Tim Allan learns how a Church of England school in Crawley is making a huge difference to the lives of children at a primary school in the Nigerian city of Jos.
Every child at St Andrew’s Church of England primary school, Crawley has a heart for mission thanks to head teacher Deborah Packham and Serving In Mission’s Nicky Brand.
Each of the seven classes is linked directly with a child in Jos, Nigeria, where Nicky helps run Cornerstone primary school as part of her work with the City Ministries project.
Last year alone, St Andrew’s raised an incredible £1,647 for Nicky’s work and, even more importantly, kept the Nigerian children in their prayers week by week.
Mrs Packham, who took over as head in September, said: “It’s wonderful to have this partnership with Nicky because it’s a very real link — I’ve been involved in similar things before which have sometimes been a bit nebulous but this is very real.
“It’s very important for the children to see that their actions can have a real impact in places beyond Crawley.
“Having Nicky visit the school and talk to the children about her life in Nigeria, and about how her school operates there, really brings the partnership alive.”
The school has been supporting Nicky for at least the last six years, a partnership which started through Nicky’s long-standing friendship with Year One teacher Julie Forrest.
Cornerstone takes vulnerable and orphaned children and offers them a free education in a country where almost all schools are fee-paying.
There are about 100 pupils, aged from 5 to 16, organised by educational level, rather than by age, because so many of them have had little formal schooling until they arrive.
They live in boys’ and girls’ houses on a nearby compound and all their food and clothing is provided. Their lives are, of course, very different to the lives of the children at St Andrew’s.
While St Andrew’s has interactive whiteboards, colourful displays and computers, Cornerstone is built of hand-made mud bricks, has barely any resources and relies on blackboards and chalk.
However, the one similarity between the schools is the gospel ethos.
Mrs Packham explained: “We embed the gospel in the very heart of the school, with assemblies every day and one a week in the church to which we are attached.
“Each class has a reflective area and we have prayer spaces throughout the school. While we fully appreciate the importance of academic excellence, we also know that spiritual development is vital for children to grow up well.
“One of the great joys of coming here as a Christian teacher has been being able to pray with the children every single day.”
That gospel core is vital at Cornerstone too, where worship and Bible study are a daily part of school life.
Nicky said: “We want to educate our children and also give them the opportunity to follow Jesus. We believe that spiritual input is vital to their development as young men and women.”
The schools want to forge still closer links, with Mrs Packham and Nicky intending to organise Skype calls between classes.
St Andrew’s will also keep fund-raising for Cornerstone, with each class given a target of at least £100 a year.
That leads to some very creative ideas for fund-raising, including selling cakes, selling drawings, selling loom band bracelets and selling a school newspaper. The parents also made donations at the end of the school’s Christmas show.
This model of partnership between schools could work elsewhere and help mission workers raise funds.
To find out more, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. To support Nicky’s work financially go to sim.co.uk/donate and quote project no 85550.
Give thanks for the children of St Andrew's School and the vision of the staff to be such good supporters of Cornerstone.
For more UK schools to see the value of partnerships with schools in other parts of the world.
For Nicky and her work in Nigeria, that more and more of the young people she works with would come to faith in Jesus.