Pupils from the Mshangano Secondary

North East relay team saves African school

A partnership between Newcastle-based international children’s charity COCO (Comrades of Children Overseas) and law firm Ward Hadaway has provided vital funds for a school in Tanzania. A team of 50 runners from the law firm ran a 135-mile non-stop relay to raise £7,500 and prevent the Mshangano Secondary School from closing.

Representatives from Ward Hadaway ran from the company’s Manchester office, through Leeds, ending at their Newcastle office. The Three Points North Relay challenge raised £7,500 for the Greggs Foundation and COCO, which funded the renovation of all of the classrooms, dormitory and office at the school, which the government was due to close had improvements not been made to the infrastructure by the end of the year.

The relay challenge was the brainchild of Ward Hadaway's corporate partner, Katherine Hay-Heddle, one of COCO’s Board of Trustees, and commercial partner, Matthew Cormack as a fun way of recognising the firm's 30th anniversary. In completing the challenge the 50 runners clocked up a cumulative 490 miles, with many of them running further than they had ever run before.

They were joined for the final leg of the relay along Newcastle's Quayside by British middle-distance runner, Laura Weightman, who earlier this year won the 1500m title at the British Athletics Championships and then claimed a bronze medal in the same event during the European Athletics Championships.

Commenting on the impact of the team’s fundraising efforts in saving Mshangano Secondary School, which prevented 146 pupils being left without a place to study, Katherine Hay-Heddle said: “This is a great result for everyone concerned. Our 30th anniversary relay challenge not only brought everyone across our three offices in Newcastle, Leeds and Manchester together, it also showed our commitment to health and wellbeing and how well we work as a team."

Mshangano Secondary is one of COCO’s most recent partners in the Schools for Life programme which has so far enabled 2500 young people from communities in Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya to access sustainable education in a safe environment. COCO was co-founded by Steve Cram and British Army Major Jim Panton in 2000 and its headquarters are in Newcastle. COCO’s activities have made a positive impact on the lives of more than 200,000 people in East Africa through 50 transformational projects covering 16 countries.

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