Representatives of Steyning Grammar School Boarding students from Antigua were thrilled to welcome Her Excellency, Ms Karen-Mae Hill, High Commissioner of Antigua and Barbuda and 2 colleagues from the High Commission on Wednesday November 22nd when she visited the School Boarding Campus and Parish Church. This was in recognition of fund raising orchestrated by students in support of the International Red Cross Society Rebuild Barbuda Appeal Fund, in response to the September hurricane devastation in the Caribbean. Three hurricane category storms within 2 weeks wreaked devastation in the home islands for 20 students studying and boarding at Steyning from Antigua, Turks and Caicos, Bermuda, Cayman, Dominica and the Bahamas for 20 students studying and boarding at Steyning.
Deeply shocked by the plight of hundreds of people who remain homeless, and in the knowledge that the rebuilding of shattered communities will take years, Caribbean students at Steyning, a State Boarding School in West Sussex have raised over £5,000 to help that work. Students were quick to produce moving and inspirational footage of the reasons for their campaign using social media as a platform. They set up a justgiving page accompanied by inspirational presentations made throughout the local community to members of all generations. Support and donations were rapidly received from our feeder Primary Schools including West Chiltington, Thakeham and Storrington, the Steyning and Henfield Rotarians, the congregations of Steyening’s St Andrew and St Cuthman C of E and Upper Beeding Bapist Church, Steyning Grammar School Governors, parents, students and alumni. Fund raining events included a Sixth Form College induction party, with over. The theme of the party was the first initial of their Christian or surname and students dressed up in a plethora of costumes, including a full English breakfast.
The High Commissioner shared with students the scientific data linked to climate change thought to be instrumental in the unprecedented severity of the Caribbean hurricanes highlighting the impact on the islands infrastructure and economy. She stated: “Climate change poses an existential threat to our homes and way of life as bigger, more powerful storms such as Irma and Maria may now represent a new normal”. She commended the students for their initiative and expressed her joy and pride that they have chosen to be such exemplary ambassadors for Antigua and Barbuda.
Head Girl of Boarding Arizona Hutchens and Year 13 student Alexander Hadeed had chosen to remain at home in Antigua until the storms passed. They spoke eloquently about their experiences not knowing the exact course the storms would take until the last minute whilst others who had arrived in the UK only a few days before to embark on the academic year revealed their fears at the time for their families and loved ones. Some were unable to make contact with home for several days on the islands of Dominica and Turks and Caicos. As the Christmas holidays approach students, know that they may be returning to very different circumstances at home.
Mr Nick Wergan, Headteacher commented; “At Steyning Grammar School, we have a long and proud association with the Caribbean Islands and have welcomed many students from there over the years. We have been inspired by the courage and resilience of our students during this difficult time and felt duty bound to support the relief effort to help rebuild their home communities”