SHOCC is a way for students, staff and members of the University
’s community to work together to make a difference. Here are some of the current projects that we are supporting:
In 2008 the Sisters of the Assumption opened an infant school in Iguguna Parish a few miles north-west of Singida in central Tanzania. Following repeated community requests, the Sisters expanded the school in 2010 to include primary teaching. Aware of future educational needs, the community has agreed to construct a single-sex secondary school for bright, motivated and economically disadvantaged girls. To this end, it has a large parcel of land at Kisaki village west of Singida. The school will be named after Sr. Marie Eugenie, the foundress of the Sisters of the Assumption.
“Last time we wrote about a visit to the plot of land in Kisaki, near Singida central Tanzania where the Assumption Sisters plan a school and Community Centre, we described the fierce wind and the desolate terrain.
A year on and a number of generous donations received, including £10,000 from SHOCC, and the picture is transformed. The day in July 2017 when two Trustees visited, the sun shone, the wind had dropped, and work had begun on a huge fence. Seventy acres will be protected against marauding animals by this metal mesh fence, firmly secured to concrete posts and bedded deep in concrete to prevent animals burrowing. The land is being cleared and volcanic rock in the line of the fence has been blasted away by bonfires. What splendid news to see that two bore holes have been sunk, have reached aquifers and are providing excellent quality water aplenty.
It won’t take long to grow climbing plants or perhaps a bougainvillea hedge. Although the fence is only half complete, enthusiastic nuns have already planted 200 saplings they were given and surrounded each one with bundles of thorny scrub. Goats still managed to munch a few but it was exciting to see the possibilities already taking shape. A trial plot of cassava has amazed the locals who had deemed this arid area barren.
The project is well underway. Local people are taking an interest and offering support. It won’t be long before the first buildings are being constructed. When we remember that Chekereni was just a field until 2006 and is now a splendid school with over 400 girls including a thriving Sixth Form – then we have great hopes”.
Why a single-sex school?
Compelling evidence is available from across East Africa that girls thrive in single-sex environments. The two leading schools in Singida District are both single-sex schools. The evidence suggests that single-sex schools achieve higher results, have fewer discipline problems and enable pupils to engage in activities normally viewed as ‘male’ such as mathematics, the sciences and sports. Girls also get to attain positions of responsibility not always available in mixed schools. Finally, there is much less sexual harassment in such schools.
Report by Trustee Elizabeth Byrne-Hill
In the remote villages of Zambia’s Luangwa Valley thousands of families still do not have access to safe, clean water. Women and children in rural villages often travel miles to find water in rivers or shallow wells. Collecting water from rivers is potentially dangerous not only because the water is not clean but the risk of injury and death from crocodiles, elephants and other wild animals is very real.
Settlements usually consist of extended families grouping together into small villages. The water requirements for a settlement like this can be provided for by a properly installed borehole – serving perhaps two to three hundred people. It only takes about a week to drill and install the borehole, and to transform lives forever.
SHOCC received a request for funding from Simmarian Christina Carr (nee Huggins). Christina, known to her friends as Gid, was a student at St Mary’s from 1983 – 1986 and studied English and Movement Studies. She and her husband run the charity Water for Life. They construct boreholes to extract water from depths as deep as 35 metres with each borehole being fitted with an India Mark 2 hand-pump. They help establish a village committee to ensure the sustainability of their projects.
Sites for the construction of a borehole have to meet three main criteria. There should be at least 100 people, usually closer to 200 people who will benefit from the borehole and there should not be a usable or undersubscribed borehole nearby. The village headperson must undertake to create a village committee to ensure sustainability.
SHOCC provided funding for part of a borehole in 2017 and hopes to be able to continue to support this excellent charity.
"Mama Mcha, the Head teacher at Orkolili Secondary School, greets us with the warmest of smiles. I am reminded of the time I flew with nine St Mary’s students into Kilimanjaro airport in a 14-seater plane from Nairobi. We circled the mountain so close you felt you might put out a hand and touch the snow.
Mama Mcha was at the airport with children from Assumpta Primary in their best uniforms, all smiling and giggling when we spoke to them. And 10 of them stepped forward to present us each with a rose. Roses, when all the eye could see for miles was an expanse of unused airport concrete and a flat, dusty landscape with a few scrawny thorn trees!
