Banbury Rotarian to receive highest honour

Alan on one of his many trips to Africa
Alan on one of his many trips to Africa

A Banbury Rotarian is one of just 12 people set to be honoured with the prestigious Rotary International in Great Britain and Ireland’s Champions of Change award.

Alan Wolstencroft, current president of The Rotary Club of Banbury, will receive the award for his outstanding work in delivering education to children in the west African nation Sierra Leone.

Alan’s African journey began thirteen years ago when the Rotary adopted Mercy Ships for Africa as their charity for the year.

Part of the charity’s work was to provide ophthalmic eye theatres staffed by volunteers. Rotarians had the opportunity to volunteer, Alan, of course, being one of them.

Unprepared for the conditions in which he found people living, in a country torn apart by civil war Alan was captivated by the spirit and resilience of the people.

Alan said: “I first went to Sierra Leone in 2005 believing it would be a ‘one off life experience’ but those 11 days were life changing for me and I have now been ten times.

“On my third trip, realising that I could ‘make a real difference’ I started to work directly with a school community and things have developed from there.”

Alan joined the Rotary Mission Challenge to build the Hostel of Hope during which he became involved with local school communities.

The initial educational need was to reduce class sizes as children were tightly crammed into small rooms often with no classroom furniture.

Some of the classrooms were in makeshift buildings consisting of tarpaulins or matting with wooden timbers providing limited protection from adverse weather conditions.

In the subsequent years Alan has been involved in the construction of four Sierra Leone schools in addition to funding the building of toilet blocks, water wells and the purchase of rainwater harvesting equipment at the schools.

To achieve this Alan has worked with dozens of groups including local schools, WI groups, church groups, charitable trusts and local businesses to raise funds.

He also receives a lot of support from individuals who have bought into the programme knowing every pound raised goes directly to the project.

Alan will receive his Champions of Change award with other Rotary heroes from across the country, at a ceremony hosted by the Lord Mayor of Cardiff in Cardiff City Hall in May.

The search for Champions was carried out across Rotary’s network of nearly 2,000 clubs consisting of 50,000 members.

Alan said: “What has been achieved in Sierra Leone would not have been possible without the help and support of my Rotary Club, fellow Rotarians and literally hundreds of local organisations and individuals and to each and every one I extend a sincere thank you.”