Rotarians support Ugandan dormitory project

Rotarians support Ugandan dormitory project

Rotarians in Kinver and Bewdley have helped transform the lives of Ugandan orphans with a £14k fundraising campaign to build a new dormitory.

Forty-eight children have moved into the environmentally-friendly dormitory in Kititi following a five-month building project run by the Planting For Hope Uganda charity led by Kate Oakley from Caunsall.

Planting for Hope Uganda charity, Kitiiti, dormitory, orphans, Kinver and Bewdley Rotary Club

Planting for Hope Uganda charity, Kitiiti, dormitory, orphans, Kinver and Bewdley Rotary Club
Kate Oakley with one of the Kititi orphans

The building, attached to a school, provides safe accommodation for students who live with an impoverished grandparent or guardian and are forced to walk six miles a day through inhospitable bush.

The project will ensure the girls’ safety as well as enable them to have a full -time education, improve their health by providing safe water and two meals a day. The 2-3 hours of their time spent walking to and from school is now more profitably used doing homework, catching up with missed education and taking part in sports and spent with friends. A house mother is also on hand to provide for the girls’ pastoral care needs.

The students’ proximity to the adjoining Cornerstone School also enables them to benefit from extra evening tuition from live-in teachers.

PfHU Founder Kate Oakley said: “The girls are loving living in the dormitory. They feel really safe because they don’t have the daily trek to and from school through bush and scrubland, along rough tracks. In the rainy season this journey is impossible so they miss several weeks of schooling which they hate.

“It’s the first time any of them have slept in a proper bed with a mattress, pillow, sheets and blanket and not had to share a sleeping space on the floor with siblings

“They have more time to relax with friends. Chores are fewer and shared and they do not have to walk several miles to and from school each day. Clean water is at hand and it is safe to drink straight from the water tank. They also have electricity so they can see to do homework.”

Retired teacher Kate helped establish the PfHU with a young Ugandan graduate Apollo Saku in 2012 while volunteering and fundraising for another bush village in Uganda following the death of her husband.

Since then continued sponsorship has funded the building, equipping and staffing of Cornerstone School – the only school in the region that offers free places to children from destitute families.

Fundraising is still going on to provide further shower facilities at the dormitory as well as more furniture to help with homework and school improvements such as library.

Planting for Hope Uganda charity, Kitiiti, dormitory, orphans, Kinver and Bewdley Rotary Club
The dormitory at foundations stage.

Fundraising coffers have also been used to buy land for commercial crops and build a mission house to accommodate volunteers as well as teach women new skills to enable them to earn money and become more self-sufficient.

Kate, who in 2021 was awarded the Rotary Community Champion Award, said: “I was very impressed with Apollo’s vision and passion for helping poor families living in the area. There were so many families going hungry and children uneducated because parents were destitute, that we decided we would work together to see what we could do to help them change this situation. We chose the village of Kititi because families were mainly headed by women, many widowed because of Aids.

“The women formed a cooperative, we bought land and Apollo taught them sustainable farming so that they could grow and share food to feed their families.”

Planting for Hope Uganda charity, Kitiiti, dormitory, orphans, Kinver and Bewdley Rotary Club

The twice-yearly rainy season followed by drought, hunger, unclean water, difficult terrain and lack of shoes, are all causes for poor health and attendance and educational underperformance in rural bush villages in South West Uganda.

An uneducated girl child is statistically more likely to become pregnant in teenage years, which leads to increasing poverty for themselves and their families.

Ian Maddock, Chair of Kinver Rotary Club International Committee, said: “As a former headteacher I believe that we owe it to children, wherever in the world they may be, to educate them. It is a path out of poverty, can enhance their self-respect and enables them both to be self-sufficient and to contribute to their society.

Planting for Hope Uganda charity, Kitiiti, dormitory, orphans, Kinver and Bewdley Rotary Club

“This project will provide this opportunity for countless children over the coming years.”

Kate added: “Kinver and Bewdley Rotary Clubs, together with District, have supported PfHU from the beginning. Two members of Bewdley Rotary have been out to visit the project in the bush village of Kititi on several occasions.

