Top eventers back plans to build school in remote African village

  • An eventer who is a strong believer in the value of education has rallied top riders to help raise funds to finish building a school in a remote village in Sierra Leone.

    William Fox-Pitt, Lucinda Green, Jonty Evans and Bill Levett have all come forward to offer raffle prizes to raise the remaining £2,500 necessary to complete the build, which was halted after the project’s major donor died of Covid-19.

    The fundraiser has been organised by Gloucestershire rider Bea Pinnegar, a former head girl for Irish show jumper Cian O’Connor, who said the project hit home because of her own upbringing.

    “I had a very difficult childhood and I had to run away from home at the age of 17,” said Bea, who grew up on a farm in Spain and has ridden all her life.

    “While a lot went wrong for me, I was still able to get a good education. Although I couldn’t do my A-levels, I did an HND and worked up to a masters and I know education in something you can always fall back on. It enabled me to have the future I wanted to make.

    “I think education is the reason I was able to come out of the background I had without any ongoing challenges.”

    Bea had been planning to run a marathon in Sierra Leone this year to raise money for the charity Street Children but it was postponed until November 2021. She had originally hoped to tour the country after the event and had been put in touch with a tour guide; it was through their Facebook account that she found out about the school build.

    “He’d put a post up explaining that the major donor had died and asking if anyone can help,” Bea said. “I offered to start up a JustGiving page for him but I wasn’t sure how to help bridge the gap as everything I know is horses.”

    “I thought it was going to be very hard to get support as I am unknown to most and the problem I am trying to solve is so far removed from the UK, but the support has been overwhelming,” she added. “Is there any other sport where you can contact the top sports people and get such an enthusiastic reply?”

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    The raffle prizes on offer include a jumping lesson with William Fox-Pitt, a course-walk at Burghley with Lucinda Green, a lesson with Jonty Evans, followed by a meet and greet with Art (Cooley Rorkes Drift) and a lesson with Bill Levett. There are also prizes worth over £1,200 from WeatherBeeta, which Bea works for, Dublin Clothing and Collegiate.

    Bea, who was a Spanish national champion in 1999 and now helps produce some young horses for Jill Carenza, plans to hold an additional fundraiser with Cian O’Connor at a later date.

    The raffle ends on 27 December. Tickets costing £1 can be bought online.

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