News: Brighton Marathon Wall helps fundraise for Kenya trip

By Claire Smyth

A marathon runner usually hits an invisible wall which can stop him dead in his tracks after running for more than 20 miles.

So a group of City College Brighton and Hove construction students built a real wall at the 22 mile point of the Brighton Marathon to encourage participants and raise money for charity.

Tom Dowds (right) in front of The Wall which was first featured in the Brighton Marathon last year but featured a fundraising buzzer this year

Husband and wife Tom and Sharon Dowds, who both work at City College, are fundraising for a return trip to Kenya where they hope to build a proper kitchen at a school of around 800 children.

Sharon Dowds, City College’s learning support assistant, said:  “Last year we had an organisation, that came up to Freshers’ week, who were talking about doing some volunteering in various parts of the world.

“And I thought: ‘We’ve got all these departments – plumbers, electricians, carpenters, builders – in this college, why aren’t we doing something?’ ”

Tom spoke to local companies, such as Ocean Sport, Portslade MOT Services and Beechwood Timber, who agreed to pledge a donation for each runner who pushes the buzzer fixed to the wall on Basin Road.

The money raised will go towards a new kitchen at a primary school – currently a tin hut – which will be built by the 18 students and three staff preparing to travel to Kenya in July.

Sharon added: “The cook cooks for 400 children at the moment. Two hundred go to a school up the road and 200 go home to the dump site to try and get something to eat.

“If they haven’t got 17p for their meal then they don’t eat.”

Last summer, a group of 12 students and three staff went to Nakuru, in Kenya, to build two timber-framed houses on a dump site, and Tom and Sharon realised they had to return.

Sharon said: “We need to go back. We promised them we would change this. When we were in the school, we were looking round – we did a little bit of gardening, we replaced the desks – everything was falling apart.”

Each student is responsible for paying for their own trip along with fundraising for the project, through an African evening in the Gallery restaurant and a ‘Knickers for Africa’ event.

Carpentry team leader Tom was sponsored to run the Brighton Marathon which is where the idea came from to construct the wall.

Tom said: “If there’s money left over, we could maybe set up a drip feed to the school to provide food for all those children.

“If there’s enough, we could actually then sponsor some children on to further education. If we raise an extra £1,000, that’s four children another year in the next step of their education.”

There will be a mix of skills in the group with construction, catering and travel and tourism students going on the trip, and the plan is for the catering people to cook a meal for all the children at the school.

Sharon added: “They treat us with absolute joy. They can’t believe that we would do what we’ve done. They just can’t believe it.

“They can’t believe why we would go there. It’s a small drop in the ocean – the poverty is so extreme – but we really do feel we’re doing something.

If anyone would like to support the Kenya project with ideas or donations please contact Tom Dowds at


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