2022/23 Annual Report

After the disruption caused by covid, the LabAid Foundation has had a successful year, continuing the work started by the late Alan Welch, MBE.


Volunteers
The recent surge of donations will allow us to send out even more equipment per school in the coming year, if we can find enough local volunteers to help pack it.


As with many charities, we rely on volunteers and need more, especially people who could easily reach our store in Amersham, to help sorting and packing equipment. You don’t have to have a scientific background, just an ability to turn up for a couple of hours one or two afternoons per week. 

Scientists, and especially former science teachers or technicians would be particularly welcome and we might be able to find more specialist jobs you could do - checking, testing or repairing equipment. Last year, we sent out about 12 boxes per month, but with more hands-on local volunteers we could send out more.


Supporting overseas schools

Despite a limited number of volunteers this year, we managed to supply science teaching equipment to 14 educational establishments - everything from microscopes to magnets, beakers to balances and clamp stands to cathode ray oscilloscopes. 

All of that was in a total of 145 boxes, rather more than last year. 


The campus of Alliance Model School in Kilembe, Uganda was swept away in floods in 2020. It set up again in abandoned mine buildings and LabAid supplied apparatus, here being used in the holidays as students try to catch up after covid lockdowns.

In all, we supported establishments in 6 countries: Ghana, Libya, Malawi, Sierra Leone, Somalia and Uganda.

One such establishment was the University of East Africa, in Somalia. There is a need to educate science students, in a foundation course, who have had little or no experience of practical work at school, hence apparatus suitable for A-level teaching is very much needed.

Generally speaking, our waiting list stays reasonably constant, with establishments being taken off the top of the list at about the same rate as new ones are added at the bottom. At present, there are about 14 on the waiting list, which at the current rate of progress would take about year to fulfill, although packing the extra equipment may slow us down unless we can find some additional local volunteers.


Donations of equipment

We accept donations of used scientific equipment, mainly from schools in the UK, and sort, check and pack it for sending to schools and similar establishments in developing countries. 

Mostly these gifts arise when a UK school is closing, moving site or refurbishing its laboratories although we have accepted items from universities doing the same or from suppliers closing warehouses etc.

We are grateful to teachers and technicians throughout the country, who responded to information about LabAid in ASE’s Education in Science and the CLEAPSS Bulletin to supply us with a record amount of equipment for which they no longer had a use. 

The shelves in our rather cramped store are over-flowing. We had been worried that the supply was drying up but this year’s bumper harvest means we can offer a much better selection to those schools in developing countries with a ‘laboratory’ – but nothing to put in it. 

Thanks, too, to The Entertainer chain of toy shops (www.thetoyshop.com) which transported several pallet-loads of boxes of apparatus from their shops to their warehouse in Amersham, whence one of our volunteers made a number of journeys, with his car boot full.


Financial situation
Although essentially a re-cycling charity, we do need some cash for expenses to complete sets of equipment, for expendables such as batteries, or other costs such as insurance and the website.
This year, family & friends of one of our volunteers, who passed away recently, raised a generous donation to LabAid. The Royal Society of Chemistry continue to support us, as do Amersham Free Church.
If you would like to make a donation or fundraise for us, please make initial contact by email.

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2021/22

Despite all the disruption caused by the pandemic, the LabAid Foundation has been able to continue the work started in 1991 by the late Alan Welch MBE.


Supporting overseas schools
13 schools were helped with a total of 123 boxes of science equipment sent out, only marginally less than last year. In all, establishments in 8 countries were supported in this way: Cameroon, Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, South Africa, South Sudan, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

Volunteers
We rely on volunteers and need more! We would especially value someone who could check and clean donated microscopes (at home – training could be given). Our trustees and volunteers are unpaid.

Donations of equipment
Whilst offers of equipment are not yet up to pre-covid levels, they are gradually picking up again and we are reasonably confident that the LabAid model is viable from that point of view. Thankyou for all donations in the past year.

Financial situation
Although essentially a re-cycling charity, we do need some cash for expenses to complete sets of equipment, for expendables such as batteries, or other costs such as insurance or the web site.
Without more financial support we will be restricted in what we can offer.


2020/21

So far, LabAid is surviving the Covid pandemic better than we expected a year ago.


LabAid had totally shut down during the lockdown from March to June 2020 but made a cautious re-start in July following a risk assessment. Social distancing was impossible in the storage area so only 2 volunteers could work at a time, at opposite ends of the building. 


Despite this limitation from July 2020 to June 2021 we sent out 130 boxes to 15 schools in 7 countries: Ghana, Malawi, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Uganda, Rwanda and Somaliland, almost exactly the same as in the previous year 2019/20 up to the time coronavirus struck, when we entered lockdown and activities were completely suspended for the remainder of the truncated year. 


Whilst we had feared schools would be under too much pressure to sort out redundant equipment for LabAid, we were heartened by an increase of about 50% in the number of donations offered by schools/colleges, including some large ones, as well as a warehouse clearance by suppliers Scientific & Chemical.


However, transport did prove a problem in that for most of the period The Entertainer chain of toyshops was unable to accept boxes of equipment for delivery via their vans to Amersham. We set up some ad hoc routes which were partly successful and the net effect is that stock levels are higher than this time last year.


The year 2019/20 started very well

From July 2019 to March 2020 we sent out 134 boxes to 16 schools in 8 countries: Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, The Gambia, Uganda and Zimbabwe.


This was comparable to what we had achieved the previous year but coronavirus then struck, we were in lockdown and activities were completely suspended for the remainder of the year.


As lockdown eased in July 2020, we started considering what risk assessments would be required to be able to resume operations whilst maintaining social distancing.


Unfortunately, even before lockdown, the number of schools donating redundant equipment to LabAid had been dropping for some time, by about 30% in 2018/19 and a further 20% between July 2019 and March 2020, although there may well be items in the pipeline of which we are unaware.


We believe this is because the Government’s academy programme and the consolidation of FE colleges onto fewer sites are both largely complete and austerity has meant that maintained schools simply cannot afford to replace equipment.





Overseas Shipments News

LabAid received this feedback in May 2019 to say thank you very much.