A St Helens couple aiming to make a school they founded in Tanzania become self-sufficient have been helped by Woking businessman Ray Vincent who has funded the construction of a village in its grounds.
Ron and Sue Hayes, from St Helens, set up the charity, Africa’s Children in Education (ACE), which led to the building of the Arise Community School, which is located in the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro.
Providing the opportunity for children to attend school where they would otherwise be unlikely to do so, it opened in 2013 with one classroom and one teacher catering for 11 children.
Today the school employs 27, including teachers and support staff, and by January will have 400 pupils, aged from three to 14, registered.
The couple, who are retired and in their 70s, want the school to become self-sufficient.
The latest phase of this ambitious plan involved the construction of 10 homes, which will be rented out to generate income.
The building of the single storey houses, which have water and electricity, and comprise a living room, two bedrooms and a kitchen, toilet and shower has been made possible thanks to the generosity of Mr Vincent.
Ray, who started out as a floor and carpet fitter before founding and running the business, Vincent Flooring, became aware of the project through family connections with the Hayes, Sue having spent her childhood in the Woking area.
He recently travelled to Tanzania with his son Chris, who is MD of Woking-based V4 Woodflooring, to see how the project is shaping up.
An integral part of ACE is providing employment for the local community with people from the surrounding area employed at the school as well as in the building of it and the houses. This philosophy extends to the school’s desks and chairs and pupils’ uniforms being made locally.
Ray said: “ACE is an inspirational charity that is helping improve the quality of life for the local community.
“I know from my experience how being given access to a good education can open doors to a better life and the importance of providing employment opportunities.
“ACE and the Arise Community School deserve every success and I was happy to be able to help them further their plans.
“It was fantastic to see what a difference the school is making and how the building of the homes, which will benefit local workers, was progressing.”
The goal of making the school financially independent began with the charity funding the drilling of a well, which replaced a standpipe.
This has enabled the school to grow crops including spinach, bananas, and avocados and keep livestock including goats, chicken and pigs. Any surplus, after those at the school have been fed, is sold to the local community.
Sue Hayes said: “We’re incredibly grateful to Ray for being so generous and making the building of these houses possible.
“His support is far-reaching as it not only will provide quality housing for local workers but help us achieve our goal of making the school self-funding, which includes the school itself being able to sponsor the poorest children in the community.”
ACE evolved from volunteering work Ron, who has a background in teaching, and Sue, who worked in the childcare sector, have undertaken in Tanzania and Kenya since 2008.