The Harrisons set themselves a task – build a school in Africa

Lanes Group is supporting a performance psychologist and his family who have pledged to raise funds to help a village school in The Gambia.

David Harrison, his wife Vicky, and their daughter, Charlotte, have already raised hundreds of pounds to buy benches and tables for the school in the village of Lamin.

They have now set their sights on raising £6,000 to fund the construction of a new school building. David is looking to set up a community interest company so the wider community can raise further funds by exporting crafts.

The family, from Sheffield, South Yorkshire, were shown around the village by their tour guide when they were on holiday in The Gambia in 2015.

Lanes Group has donated pens, bags and stationery to the Lamin Fundraising Appeal, and is offering the Harrisons long-term financial and technical support to achieve their aims of improving the life-chances of children in the village.

Michelle Ringland, Lanes Group’s Head of Marketing, said: “David has a clear idea of the approach he wants to take, and the kind of support he is looking for.

“At each step, where we can help, we will. It’s both impressive and humbling for a family to take on such a challenge. The personal touch they can bring to this is probably going to be key to its success, and we want to help them achieve their goal.”

David is a lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University. He also works with sports organisations, clubs and individuals to help them achieve their goals. He and his family have now set a huge goal for themselves in helping the school.

He said: “We went to The Gambia because we were looking for a less conventional holiday. Visiting Lamin and the school made us realise we could do something to help the community, and the children especially.

“We want to work with the community in a way and at a speed that’s best for them, but we’re quite determined we want to make a difference, and we’re pleased that Lanes Group has agreed to help us on our journey.

“We’re looking for other companies and organisations who want to help. We’re learning as we go, and we’re still building trust with people in Lamin about what we’re all seeking to achieve. This is a long-term project, not a flash in the pan.”

There are two types of school in The Gambia, fee-paying schools and free community schools, which are far less-well organised, and provide less-structured education. Lamin has a free school, for children aged 6 to 16. Often, pupils have to balance learning with working to help support their families.

David said: “The school plays a vital role in the village, as a focus of the community’s values and hopes for the future. Like a school in the UK, but much more so. The more the school can be developed in a way that’s sustainable, the bigger the long-term benefits for the whole community will be.

“Making crafts for the tourist market in The Gambia is very popular. But the tourist trade is seasonal. I would like to try to set up a company that will help a network of local crafts people to export their goods to the UK and elsewhere.

“It all sounds a little far-fetched for a family from Sheffield to do this. Building trust with people in Lamin and potential supporters is really important, but we’re steadily winning people over here in the UK.”

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