That was 2005. Today Mama Mcha has created a new secondary school, a short distance away on a piece of land she bought from the hunter-gatherer Maasai. On that first visit, Orkolili was a row of would-be classrooms with no glass in the windows, no electricity and a small number of earnest students with almost no books. One of the ‘classrooms’ housed the girls at night in triple-decker bunks. Another housed the boys.
SHOCC has been involved with this thriving project ever since. Our very first donation bought sewing machines so that students could learn to make their own clothes. And every year a small input has been judiciously used to develop the school. It now has four classrooms, a science block, a domestic science block, and a computer room. It has passed all its government checks and many of its graduates go on to sixth forms.
In 2007 I was privileged to open the girls’ dormitories and matron’s flat on behalf of SHOCC. But the boys’ accommodation has been waiting for a roof for six months and is still open to the skies. There is simply no money to spare. Teachers often have to wait to be paid, and when they are, the total available is divided equally among the staff.
The surrounding garden is now full of tiny trees and flowering bushes; fruit and vegetables have begun to appear. This year Mama Mcha has locked marauding donkeys into the shell of the new building to protect the plants and everyone finds this a great joke. Their owners will have to redeem them and she is threatening to charge! She may not grow roses but the school has plans to be self-sufficient."
Orkilili’s Vocational Training Wing
On September 18th 2017, Orkolili Secondary School was given the national accolade of a visit from the Uhuru Torch. The torch symbolizes freedom, hope and development and is toured around the whole of Tanzania annually. To merit a visit, a project must demonstrate a significant contribution to industry, agriculture or other important aspects of development such as education.
The innovative Vocational Training Wing at Orkolili has generated interest both locally and nationally. In 2002 Mama Mcha opened an independent school very different from the usual model which would expect high grades at entry and would focus on academic results. Orkolili School has no entry requirements and although the students attain excellent exam results in the four years they spend there, it has become evident that some could make good use of technical skills alongside academic attainment. The inauguration of workshops in tailoring, bakery, electrical engineering; auto repair and, latterly, machine tools meets these needs. Practical classes take place in the afternoons after subjects such as Swahili, English and mathematics in the morning. Now other schools want to follow this lead.
SHOCC is proud to have supported this innovative initiative from its inception, finding donors and funds for many of the buildings.
Report by Trustee Elizabeth Byrne-Hill
For several years, SHOCC has acted as the conduit for a group of families, scout groups and schools in Northamptonshire. They are financially supporting the education of around 40 primary and secondary pupils at the Outspan Schools, one at Bwaise in the northern suburbs of Kampala and the other, Outspan College, near Kayunga, about 70 miles north of Kampala.
Each year the families contribute £375 per pupil to the school via the SHOCC Just Giving website and we then transfer the money directly to Dismas, the headteacher. So far nearly £70,000 has been sent, thereby providing a sustainable education for an increasing number of pupils.
Outspan School was founded in 1995 by Dismas Otoori and Tom Ngobi, Ugandan Scout Leaders, and named in honour of Baden-Powell. Northamptonshire Scouts formed a link with the school in the same year and have continued to find funds for pupils as well as other purposes.
Several Northamptonshire schools have also made links and more than a dozen supporters have visited Outspan. Funding has been given for the supply of clean water, for building projects and for computers and text books. Dismas has twice visited the UK.
In 2010 a new building was completed for the school's nursery which has its own classrooms and play space. The nursery has 6 staff teaching 105 pupils and there are 25 staff teaching 362 primary pupils. More new classrooms are needed. Land for a play space is being purchased.
In the same year a new secondary school, Outspan College, was founded and has developed with new buildings which were partly funded by benefactors' donations. The examination syllabus now goes up to 'O'Level and beyond. The College is always in need of further help, especially to install its own water supply. It now has over 200 pupils and 16 staff.
You can donate to the Outspan Project via the SHOCC JustGiving page at https://www.justgiving.com/Kevin-Cook4
Simmarian and Maryknoll Sister Dee Smith runs Proyecto Vida (Project Life) in Coatepeque, Guatemala, a hospice for up to 20 HIV/AIDS patients. Just meeting her on her infrequent visits to the UK, you can sense the dedication and love that she gives to these abandoned people.
Her belief transcends the seemingly hopeless situation, giving short term respite to families trying to cope as well as terminal care for others. Additionally, the project's head office provides counselling, medical care, employment and legal services for those suffering from HIV/AIDS.
