The ‘Home of Love’ (Ekhaya Lothando) School got the final finishing touches to building work when 18 of the FACE team descended on Masiphumele for a week in February 2014.
It was the climax of more than a year of fundraising by the group of friends that raised more than £48,600 covering the cost of construction of the new classroom building, improvements to the existing building, a new toilet block, covered and open play areas, a laptop computer, class furniture, educational materials and teacher training.
Masicorp, who have overseen the project, gave the team a schedule of works that would see the school completed during their visit and in time for an official opening party at the end of the week on Friday, February 21. The list of outstanding work included redecorating all of the outside of the main building, perimeter walls and railings, and inside the third classroom, plus cementing in windows and ceiling repairs.
Work got under way each day at about 8am and also involved assistance from Masicorp’s Project Manager, Al Ritchie and site foreman Raymond. Leading the FACE team’s efforts on site was Phil Cockerton, being the only one who genuinely knew anything about building works.
“Everyone put their backs into it and I think we were all really surprised and happy by how much was achieved during that week,” said Phil. “It was quite something to have so many people busily working alongside each other. There was a great sense of achievement at the end of it.”
In addition to the building works roughly half the FACE crowd, mainly the ladies, took the 30 plus pupils on two day trips, one to the science museum in Cape Town and the other to the nearby child-friendly Imhof Farm.
FACE founder member Stena Riches said: “Quite simply we all fell in love with the children on those two days. They are just adorable and it made all that hard work of fundraising worth every minute.”
One of the best aspects of the new school was the quality of the completed project, in particular the new classroom block to the rear, which had specially vaulted ceilings with a row of high windows to give it a truly airy feel. Considerable praise is due to architect Graham Finlayson. A stainless steel commemorative plaque was designed and made by Sam Holland, a sculptor and FACE founder member. In addition another hand-carved wooden plaque was presented by Masicorp. However, perhaps the most attractive memory of the FACE team left behind was the image of a tree painted onto a wall using each of the FACE team members’ hand imprints to form the design, including ones for those unable to be present.
One of Masicorp’s main project team and experienced construction director Colin Blaikie explained that these new surroundings had a significant impact on the children. He said: “The thing that surprised me most was the effect of the building on the children. You could immediately see that it improved their whole attitude and behaviour. I have never seen that kind of change purely from a better environment.”
At the official opening the children entertained with songs under the guidance of Dr Sophie Billington, who has been the critical link between the school teachers and pupils with FACE. At the start of the week the teachers and some mothers had also greeted the arrival of the team with songs and dancing.
Andrew Smith. Masicorp’s CEO, had worked tirelessly to co-ordinate the scheme and expressed his pleasure at the opening in seeing it all come to fruition. “We have been so impressed by FACE. Thanks to their incredible fundraising this pre-school is now an example we can show others of just what can be achieved.”
Also present at the opening were two pupils of West Lodge Primary School, Pinner, Middlesex, which played a major role in helping to raise funds and formed an important link between children from the UK with their ‘adopted’ new friends. Joshua (8) and Julian (6) Luiz were guests of honour and mixed happily with the Masiphumele pupils.
The most important attendees at the official opening were undoubtedly Priscilla, who founded the school, and her daughter Indiana, who now works there as it’s leading teacher. The ever-smiling Indiana expressed their obvious delight: “We are so incredibly grateful to all of you and we promise that many children will now be helped thanks to you.”
After the official opening everyone enjoyed a Braai (barbecue) at Decks restaurant, when a further aspect of the FACE efforts was highlighted with the presentation of a laptop computer to Indiana. This was part of the group’s wider funding of teacher training for Indiana at a Montesori school and education assistance for another future teacher at the school.
Nick Jenkins, of FACE, summed up the week of work and the year plus of fundraising: “It has been something none of us will ever forget, a true lifelong memory. We could not be more pleased with the end result and seeing the smiling faces of those little children was the ideal reward. Now we look forward to hearing how the school is doing and the children progressing.
“Most of all it was marvellous to see what a group of friends could do by coming together. In all there are 31 founder members of FACE, and although not all were able to travel to Masiphumelele for the opening week, everyone was just as important and did their bit. There were so many different fundraising events and although at times it was hard work, just as importantly, it was great fun. It showed what a great bunch of friends can achieve and made you proud to be one of them.”
The 18 members of the team that travelled to Masiphumele were: Kaye and Steve Bishop, Di and John Brice, Joy and Phil Cockerton, Marion and Nick Jenkins, Jackie and Tony Mankelow, Rachael and Don Pilcher, Nicki Purdie and Jordan Jenkins, Stena and Steve Riches, and Bob and Helen Steele.
Equally vital to the project, but unable to attend for a variety of reasons were; Joy Douglas and Joel Jenkins, Clare and Scott Elsey, Glynis Fowler and Len Smith, Jackie Hearn, Sam and Paul Holland, Chris Oliver and Ron Price, and Angela Welham and Eric Goodwin. Special mention must also go to Athena Douglas, who was the teacher at West Lodge Primary School, who led their extremely successful fundraising efforts.