“I cannot thank Heart of England Rotary enough for the support they have given us. We would certainly not have this new dormitory without their help. Other projects they have funded include purchase of land to enable the women to grow food to feed their families, a borehole for clean water, water harvesting, solar panels, desks and bunk beds, sewing machines, showers and latrines.

“We could not have achieved so much in the time without the tremendous support of Heart of England Rotary. We have achieved far more than we thought possible, in a relatively short time, because of that support.”

Donations to the Rotary’s PfHU fundraising can be made at here

Further information about Planting for Hope Uganda is available here

Kate, who is also is available for talks, can be contacted at:

Further Information

The Covid situation in Uganda remains precarious. Around 1% of the population has been fully vaccinated. Lockdown, whilst successful in limiting the spread of the virus, has had tragic consequences. Loss of jobs and restricted movement of farm produce has led to hunger and to men abandoning their families and families abandoning their children leaving relatives, who themselves are in poverty, to care for them.

Cornerstone was among the top best performing schools in the Primary Leaving Examinations. All 31 students who sat them passed, with over 90% achieving a first or second grading.

Bisi, pictured centre, with fellow Cornerstone students.

Bisi’s Story: A Case Study

Bisi is a clever girl who wants to one day become a nurse. A very different prospect to the one she had three years ago. . .

Seven-year-old Bisi was at home with her older sister Joanne and little brother Edward. Three older brothers were at secondary school and their mom was a subsistence farmer, leaving early every morning to go to their small piece of land to dig.

Their father had died before Edward was born and their mom was forced to sell most of their land to pay for the older boys’ education.

It was arranged that Bisi and Joanne would come to Cornerstone School, also part of PfHU, and the only school in the region giving free school places to orphaned and destitute children.

Planting for Hope Uganda, Kititii, Kinver and Bewdley Rotary Club, orphans
The dormitory will help hundreds more orphans in the future.

They were excited and happy, loved their school uniforms and daily porridge and also their books, pencils and lessons.

Sadly, as soon as the rainy season started they rarely turned up. It was just impossible for them to walk over six miles a day through rough country tracks and thick mud so they missed months of their longed-for education.

The situation was changed when two of the Co-operative women took them into their homes and fostered them, but it put real pressure on the women’s already crushing poverty. With the help of PfHU the families and the girls managed- and were among the first to move into the new dormitory.

The dormitory will help hundreds of others to have this chance in the future.

More fun than you can shake – or throw – a stick at!

More fun than you can shake – or throw – a stick at!

Boom Battle Bar, Coventry, axe-throwing, crazier golf, shuffleboard, cocktails, American pool, augmented reality darts, beer pong

LET battle commence – a new concept in leisure and entertainment has arrived in Coventry.

The city has become home to the latest in the UK’s only Battle Bar franchise – a venue that combines a premium bar, food offering and competitive games – the likes of which you won’t have seen all under one roof before.

From American Pool and Electronic Beer Pong to Shuffleboard and Augmented Reality Darts, there’s also the chance to take in a round of so-called ’Crazier Golf’ (more on this later) and even. . . a spot of axe-throwing!

If, like me, you’re instantly horrified by the concept of axes and alcohol co-existing in the same space, fear not. The axe-throwing lanes are segregated and only available to those not ‘under the influence.’ An hour’s hire includes personal supervision and instruction. – Not that this helped my technique much! Turns out, chucking axes into a target is not in my skillset. It’s harder than it looks.

Great fun though – and where else can you partake in some indoor axe-throwing as part of a night out with friends and family? Great pre-curser to a hen or stag night or ice-breaker on a works night out.

My personal favourite of the activities was the shuffleboard table – as deceptively tricky as it is competitive.

The great concept of Battle Bar is also its fresh take on traditional games, including the ‘Crazier’ Golf course which delivers what it says on the tin. This short set of compact and quirky holes will test even the most experienced of mini-golfers (I include myself in that). Or maybe it’s so named as it has the potential to drive you crazy? Either way, it’s a ‘hole’ lot of fun. (Pun very much intended!)

And forget any notion of darts as you know it. Battle Bar’s Augmented Reality version adds a new dimension to your game through a series of new dart-based team games. All the fun and none of the mental arithmetic!