Since the worldwide financial downturn, Proyecto Vida has been more stretched than ever. Sources of income, always tenuous, have dried up. But Dee is not one to shy away from the problem. She saw an opportunity to buy a piece of land which could become a eco-garden and help to make the hospice self-sufficient.
Imagine how she must have prayed for funds of £15,000 required - an unimaginably large sum for her. Her faith was once more rewarded, as a generous donation SHOCC secured the land and the next phase in her marvellous project began. Since that donation in 2011 she has received further donations through SHOCC for a borehole and for solar panels to provide electricity for the hospice.
Kevin Cook's report from his recent visit to Guatemala
"One of the joys of being a SHOCC Trustee is that it involves occasional visits to projects to ‘check-up’ on progress and to see how the money raised by our supporters is being used. Over Christmas and New Year 2017-18, I was invited by Sr. Dee (Simmaries 1972-1975) to spend three weeks with her at Proyecto Vida on the Pacific Coast of Guatemala. SHOCC has been supporting Dee’s work, both originally in Kenya and more recently in Guatemala, for over thirty years and in 2011 we sent her £15,000 to enable her to purchase five acres of land adjoining the project. In 2018 we sent her a further £13,500 to construct a borehole on the farm to provide her with a permanent source of water.
Coatepeque, the location of Proyecto Vida, is a large town lying on the main route across Central America from El Salvador to Mexico. It has a very high HIV prevalence rate and Proyecto Vida works to provide counselling, medical help, testing and respite care. Recent work with one of the large banana plantations (fincas) has involved the testing of over 1000 workers and the provision of anti-retroviral drugs for those in need. The work has taken over a year to complete and Dee and a partner worker were recently invited to Washington to give a presentation on their findings. Dee is now an internationally renowned worker in the field of HIV/AIDS and is gaining a reputation for excellence.
"During my visit I was able to see at first hand the value of a relatively small injection of cash (£15,000) and to see just how much ‘development’ could be achieved as a result. Once the legalities of the sale of the land had been sorted out, Dee began by planting bananas, plantains, papayas, tomatoes and chillies, and these have all produced fruit. She has established fifty hives for bees and has erected a chicken run with an increasing number of occupants. She has developed an area of raised beds for the growing of medicinal herbs and is sun drying these for local sale and for use in the hospice. Add to this menagerie, her four pet rabbits and two energetic dogs and you can see what a lively place the Project is and what a delightful location for a Christmas break. Oh, and I haven’t mentioned the waste water system she has devised to filter all the water from the house for use during the dry season.
The two parts of this enterprise that I most wanted to see were the hives (above) and Dee's attempts at making ‘worm tea’. The hives have been a tremendous success and, whist I was there, I joined the bee team to harvest the first honey of the year. 38 of the hives provided 60 gallons of first class honey, which Dee has bottled and is selling locally. Call this 480 pint bottles, each selling for around £3, repeated four times a year and you get some idea of the profitability of this venture.
The worm tea is another of Dee's environmentally friendly ideas, and involves providing a cool, wet environment for worms to eat their way through coffee husk waste. A valuable bi-product is their urine (tea) and this, when mixed 10 parts water to one part urine, forms a highly nutritious liquid fertiliser. Dee tops up her four 30 metre concrete containers when she visits the local coffee finca each month. Once the worms have turned the coffee husks into compost, Dee bags it up and sells this nitrogen-rich soil locally.
Her latest venture is to transfer the experiences learned on the eco-farm into something for HIV+ families living in the local area. Each family is provided with a 90kg bag of compost, 5 litres of worm tea, different vegetables ready to plant and is taught how to develop their own kitchen gardens. 60 farmers joined the project in early 2017 and in March 2018 58 were still looking after their plots and achieving great success. As well as improving their own diets, sales of vegetables provide the family with funds to enable them to get to hospital each month to obtain their anti-retroviral drugs. The project is also giving participants standing in the community and is reducing the stigma they face as HIV+ individuals.
During my visit, Dee (shown above, in her chicken run) and I had the chance, over Christmas, to chat about the various projects SHOCC has helped over the years. Dee drew my attention to the fact that in probably 99% of cases, our small infusion of cash has resulted in positive development. Few, if any, of our projects have ‘failed'. This is a tremendous achievement for a small charity and is one we can all be proud of.
