For the last three years staff from Greenholm Primary, Great Barr Secondary and Lichfield Cathedral Schools have been visiting and working with the refugee community of Kissi Town in the Waterloo province of Sierra Leone, West Africa. What began as simple cultural exchange, has become a partnership between our communities which is committed to promoting friendship, cultural understanding and a better education for all of our children both here and in Kissi Town.
Such is its success, last year our children and staff were invited to London to the Department of International Development (Dfid) where our year 6 children presented to the secretary of state and his staff. In his closing speech, Mr Mitchell described the project as the best school linking project he had ever seen in the UK. Please take the time to listen to a podcast interview with our children taken at Dfid and which describes the effect which our partnership has had on our children.
What follows is a summary of the aims, goals and successes of our project.
In our first year, Miss Tsang and Mr Byrne watched as a doctor struggled to save the life of a 10 year old child suffering from malaria. Unfortunately, despite the doctor’s best efforts, the girl died. The doctors had wanted us to see just how bad the problem of malaria is in Sierra Leone. So, in our second year, with the outstanding support of our school community and in partnership with Great Barr Secondary and Lichfield Cathedral schools, we managed to raise enough money to take 4000 mosquito nets with us to give to the health centre and the people of Kissi Town camp. Better still, during our latest visit, we discovered that thanks to the mosquito nets, malaria related deaths in the camp have fallen by 40%! An incredible achievement, one which we will always be proud to have been a part of and which helps to define our school community as one filled with truly global citizens.
Still, the project is not only about what we achieve as a school or as individuals, it is also about what we achieve with the people of Kissi Town. Whether by teaching, painting, building or just carrying things - each time we visit Kissi Town the community comes together to work with us. Greenholm really is part of the family. So much so that the camp’s residents have just laid the foundations of what will be a secondary school named after us! They have decided to call it ‘Greatholm’ – a mixture of Great Barr and Greenholm. This is quite an honour and proof of the spirit of friendship and collaboration between our communities.
However, the greatest achievement of this partnership is less obvious. It is in the dispositions of our children at Greenholm. Over the last three years our curriculum has been enriched through learning about and from our friends in Sierra Leone. Whether painting flags and considering differences in our local environments in reception and key stage 1; writing and receiving letters and portraits in lower key stage 2; or learning about the war and plight of child soldiers in upper Key stage 2 our children have developed a sense that there is far more to the world than what is on their doorstep and that they have a duty to offer friendship and help to those in need. This is something that books cannot teach and about which we all feel very proud of.