Article from 'The Comet Newspaper'
About the Author
Annette Willoughby was born in the West Riding of Yorkshire, the eldest
of five children. A Grammar School education led her into the Civil Service.
After gaining a Dip.Ed, she entered Primary Education, then taught in a
Boys Public School in Hertford, specialising in remedial English. She has
two children from her first marriage.
In 1996 her partner Barrie was contracted to work in Lesotho, Southern
Africa, on a hydro-electric construction project. She gave up a teaching
post in Croydon to join him. Her new life in 'The Mountain Kingdom' inspired
her to start writing. They were married in South Africa in 1997. Her books
capture the atmosphere of life in Africa. Fascinated by traditional Basotho
culture, their spontaneous displays of singing and dancing, the country's
historic past; dinosaur fossils, San Bushmen, Sangomas....her spirit of adventure
has taken her on a new and different journey.
The success of her first book, 'Innocent in Africa' has brought her
into contact with other like-minded people who supported her ideals.
She has campaigned for a small village in the Lowlands of Lesotho, which
now has a fresh water supply and electricity. Currently, she arranges sponsorship
enabling children to go to school. 'We cannot change their lives, but we
can make a difference,' she says.
The people have built her a clay house with a tin roof and given her
a Basotho name, 'Malimakatso' which means 'Mother of Miracles'. She has
tnade three return visits to Lesotho and South Africa, adding yet more miles
of vivid and colourful memories.
Annette is now enjoying retirement in a Bedfordshire village and cares
for her disabled granddaughter, as well as working on her writing and her
garden. Giving talks to schools and professional groups, she raises awareness
of the plight of poorer families in the community, with whom she has forged
links over the past seven years.
May the road rise up to meet you,
May the wind always be at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face, The rains fall soft upon your
And until we nieet again,
May God hold you in the palm of his hand.
in itself, ‘Born Singing’ is also a sequel to ‘Innocent in Africa’. The
two titles are a reflection of those years after the ending of apartheid,
when barriers between blacks and whites came down But were the whites in
South Africa ready to cross? The true story of an English woman, wife of
an engineer, a grandmother and a teacher, observing events on both sides
of the border between Lesotho and the Republic of South Africa during1996-1998
‘Born Singing’ conjures up throbbing images of voices, people and events.A
lively and sensitive writer, Annette Willoughby offers the reader a feast
of travel and humour.. for her there were no barriers. She writes about
the Basotho people, whom she came to love and admire.
Skilfully, she transports her readers to the Karoo Desert, Gauteng,
Kimberley Diamond City, Cape Town and across Lake Kariba to Victoria Falls
in Zimbabwe. Vivid recollections of King Letsie’s Coronation in 1997, the
news of Princess Diana’s death, President Mandela’s official opening of
Muela Dam in 1998, total immersion baptisms at Teyateyaneng Festival ..and
Her ex-pat lifestyle as the wife of a professional engineer contrasts
strikingly with her involvement with the Basotho family at Ha Simone. She
feels pulled apart by the conflict of emotions. Walter becomes desperately
ill. Should she help to get him medical care in a hospital or leave him
Radio Review Three Counties says ‘this author uses words like paints
on a palette’ and ‘you will feel as though you have been there.’
The political upheaval and civil disturbances in Lesotho,
which took place in 1998 left Mascru, the capital, devastated. Since then
the country has recovered, the political climate is healthy and the economy
stable, though still fragile. Tourism numbers are rising. King Letsie Ill,
crowned in 1997 as a bachelor, has since married. His Queen, Karabo, has
become a very popular member of the Royal Family and they now have two daughters.
Lesotho has settled down into a forward-thinking nation with a clear vision
of its future, though unemployment is still a severe problem. Sadly the
recent death of Mamohato, the Queen Mother, has been a great loss.
