Stockport teaching assistants heading for Kenya

Adele Harmston and Karen Watkins
Adele Harmston and Karen Watkins are off to Kenya

Greenbank teaching assistants Adele Harmston and Karen Watkins are to spend seven days working with severely mentally and physically disabled children in Kenya.

The firm friends are the latest staff at the Stockport school to visit The Port Reitz orphanage, some six years after former pupil Harrison Wood, then aged only nine, inspired his school to adopt them as one their nominated charities.

Mother and grandmother Adele, 41, from Cheadle Hulme, together with Karen, 32, from Reddish, will suspend their duties at the top independent primary school for an 11-night trip to Kenya.

“Many Greenbank teachers have already visited Port Reitz and told us the experience is going to pull at our heart strings.” said Adele.

“I have cared for the severely disabled before, both professionally and within my own family, but never in the developing world where resources are so scarce.”

Karen, who is completing a teaching degree, added: “It will be very different to working in Greenbank, but we are there to help, advise and share best practise not to become too overly emotional about their daily struggle.”

The pair have been amazed by the support from the school and wider local community with a string of local business offering prizes and donations for fundraising together with Greenbank parents generously supporting the trip.

Supplies

Adele said: “We have been collecting football kits, shoes, clothes and educational materials and as always will be able to take some much needed supplies to Mombassa as well as ourselves.”

Harrison Wood
Harrison Wood (centre) after his trip to Kenya

Harrison, now 15, first drove forward the initiative when he was aged only nine and a pupil at Greenbank Preparatory School in Cheadle Hulme.

At that time after visiting Port Reitz School on a family holiday to Kenya, he persuaded his teachers and friends at Greenbank to adopt the school as their international project.

Incredibly he later discovered that Port Reitz was originally and quite coincidentally established by a woman near to Cheadle Hulme and he now passionately feels his community has a special connection with the Mombasa school.

Harrison said: “Cheshire has already done so much for this school in the past, but if it is to survive we must do so much more in the future.

“Around 300 disabled children in Kenya go to Port Reitz with different conditions like spinabifida, cerebral palsy and mental illness.

“With sights that scared at the back of your mind like children dragging themselves along the floor and feet scraping along the rocky surface, all you can do is watch but with money those children can have wheelchairs and save their feet from nasty cuts and gashes.

“They do have some wheelchairs funded by sponsors but the majority are broken or damaged.

“The basic food given to the children is maize and rice and there is little medication which can mean if a child gets malaria, they may die.”

Charity

“When I came back I was determined to raise money for this fantastic school. I talked to my headmistress, Mrs Lowe, at Greenbank and she nominated Port Reitz to be the charity for our charities week at school. I also presented the charity in a talk to my junior school.

“Mrs Lowe, Our Headteacher at Greenbank, really took forth our passion by sponsoring a child but not just that, she had hope and belief in the school. She and her husband visited the school to help the teachers and children.

“Since then great things have started to happen like more teachers going from Greenbank and a wall has been built around the school to keep the children safe.

“My ultimate aim is to get all of the 300 children sponsored. Considering there are only about 100 sponsored at the moment, it is going to be a difficult challenge ahead, but my hope is to go to the anniversary party in Kenya with all 300 children sponsored in the summer of 2015.

“To sponsor a child is £110 per year and that supplies maize and rice every day, also 500ml of water per child, education and four uniforms.”