Battle Bar is undoubtedly an exciting new offering for families and friendship groups but, I sense, is set to be a particular favourite among the university students upon their return, especially as it’s over 18s only after 7pm when, no doubt, the venue will really come into its own.

Every activity is available to hire, in most cases, by the hour, but those who just want to enjoy a cocktail – or two – from the menu and soak up the vibe, are also welcome.

It’s not a destination of choice for diners however – but in fairness, nor does it profess to be. It’s an extremely limited menu offering here (if chicken wings aren’t your thing you’ll be left wanting) but was always designed more as a complement to the fun – because that’s what Battle Bar is predominantly all about – competitive fun with a capital F!

There are clearly a couple of early minor technical hitches that needed smoothing out, including one of the golf holes being out of action when we visited, but Coventry is lucky to have Boom Battle Bar – one of just a handful in the country. And in these uncertain times for the hospitality and leisure industries, it is particularly great to see it open its doors in Broadgate this month.

Why not check it out in the New Year? The perfect way to go into good-natured battle with your family and friends – and still come out laughing. (Well, I certainly hope so!)


Henley firm celebrates top national industry awards

Henley firm celebrates top national industry awards

A Henley-in-Arden business is celebrating after receiving two prestigious national industry awards., Henley-in-Arden, What Van, award
From left: Actor Sean Williamson; Steve Whitmarsh, Managing Director runyourfleet; Simon Shiner, Finance Director of runyourfleet and Terry Rayner, Business Development Director Locks 4 Vans, which sponsored the award.

Fleet management company, has been awarded the Technology award for their innovative cloud-based Fleet Management platform as well as being Highly Commended in the Telematics category at the prestigious What Van? Awards.

The ceremony, hosted by former Eastenders actor Sean Williamson, took place at London’s Nobu Hotel earlier this month.

The What Van? Awards are recognised as one of the most highly regarded independent accolades in the UK’s light commercial vehicle industry. Awards provide recognition for brands, businesses and organisations that have reached the pinnacle of their fields.

What Van? assembles an experienced panel of independent judges from across the LCV sector to evaluate the entrants. The categories evolve from year to year to ensure changing trends and developments spanning the breadth of the light commercial vehicle industry are represented., Henley-in-Arden, What Van, award

Upon winning the award Managing Director, Steve Whitmarsh said: “The runyourfleet platform is what sets us apart from our competitors. It has been designed and developed in-house by our own team to meet the very demanding needs of more than 27,000 vehicles on a Service as a Software (SaaS) subscription basis.

“To be recognised in this way with such a prestigious award is a fantastic achievement for our team who are committed to developing the platform to include even more products and features.”, The Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce preferred Fleet Management and Vehicle Funding partner, has been a disrupter of the Automotive industry since it started trading in 2011. They were the first business to offer a subscription-based service to help businesses of any size save time and costs and to remain compliant from a duty of care perspective when running their company fleet.

Over recent years, has enjoyed exponential growth with over 27,000 vehicles now using its subscription-based services from more than 1,200 businesses across the UK.

For further information visit

Tony, 72, overcomes heart bypass for mammoth fundraising effort

Tony, 72, overcomes heart bypass for mammoth fundraising effort

A 72-year-old great-grandad who underwent a quadruple heart bypass is pledging to walk ten miles a day throughout 2022 to raise funds for a Warwick children’s charity in its milestone anniversary year.

Tony Cunningham, from Coventry, is hoping to run up a huge total for Molly Olly’s Wishes by completing laps around the city’s Memorial Park, starting at 7am on New Year’s Day.

He’ll be spurred on by the precious memory of his late wife of 47 years who lost her four-month battle with lung cancer in February.

Molly Olly's Wishes, Tony Cunningham, Rachel Ollerenshaw
Tony Cunningham with charity Founder Rachel Ollerenshaw.

It is the latest – but greatest – fundraising challenge for Liverpool-born Tony, who also supported the Alzheimer’s Society six years ago and raised over £1,000 for Cancer Research with a month-long 334-mile walk in the summer.

