Carolyn Ann Murray’s journey began in 1978, when she started working in a small school in Sudan and it was here that she met a young teacher named Ester, who became her inspiration for the founding of Immanuel Kindergarten.
“Ester moved to a village called Yei with her family and started a small school. The civil war erupted and she and thousands of others became refugees in Uganda. When she returned to Yei in 2005, I visited them and they were trying to rebuild lives and reopen the school.”
Carolyn initially decided to raise some funds in order to replace a roof on a small decaying building, but her fund-raising was so successful that they were able to lay foundations for a more permanent structure.
“I did a tandem parachute jump in 2006 (not to be repeated!!!) which started the fundraising. In 2009, there was a formal opening of 3 new classrooms, an office block, and toilets.”
Since then, the team have been able to dig a bore-hole, build a kitchen, and, together with the parents, build a hall. The money has also helped to buy learning resources and outdoor play equipment for the children.
Carolyn goes back to Sudan to work alongside the staff at Immanuel Kindergarten and leads more formal staff training. She funds each of these visits herself, usually visiting every two years after working to save up for her own expenses.
Immanuel Kindergarten had grown from supporting 50 Sudanese children in 2009 to 350 in 2015, and teaches them the equivalent of Early Years and Key Stage 1 in UK. In 2016 the country descended into another civil war and many Yei people once again became refugees.
During this time, the Kindergarten has fought to stay open and change the lives of the children living in Yei:
“Despite continued unrest and fighting in the country, the school did not close and gave the remaining children a routine and education during an incredibly difficult period. Although the numbers of pupils dropped during the very difficult time, they have now built up again to over 400. The parents, governors, and staff work hard to run and resource the school, give the children one meal a day, and also pay the staff. The Charity continues to help when we can to support with extra resources. The parents and governors are now trying to raise funds to build a new classroom block and the charity would like to support that if we can.”
After returning back to her home in England from a trip to Yei, Carolyn was amazed to find a letter from Buckingham Palace hiding amongst other post, which she says nearly went straight into the recycling bin!
“It feels surreal, but it is really for the amazing hardworking team in Yei who have kept the school going under very difficult circumstances, giving hundreds of children the best possible start in life.”
Find how you can support the Immanuel Kindergarten Charity by visiting their website here