Celebrating Christmas and Changing Lives in Zimbabwe

For one QPR fan, Greg Sangwine, his wife Sophie and young child Jack this Christmas will be unlike anyone else’s. They live in Harare and work on a very special project to improve the lives of children in Zimbabwe. However they will still be following the fortunes of our beloved Hoops over the festive fixtures. I caught up with Greg to learn more about his story…


SS:How did you come to support QPR? When was your first game and what were your memories of it?

GS: I’ve been a Rangers fans all my life. My Dad’s been going to Loftus Road for nearly 50 years now so I suppose I was born a QPR fan. The first game he took me to was the 92/93 season home game V Leeds. I remember Gordon Strachan scored first for Leeds from outside the box and then David Bardsley and Les Ferdinand scored for QPR. From my vantage point in the Upper Loft I am still certain that Les actually ran through John Lukic to score the second goal. I was hooked from that moment onwards – Les had performed magic. I then had a season ticket in the Loft between the 99/00 season and the promotion season in 2004 (when I went to university) and then again between 2008 and 2012. Rangers, aside from my family and friends, is what I miss most about living abroad.

Greg’s first game


SS: Tell us about the project you and your wife are working on? How did it come about?

GS: My wife and her family have been involved with a church here in Zimbabwe since 2007 when they came to run a kid’s holiday club. When we got married in 2010 we decided we’d assist in running that kids club in 2011. Unfortunately, at this time the lead pastor’s wife was very sick and she died, but before she passed, they told us it was their dream to use their new church building as a school in the week.

Education in Zimbabwe is good, most teachers are well trained and education is valued by families above all else. But, there isn’t funding for schools. There is no free education at all – even the government run schools charge fees. The problem in our part of the city is that the two or three government schools are dropping standards due to large class sizes. Imagine being in a class with 55/60 other kids and not enough pencils for the class? In addition, often the class teacher hasn’t been paid so has no motivation to stay in the job – the best teachers then work in private schools which can only be accessed by the very richest Zimbabweans and internationals.

It was our goal to offer an affordable education that was of a standard that we take for granted in the UK. We try to run One Way School as if we were to be inspected by Ofsted regularly. Although, without the pain of actually having an inspection! Currently we have nearly 100 kids at our school and in January we’ll have from the equivalent of nursery – year 3. (3 years old – 8 years old) whilst employing 12 local people, full time.


SS: What was it like moving your life and family to another continent? How long did it take you to settle in?

GS: When we moved in August 2012 we had very little information. Anyone who has lived, or even travelled to Africa will know of its relaxed style. We moved on an attitude that we were living an adventure, if we try and fail then at least we tried but that we wanted to do our best. The goal was to open a two class pre school with one class for nursery and one for reception. We didn’t own a house and at 23 and 26 most of our move was pretty low risk. If it didn’t work then we’d just jump on a plane, head home and try and get teaching jobs back in London.

Fortunately, we settled in really fast – Harare is a beautiful city with some incredible people and we were already in love with Zimbabwe. Luckily, thanks to a lot of generous monetary gifts we opened our pre school in January 2013 and by the end of the month we had 35 lovely children learning with us. It was crazy to start with though, between my wife and I and two other ladies we cooked, cleaned, gardened, taught classes, planned lessons, sorted finances, paid bills, got licences, all sorts of stuff. We were overwhelmed by the need in our area for an excellent school. The children went from understanding no English to speaking what the locals call; Proper English – the parents were even joking that their kids were now English and not Zimbabwean.

Since then we’ve had our first son Jack and he’s settled wonderfully – after all he doesn’t know any different – he was born in London but has lived here since he has 12 weeks old.


SS: What progress have you made so far? What is left to do? What end result are you looking for?

GS: We’ve now added two new classes to have the equivalent of year one and two as well. But, for my wife and I the education of the children is great but working with adults here to become teachers themselves is the schools greatest success. We don’t wish to live in Harare forever so passing on the knowledge we have was always paramount to the long term success of the school. Since our arrival 6 previously unqualified people are now fully qualified teachers and teach their own classes using ‘more up to date’ teaching methods which we have taught them. We know if we left tomorrow we’d always leave an excellent infant school behind.

The goal for 2016 is simple. Our current year twos are heading into year 3 so we’ve been building a new school for them. It currently doesn’t have a roof so that is a bit of a challenge but we’ll get there I’m sure.

Long term the church out here want to continue to grow this project into a secondary school and then even a university. After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day. You’d think someone would have mentioned that to Briatore maybe?


SS: What difference is your work making to the children in the area? How are you changing their lives?

GS: The vast majority of children at our school would attend Government school if our school didn’t exist, and a select minority may get access to the large private schools but some of our kids get free places at our school because they wouldn’t be able to access school at all. Many of the schools we observed whilst planning ours, just do not offer a high enough standard of education or individual attention. We did do a recent survey of the 96 children who attend our school though and only 7 of those parents came back to say that they would send their child to another private school if we weren’t here. So the remaining kids would all head to those government schools where pencils are scarce and class sizes are huge.