I also visited Hospicio Sancta Maria (St Mary's Hospice). SHOCC provided a considerable portion of the funds to build the hospice and, in return, Dee named it after her university. It continues to provide medical care for up to 18 HIV positive patients.
"Whilst I was staying with Dee, I was invited by the patients to have a meal with them and to celebrate Christmas. They also insisted that I take photos of each of them either in their rooms or undergoing treatment. As you can imagine, these visits were both humbling and challenging. Patients, many very young, were being given a second chance in life, thanks to retroviral drugs and other forms of medical care.
All too soon the three weeks came to an end and I left the warmth (35 degrees Celsius in the shade on some days) to return to the cold and damp of the UK. I am already looking forward to another visit in the summer of 2018 to see how this wonderful project is coping with the problems of HIV/AIDS. I also want to be able to thank Dee, once again, for her wonderful work. I also want to inaugurate the new borehole.”
One of SHOCC’s newest projects is located at Mto Wa Mbu in Tanzania. SHOCC arranged for 60 Cleveland scouts and their leaders to spend a month with Fr Peter Kway in the parish during the summer of 2017 building a large primary classroom. This same scout group had constructed two classrooms at St. Paul’s School at Marigat, Kenya in 2013; another SHOCC project. This project is now complete and the school has the first two of seven primary classrooms.
SHOCC has agreed to help Fr Peter find the £50,000 required for the construction of the five additional primary classrooms.
Whilst staying with Fr Peter, Trustees Kevin Cook and Elizabeth Byrne Hill were able to visit the SHOCC funded new greenhouse project. This will produce tomatoes and other vegetables for consumption during the infant and primary school lunches and for sales locally. In 2018, SHOCC provided additional funding to replace the greenhouses damaged in the recent severe floods that affected the area.
With SHOCC help and advice, Fr peter has recently (June 2018) received the good news that The Little Way Association has awarded his £10,000 to enable him to construct the second of his seven primary classrooms at St Jude Thaddeus.
St Marie Eugenie Girls’ Secondary School at Chekereni has been a pilot project in many ways. SHOCC has supported it since the very first acquisition of land in 2001 through to its opening in January 2011 and the addition of a Sixth Form in 2015.
The Sisters of the Assumption first opened a Girls’ Secondary School in Tanzania in 1963, shortly after Independence. It was to be their flagship. President Nyrere sent his daughter, Elizabeth, to be educated there. Dr. Asha-Rose Migiru, deputy to Ban Ki-Moon at the United Nations was a pupil there. Many leading lights including members of Parliament, CEOs and our two very dear Head Teachers, Sister Schola at Chekereni and Mama Mcha at Orkolili also attended the school.
But, alas, government policy in the 1970’s dictated that all independent schools were to be taken over and Assumpta College went rapidly downhill and the Sisters moved to Kenya. When government policy changed, the Sisters of the Assumption were eager to try again and St Marie Eugenie School was born.
Report by Trustee Elizabeth Byrne-Hill on the school’s official inauguration in 2015
The 5th of July 2015 dawned early in the compound of St. Marie Eugenie Girls’ Secondary School (SMEGSS) with excitement in the hearts of all! The past days had seen the harvesting of the maize and the cleaning of the grounds to provide parking space for the visitors’ vehicles, the setting up of the striped green and white tents with the chairs neatly placed, making sure the trees and flowers were watered so they were green and blooming for the big day.
But preparations had begun even earlier, and not only material ones. Weeks before the whole school had a retreat with Fr. Msuri who made us understand the meaning of a school blessing, filling us with a spirit of thanksgiving for all that God had been doing for us, for the gift the school is to us. We re-read the four years since the ‘soft’ opening of the school in 2011 with its first 90 students and we recognized how God was with us, protecting us, walking with us through each phase of the construction. He told us that the blessing would indeed make our school, ‘holy ground,’ a place where God dwells. Bro. David, sdb, also helped us reflect on our vocation that came from the vocation of St. Marie Eugenie who founded something beautiful for the Church.
