Interview with Stuart, from the Stephenson Group Ltd, our IT donors

Very recently, I was speaking to Stuart Pine, IT Manager at the Stephenson Group Ltd from Leeds https://www.stephensonpersonalcare.com, in Yorkshire, England. We first spoke back in January 2019, as I was launching Friends of Pakati. I was being interviewed about the project by BBC Radio Humberside’s Sports Talk, largely because I am known as a fan of my hometown football club, Scunthorpe United.

As Stuart drove home from Leeds to his home in East Yorkshire, he was listening to the broadcast, and contacted me by email soon after. His employers had a few computers to give away, and try as he might, Stuart could not get anyone to take them. He was very reluctant to take them to the recycling facility, so offered them to me. Not surprisingly, I jumped at the offer! It was quite expensive to get refurbished computers and have them shipped out, so this seemed an ideal scenario.

Stuart, Chris & Richard in June 2019

Following the original discussion with Stuart, an arrangement was made for me to visit the Stephenson Group Ltd at their premises in Leeds, and to collect the donated items. I met with Stuart and his colleague Richard, and we had the publicity photo seen above taken. Full details of this are seen earlier on the blog at https://friendsofpakati.com/2019/07/10/computers-update/ and https://friendsofpakati.com/2019/07/11/computer-donation/

We packed the goods in the back of my car, and later, after preparing them for use, drove them to the shipping company based in Leicester….

…where they were wrapped up & boxed ready to ship to Zimbabwe, in time to coincide with my visit to Pakati. After the trip, I posted this: https://friendsofpakati.com/2019/10/17/stephenson-group-of-leeds-publicity-for-their-donation-to-pakati/

During the recent call, lasting over 1 and a half hours, I asked Stuart some key questions – below is part of what came out of the call….

What do you think about the project itself, and the blog?

I liked the story you told on the radio broadcast, and thought it would be great to see the computers going where they would be used to benefit the schools concerned. Our company, the Stephenson Group Ltd prides itself on its community support, both here in the UK and internationally, not least because we trade in many different parts of the world.

I keep up to date with the blog regularly, and really enjoy the stories of the students past and present, along with other community developments. The company likes to see how its donations are being used at the two Pakati schools, and we are delighted to be able to offer more equipment through your project.

What are you thinking of donating this time?

We are looking at a minimum of 13 desktop PC’s, mostly with monitors, keyboards, mice, and cables. We may have some laptops too. Also, as our IT equipment changes, then we can add more kit to the scheme.

Are there any other ways either the Stephenson Group Ltd or you yourself might be able to help Friends of Pakati?

I have some ideas myself, and some good contacts which I will use to see what additional support we might get. From Stephenson Group Ltd, some logistical help might happen, along with publicity on their new up-coming website. Links to other companies might mean more interest in Friends of Pakati.

Stuart with his daughters Felicia and Freya

On a personal level, I can also speak to the school my children go to, local football teams I have contacts with. I will be asking people I know at work and outside of work about things like fundraising ideas, promotion, merchandising, social media use – all to raise the profile of the project.

A while ago I mentioned to you about formally setting up Friends of Pakati as a Charity. You said you were willing to become a Trustee for us, is that still the case?

Yes, very much so. It will be good for the project to get greater recognition, and it will enhance our co-operation with Friends of Pakati.

I also mentioned to you about my next planned visit to the schools, delayed now until at least September/October 2021. How would you feel about coming along too, as a representative of the Stephenson Group Ltd?

Yes! To be able to see what happens to the goods we have donated will encourage us to continue helping Friends of Pakati. For me personally, it will mean visiting somewhere I have never been before. It will be wonderful to see the schools in action, to see where you lived and worked in such a different environment to what we are used to here in the UK. I hope to also get a chance to see some sights in Zimbabwe, such as Victoria Falls and Hwange National Park.

Coming soon….

• part 2 of Stuarts interview & further information

• new profiles of former Pakati students

• latest information from the schools

• updates on fundraising/sales of merchandise

Author:

My name is Chris Walker, and between January 1989 and September 1991 I worked, through VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas), at Pakati Secondary School in Murehwa South district in Zimbabwe. I was a Maths teacher for 2 years, the Acting Head for the last 8 months there. I have also taught in Botswana & the UK, had 4 years working for VSO, and spent the last 14 years as a Civil Servant in Bradford. I married a Zimbabwean woman & we have 2 sons.

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