The BBC’s much anticipated new season of Great British Bake Off could have Sara Peatfield from Morley near Leeds reaching for the off button on her remote.
The 52-year-old teacher spends most weekends baking hundreds of cakes in her home kitchen. Along with her husband, Ashley, she produces up to fourteen different types of cake ranging from classics like rock buns to cappuccino muffins with a white chocolate and icing topping.
This weekly bake off isn’t for fun. It’s just one of the ways the Peatfield family support two medical clinics they started in the mud hut Kenyan villages of Funzi and Bodo eight years ago. Since then their charity, The Funzi and Bodo Trust, has opened a second clinic providing free medicines and paying for operations. It has rebuilt two schools, opened libraries, a computer training centre and plans are afoot for a physiotherapy centre for children with disabilities. Just a few of the achievements of their registered charity.
The story is a remarkable one, which began with a family holiday. When Sara’s daughter, Sorrel, was born 22 years ago the couple decided to take their only chance of a cheap break during term time. They soon found themselves heading for Kenya with a five-month-old baby. Instantly struck by the poverty in Kenya they quickly found themselves helping local families. They bought sewing machines to kick-start a business making school uniforms and gave money to people wanting to start a chicken farm.
The couple discovered the island of Funzi on a day trip on a subsequent visit. On this island paradise, where tourists can pay hundreds of pounds a night to stay, they found local people struggling to feed themselves, without clean water, sanitation or medical help. Hearing how children had died because of a lack of health care Sara and Ashley decided to start a clinic. Six months later they returned to the island and, with the villagers alongside them, built and opened the Funzi clinic complete with nurse and medicines. It was all achieved in two weeks of hard labour; getting up before dawn and going to camp in the dark. A boat and a second hand vehicle have also meant emergency cases could the nearest hospital two hours away.
Sara said “It was a leap of faith for us and many people must have thought we were crazy. We had no experience in this field and the sums of money needed each month to run the clinic were frightening. But we knew it was right and that to do otherwise would be turning our backs on an injustice. “
They could have never believed how the work of the charity would grow in the years that followed.
For Sara and Ashley it has meant taking on the equivalent of second jobs. Sara continues, ”Coming home on a Friday night after a week in the classroom and knowing that by six that evening, baking will begin is a challenge. Most Friday evenings I bake until ten then Ashley is up at 7 am on Saturday to start again – soon to be joined by me- it takes up most of the day. Some Sundays we even bake before church where we run a cake stall and where the 250 cakes are bought. But this effort guarantees that we can pay a nurses salary and buy medicines.“
In addition to baking, the couple organise events from concerts to clothing collections. The charity is entirely run and supported by volunteers meaning more money can be spent in the two villages. Sara knows that this volunteer approach is one of the things that has encouraged people to back the work with small monthly or one off donations. Despite this, the couple know that the regular monthly giving still falls short of the costs of running the charity.
The couple have known hard times keeping the charity going. In the early days, Ashley was held at gunpoint for several hours and for some time afterwards Sara didn’t know where he was. More recently, terrorism in Kenya caused a collapse in tourism. This led to more jobless people all depending on the charity to help, sending bills sky high. All of this at a time when raising funds and getting help from small businesses was hardest because of the recession in this country.
But, Sara remains optimistic and believes that there are people out there who want to help a small volunteer led charity like theirs which still delivers significantly on the ground. She even hopes businesses will come forward.
The people whose lives have been saved over the years, the children who have been given access to books and education and the people getting the opportunity to start small businesses to support their families thanks to the Funzi and Bodo Trust all hope she is right.
You can find out more and donate at www.funzi.org.uk ,follow latest news on Facebook or contact Sara and Ashley Peatfield at Cranbourne, St.Andrews Avenue , Morley, Leeds, West Yorkshire or through email@example.com