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News > Old Girls' Association > Spotlight on Jenny Strathern

Spotlight on Jenny Strathern

St Swithun's Alumna Jenny Strathern, née Grindle (ED 1972) has a life of art in Africa
Interviewed for OGA Chain magazine 2021
Interviewed for OGA Chain magazine 2021

Jenny Strathern, née Grindle (ED 1972) left St Swithun’s to study radiotherapy at Guy’s Hospital in London as for her it was the perfect combination of physics and people. She went on to work in the neutron clinic at Hammersmith hospital, then St Luke’s and the Royal Marsden before heading over to Groote Schuur in Cape Town, South Africa, the site of the first ever heart transplant.

Woven in between these medical jobs, Jenny also dabbled in catering, running a sandwich bar at one point and catering for birthdays, weddings and other events. It has been a reliable back-up trade for times when she needed greater flexibility and it was also another wonderful way to meet people.

Jenny met her husband Chris whilst sailing on a yacht from Cape Town, via St Helena Ascension Island and the Azores, to Turkey. She remembers their trip as a life-changing experience, not only because they decided to get married but because the forestay broke and the prop shaft sheared! And in those days, there was no GPS either…

Since leaving the UK, Jenny has lived in many countries - South Africa, Eswatini (Swaziland), Zambia and currently Uganda, where she and Chris have been for almost ten years. Zambia was one of Jenny’s favourite places as they were surrounded by wide open spaces and the most beautiful game reserves. She also loved Cape Town as it was gloriously cosmopolitan. Being built around Table Mountain and the sea there was always a feeling, for Jenny, that nature was at its heart too. Wherever she has lived, the common theme for Jenny has been community and she has worked hard to be part of each area, make connections with people and give back to society however she could.

An amazing example of this is Jenny’s artwork. A talented artist, Jenny often sells her work and donates the proceeds to local charities. She has sold wildlife pictures in aid of the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation (who are committed to fight against wildlife crime, protect endangered species and engage local communities in wildlife protection) and other paintings to support the work of the Rays of Hope Hospice in Jinja, Uganda (who do phenomenal work in cancer detection and treatment, amongst other things).

Jenny feels that both her sense of community and the realisation that with privilege comes great responsibility is something she learnt back in her days at St Swithun’s. Being at boarding school taught her to get along with everybody even though you might be cleaning your teeth next to someone you don’t like every morning! It also helped her build resilience and independence - two other characteristics which have served her well in diverse ex-pat environments.

For the best part of the last decade, Jenny and Chris have lived in Jinja, Uganda, where Chris has managed a sugar plantation. Whilst the actual COVID case numbers in the Jinja area are low its impact has made life very difficult for so many. Jenny explained that local children haven’t been to school for two years and there is no home-schooling either. The rates of teenage pregnancy are horrific and there is no NHS or unemployment benefit to help the ill or unemployed. In Uganda generally, the population has now risen to a staggering 47
million people with roughly half of those being age 15 or under. 

However, for Jenny and Chris it is almost time to move on once again as Chris retired a few weeks ago. Horrifyingly, Jenny was attacked recently whilst out on her usual walk around the plantation. She bravely fought off her attacker and reached safety but it has shaken her. She is using her creativity to process her feelings and has written a poem about her experience.

Together, they have decided to take some time out in Kenya and have hired a beach house as the perfect place to rest and mull over ideas for their future. One thought is to come back to the UK and travel around the coast of Scotland in a camper van! I am sure that wherever they end up, Jenny will make more friends and produce yet more stunning artwork. You can see some of Jenny’s work here: 



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