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On a blustery October morning the entire Highgate population, a crowd of about 2,000 pupils, teaching and support staff, headed outdoors to complete the biennial sponsored walk in aid of Great Lakes High School, Uganda. Pre-Prep pupils stretched their legs with laps around Senior Field while the Junior and Senior Schools headed to nearby Hampstead Heath to complete age-appropriate courses: the oldest pupils walked a clockwise circuit or two of the Heath while the younger pupils walked a shortened route.

It was an incredible sight to see heads bobbing and arms swinging, as groups of pupils and staff kept up a pretty intense pace from the entrance near Kenwood House, down past the Highgate Ponds towards the Lido, along the path that flanks the railway track at the southernmost edge of the Heath and then back up the western reaches of the Heath, crossing the Hampstead ponds before continuing back uphill via Lime Avenue, East Heath and West Meadow and finally arriving at the western edge of Kenwood House.

A drone would have seen what seemed from the ground like a continuous loop of Highgate pupils creating one solid line around the Heath, thanks to the staggered departures planned so efficiently by the Project Officer, Mike Boland, ably assisted by Head of Outdoor Education, Mark House and School Marshal, Jonathan Constable and Transport Logistics Manager, Elliot Prescott. There was singing, laughter, prefects encouraging people to walk in the right direction and generally keeping up our spirits (and one group playing cards—to while away the time!) There was the occasional glimpse our running Head as he sped anti-clockwise to maximise waves and hellos plus six members of the school cross-country team who ran just shy of a half marathon (3 full laps) at 8 minutes per mile or faster—a great fitness boost to the rest of the season.

This was the first year of online fundraising via the BT MyDonate website which was chosen by Great Lakes High School as it is a free, not-for profit service which does not charge administration fees, commission or subscription charges to the charities it lists. The ability to give online radically changed the donation landscape for this year’s event and meant that it was much easier to keep track of how we were progressing against our £60,000 target in the run up to the Sponsored Walk.
Dr Hamlet Mbabazi, Principal of Great Lakes High School, visited Highgate in September and provided up-to-date information on the current needs on the ground in Kirima, Uganda. Great Lakes High School was particularly keen to have a reliable water supply (to avoid children missing school to facilitate the daily collection); to purchase a new school truck (to be used for every conceivable kind of delivery); to acquire new batteries (to harness the solar power needed to run school equipment); to replenish science laboratory supplies (test-tubes, chemicals etc) and if funds permitted, to build a new science laboratory for the younger year groups who currently do not have the opportunity to use the one school laboratory which is at capacity.

Even before the walk had begun we knew that we had achieved our £60,000 target but online donations kept trickling in over half-term. Once we returned to school, the offline donations arrived via cash and cheques from our youngest pupils and other pupils who had decided to use the in-person approach to sponsorship. As of this writing we are currently at £114,947.50—almost double our target, which is an absolutely fantastic result and will be transformational for our sister school in Uganda. Thank you to everyone who gave so generously and to the children who walked in solidarity with the children in Uganda who must currently walk miles for clean water. If you do still have a donation at home or in a school bag—don’t worry—we are still accepting them (cheques made out to Volunteer Uganda please!) and they can still be put to great use at Great Lakes High School!


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Even better news is that the funds from BT MyDonate have already made their way into the Trust’s bank account and have been sent out to Uganda to purchase the equipment necessary for the water project and the new school truck. UK-based trustees (which includes current and retired senior members of Highgate School) will be meeting in January to discuss priorities for the additional funds raised and how they will be best spent to support education for children at Great Lakes High School in the months ahead.


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