Friday 24 August 2018

So What about LabAid after Dad died in 2016???

The LabAid Foundation accepts donations of used scientific equipment from schools and colleges in the UK. Mostly these gifts arise when a school is closing, or moving site or when it refurbishes its laboratories. Often, the equipment is still serviceable or can be cannibalised or easily repaired. After sorting and checking the equipment, it is packaged and sent to schools in developing countries.
LabAid has been doing this since 1991 when it was set up by the late Alan Welch. Following his death in 2016, for technical reasons it was decided to close the charity he set up, the LabAid Trust, and replace it by a new charity, the LabAid Foundation, with essentially the same aims and practices. However, this took some time so we didn’t start sending out equipment until October 2016. We used the slack time to sort through the stock of equipment, reorganise the storage, etc. We really benefited from this in 2017/18 and were able to send out much more equipment than in 2016/17.
During the year, from July 2017 to June 2018, we supplied significant amounts of equipment (typically about a dozen large (banana) boxes per school) to 14 schools, and much smaller amounts to a further 10. Some schools do send us wants lists, often wildly unrealistic – they would end up better equipped than the top public schools in the UK. Most schools were only teaching to the equivalent of GCSE level and whilst we listen to requests, we have a more or less standard pack which we put together for such schools – assuming we have the equipment on our shelves. The few schools teaching to the equivalent of A-level are given additional items. In 2017/18 we supplied schools in Pakistan, Sierra Leone, Malawi, Bangla Desh, Uganda, Nigeria, Kenya, Somalia, and South Sudan, in all about 180 boxes.
We are very grateful for the generous financial donations from the Langley School, Slough; St John’s Methodist Church, Amersham (the late Alan Welch’s church); St Michael’s & All Angels, Amersham and especially from the Amersham Free Church (both from a collection and from effectively free use of the Sycamore Hall). We have had support from the Association for Science Education in the form of free publicity in its journals. The CLEAPSS science advisory service has put leaflets advertising our needs in the course packs it gives out to nearly 4000 science teachers and technicians each year. Through the generosity of Chemgo, we disposed of asbestos waste just for the cost of the Environment Agency licence. We also have some income from the sale of equipment which is not suitable to send – because it is too fragile, too sophisticated, too heavy or too antique. There is also a small income from the sale of scrap metal. Some of the income is used to purchase items we are never given, or need in order to complete sets. Ray boxes are no use without the right lenses, battery-powered equipment needs batteries! We are often sent Bunsen burners – with no tubing or with perished tubing. Despite having to spend significant amounts on repair of the roof and insulating the ceiling of the Sycamore Hall and the asbestos wastelicence we ended the year with an excess of income over expenditure which allows us to be much more confident about the future than we had been this time last year.
We do not pay to transport equipment donated to us. Some equipment is delivered direct to our store by the donating school, sometimes via a third party. Occasionally we pick up from nearby schools. However, most donations reach us through the generosity of The Entertainer chain of toy shops, with support from the charity SchoolAid. Equipment is taken to a local branch of The Entertainer and from there transported in their vans to their warehouse in Banbury. SchoolAid then takes items for both SchoolAid and LabAid to the SchoolAid warehouse in Hedgerley using their van and we pick it up from Hedgerley.
Similarly, we do not at present pay to transport equipment out of the UK. Instead, we rely on the recipient school having a UK contact who can organise transport. Sometimes, this is an expatriate seeking to give something back to her/his homeland. Sometimes it may be a UK church with links to a particular village or an individual with such contacts. If we were to pay for such transport, we would need a much higher level of income than we currently have but it would allow us to meet the needs of more schools and is something we will consider for the future.
We rely on about a dozen active volunteers. Most are former science teachers and technicians but we would welcome more volunteers. They don’t have to be scientists or indeed live locally – they could be fund-raisers, or help develop our website or facebook presence or tweet on our behalf.
Dr Peter Borrows (Chair of the Trustees of the LabAid Foundation).

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