Popular Whitby auctioneer plans fundraising birthday gig for African school

Rob Smith at Linda Community SchoolRob Smith at Linda Community School
Rob Smith at Linda Community School
Prominent Whitby business owner and auctioneer, Robert Smith, of Richardson and Smith Estate Agents, is planning a birthday bash with a difference this November.

Mr Smith, 60, is to hold a Live Music Night at Whitby’s Brunswick Centre on Saturday, November 11, to raise funds for the Zambezi Sunrise Trust, a charity of which he is a trustee.

He first became aware of the charity after meeting Durham couple John and Joanne Gillette at his cousin’s 50th birthday, and he said he would like to get involved.

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Mr Smith said; “Joanne went to school with my cousin at Sneaton Castle. They had always had a passion for travel and they had an empathy for African culture.

Learning lessonsLearning lessons
Learning lessons

“When John retired in 2016 they planned to go and do some teaching and voluntary work and intended to set up a charity somewhere - which is when they stumbled across Zambia.”

“In Livingstone, the tourist capital of the south of the country, they met a formidable woman called Cathy Chilambe. Cathy was headteacher of a school in a district of Livingstone called Linda.

“She was teaching around 460 children in a tin-roofed cattle-shed.”

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The Gillette’s established in conversation that the school was facing closure, partly because it flooded when it rained and partly because there were only two toilets for the 460 children who went there.

Rob Smith turns his hand to teaching at Linda Community SchoolRob Smith turns his hand to teaching at Linda Community School
Rob Smith turns his hand to teaching at Linda Community School

Most were orphaned or underprivileged. The government was planning to close the school due to the lack of toilets and the risk of cholera

The first task was to raise money to purchase a piece of adjacent land which could be used to build a toilet block to enable the school to remain open.

In 2016, the toilet block and an enclosed outdoor cooking area were completed.

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Mr Smith became involved with the charity in 2018, and after a lengthy delay caused by covid, finally travelled to see the school’s progress for himself earlier this year.

“I’m pretty proud of it to be honest,” he said. “When I went, it was part of a celebration open day for the opening of the year 11 and 12 classrooms.

“That day I will never forget, it was a day of absolute joy - singing and dancing from every class.

“It was overwhelming. Cathy is an absolute beacon of a human being with her dynamism.

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“It’s a little like stepping back in time, but there is an overriding feeling of warmth and friendliness. They are happy, uncomplicated people

“All have natural aspirations to achieve and hope to enter professions such as teaching, the law etc, and in that district, without education, there would be no opportunities at all.

The charity is now raising funds to build a science and technology block and is looking to raise between £12-15,000.

To support this Mr Smith will host a Live Music Night at The Brunswick Centre featuring a host of performers including David Neil Crabtree, Paul Whittaker, Kelly Scott aided by a host of talented local musicians.

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Zambian and homemade crafts will be on sale and a small auction of some very special lots will also take place.

The event is on Saturday, November 11, at 7pm. Tickets, priced £15 in advance or £20 on the door, are available from The Brunswick Centre or by calling Rob on 07866 578 086.

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