#SupporterStories: Natalie Rothwell, Eric Shepley


"One of the best experiences has been hearing from the girls themselves via Skype!"

I first came across Ibba Girls School while I was working for an NGO in Coventry. John Benington was liaising with the NGO regarding support for the girls' dormitory. Upon reading about the school, I was inspired by John's passion and commitment to the project and wanted to get further involved. Having worked in NGOs and as a fundraiser, I realise the funding need for charities working overseas. It is becoming harder and harder to access grants and gifts from governments and unrestricted support from friends and supporters means charities can direct money to where it is needed most, while working in some of the toughest conditions. This was an additional inspiration for me to provide any help I could, both in terms of my expertise and via a regular gift. South Sudan is the world's newest country and yet its spirit and optimism has to work harder to re-build and re-skill. Girls especially have not been able to access education for at least a generation. 

One of the best experiences since getting involved with Ibba has been hearing from the girls themselves - via Skype! 'I want to be a politician', 'I want to be a teacher' - every girl has the ambition to change their life and change the future of their country, in large ways and small. I've also got my husband, Phil, involved in supporting Ibba and he has been able to bring additional people on board to help out.

We also decided to commit to leaving a gift in our Will to Ibba. Many more generations of girls may have come through Ibba's doors by then but we are sure that a legacy gift, albeit modest, will play a part in the School's continued success. 

Natalie Rothwell, September 2017

"A new beginning which has the potential to make a difference"

It all started with the Wick Hill Mountain Rescue (WHMR). What is that you may ask and what on earth has it got to do with Ibba? Well, I didn’t know either until I moved into the village of Icomb, near Stow on the Wold, Gloucestershire and I was invited to join the WHMR – an excuse to have a beer down the pub once a month on the pretext of carrying out serious training in case someone got into trouble and needed rescuing when walking on the nearby Wick Hill (as likely as winning the lottery!).

On my first “session” I met John Benington and, in conversation, I explained to John that I had recently retired and was looking to do charity work. “Don’t worry”, he said, “you will do”!

Shortly after this fateful event, John told me the story of how he had met Bridget Nagomoro and why he had agreed to help her establish a school in Ibba. He asked me if I would help him set up the charity: or whatever form it should take as we did not know at that stage. I was hooked and the rest is history as they say.

This was back in 2010; and since then I have been privileged to have been involved right through from those early days to serving as a Trustee and Treasurer, eventually stepping down in 2014 due to family commitments.

My involvement now is as a donor (by regular standing order as I know as former Treasurer how important it is to be able predict future income with some certainty); and, recently, by passing on an inheritance I received from my late mother (whose father: a good man, but one who did not believe in girls’ education along with many men of his time); the school’s annual Big Give matched funding campaign; and by cycling with my sons, David and Jonathan, from Haverfordwest (Pembrokeshire) across the Brecon Beacons and Cotswold Hills to Icomb in two and half days: a total of 175 miles; and an ascent of 15,000 feet.

The Ibba story is compelling. Yes, there are many worthwhile causes. What sets Ibba apart for me is not just the commitment and generosity of all the people involved, starting with Bridget herself, but the sense of a new beginning which has the potential to make a difference; and the concentration of resources in a single point, like a shining star and a beacon of hope in a land currently in turmoil. Let’s also not forget the girls themselves, their commitment and desire to make a difference in their lives and in their country. They deserve our support.

Eric Shepley, September 2017

Natalie and her husband Phil, both pictured in the photo above, are monthly givers to the School. They also recently decided to leave a gift in their Will to Ibba, so that future generations of South Sudanese girls can receive an education. To book in a confidential, preliminary chat about leaving a gift to Ibba in your Will, email Chernise at [email protected].

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