Travels in West Africa

In 2005 Tanya Walmsley, a young British student, set off to travel around West Africa.  At the end of her travels, she became a volunteer teacher at a school for refugees in Conakry, the capital of Guinea. Part way through her stay Tanya was told the school would have to close as the £60 rent for the building could not be paid. Tanya did what any student would do and rang home. Within the week her parents had sent the money to secure the school for the next month and Friends of Conakry Refugee School was born. For the next three years Ruth, Tanya’s mother, and a close group of friends fundraised in their hometown of Broseley in Shropshire to send money to the school. Tanya returned to the UK and took an MA in Conflict Resolution before returning to work in Guinea. In 2008 Ruth and the small group of friends that had formed FCRS formally registered as a UK charity.

Two decades of support

FCRS has continued to support the school for nearly twenty years, during which time its  approach has constantly evolved in response to the highly uncertain and ever changing environment in which the school operates.During the early years of its existence, FCRS’ support was largely humanitarian, sending money to ensure the students were fed and safe while the school worked towards a more positive future through education, based on a relationship of mutual trust, respect and understanding. In 2011 Tanya visited with her mother, Ruth, to discuss ideas about sustainability with the school’s management team. An extensive sustainability programme was developed by 2014 including the setting up of the first IT room and a breakfast club to provide food when students arrive at school first thing in the morning often after a long journey on foot.


A quest for sustainability

FCRS’ approach to supporting the school in becoming financially independent has required significant re-evaluation and revision in response to a range of major external in-country and global events outside its control, including military coups, Ebola, a global pandemic as well as world-wide economic instability. Analysis shows the school will not benefit from the current early – stage economic development within Guinea, with rental and food costs rising ahead of families ability to pay school fees. It has become apparent that providing high quality education to some of the poorest and most marginalised children will not be able to be funded solely from school fees or by running projects within the community. FCRS have devised plans to SEED fund projects that support our educational aims but also can provide an income stream to CRS.

The social enterprise route

FCRS is embarking on a major new and evolving approach designed to capitalise on Guinea’s growing economy, ultimately benefiting the school through increased revenue and providing opportunities for students to gain skills and experience and post-school employment. New initiatives will focus on developing the school’s science and technology offer, together with a range of girl’s health programmes, all of which will continue to fulfil the charity’s stated aims and objectives.  

Moving on from refugee status

Funding received by FCRS in 2020, in the form of a large grant from the Merck Family Foundation, has enabled the school to relocate to a significantly improved facility with potential for further improvement. After this move the school changed its name to Conakry Reliance School to reflect the fact that the majority of their students are now born in Guinea and the refugee community has now settled in Conakry. In response the charity now uses the name Friends of CRS and has designed a new logo.

Loyal supporters: our super power

FCRS’ ability to maintain its ongoing support to the school has rested on its relatively small, amazingly loyal, generous, and dedicated group of supporters and funding organisations. This solid support base is very much down to all the great efforts of the charities’ founding member, Ruth Walmsley MBE and her family and friends and carried forward by later generations of Trustees and their networks. Additionally, FCRS has an excellent track record of successful bids enabling the development on a range of programmes. 


Birth of  FCRS


FCRS becomes a registered charity UK charity number 1124736


Ground work on a school sustainability programme starts


Sustainability programme in place at the school.

Outbreak of Ebola in Guinea with devastating consequences for the country’s economy and plans for the school.


Ruth Walmlsey, charity’s founder member is awarded MBE in recognition of her work at the school   


Girl’s Health Club created at the school together with a programme of introducing Hygiene Kits, in partnership with Days for Girls and Dunstable Inner Wheel   


Successful grant application of 75,000 euro funded by the Merck Family Foundation, the relocation of the school to a new building

COVID Pandemic


School relocates to new building


School Science lab established

Unexpected military coup in Guinea


Development of CAST (Conakry Academy of Science and Technology) within the school; first phase of a major science and IT programme.


Name change to Friends of CRS

Our purpose and vision

Our purpose

We believe we can create a better future for some of the world’s most marginalised and disadvantaged children and young people through education.

Our vision

For every child and young person to be educated, protected, respected, and valued regardless of their, gender, faith, ethnic background, or financial circumstance.