Campton & Chicksands

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.

Celtic Blessing
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 fields,
And until we nieet again,
May God hold you in the palm of his hand.

Born Singing
Complete 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 more.

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 to die?

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.
Lebohang Ramohlanka
High Commissioner for the Kingdom of Lesotho,
London 2000 - 2005

Copies are available from  or on request from any good bookshop.

For more information on the book & Author

Following 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.

Local Accommodation
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 award.

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.

New Project

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.
Other Links
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.

Royal Connections
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 Village College.

More About Annette's Fund Raising

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 We cannot Transform their lives, but we can make a difference.

If you would like Annette to speak at your club or function


Shefford, Bedfordshire, UK (map)

Contact me