The Blog


Heart-to-Heart with Old Girl, Leanne Long 💛

Leanne Long (née van der Leeuw, Class of 1981) is a busy and energetic lady with a great enthusiasm for life! She lives in Bedfordshire, England with her husband, Tim, an Educational Psychologist, as well as her two dogs, Yoda and Scooby, and cat, Ruby. Leanne is a mom to two daughters, Kate (22) and Amy (20). Kate is currently studying towards her Masters in International Relations at Durham University and Amy is at college doing Outdoor Adventure.

Leanne works for World Vision, a global poverty relief and development charity, where she leads on Culture and Capability (which roughly translates to leadership, performance management, development, communications, faith at work and organisational ethos.)

Leanne enjoys running her local Parkrun on weekends, baking (and eating!) up a storm in the kitchen and getting involved at church, which she describes as being “big and lively!” She has recently completed an MSc in Strategy, Leadership and Change and is a trustee of several charities, including Food Bank. The Long family love camping and hiking in the Lake District, and Leanne’s ultimate dream is someday retiring there to run a café!

It was such a pleasure to catch up with this inspiring lady for this month’s Heart to Heart. Take a look at what she says:

What have you done since leaving school?

A lot of different things. I have had a career hopscotch, rather than a career path! However, it’s all been interesting and worthwhile. My basic degree in Performing Arts at Wits lead to teaching Drama and English at several Maritzburg schools (sadly not St John’s D.S.G.) before lecturing in the Education faculty at the University of Natal for 10 years, with a M.Ed and some textbook writing thrown in as well.

A move to the UK in 2000 meant a shift into project management, strategy and policy work, as well as organisational development, initially in Children’s Services in local government, and then in the charity sector. Outside of work, I ran a small project in my church taking Bible story assemblies into my kids’ schools, growing it into a national success story. Open the Book is now in over 20% of primary schools across the UK with over 15 000 volunteers. I survived cancer in my early 40s, thanks to the grace of God, and so I make sure to maximise my second chance. We have travelled a lot as a family, including a road trip in our vintage pop-up across Europe, all the way to Dubrovnik.


What did you love most about St John’s D.S.G.?

It was small enough that you could get involved in everything – so I did! Sport (even the ones I wasn’t very good at), music, social concern outreach, chapel, even a bit of academics now and then. The then brand new, state-of-the-art Theatre was my happy place – Drama, school plays, public speaking, debating… but I must say that I was also quite keen on the socials we used to have with the various boys’ schools!


What does success mean to you and how did St John’s D.S.G. equip you for life after school?

Success for me is an internal thing and doesn’t require validation by fickle external measures, like an important title or a high salary. I feel successful when I know I have added value by being involved in something, when I recognise that I have invested my best skill and energy into things that matter, and I can see the ever-widening positive ripples going out from my efforts. I mostly didn’t recognise how St John’s D.S.G. equipped me until much later on in life. I just enjoyed the stimulation of school and kinda sailed through it; life seemed a lot less pressured back then. Apart from teaching me to think and learn, I think St John’s D.S.G. instilled in me the importance of a value-based life, about knowing your ‘true North’ and staying aligned to that as life swirls around you. The school also gave me space for my love of reading, words and expressing myself.


What advice do you have for our current girls and their families?

Recognise how blessed you are to be in such an authentic environment and seize all the richness these years offer – not in a pressurised, driven way, but for the sheer joy of it. Who you become as a person will always outweigh what you do or achieve, so make sure you invest in growing and maturing the ‘inner’ you.  And enjoy the process, because it’s lifelong.





  1. Camilla Neilsen Aug 28, 2020

    Lovely story. I sort of remember you Leanne.
    I am Camilla Neilsen(née Albu). I finished SJS
    In 1988.

    • Leanne Long Aug 28, 2020

      HI Camilla – good to hear from youn – yes I remember you too. I think my mum taught you, and I also remember we got a puppy from your mum and dad! A long time ago now.

  2. Tammy Whitfield Aug 28, 2020

    Hi Leanne,
    This is Tammy Whitfield (Searle).
    Your mum taught me in gr.5 (st.3) my 1st year as a boarder. She was so kind to me, helped me settle. I remember making confetti in class for a wedding!!!
    I am a teacher at a private Christian school, we farm in the Free State and I have a daughter, Claire who also went to Sjs and is now in her final year at Tukkies doing a B.Ed, and a son Lloyd, who is doing a gap year through Victory church in Jefferys Bay.
    Lovely to read your news.
    I also finished school in 1988 and started at Sjs in 1981.

    • Leanne Long Aug 28, 2020

      HI Tammy, yes I remember you too – yes my mum was a great teacher and as you say really helped so many girls settle in and find thier place. She sadly died very suddenly back in 2002 but we still miss her. Your church school sounds a wonderful place – so important to give young people the right start. And I was always very sad that living in the UK meant my girls couldnt go to St Johns – really struggled to find an equivalent over here. Bless you in the years to come

  3. Tessa Tostee (nee Moore) Aug 28, 2020

    Hi Leanne, I remember you very well, we were so blessed to attend such a beautiful, warm and loving school. It gave us the opportunity to grow in all aspects.
    Lovely to See SJS going from strength to strength ?
    Keep up the good work and stay safe ?
    Tessa Tostee (nee Moore) class of 1983

    • Leanne Long Aug 28, 2020

      Hi Tessa, yes it seems a cliche to say they were the best days of our lives (which I wouldnt say, as each year brings some “best days”!) but we did have fun!! Hope you are doing well

  4. Rosie Harrison Aug 28, 2020

    Well said Leanne, I agree with everything you say about how St.Johns prepared us for life. You have always been brilliant at expressing yourself and sharing your ideas and thoughts, and it was lovely to read your ‘since-school’ story here!

    Rosanne Harrison (nee Brown)
    Class of 1980

    • Leanne Long Aug 28, 2020

      Thank you Rosie – we can thank our teachers like Miss Hyman and Mrs Lacock and Ms Cockburn for our love of language. And Im so glad you and I have stayed in contact all these years in spite of mostly living on the other side of the world!

  5. Kate du Toit Aug 29, 2020

    Oh dearest Leanne … how well you have captured that amazing school spirit!! Can’t believe it’s more than a year since I saw you all!! Kate du Toit (nee Holmes)


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