Greenbank School


Two veteran charity fundraisers from Greenbank Preparatory School are to climb Kilimanjaro to continue their long term mission to support a Kenyan special school.
Derek Lowe, 60, from Davenport and Kate Mercer, 52, from Whaley Bridge will form the backbone of the Greenbank Preparatory School party taking on the highest mountain in Africa.
Derek, the husband of Janet Lowe, Greenbank's headmistress, is a regular on mountain sides in the Lake District and Snowdonia but says he has never attempted this type challenge, while Greenbank's Head of Music Kate is an accomplished long distance walker who has already completed a succession of challenges, including the 100 mile St. Cuthbert's Way in Northumberland.
They will be supporting leg amputee Wendy Baardman, the Treasurer of the Port Reitz Special School Foundation, on the once in a life time venture aiming to raise 20,000 euros to buy a new mini bus for the orphanage in Kenya, which educates children many of whom have severe physical and mental needs.
Greenbank Preparatory School, based on Heathbank Road in Cheadle Hulme, began raising funds for Port Reitz in 2011 after their former pupil Harrison Wood, then aged just nine-years-old but now a young man of 16 and a pupil in the Cheadle Hulme School Sixth Form, had visited the Kenyan special school with his parents.
Since then as Wendy confirmed "the charity has raised over 500,000 euros from donors all over Europe, but the majority due to the efforts of Harrison, who is a remarkable young man and continues to raise sponsorship from businesses in Cheadle Hulme and beyond.”
Both Derek and Kate have visited Port Reitz before on Greenbank's annual trips to offer teaching and practical support in Kenya and both say the experience changed their lives.
Derek said “Visiting Port Reitz Special School I was amazed by how lucky we are in this country but how often we seem to be miserable, yet how unlucky some of the children could be seen to be, but how happy and thankful they are, always smiling and laughing and a sheer delight to be around. It's a very special place and one that leaves an indelible impression on all those who visit.”
Kate added “Port Reitz changes the lives of everyone who visits and is a wonderful cause but as well as raising money I want to support Wendy, who as treasurer of the Port Reitz Foundation has dedicated the last 16 years of her life to the cause and our former pupil Harrison who has worked so hard for seven years to raise money..”
After 16 years in a wheel chair Wendy only received her prosthetic leg two years ago and though for many years she has been a Dutch wheel chair bound Martial arts champion, has only just started walking again in the last 18 months.
Linzi Wood, Harrison's mum who spoke to us while Harrison was at school, said “It's amazing that from such small acorns such large trees grow. To think that the Foundation has now raised over 500,000 euros is incredible and this is making a tangible difference to the children's lives. It took a giant leap of faith from Janet Lowe for Greenbank to back this project. Harrison told her what he had seen, but we all felt it probably had to be seen to be believed, yet Janet believed from the start.”
Derek and Kate will be part of a 16 strong team starting their six day ascent of the 5,860 metre peak in Tanzania on October 21. stopping off in special mountain huts each night as they make what can be a gruelling ascent.  Both said “We are in training now, neither of us will want to let the team or the children down.”
If you want to sponsor the team or help with the Port Reitz Foundation please contact Greenbank on 0161 485 3724.
Pictured from left to right are Kate Mercer, Charlie, Wendy Baardman, Sumaya and Derek Lowe.