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Featured in the Farnham Herald



Students spent two weeks under canvas in the African Bush on a life-changing visit while improving facilities at a neglected secondary school

 NOVEMBER 2019: Students from Frensham Heights School showed off photos and films they had taken at an exhibition about their work renovating a secondary school in Malawi.

The 22 youngsters, aged between 15 and 17, spent two weeks in the African bush helping develop facilities at the remote Mikuyu senior school.

This is the second Malawi school Frensham Heights has supported over a nine-year ongoing partnership. Students raised funds from cake sales and other initiatives before the trip, and all monies from the sale of their framed exhibition photos will go towards essential materials for the Mikuyu school.

Teacher Sally Heighington said: “This trip takes the students out of their Surrey bubble in to a totally unknown environment where there are no real comforts and they are totally off grid.

“When we leave on the trip, we take a group of Frensham Heights students, but we bring back a group of travellers with their eyes wide open. Not only do they now appreciate what they have, but they also understand what they can do and the differences they can make. It redefines them.”

By day, the students were involved in carpentry, painting and work on the school grounds. They also worked in a local orphanage. By night, the group slept under canvas and cooked their meals in two pans over an open fire. Their toilet was a hole in the ground.

Malawi is the fourth poorest country in the world with many people living on 50p per day. Only four out of five children go to primary school, with just one in five progressing to secondary.

“The trip is definitely not just about us helping the children and schools in Malawi,” said Sally. “It is a two-way street. They help us as much as we help them.

“They open their homes and their community and let us in. We build relationships that helps us grow and to become better people. They help us put things in perspective and appreciate what is really important.”

All Saints Senior – the first school to receive help from Frensham Heights – has expanded from 100 pupils to 1000 over the past nine years and is now one of the top schools in Malawi.

Headteacher Rick Clarke visited staff and students in Africa. “It was an amazing experience and for our students it is life-changing. They understand the impact they can have. It is a partnership which benefits all of us.”

Now parents, staff and governors have joined forces to establish the Frensham Malawi Partnership, a charity to ensure the relationship between Frensham Heights and the schools in Malawi is maintained – with additional funding – and strengthened by daily communication through social media.

Already, Farnham’s two Rotary Clubs have donated £1,000 each to the charity – with a further district grant of £2,000. This money is being used to install solar panels to provide electricity to the girls’ hostel at All Saints Senior.

Separately, money raised by Friends of Frensham – a Frensham Heights parent group  – has been used to deliver The Menstruation Project, helping local girls understand their monthly cycle and that it need not prevent them from going to school.

Parent and FMP vice-chair, Kristina Simmons, who joined Frensham staff and students on the trip this Summer, helped the youngsters organise the exhibition fund-raiser. She praised them for their hard work.

‘I am so utterly proud of every one of these students,” she said. “They were a proper group looking after each other and working together. They had proper team spirit.  I wish I could bottle up that energy and positivity.”

Students at Frensham Heights hope that their exhibition will inspire others to fund raise and sign up for the next trip to Malawi in 2021.

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