Lawyers forego festive gifts to provide a girls' loo for an African village school
Banbury firm Brethertons rang in the changes and directed its festive generosity to provide girls in an African village their own private loo.
The company's commercial director Shaun Jardine said his staff were given the option of receiving a gift as usual or allowing Brethertons to donate that cost to improving sanitary conditions for girls in a school in Sierra Leone - or to the Coventry and Warwickshire Air Ambulance.
At the same time, money normally spent on gifts for long-standing clients was given to Alan's Africa - the charity improving conditions in Sierra Leone.
"As lawyers we are in a service industry. We like to think that we are at people's convenience whenever they need us. In fact, we wanted to go one better and build a public convenience - a water closet, a loo, a lavatory, a toilet, not in Oxfordshire but at a primary school in Sierra Leone, one of the poorest countries in Africa.
"Long-standing Brethertons customers know we stopped sending Christmas cards a long time ago and, like many other businesses, made donations to charity. But this year we decided not to send any Christmas gifts to our customers and have instead allocated the money we would have spent towards doing something a little bit different," said Mr Jardine.
"The conditions for children in some schools in Sierra Leone are problematic and unsanitary. We know a little about them as one of our fantastic customers, Alan Wolstencroft, a former Banbury School P.E teacher, has spent the last 14 years in Sierra Leone tirelessly fundraising and delivering projects in schools in that country.
"Alan is currently supporting six schools and has raised a staggering £248,275 for Alan's Africa projects. To read more about Alan's projects head to www.alansafrica.co.uk."
In 2014 Brethertons funded the cost of building two classrooms in Sierra Leone and this year the aim is to finance the cost of a toilet block with a basic rainwater harvesting system so hand-washing facilities can be provided as well - facilities British schoolchildren take for granted.
"This is an incredibly worthwhile project and it is so close to our hearts. Our donation to this particular cause was £750 and it has funded a cubicle for the girls," said Mr Jardine.