Tony said: “Four years ago I took part in a team fundraising effort for Molly Olly’s Wishes at Burbidge & Son where I worked and it really resonated with me. It’s such a worthwhile cause and, as a charity, gives children and their families some pleasure in the darkest of times.”

Warwick-based Molly Olly’s Wishes was established following the death of Rachel and Tim Ollerenshaw’s eight-year-old daughter Molly from a rare kidney cancer and marks its tenth anniversary next year.

The charity supports children with terminal or life-limiting illnesses and their families. It grants wishes, helps with emotional support and it donates therapeutic toys and books to children directly and through hospitals across the UK.

No stranger to the pain of child loss, Tony admits it’s a cause that touches him deeply.

“My wife and I lost twins in my first marriage when I was just 21. One was stillborn and one died in my arms on the way to the hospital. Even though it was 50 years ago that torments me to this day. There’s not a day goes by when I don’t think about that.”

Molly Olly's Wishes
Tim and Rachel Ollerenshaw with Molly, inset.

Rachel said: “Tony is truly amazing. To offer to walk 10 miles a day to mark our tenth birthday is no small feat for any age, but to do it at 72 years of age is quite something. Tony will be running 3,650 miles across 2022 in aid of Molly Olly’s and we are so thankful. The money Tony raises will help us to support children who’re going through very tough times with their health.”

To find out all the ways you can donate to Molly Olly’s Wishes, visit here

The walking challenge marks a long-awaited return to fitness for the grandad of 11 and great-grandad of six who underwent lifesaving heart surgery four years ago – and whilst still recovering from post-traumatic stress disorder following an accident.

Tony added: “My health has improved enormously since I started doing the walks so I wanted to keep pushing myself further and further each time. The kids think I’m completely bonkers and keep asking if I really ought to be doing this, but I’m determined to give it my best shot.”

And he is sure his beloved Jackie will be with him in spirit every step of the way.

“Some time ago I asked if I could put Jackie’s ashes in the rose garden at the Memorial Park but didn’t hear anything back from the council so I ended up putting them on my parents’ grave. But regularly when I walk past the rose garden on my training sessions I keep seeing someone in my peripheral vision and when I turn around there is no one there. So I know she is with me in spirit. She would probably call me a nutter. But I think she would be proud of me. She would have been there shouting me on,” added Tony.

Molly Olly's Wishes, Rachel Ollerenshaw
Lord Mayor of Coventry Cllr John McNicholas will see Tony off on the first morning.

Tony’s fundraising has already attracted the support of local councillors, some of whom have pledged to join him at the start of his walk at The Memorial Park at 8am on New Year’s Day. He will officially be seen off by The Lord Mayor of Coventry Cllr John McNicholas.

Cllr McNicholas said: “Many of us have tackled a 10-mile walk for charity, but to do one every day for a year will be a real test of physical and mental stamina and it deserves our support.

“I am sure Tony will become a familiar figure as he clocks up the miles around the Memorial Park, so we can all cheer him on and let him know how grateful we are for the effort he’s making to help young children who are going through so much. Molly Olly’s Wishes is a tremendous charity.

“I wish Tony well, and I look forward to seeing him throughout the year.”

Among those offering to keep him company for parts of the walk are Earlsdon Councillors Dr Kindy Sandhu and Becky Gittins. Cllr Gittins said: “It is great to see Tony so passionate about raising money for Molly Olly’s Wishes. He is really challenging himself physically to raise as much money as he can for such a worthy cause. I hope people will give what they can to support him and improve the lives of seriously ill children in our area!”

Cllr Sandhu added: “This is a such great endeavour by Tony. His passion and desire to walk ten miles a day every day throughout 2022 to raise funds for Molly Olly’s Wishes is both humbling and inspiring. Our support for this important fundraising effort is the true legacy of Molly which lives through every step that Tony takes.”

To sponsor Tony visit here


 Molly Olly’s Wishes was set up following the experiences of Molly over the 5 years she received treatment for kidney cancer at Birmingham Children’s Hospital. Throughout the 10 years that the charity has been running, it has:-

  • granted more than 2,100 wishes
  • supported more than 15,000 children
  • distributed more than 12,000 Olly The Brave books to more than 70 hospitals
  • raised more than £3 million

Between 2017 and 2020, the charity funded Birmingham’s first paediatric palliative consultant as there was no such consultant for the region. That position has now become permanent and is currently funded through the NHS.

