Since 2003 Steve and Hilary Lawther have worked tirelessly with The Gambian Schools Trust, to help improve the educational facilities for the children who live in The Gambia.

They were involved in the build of the first library in 2004 and have continued to help improve the learning facilities for children, particularly in the poorer and more remote regions in the country.

Over the years they have assisted or provided the building of educational facilities from nurseries to senior schools and stocked these schools with learning materials and resources.

Last year, they were shocked and humbled by the arrival of an email announcing that they had been awarded an MBE for their services to education in the Gambia.

Hilary said: “We thought it was a wind up as it came on an email. Then when we realised it was genuine, we were stunned and were going to say no.”

After consideration they decided to accept the award as this was a recognition not only for their work but for the committee and the hundreds of supporters, people and organisations who provide physical, financial and material support to the charity.

On 14 June, they came down to Windsor Castle to receive the awards, which were given to them by Princess Anne. They were told at the time that it was unusual for a married couple to be awarded the same award at the same time, so really special to them and the charity.

Steve said: “I was excited, overwhelmed and worried but the staff were very friendly, very knowledgeable and everything was faultless and went to time.”

From Windsor Castle, it was back to business and collecting books and school furniture to ship out to The Gambia together with fundraising for maintenance on their six existing schools, solar boreholes and hand pump wells.

This year the charity plan to build extra classrooms at Njalal Samba School as demand for education there is growing with their grades improving. They are converting a classroom at Alieu Badera Memorial School into a computer and science room and have been asked to help provide a reading corner in every classroom in every school (about 200 schools) in the central river region of The Gambia. This involves providing a metal cabinet to combat termites.

The award is well deserved for the dedication and commitment that Steve and Hilary Lawther have given to The Gambian School Trust over the twenty years they have been involved. To find out more about the charity go to