One Way School offers these children the attention and student teacher relationship they need to achieve. I personally believe that in our school there are the doctors, lawyers and politicians that will help make Zimbabwe a better place in the future.


One Way School in Pictures

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SS: You come to QPR games when you are in the UK… What is it like to follow the Hoops from such a distance?

GS: I plan my visits back to the UK around getting to as many Rangers games as I can. (Don’t tell my wife or my mother). It means I’ve seen us exit the league cup to Swindon and Carlisle and had a trip to Huddersfield more than once.

Honestly, it’s torture not being able to go to games. This week’s been awful – a double header at Loftus Road week with two of the bigger teams coming, Jimmy’s first games and I’ve had to follow via Twitter. Sky’s live championship games are all broadcast here so I can watch it on the tv. Moreover, eight of the ten weekly premier league games are broadcasted live so we can see plenty of that.


However, I can be lying in the sunshine playing with my son and still wishing I was at a rainy game. Sad isn’t it? But, then if you are reading this you probably understand where I’m coming from. My Dad still has a season ticket so he sends me detailed and highly biased match reports from each game. My Dad is an eternal optimist so he usually finds positives in 2-0 defeats. To be fair we’re both like that. We never yell or boo at a Rangers player and we always head home hoarse as we’re of the opinion that if we’re expecting the players to try then so should we.

For probably everyone reading this the 22nd of May 2014 was one of the best days of your lives. I spent the whole day jealous – Rangers won at Wembley and I missed it. Of course I wanted us to win but it was aching watching it on the tele. I checked the airline prices everyday just praying that a freebie would pop up. Bobby scored, and I jumped up and ran around the pub screaming. Even now I can walk in the same pub and a local looks at me and says; “ahh QPR – Zamora” and then chuckles to himself. My wife just said that it’s what I do. She now calls it my Cisse (v Stoke at home), Mackie (v Man City away), Zamora dance. I love QPR but sometimes we have to look at the good we can do. It’s the sacrifice I have to make to grow a good school in this country. I know one day I’ll be a Loftus Road regular once again and hopefully with my son in tow.

SS: How will Christmas be different for you all this year compared to previous ones at home? How will you celebrate?

GS: Christmas in Harare comes in a summer so rather than turkey, stuffing, movies and wine it’s more cold beers, barbequed meat and swimming. But, it’ll be a nice relaxing day with my wife and my son. Also, my Mum and Dad travel out here on the 27th December so Dad is missing Hull at home – but at least we’ll be able to watch the New Year’s Day fixture here together.


SS: What are your hopes for 2016? For QPR and for your project?

GS: QPR-wise I’d love to see us look long term. Green, Henry, Sandro, Konchesky and Perch aren’t the future of Rangers are they? I’m not saying they shouldn’t play – In fact I think they should play the majority of games. But, for some matches it’d be nice to see Smithies, Doughty, Furlong and Petrasso, among others to get a few chances. Particularly with Smithies, if it were me I’d make him the number one from now on. The other player I’d like to see at QPR is Michael Harriman – he’s done excellently at Wycombe and deserves his chance.

In 2016 I’d settle for improved performances and finishing around mid-table to be honest. But, when we have players like Austin, Phillips, Faurlin and Sandro all playing well then there isn’t too many teams better than QPR at this level so if the performance level stays the same then we’ll get close to either Burnley and Ipswich in 5th and 6th.

Work-wise in 2016 we want to see our school grow to 120-150 children and finish building the 5th and 6th classes so that we can continue to grow. It’s a big year in terms of the long term sustainability of One Way School.


SS: How can fellow Rangers fans find out more and support your work?

GS: Head to www.onewayschool.co.zw yo see what we do as a school. There’s lots of pictures of the kids as we have quite an extensive gallery on there. My wife and I are really keen to raise awareness of the struggles of Zimbabweans as well. Just the other day there was a politician on the radio stating that there’s no point educating the next generation when there are no jobs for them to go into – everything in society seems to destine these kids for failure. But, we know that it isn’t at all true. They need education – it should be a right which they can take for granted like we did as kids.

If you would like to help support the school and help us offer a generation of Zimbabweans affordable, excellent education then please donate £10 today. (Your whole donation will be used to help stick a roof on One Way School) You can do this through our personal website at www.gregsophiesangwine.org.uk/christmas-appeal

Thank.you so much for reading what we’re doing in Zimbabwe,

Merry Christmas and Come on you R’s!

Greg, Sophie and Jack.

2 thoughts on “Celebrating Christmas and Changing Lives in Zimbabwe

  1. This is excellent. Our Church supports a clinic in Zimbabwe but I liked the story so have donated. Take care and God Bless and Up the R’s

  2. this is great, I admire you guys.
    I live in Switzerland, originally from South Africa and have supported
    QPR for nearly 40 years. We have friends in Vic Falls and support some kids school education there.

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