From 9-19 February 2018, I took a trip to Upper West Ghana with my mum and brother to do some work with ATE, a charity based in Ramsbury. After a few months of my brother volunteering with ATE for his Duke of Edinburgh Award we were invited to Ghana to see the work they do.
The town ATE is based in is called Lawra and is the largest town in the Lawra district, about half the size of Newbury and is where ATE does most of their work. ATE have three projects, EducATE, where they provide free school meals to secondary schools, BizATE, where they support small business owners, making them more profitable, and SNAP, where they support families with disabled children, fighting against the strong stigma against disabled people in Africa.
We were working with EducATE and BizATE, their two longest running and biggest programmes, visiting business owners and schools and seeing first hand what ATE do for the people of Lawra and the surrounding area.
On our first day we visited a weaver who had three young apprentices through ATE. As part of BizATE, ATE supplies businesses with apprentices, normally young girls. This helps both the business and the girls, as young girls have a substantially inferior education to boys due to the young marrying age. The fact these girls can learn a useful skill will be vital to their independence. One of these girls was deaf as well, making the fact she has the chance to learn a skill that bit more important.
The next day, we visited a school that ATE has supported through donation of school meals. This has drastically improved performance and attendance, as well as the health of the students. The PTA must first build the kitchen before ATE provides the food and the cooks. This gives the school a sense of independence and ownership of the project, and the ability to do any repairs if necessary. This is one of ATE’s core values, providing the people they help with the tools needed to solve their own problems.
Throughout the rest of the week, we continued visiting businesses and schools, including a school with 12 students that ATE is thinking about starting a feeding program with. We interviewed the students to determine what their lives are like without being fed so they can compare after the feeding starts. This gave me a real insight into the quality of life these children lead, some of them walk up to two and a half hours to and from school every day, in only flip flops. We can’t really imagine what it must take to be able to do that, often without breakfast, and then do a full day of school in blistering heat. I have a lot of respect for them, they are clearly very motivated to get an education as many of them have dreams of taking up professions which would require a high level of education.
Overall, I would describe my week as an eye-opening, one of a kind experience. It has put my everyday life into perspective and made me appreciate how lucky I am, excuse the cliché. I would heavily recommend anyone to go on a trip like mine as it will give you a new perspective on life.