A Banbury businessman has devoted the past eight years to providing schools for some of Africa’s poorest children.
Alan Wolstencroft, a member of the Rotary Club of Banbury and a trustee of the Goodwill & Growth for Africa charity, was inspired to act after taking part in a project in Sierra Leone in 2005 to build a Rotary Hostel of Hope at the Aberdeen West Africa Fistula Clinic.
The experience left him shocked at the poverty of many African children and the lack of education facilities, but inspired that a little effort could make a big difference.
Now eight years on Mr Wolstencroft has raised more than £100,000, helped build and maintain two schools and despatched numerous shipments of equipment including school uniforms and football kits to Sierra Leone and South Africa.
Mr Wolstencroft explained: “I first went out to Sierra Leone in 2005 believing it was a one-off life experience, but I’ve now been seven times and I’ve also been to South Africa three times as a volunteer working on various projects.”
He continued: “I started working with a team from the Rotary Club but since then I’ve branched out on my own.
“To see how little they have is astonishing. They’ve got 50-60 children crammed in a classroom. It’s very, very basic.
“They have blackboards painted onto breeze block walls which you can’t write on.
“When you see children playing football out there with a ball that’s got no air, you just think that’s so wrong. We’re such a throw away society.”
Mr Wolstencroft raised funds to build the Christian Hope School in Kissy, Freetown, and has recently provided for the completion of staff toilets at the school in a continual effort to improve facilities.
He also funded the building of Calvary School in Lungi and has recently sent money to the school to make 30 desk and bench sets for newly-completed classrooms.
Mr Wolstencroft’s campaign has received vital support from Banbury Firm Westminster Security which has secured a contract at Freetown Airport.
He said:“They have helped me ship all sorts of things out to Sierra Leone. We have sent things from school uniforms to sports kits.
“The school uniforms are really important because if you can’t afford to buy a uniform you aren’t allowed to go to school.”
Mr Wolstencroft also works closely with local communities to ensure they take ownership of the projects and continue to staff and run the schools effectively.
He also ensures facilities and equipment are built from scratch wherever possible to provide much needed employment for villagers.
He explained: “I’ve built up a really good relationship with communities, schools and village elders and I know that every pound that gets sent out gets spent on what it’s meant to be spent on.
“They will come up with a proposal and I will price it up and then drip feed the money in. It’s a hand up, not a hand out.”
Mr Wolstencroft has also delivered more than 230 talks about his African adventure to audiences in the UK.
He will be returning to South Africa in October to begin a project building a creche at a pre-school
“If I can just make a difference to the lives of a few people then the effort is really worth it,” he said.