Photo by Toby Phillips
Lydia Thornhill, who is from Midhurst and a Year 13 pupil at Christ’s Hospital School in Horsham, is shaving her head on Saturday 29 June, in aid of Classrooms for Kenya and to raise awareness for Cancer Research, after her mum lost her battle to cancer five years ago.
Lydia is one of a team of 50+ pupils and staff from Christ’s Hospital who will travel to Kitale in western Kenya in July to build new school buildings for impoverished schools currently relying on dangerous mud huts. In her efforts to fundraise for this cause, Lydia is going to shave her head completely and be bald before she goes to Kenya. This is also to raise awareness for Cancer Research, as she will be donating her hair to the Little Princess Trust through Macmillan’s “Brave the Shave” campaign. The Little Princess Trust provides real hair wigs free of charge to children and young people up to the age of 24, who have lost their own hair due to cancer treatment and other conditions. “Shaving my head for cancer represents an act of solidarity with my mother who passed away and to the other strong women in my life who are still fighting,” says Lydia. “The shaving will be livestreamed and I am growing my hair out until the date. The countdown begins!”
Lydia’s mum sadly passed away five years ago, having battled against cancer for many years. “I was used to seeing my mum without hair so it doesn’t worry me that I will be bald too – it feels like something I really want to do. I am more worried about travelling to Kenya and how upsetting it will be to see children living in poverty,” explains Lydia. “But fundraising for and building the classrooms in person seems a really substantial and meaningful way of getting involved and helping Kenyan children.”
The pupils are aiming to build six new classrooms in three different schools, in partnership with the charity Classrooms for Kenya. Each pupil has a fundraising target of £300 towards the cost of these new classrooms, which are crucial in order to provide a safe environment for the children to learn in. They have already raised an amazing £30,000 to pay for the construction of the classrooms, but still need to raise £6,000 to reach their target of £36,000. Pupils have been raising funds through a variety of methods, including runs and triathlons; cake bakes; setting up an online bookshop; and forgoing their sixteenth birthday presents to ask for sponsorship instead. “Funding and building these new classrooms will have a hugely beneficial impact on Kitale’s children and young adults,” said Will Richards, Teacher of Physics at CH and main organiser of the Kenya trip.
As well as supporting education in Kenya, the trip aims to provide Christ’s Hospital students with a powerful and life-shaping experience where they both work hard to contribute positively to a community and have the opportunity to experience Kenya’s natural beauty. The lead up to the trip will also see students learning key life skills through a weekly activity session, such as basic first aid, cultural awareness, team building and leadership experiences.
Lydia is coming to the end of her last year at CH, where she has been a pupil for the last seven years; she has been studying Biology, English, History and Mandarin and is going to Manchester University in September to continue her studies in Mandarin. “I feel like I’ve been living in nostalgia for the last year and I haven’t even left yet! I am not a religious person, but I love Chapel here at Christ’s Hospital and that we have a real community. I have formed so many close bonds with kids from all sorts of different backgrounds; it’s going to be really difficult to leave,” confides Lydia.
Classrooms for Kenya was established in 2006 by teachers and students at The Weald School, West Sussex. Since 2006 the charity has built over 70 new classrooms for over 20 different schools in Kenya. If you would like to support Lydia and the other CH students, the link to donate is: