helped to facilitate the annual Youth and Student Co-operative Forum which is held at the Co-operative College in Maseru, Lesotho.
We were so touched by the story that Koolskools asked Sarah to send us some feed-back and pictures on the visit so we could post it on our blog. Here is Sarah’s story:
“I was lucky enough to be asked to join the Co-op to help run a Youth and Student Forum in Lesotho in October 2010. When researching the country I found that it was a country within South Africa and also the highest entire country in the world. They export diamonds and water and have a small tourism industry. The people from Lesotho are the friendliest people I have ever met and people will cross the road to shake your hand. We stayed in a Hotel in Maseru, which is the Capital city, and is reasonably cosmopolitan compared to other Lesotho towns.
The school children I saw were impeccably dressed with their uniform clean and tidy and you could tell that they were proud to wear it. They have a very strong work ethic and feel honoured to be given an education – unlike some students in this country who do not appreciate what we have.
Of all the workshops I helped to run there was one morning session which left me feeling appalled at how little these people have and how much we take for granted. After providing a piece of paper to each member of my group which had a grid (like noughts and crosses) on it, I asked them to write their own fears/ worries about an issue which affected them. After they had done that they passed their paper to someone else and in the remaining squares each person thought of a solution to the problem.
I won’t go into the solutions as there were quite a few but just to give you an idea of how different our worlds are – here are some examples of worries posed by students in this country compared to Lesotho….
- I’m being bullied at school
- No jobs
- I’m trying to diet and struggling
- Finances hard at home and parents arguing
- Worried about my future
- Don’t get on with certain people
- Game Station didn’t have the Call of Duty X Box game I wanted
- My parents are both dead. They died of HIV.
- My step father abuses me
- I’ve been raped and nobody will help me
- The mortuary is 10 miles away and my grandmother is still at home 5 days after dying
- There are 100 students in our class and sometimes I can’t hear the teacher as I’m too far away.
My experience helping facilitate the African Youth and Student Forum in Lesotho will stay with me for the rest of my life. The problems they have to contend with as a nation puts our local concerns into perspective and I felt very humble at their resilience and positivity. I managed to link up with a teacher from Lesotho and am in the process of getting our students here to write letters to their new friends.”
We are extremely grateful to Sarah for sharing her story with us – and our Koolskools blog followers. To relate Sarah’s experiences to Fairtrade, the lesson to learn from this humbling story of the herculean difficulties that communities face not only in Lesotho but in all under-developed countries in Africa and the rest of the world, is that with the advent of Fairtrade we are now in a position to help them. Every time you make a purchase with that Fairtrade logo on it you are making a choice to help small-scale farmers and their communities in countries like Lesotho.
Sarah is now kindly helping us to disseminate the Koolskools Fairtrade cotton educational project in Kent, where we are hoping to connect with many more schools over the coming months. If they are quick, then like Fulston Manor they can book a date for us to come along and give a Fairtrade presentation during Fairtrade Fortnight, from 27 February to 11 March 2012.