Rocco Falconer (OH 01) - Endeavour
Rocco Falconer (OH 01) has been ‘planting promise’ in Sierra Leone since he went travelling there in 2008. He founded the charity during his gap year, in between leaving the army and going up to Cambridge. In Sierra Leone he found a country which was in desperate need of help but also offered wonderful financial opportunity. At the time, it was the fastest growing economy in the world and his intention was to fund free education backed by sound business enterprise.
Since 2008, he has set up a business farming and food processing in Sierra Leone and his latest venture is a coconut water factory in Ghana. But at the start, he had to find inventive ways to fund his initial educational project, particularly once he had returned to the UK to study at Cambridge.
Most 1st year undergraduates can probably be found in bed on a Sunday morning but Rocco spent every weekend making sushi rolls and preparing stir fry which he would sell during the week at his pop-up café in Cambridge. By his own admission, the quality of the food was dubious and the legality of the café questionable but by applying huge energy and effort he was able to fund the school in West Africa throughout his time at Cambridge.
The Hall School has been with him from the start, helping with the fundraising each year and providing vital expertise in education. In 2012 two of Rocco’s former Hall School Teachers, Tim Smith and Grace MacSweeney, gave up their summer to travel out to Sierra Leone and train the teachers there. According to Rocco, they did extraordinary things and it was a ‘transformational experience’ for the school.
Rocco credits his drive and ‘can do’ approach to his time as a scout at The Hall with Ian and Tony Frais and his year in the army. He absolutely loved both and learnt important skills which he has relied on ever since. His original plan was a career in the army, until he visited Sierra Leone. The change of tack has always been a slight source of regret but in 2014 he had an opportunity to follow this original plan as a result of the very worst of circumstances.
When Ebola struck in 2014, Sierra Leone was growing at 25% per annum and felt as if it was at the forefront of a changing world. The effect of the outbreak was instant and devastating and after seven years away from the army, Rocco was asked to join the British military task force to help manage the epidemic. He describes it as ‘the best of times and the worst of times’. Faced with terrible human suffering he was surrounded by the wonderful support network and deep friendship that comes from being part of the British army. As a unit, they were able to achieve incredible things freed from the restrictions of any commercial considerations.
Rocco has now returned to his life in West Africa and is determined to help Sierra Leone rebuild its shattered economy. He has by any standards already led a very ‘Distinctive Life’ and highlights his greatest achievements to date as:
- Keeping his educational project alive through the Ebola outbreak
- Building commercial and viable businesses in West Africa
- & making sure that ‘Planting Promise’ offers the very best quality of education
Rocco values his own education above everything and although he hated some of the rules when at school, he loved his time at The Hall. His closest friends were made here and his passion for English and History were embedded by his teachers. He even retains a few of the Japanese phrases he learnt from Mr Smith in his final term.
His advice to our current pupils is this:
‘With education, you can find out what you don’t know and then how to make sure you learn about it. You can do anything with a good education, so embrace it and value it.’
At the end of last year, we all wore our Christmas jumpers in aid of Planting Promise, just one of the many fundraising initiatives the boys have undertaken to support the charity. Rocco continues to return to The Hall regularly to inspire and enthuse the pupils and we all look forward to his next visit.