Angmering charity reveals African schools’ ebola anguish

Penelope Sharman is to swim 70 lengths for victims of ebola in Sierra Leone. Photo: Stephen Goodger L42531H14
Penelope Sharman is to swim 70 lengths for victims of ebola in Sierra Leone. Photo: Stephen Goodger L42531H14

SCHOOLS in Sierra Leone supported by an Angmering-based charity have told of the country’s desperate struggle against ebola, with a head teacher among the thousands of people killed by the deadly virus.

Letters received by Education West Africa (EWA) from schools helped by the charity describe food shortages and escalating prices and the social impact of the government-enforced lock-down, ordering everyone to stay at home.

They also thank the charity for emergency donations of thousands of pounds to buy hygiene supplies and rice.

One head teacher writes: “We fervently pray that the disease be eradicated for the country to return to normal life and our children come back to school.”

Retired head teacher and school inspector Penelope Sharman, chairman of EWA’s trustees, said for the time being money normally sent out to Sierra Leone for desks and school uniforms was instead being spent on buckets, hand sanitiser gels, chlorine, soap and rice.

“We have sent £8,000 since the beginning of September. It’s a drop in the ocean, but every drop makes a difference.”

She added: “What’s happening over there with ebola is devastating. I’m in constant contact with some of the people there. Whenever we had been over there, they always lay down their life for you and can’t do enough. Now we want to help them in whatever way we can. I love them all dearly.”

Penelope, of High Street, Angmering, started up EWA a decade ago after visiting Sierra Leone and seeing first-hand the grinding poverty of a country still recovering from 11 years of civil war.

She has since visited at least once a year, often accompanied by her husband Rod, who is also a trustee, and other volunteers.

The charity is supported by several schools, including St Margaret’s CE Primary, Angmering, Arundel CE Primary and East Preston Junior School, as well as by churches – on Sunday (October 19), a sale in aid of EWA at St Margaret’s, Angmering, where Penelope and Rod are members of the congregation, raised £750 and on Monday a further donation of £1,000 was received.

Now Penelope is in training for her most challenging fundraiser yet – swimming 70 lengths of the pool at the David Lloyd leisure centre in Durrington, on Thursday, December 4.

“I’ve never swum 70 lengths before, but they have been very good to me at David Lloyd’s, giving me free training, so I’m hoping I can make it.”

Donations to EWA’s work can be sent to Education West Africa, 3 Anchor Cottages, High Street, Angmering BN16 4AG.