New Year’s Honours List award for Anne

Anne McMath at Buckingham Palace garden party 2014 SUS-141206-104405001
Anne McMath at Buckingham Palace garden party 2014 SUS-141206-104405001

A Bexhill resident who set up a charity to provide free education for disadvantaged children in Gambia has received a British Empire Medal after being recognised in the New Year’s Honours List.

Anne McMath, and brother-in-law Mick, founded The Don McMath Foundation in memory of Anne’s husband. Anne said although initially it was a shock to hear she’d be en awarded the British Empire Medal (BEM) she was nevertheless “thrilled”.

The Don McMath Foundation is a not for profit organisation whose mission it is to provide free education for children from the poorest Gambian families living within a 3-mile radius of the school. It came about after Anne visited The Gambia and realised that a lot of children did not attend school, because their parents could not afford to send them. Anne said: “I started to pay for 3 children to go to school, which sparked a lot of interest. With the help of my brother-in-law, Mick McMath, we decided to open our own school in memory of my husband.”

Anne’s husband Don, who died aged 44, taught at Priory Road, Hastings, and Hampden Park, Eastbourne. The Don McMath Foundation School opened on January 6, 2003, with 31 pupils and 2 staff in a rented building. Anne said they soon filled the building and the government gave the charity a piece of land to build on. “The first building was completed in 2005 and since then we completed more buildings and now have a Nursery School (age 5 – 7), a Lower Basic (age 8 – 13), an Upper Basic (age 14 – 16) and a hall.

“The children come from some of the poorest families in The Gambia and everything from uniforms, books etc is supplied free of charge. Each year we have about 160 children register at the school, but we are only able to take about 30. I visit as many homes as possible before deciding which families are most in need of help. To date we have 340 children with another 30 coming in September 2014.”

Anne was presented with her BEM on May 1, by Peter J Field, the Lord-Lieutenant of East Sussex, at the Royal Pavilion, Brighton. In recognition of her BEM Anne and Mick attended a garden party at Buckingham Palace on June.

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