This new title, 'Born Singing' by Annette Willoughby, reflects the time
shortly before the political uprising. Every book has an historical impact
and 1 am privileged to have
, known the author personally, and have been privy to her many schemes
which have been for the benefit of her Basotho family/community in particular
and for the wider good of Lesotho as a whole
We first met in connection with the Lesotho Diocesan Association (LDA)
which meets every year at Partnership House in London, with the aim of improving
links with Lesotho. We also share a common interest in the Lesotho Durham
Link, which she supports avidly. Her faith in the people of Lesotho has
never wavered and she has made many changes in the quality of life for the
people of Ha Simone.
Her books describe her observations of Basotho culture during her time
in Lesotho and the widespread poverty of ordinary people she encountered
in the Lowland villages. She saw through the poverty into the hearts of the
people. Something special happens when people from two different worlds begin
to understand one another. Through her books, 'Innocent in Africa' and 'Born
Singing' eyes have been opened and a learning process has begun. Our hope
for the future lies in continuing this process and our traditional strong
links with Britain.
High Commissioner for the Kingdom of Lesotho,
London 2000 - 2005
Copies are available from email@example.com or on request from
any good bookshop.
For more information on the book & Author
the publication of her second book, ‘Born Singing’, last Autumn, Annette
Willoughby has been working on furthering her links with Ha Simone, a small
village in the Lowlands of Lesotho, where she is trying to help the small
Community of St John’s Church, situated near the Subeng River 4kms from
the town of Leribe.
She gives talks to many professional groups and gatherings and the demand
is growing. ‘Born Singing’ is the catalyst for readers, who want to do something
for Africa, but don’t know where to start.
‘Somehow people seem to find me’ she reports, ‘sponsors arrive out of
the blue at the most unexpected moments.’ Everyone thinks their contribution
cannot make a difference to the life of an African child or an African village.
A pupil from City School Sheffield, who spent last year’s summer holiday
helping on a project in Malealea, Lesotho, wrote on her return, “If you think
that you’re too small to make a difference, then you’ve obviously never been
in bed with a mosquito”.
From small beginnings, Annette’s group has grown from two or three sponsors
to the present twenty people, all of whom write to a family and/or send
a contribution direct to one family. In addition, she has collected a group
of ‘Friends of’, all of whom help the organisation in some way. The people
of Ha Simone have responded with letters of thanks and appreciation. To
date – there are ten children in Ha Simone who now go to school. A blind
man and his family have found a friend in Bedfordshire. The Community has
been bought 100 chickens to provide them with an income.
Starting in 2001, she managed to find funding for Water and Electricity
– this improved the quality of their lives a hundredfold. They are able
to work after sundown, eyesight problems have diminished – it used to be
only candles to read by. Children can do their homework. The women can sew.
They used to carry water from the spring some distance away. Now there
is a pump in their yard. They still carry water up from the river for washing
clothes. Subsistence farming is their survival. Soil erosion and uncertain
climate means crops are poor and they often go hungry. The people of Ha
Simone plant seeds, using a hand plough and harvest by hand,using an ox-cart
to carry the maize to the mill.
St John’s Church takes in destitute people – giving them food and shelter
until they are strong enough to fend for themselves again. Many families
have been helped in this way.
Help with Education
Moses was Annette’s first pupil. He is now in his final year at Secondary
School and has done well. This is a boy who would not have been able to
study had it not been for one of her sponsors. A Beckenham family have seen
him through four years of education. Moses’ family now look forward to him
getting a good job.
In October 2002, the people of Ha Simone built her a house. A clay house
with a tin roof with one light bulb. No running water and no toilet.
Nine visitors have already been to stay in Ha Simone. Three teachers from
a Primary School in Surrey have been over to stay in the little house and
teach at Leribe English Medium School. They have won their school an International
Annette revisited the village on October last year. She and a
friend built a block of toilets. They used local materials and labour and
cooked the lads a midday lunch every day. The work was completed by the
time they left – 5 seats for the ladies and five for the men – side by
side. What a holiday!
Consequently, a letter arrived giving thanks from the whole village.
Anyone wishing to go and stay with the family at Ha Simone should contact
Annette on 01462 850112. They love visitors. All nine people who travelled
from UK last year want to go back. That truly speaks for itself.
