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For want of a pencil

01 February 2013

AN URGENT request has come from Gill Newman, wife of the Bishop of Stepney, the Rt Revd Adrian Newman, for more support for her "Post a Pencil" project. She recently wrote in these pages about her visit to one of the refugee camps in Syria (Real Life, 18 January), where she found people living in a wasteland of mud, "many children with bare feet, almost purple with cold".

There was a makeshift school built of breeze blocks and covered in tarpaulin (above) trying to provide education for some 5000 children in shifts of 100 at a time - but there was no equipment, not even pencils and paper. The teacher's ambition was that each child should have his or her own bag with paper, pencils, and pens.

Mrs Newman hoped that the schools in east London, in the Stepney area, might help with providing these basics. Most of the children in Syria were, after all, well into their education, with good prospects in front of them, until their normal lives were turned upside down. Now she is hoping that more churches and church schools will join in.

Before she went to Syria, she had already raised £9000 for a small charity, Hand in Hand for Syria, and she took £2000 with her, some of which went to the children, some to buy children's clothes and boots, and the rest of the money to Hand in Hand for its winter appeal. Now she hopes for enough money to buy 1000 school bags, to fill with plain and lined paper, and a pencil case with pencils, ball-point pens, coloured pencils, and a sharpener. She estimates that each bag will cost about £5, and she is hoping church schools will help.

"Just buy a new pencil, or small packet of crayons, pop them into an envelope with two second-class stamps (the thickness of a pencil means that it has to be posted as a 'large letter', which costs 90p), and then send it to me." Her address is 63 Coborn Road, London E3 2DB.


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