AFTER the tragic suicide death of 16 year-old Bryn Hendry, his family formed Bryn’s School to support the building of a school in Vietnam as a memorial to his life. Ten years on and Bryn’s School has been involved in building six schools in Vietnam, Cambodia, Sierra Leone, Kenya and South Sudan. These schools not only provide education for 1400 pupils, but have had a significant positive impact on the villages and wider communities.
While the children have been and always will be the major focus, Bryn’s School has given many family members and other volunteers the opportunity to live and work in these developing countries. Family members from five years old to 86 year-old Hugh Hendry have spent time at the projects. According to George Hendry, “It’s been an amazing experience”. He said he feels privileged to have worked in such interesting and challenging locations. “I have met and worked with some extraordinary people,” he said. “We have gone from initially financing the first school to now being experienced enough to travel into such places as South Sudan and coordinate the building of a school. “It’s always a constant battle to raise the funds to support the schools, including ongoing support for teacher wages, uniforms, equipment, maintenance and new programs – but somehow we get by.”
The support from South Gippsland service clubs, schools and individuals has been amazing according to George and he says the Hendry family are truly grateful for their generosity. “We are always conscious that these schools will have to be self-sufficient one day, so at present we are setting up programs to achieve this,” he said. The group believes that the facilities are utilised to the full extent to give maximum benefit to the local communities. “Adult education, pre-school and child minding, provision of school meals, libraries and basic computer centres are programs that we would love to introduce when funds are available,” George said. “The demands are always pressing. “The girls’ school in South Sudan that we hope to open in December already needs to be doubled in size because of demand for places. “There is a need for three new classrooms in the Kenyan school as the old corrugated iron rooms are in a dilapidated state.”
George said the most important thing that has been learnt in the 10 years is that women are the key to development. “We could never have envisaged that we could travel into a war torn country like South Sudan, which has the worst educational statistics in the world, and go on and build a girl’s school there,” he said. “Wherever I am I remain conscious of a note that Bryn left; ‘The world is an unfair place’. “His death has reinforced to us how unfair the world is and has shown us that we can make a difference. “Success in life is not about what you get but rather what you give.”
YOU can help support ‘Bryn’s School’ and the Hendry family by attending a special film fundraiser this Thursday. The documentary film ‘Mary Meets Mohammad’ will screen at the Wonthaggi Cinema from 7pm. The film tells the story of Tasmania’s first asylum seeker detention centre and the relationships formed between a local knitting group and the detainees. The night will include supper following the screening, with all proceeds donated to the Bryn’s School Foundation. For tickets contact the Wonthaggi Cinema on 5672 3593. Tickets can also be bought on the night. All welcome.