Many people from all walks of life and from many places had helped us. From the inception of the project, the Congregation had created a Commission made up of Sr. Lucy Diu, the Principal of SMEGSS at its birthing stage, Sr. Josefina Maria from the Philippines and Sr. Therese Agnes from France. This Commission accompanied the school helping it articulate its vision and mission and direction, forming the educational community of Sisters and lay, so that this would truly be a school after St. Marie Eugenie’s own heart and spirit!
Different Provinces of the Congregation gave support to this mobilizing project of the Congregation and came on that day to celebrate and give thanks with us! SHOCC, the charity which has walked with us and supported us since we first started to buy land, was represented by Elizabeth Byrne Hill.
Friends, alumnae, and parents who all contributed to help build the perimeter fence to protect the school and the hard-working and committed Board of Trustees were there in full force. Our sister-schools: St. Marie Eugenie Primary School from Iguguno; Sangiti Secondary in Moshi and Holy Spirit Academy all the way from Kangundo in Kenya, came to join in our joy!
Of course, our most important guests were our own Bishop, Rt. Reverend Isaac Imani, our Superior General, Sr. Martine Tapsoba who came all the way from the Motherhouse, and former Minister of Parliament Chami who has always been a friend of the Assumption and encouraged us in our mission of education. These three guests represented all of us in planting trees as a symbol of the hope, life and promise for the future of the school.
The flag-raising of the three flags of the Church, of Tanzania and one of St. Marie Eugenie that opened the ceremony, symbolized the spirit of the Assumption to be ‘rich with the spirit of the Church’ and its commitment to work for the transformation of society according to the Gospel.
A significant moment during the Eucharist was the commitment made by the first 12 Assumption Lay members of East Africa in the presence of Sr. Martine. She invested them with the Congregational cross as they also each received from her a copy of ‘The Way of Life’ that spells out their way of living the spirit of the Assumption in their respective states
In his homily, the Bishop expressed his appreciation for our commitment to education even after everything our first schools had suffered in the process of nationalization. He said this showed our total giftedness to God for the Church and society...not looking back but only giving ourselves for the transformation of society. He affirmed how our first Assumption schools had made a difference, giving women leaders for the then newly independent Tanzania. We set a direction for Catholic education for girls that other schools could well emulate.
In his closing address, the Bishop commented on St. Marie Eugenie’s definition of education, ‘To allow the good to break through the rock that imprisons it, that it may come out into the light to blossom and shed its radiance’ and the school motto: ‘To know, to love and to serve.’ Sr. Martine spoke of how St. Marie Eugenie Girls’ Secondary School was born from the communion lived in the whole Congregation as it becomes a sign of hope and promise, a place of nurturing and transformation...of the person and of society. MP Chame further confirmed this when he said how already, the presence of the school in the village had transformed Chekereni from a remote, undeveloped village into a small town with plans by the government to put up a health centre, electricity and water supply for the growing population. Even the outstation will soon have a community of priests (Congregation of the Mission) to minister to the faithful in the area.
The 5th July 2015 has come and gone and we are filled with the memories that filled that day. What remains though are the challenges that continue to lie ahead. We have worked hard and have gone far from that day in January 2011 when we dared to begin the school with the barest of facilities in place...no running water, no electricity, no kitchen nor dining room, no dormitory, no house for the Sisters. Now, not only are the buildings completed but the school community is integrating with the village, building relationships with the neighbours with scholars coming from the village.
This year, the national exam results for Forms 2 and 4 showed that SMEGSS belonged to the Top 10 /585 schools on the zonal level – with marks that are improving from year to year. MP Chame mentioned that the 10 top schools of Tanzania are all Catholic schools and that SMEGSS can be one of these top schools. There are no discipline problems, the girls are responsible and creative and the student officers exercise good leadership. SMEGSS is God’s gift to us, what we make of this gift...becoming a faith-based school with students hopefully able to make a difference in society...is our gift back to God”.
In 2017 SHOCC received a most generous donation of $20,000 from the global commodity company, Glencore and this has enabled the Sisters to install solar panels to illuminate the whole school. This won’t just save every year on the electricity bill. Now, when the grid fails (which unfortunately happens all too often) Chekereni will be a beacon of light and the girls will continue their studies uninterrupted long after 6pm dusk.
Trustees Kevin Cook and Elizabeth Byrne Hill were invited to visit the school in the summer of 2017. After a guided tour of the installations, the lights were switched on much to the joy of the assembled pupils, Sisters and ourselves. Asante sana.