As many of you know by now, I am the chief for welfare and development in the village of Nankesido (also spelt Nankesedo) on the coast of Ghana in West Africa. I am also a trustee of the Nankesido Education and Welfare Trust, the charity I set up to help my people and my village.
When I made my last appeal at Saint Edmund’s I told you that the computer school we have been building was nearing completion. Now it is finished; it is up and running. It has two large computer rooms, each with space for 20 workstations, plus additional class rooms, a staff room, and a storage room, and it is beautifully decorated and furnished with locally-made tables and chairs. What this means is, quite simply, that the children of my village can at last begin to receive an education to fit them for the 21st century, and this is mostly thanks to you, the parishioners of Saint Edmund’s and your families, to your friends and to your many other connections at work and beyond.
We didn’t just get given money, or help with fundraising: we have also received gifts of computers from schools and workplaces – most recently from the Brazilian Embassy and from our own St Mary’s School – and I, my chief, Nana Baa VII, the elders and people of Nankesido, and especially the children and their parents and teachers are very grateful, because without your help there would be no computer school and – can you believe this? – the children would still be learning computer skills from a black board and from one or two shared laptops that we had given them in the past.
In addition to building the computer school, we have been helping to fund children through their education. Only a few years ago, parents had to pay virtually all the costs of their children’s education which meant that children from poorer families missed out completely on schooling. Increasingly though, the Ghanaian government has been taking on more and more of the burden, so there is less need for us to help with basic school costs. However, there is still a need to help some children through senior school, university and other tertiary education, and we still have an important role to play here. We offer scholarships to gifted children from poor backgrounds: our priest in Ghana, Fr Fynn knows who needs help. Our latest scholarship has just been given to a poor girl to begin studies at the University of Cape Coast. Her mother sells food on the street and without our – that is, your – support, she would never have been able to further her education in this way.
While government support for education is increasing, the quality of teaching materials is not always of the best. In the past, we have sent huge quantities of sports kit you have given us – something we would certainly like to repeat – and over the years we have sent boxloads of school books – even as your read this donations of books for teaching maths, religious education and geography, given to us by the school of Our Lady and Saint Philip Neri, are on the sea and on their way to Ghana.
We are also planning to support less academically able children to acquire a trade by sponsoring apprenticeships, for example, in hair-dressing, as mechanics, carpenters, tailors and seamstresses. Typically, an apprenticeship costs only £100 or so – not a lot, you might think, but again it is often beyond the means of poorer families. And something else we plan to do, when our apprentices have qualified, is to help them onto their feet with an appropriate gift, eg, of tools, a sewing machine, a hairdryer.
How you can help. All of this costs money, of course. For the future, we hope to install solar panels for the computer school, and before long, we will need to think about replacing the computers as they get older. We still need to continue to pay school and university fees for poorer children and to pay for apprenticeships – and we would be very grateful for any help you can give us now or in the future.
Your money will be well spent. Our priest in Ghana has overseen several building projects in his own parishes in the past and, while the computer school was under construction, he oversaw virtually every item of expenditure, and cut out the middle-man by going in person to factories, suppliers and timber-yards to secure the best deals. Every child supported through education is chosen personally by him on the basis of need alone.
And finally, thank you to all of you who have given me rosaries and other religious items to take to Ghana – we have received over 200 – an amazing figure, and every one of them will find a good and welcome home.
With thanks in advance, Deacon Sean, Trustee of Nankesido Education and Welfare Trust (NEWT).