Stevenage sports centre starts education project to take 750 pencil cases to Africa

(front) Marriotts sports centre personal trainer Andy Prior, duty manager Jordan Wilson, head of six

(front) Marriotts sports centre personal trainer Andy Prior, duty manager Jordan Wilson, head of sixth form Adam Illingworth and community leisure service manager Jamie Drackford who are travelling to the Gambia this year with Marriotts sixth formers who are trying to get 750 pencil cases to take to Gambia, Africa to give to children - Credit: Archant

Customs officials in Gambia may get quite a shock when they open Jay Drackford’s suitcases when he arrives in the West African country next month – because inside they will discover pencil cases. More than 750 of them...

(front) Marriotts sports centre personal trainer Andy Prior, duty manager Jordan Wilson, head of six

(front) Marriotts sports centre personal trainer Andy Prior, duty manager Jordan Wilson, head of sixth form Adam Illingworth and community leisure service manager Jamie Drackford who are travelling to the Gambia this year with Marriotts sixth formers who are trying to get 750 pencil cases to take to Gambia, Africa to give to children - Credit: Archant

Jay, the community leisure services manager at Stevenage’s Marriotts Sports Centre, has started a project to take sought-after educational supplies to those who really need them.

He has been visiting the country regularly since 1987 and has been so affected by seeing children who have nothing that he has founded his own project to help. Jay said: “I want to give something back with this project. It is a Third World country and the children there have very little or nothing at all, but they really value education. They don’t have the things that we take for granted.”

The 34-year-old has now founded the Marriotts – Gambia Project which he hopes will involve the school and the wider community in creating a lasting legacy nearly 3,000 miles away.

Last year he visited the country with Stevenage FC and charity Football Gambia to help work on school projects – but due to the Ebola epidemic flights this year’s planned charity trip has had to be scrapped.


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Jay decided he would still head to Africa, and he wants people to donate pencil cases filled with eight pieces of stationary , a short letter and a photograph.

The cases will go to the pupils at Anne Marie Javouhey Academy.

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In the long run the Marriotts - Gambia Project will help run projects at the school and next year’s aim is to build a new kitchen or dining room.

Jay said: “It is about getting the whole community involved and trying to help people who have nothing, to give them more opportunities than they have.”

He will also host a fundraising event on Saturday, which will see people swap a morning of fitness for a donation. Classes include: Kettlercise at 9.15am, Bagbox at 10am, Metabolic Effect at 11am and Insanity 10 at 11.30am.

Pencil cases need to be donated by March 1 and can be handed into the Marriotts Sports Centre, contact Jay on 01438 317525.

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