This year the organisation plans to build a pre-school for 30 children.
Funding is forthcoming. Plans have been drawn.
A Holiday Paradise
Lesotho is a mountainous country with many outdoor pursuits. You don’t
need a visa to go there. Travel from London to Johannesburg and then forward
on a short flight to Maseru the Capital. Riding, walking, sailing and many
other water sports are now available. Ski-slopes up at Ox-Bow have been
improved and a visit to the famous Katse Dam is a life-changing experience.
The scenery is dramatic. It is very cold in winter and they do have snow.
The people are very friendly and you would be sure of a good welcome. Tourism
is beginning to flourish.
Annette also has a link with Beautiful Gate, an Orphanage for abandoned
babies, where one of her sponsors has been to work as a volunteer. It is
entirely funded by donations. They have just taken in their 100th child;
a baby abandoned at a funeral.
HRH Prince Harry has put Lesotho on the map for millions of people.
He has a copy of both Annette’s books and has made contact to say, ’Thank
you for your commitment to the Basotho people.’ His new Charity Sentabale,
which he has recently set up in memory of Princess Diana is a generous gesture
towards helping victims of HIVAIDS. His co-founder is HRH Prince Seeiso ,
whose mother, the late Queen Mamohato, was also concerned with the hundreds
of cases of children who have been left to fend for themselves as a result
of the virus. Together they have set up their charity to enable these children
to have a future.
HRH Prince Seeiso, is now the new High Commissioner in London and he
has agreed to be the Patron of Annette’s organisation and support her work.
The group hope to become an officially Registered Charity in the near future.
They have named themselves, ‘Linking Lives’ but this may change when Charity
status is agreed.
Please contact Annette for further information.
HRH Prince Seeiso is brother to the King of Lesotho King Letsie lll and he is second
in line to the throne. He has started the Charity Sentabale with HRH Prince
Harry in memory of Princess Diana and his own mother, Mamohato the
Queen Mother of Lesotho.
There are 200,000 orphans in Lesotho now and few of these are in orphanages.
The Hospitals now report that most babies are born HIV positive and there
are not enough drugs to treat them. Life expectancy in the UK is 78years whereas in Lesotho
it is down to 34 and still falling.
Annette arranged a
very successful 'Linking Lives' Charity Choral Concert which
was be attended by HRH Prince Seeiso on 14th October at Gamlingay
More About Annette's Fund
Ha Simone - Past Present and Future
In 2001Datchworth Church started our project with money for a well and
an electricity supply. These things have changed their lives beyond recognition.
In May this year three teachers from Horley Primary School in Surrey,
obtained a Government grant and went out to Ha Simone to stay with the
Makibi family and to teach in The Leribe English Medium Primary School.
It was a great success. School to school links have been established.
The Makibi family and extended family is our concern. It is difficult
to imagine how they cope. Food is in short supply, buildings need maintenance.
They are in need of the every day things we take for granted. The climate
is unpredictable. Last summer there was a drought. The river and the well
ran dry, animals died and crops failed.
At Christmas last year, the children at Shefford Lower Primary School
raised money for the hire of a machine to dig their well deeper. This was
achieved in January and their drinking water is now more secure.
Our current project is to fund a ram pump for the river which will raise
water up to their field so that it can be used for growing vegetables. Irrigation
is the key.
Reverend Makibi and his wife Rose realised that even with a pump, this
would be et two year project by the time they have harvested their f irst
crop, so they have asked for help to buy chickens f irst. From the sale
of the eggs, they hope to be able to buy a pump. So this is a two-fold self
help project. I shall be visiting Ha Simone in October, staying in the house
they built for us. Perhaps I will be able to have eggs for breakfast!
We now have nine Basotho children going to school, thanks to the generosity
of their UK sponsors.
If you would like to help, e-mail Annette firstname.lastname@example.org We cannot Transform their
lives, but we can make a difference.
you would like Annette to speak at your club or function