Vale charity helps Sierra Leone youngsters

By Nigel Slater Friday 19 October 2012 Updated: 25/10 13:18

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Buy photos » Glenn Scott, ambassador for the Waterloo Schools Charity and Olympic torch bearer joins volunteers as they load the 40ft container. Picture by Neville Collins 41012012nce2 Order this picture online at www.buyphotos247.com Laurence Read with Waterloo students in Sierra Leone. (s)

CHILDREN living in one of the world's poorest countries are set for a better start to life thanks to the work of a Vale charity.

Pershore couple Laurence and Susan Read set up the Waterloo Schools Charity to help resurrect three schools in Waterloo - a small town in the West African country of Sierra Leone.

The country, which has a population of more than six million people, was engulfed in a devastating ten-year civil war which saw a complete breakdown of all authority and the town's schools burnt to ruins.

And earlier this month the charity sent a 40ft container to the poverty-stricken country full of dozens of items which had been generously donated by schools and members of the public.

Included were text books, bicycles, children's books, sewing machines, desks, book shelves, chairs, garden tools and other pieces of teaching equipment.

Mr Read, who is visiting Sierra Leone again next month, told the Observer he was delighted with the number of donations they had received.

"Many of the items sent out have come from people's own garages and kitchens," he said. "We are so grateful and want to say a big thank you to everyone who has helped us.

"When we went to Waterloo in Sierra Leone in 2005 the children were having to bring a chair or stool from home everyday to sit on because there were no desks or chairs. They had no books either to use for their studies.

"So now we've been able to give all the secondary school children there text books for themselves and we've set up a library so they can go there to read the books."

Over the years the charity has completed worthwhile projects Waterloo including refurbishing burned out classrooms, building a nursery school and extra classrooms as well as developing a new science and technology department in the town's secondary school.

Mr Read was eager to set up the charity after working in Sierra Leone as a teacher after leaving university and wanted to give something back to the community after retiring as a consultant at the Alexandra Hospital in Redditch.

"After I retired, the war in Sierra Leone had just come to an end, I went back to see what had happened to my old school and found out it had burnt to the ground as well as my old house," he added.

"Having had such a good time over there as a teacher, me and my wife thought we had to do something to help get the town's schools back and we've been overwhelmed by how the charity has grown over the years."

For more information or to donate to the charity visit www.waterloo-schools.org.

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Buy photos» Laurence Read with Waterloo students in Sierra Leone. (s)

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