The Pat Evans Classroom
“It was the faces of the children which haunted me,” says Jackie Sedlak, Ben Rhydding teacher and mum. “There wasn’t room in the village school and these little ones could only look through the window as lessons began. My husband Vic and I felt stung into action.”
Not Wharfedale, West Africa, but the encounter sparked the latest charitable campaign of the team behind Pat’s Party, the one day Ben Rhydding family music festival that’s been running in the valley for 14 years.
It was in 2016 when the Sedlaks were visiting friends in The Gambia, that they met the children of the Kenali Nursery School. After twenty years teaching at Ben Rhydding Primary school, Jackie was newly-retired, but had been invited into the school to have a look round and do some teaching herself. It was then that she noticed the faces at the window.
“Looking at those children, desperate to learn, but excluded because there just wasn’t the room, touched a chord. When we returned to Yorkshire and told our friends, they agreed we should support Kenali as well as Save the Children, our main beneficiary”.
Thanks to the generosity of the Wharfedale community over £5000 has been donated to the Gambia school, where a new classroom was desperately needed. This month, the campaign bore fruit, and the new classroom was opened. A further £1500 a year has been pledged to fund teaching and uniforms.
“It hasn’t all been plain sailing,” said Vic, “First, there was a problem securing the land, then the cement ran out, and bad weather delayed things as well. Thanks to huge public support for the Pat’s Party events (the music day in July and the Bonfire in November) we could finance all this as well as continuing our support for Save the Children - which was the charity Pat’s Party had been set up to help.”
Save the Children will always be a beneficiary of the event, and has received around £100,000 to date. Pat Evans chose Save the Children because they supported children wherever they were in
Save the Children has built entire schools, hospitals and safe shelters for children since it was set up by two sisters in 1919. It now operates in over 100 countries.
In Wharfedale, Pat’s Party has also supported local organisations, including Ilkley’s Outside the Box cafe´ and Ben Rhydding Scouts and Guide group. It has given scores of young musicians a chance to perform in front of a large audience, on an outdoor stage with full PA support. The party’s refreshment tents and newly-installed zip-wire have helped make it an ideal family event.
Back in the Gambia, the Kenali school is now securely enclosed and full to capacity, with 55 children aged 4 to 7, all of whom have new uniforms. The older children will move on in September, when an additional qualified teacher will be in post to teach the new intake in what’s been named the “Pat Evans Classroom”. A plaque on the wall marks the generosity of Wharfedale people.
Next there are plans to sink a borehole as the school has no water supply, then make a playground and play equipment. An outdoor classroom shaded area has been discussed, and new classroom equipment including low tables and chairs is needed.
“Without the help and support of the community here in Wharfedale we would never have achieved anything,” said Jackie. “So it’s a big, big thank you to everyone!”