The charity works alongside the NHS to support projects within the hospitals and the community. One key project was the creation and refurbishment of Magnolia House at Birmingham Children’s Hospital. This is a safe and non-clinical space where medical teams and families can have important discussions.

Still time to enter awards celebrating female achievers

Still time to enter awards celebrating female achievers

Ladies First Business Development Awards, Tracey McAtamney
Awards organiser Tracey McAtamney

THERE are just a few weeks left for Warwickshire businesses to enter a new-look awards dedicated to recognising growth and resilience throughout the pandemic.

The fourth Ladies First Professional Development Awards will celebrate success stories while also raising funds and awareness for two Midlands charities, St Basils and Suited For Success.

New categories introduced this year among the 25 available, are: Excellence in Health & Wellbeing, Digital Star, Man of the Year, Employer of the Year, Excellence in Education, Family Business and Service Provider of the Year.

Young people will also be under the spotlight at this year’s awards which champion Young Person in STEM, Young Entrepreneur, Rising Star in Education and Inspirational Young Achiever.

Headline sponsors are Pertemps, based in Meriden; Nicola Smyth Salons, which has sites across Warwickshire and the West Midlands; Alsters Kelley Solicitors; and Janine Edwards Wealth Management in Balsall Common.

Carmen Watson, Chair of Pertemps Network Group, said: “We are thrilled to be a part of the Ladies First Awards. Events like this are essential if we want to encourage more women to aspire to hold the most senior positions within companies across the UK.

“These awards highlight the entrepreneurship, endeavour and determination of businesswomen across the country and will act as an inspiration for hundreds of thousands of women who are doing incredible things every day.

“We must focus on supporting females in business more than ever. It is imperative women know they can progress and receive fair treatment throughout their career. Let’s focus on breaking that glass ceiling for good.”

Julie McGarrigle, Business Development Director at Alsters Kelley, which has practices in Leamington, Stratford, Coventry, Southam and Nuneaton said: “We are extremely proud to be one of the headline sponsors of the Ladies First Awards 2022. We are looking forward to being involved with the Awards which are an opportunity to celebrate everyone’s achievements and provide a great platform to support all women in business.”

Ladies First Business Development Awards, Tracey McAtamney,Suited For Success
Suited For Success CEO, Patricia White.

Benefitting from fundraising on the night are two charities that support the homeless and vulnerable in Warwickshire and the West Midlands, Suited For Success and St Basils.

Established in 2016, award-winning Suited For Success helps unemployed men and women in Warwickshire and the West Midlands prepare for a job interview by providing free coaching, employment preparation skills and interview clothing. Further information can be found here

St Basils works with young people aged 16-25 who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, to enable them to find and keep a home, grow their confidence, develop their skills and increase opportunities.

Ladies First Professional Development, Tracey McAtamney, St Basils, Suited For Success
St Basils also offer employability coaches which run a five-week programme called ‘I Can.’

Established in Birmingham, the charity now has 42 accommodation projects across the West Midlands, including Leamington, Coventry, Solihull, Sandwell, Walsall, Bromsgrove, Redditch and Kidderminster. Further information can be found here

Awards organiser and Ladies First Network Leader, Tracey McAtamney from Balsall Common, said: “It’s not just about women in business, it’s about recognising all inspirational people in our communities.

Tracey said: “We are already inspired by the quality of entries we’ve received so far. But please keep nominating those special women in your life, whether it is a family member, work colleague, friend or someone who has made a difference to your life or the lives of others. We want to hear their story. It is wonderful to be celebrating the successes of so many wonderful women of all ages and backgrounds.

“The nomination form is really simple to fill in and if anyone is having any difficulties they can contact me by email directly.”

A previous year’s Ladies First Awards night.

Closing date for entries is January 7th and finalists will be selected by an independent panel at a judging event on February 7th, ahead of an awards ceremony at Coombe Abbey in Coventry on March 24th.

For further information about how to nominate, visit here

To enquire about sponsorship opportunities contact Tracey McAtamney at: