Joan Maguire, Assistant Head teacher of All Saints RC Primary School, Anfield writes:
‘If your next door neighbour was dying of Ebola you would do anything you could to help. Well our friends in FANO are our neighbours, but just a bit further away.’ It was when nine year old Melissa with the honesty of a child, casually uttered these words that I realised that the children of our school were way ahead of the staff in understanding the impact of Ebola and how we were being called to help.
Our school, All Saints Primary School, Anfield first visited Sierra Leone in 2010 to meet with our partner school FANO, a small school of 120 pupils in a corrugated iron shed. Life was incredibly difficult for them, but we were moved by their zest for life and the joyfulness of the partnership soon spread back to school. Over the last four years there has been a visit to Sierra Leone and a return visit by one of their teachers each year. As a result our children have learned an incredible amount about the lives of children in Africa: not just the sad things, but how they play, pray and spend time with their families. As the news began to filter through about the horror of Ebola (one of our teachers, Frank, lost his wife and young daughter to the disease and had to spend three weeks in quarantine with his other daughter and young baby who had still been breastfeeding), it was the children who led the charge to fund raise. They organised themselves into little groups who bake cakes to sell, make bookmarks or jewellery, run raffles, spot the ball and even a guess the pop star as a baby competition. One girl, Emily, ten, spends her full pocket money every Saturday buying cakes at discount shops to sell in school, handing over all profits over to ‘help our friends in Sierra Leone’. A local charity, the Waterloo Partnership works directly in the town where FANO is situated and is helping to feed the quarantined, like our teacher Frank, and support the thousands of Ebola orphans. Any money we raise is distributed by them to help those most in need.
As the weeks passed and the situation worsened, the children realised they would need more help. Each year our visits to Sierra Leone had taken place with several other schools from across Liverpool and Sefton. We joined with them to make a video, which the children starred in, to ask other schools to help. It can be viewed on the internet at: http://vimeo.com/109508987. It was hoped that across the schools we could raise £10,000 by Christmas. With that the schools worked together in a way rarely seen before. Each school is fundraising in school, but then coming together for big events that we hope will publicise the difficulties Ebola is causing for our partner community. St Robert Bellarmine arranged a sponsored Fun Run which 350 school children took part in. We all dressed in white, blue and green, the Sierra Leone colours, and tried between the five schools to run the distance between here and Sierra Leone, a distance of some 3,000miles.
At a time when people accuse our young people of being selfish and lazy; at a time when we seem to care less and less about each other, it has been a privilege to work with a group of children who have worked so hard to help their neighbours, even those who just happen to live 3,000 miles away.