WEEK 7 – THE 52 WEEK LOVE PROJECT
Welcome to Week 7 of The 52 Week Love Project. The project designed to recognize 52 inspiring humans who are giving back to our community – whether in a small way or by creating a movement for change and inspiration.
The project will showcase LOVE at it’s finest, share their stories – what they do and why they do it! It’s an opportunity for us to find out what inspires them and what keeps them going when challenges or self-doubt assail them.
MEET: Tina – Founder of ‘Africa Sunrise Foundation’
Her Motto : ‘‘To make a difference, we have to make a start.’
‘I do my best. I fail at this often! Be really clear on your objectives. There is so much that can be done, that it is not possible for us to do everything. We can’t! So the projects we take on must meet the African Sunrise Foundation Objectives, and have impact on many, not just one individual.’
WHERE DID IT ALL BEGIN?
November 2012 I travelled to Ghana, West Africa to work with an NGO rescuing kids from slavery. Worldwide, kids are sold into slavery for (on average) $100USD. In Ghana desperate parents sell their boys to work in the fishing industry, and their girls for domestic work, or worse.
Interestingly, this journey actually started a LOT earlier…. From about the age of 18, I had a dream to travel to Antarctica, but (as it was so expensive) I never thought I would achieve it. In 2010, I achieved this bucket list item, and shared my cabin with a woman who wanted to travel to each continent before she reached the age of 30.
Now, I had never thought of travelling to every continent before, but realised that I only needed to travel to Africa to have stepped foot on every continent. At the time, I was working with one of the co-founders of successful charity YGAP, and I asked her what charity trips she had coming up in Africa. There were 2 – Rwanda and Ghana, and I asked her which she thought would suit me better, and she thought I would connect with Ghana.
She was right! The rest is history, and I have just returned from my 3rdtrip there.
WHAT DO YOU DO?
Africa Sunrise Foundation is a grassroots NGO established in 2014. For over a year, I have been working with Africa Sunrise Foundation to bring education to kids there. It was only in November when I was planning my latest trip to Ghana that I asked for the 2 schools we were supporting to supply a list of their needs that I discovered that one school had no water at all, and that Abundant Grace School had one tap to share between 540+ kids.
I’m happy to say, providing town water and water tanks was a quick and easy fix, implemented when the kids returned to school in January and February this year. With the water, we provided handwashing posters and each school came up with their own song to remind kids to wash their hands after play, before food and after going to the toilet.
But biggest shock of all to my sanitised western mind, neither schools had toilets…. that’s 840 kids + their students practicing open defecation every day. Both schools were threatened with being closed down. In Ghana 23 million people practice open defecation. 2nd only to Sudan in Africa.And it is estimated that 3000 schools are without toilets.
Flies don’t discriminate between a rich and a poor man’s poo. In 2014, 249 people died of cholera in Ghana. 3000 kids die each year from diarrhoea. You eat street food in Ghana and it is cooked and packed. You are provided with a bottle of dishwashing detergent and a plastic bowl to wash your hands before eating. People know that lack of sanitation is killing them.
This trip I visited 4 schools. At Zion, a farming community of cassava, cocoa and plantain, I was the first white person the kids had seen, apart from some white guy on their test pattern like community TV.
Suyhen, had no electricity, and its 5 classrooms had all of their 5 teachers teaching 2 or 3 grades at once. One group would sit on one side of the classroom and be set up for work, and then the teacher would move to the other side of the classroom to teach the next grade. They were looking to divide the canteen space into 2 classrooms. Not one school had a computer: Proud Academy had a painting on the wall to teach the kids computer studies. Abundant Grace used cardboard cutouts of a monitor and keyboard and a stone for a mouse.
I heard again and again how teachers bought 1GHS or 28c exercise books for the students who didn’t have one.
Suyhen school caterer had worked for 3 school terms and been paid for one. But 3 out of 4 schools wanted toilets. But when basic needs of pens and paper can’t be met, toilets and water were way out of financial reach for these schools. What many people don’t know is that providing toilets is critical for girls and their education. In many cases, girls with menses won’t attend school, as they have nowhere to change. That’s potentially 1/4 of their education impacted!
Ghanaians are candid people, and teachers Francesca and Grace indulged me in my clumsy questions about life for girls in Ghana. What hit me was the impact of their own menstruation on their classes. Both women travelled 20 minutes each way to change when they were menstruating, leaving their classes for that time. Grace walked. But Francesca caught a local taxi each way for 2 GHC each way, or about 55c. So she was paying to go each way. But as a woman, the biggest price, was asking the male headmaster for leave each time….
Zion had closed up their toilet- a hole in the Bush with logs over it, because it was too unsafe for the kids. A local man allows them to use his bog hole, but each time a kid needs to relieve him or herself, the teacher goes with them, impacting the education of 29 other kids for 10 minutes while the class is left unattended for one student’s relief.
I believe charity isn’t just about giving. It’s about humanity, about ownership, pride and impact. Africa Sunrise Foundation is working with the schools to bring them toilets, and also income to support themselves. The world health organisation suggests 1 toilet for 50 people. Thanks to organisation we cannot wait and allowing for future proofing we are working to provide 1 toilet for every 30 students.
We are working with schools who are passionate about providing toilets and are evolving a concept with them to provide toilets for the school, toilets for the community and income for the schools to provide for their basic educational needs. These schools are made from planks of wood or blockwork, mainly with no windows or doors, so providing the Taj Mahal of toilets seemed ludicrous when rainy season saw classrooms flooded.
People in Ghana are accustomed to paying for water and community toilets, so the Abundant Grace and Proud Academy are working with us to develop free toilets for their school, with attached community toilets (working off the same plumbing) that would be used paid allowing for the cost of the cleaner and cleaning gear and excess profits for the school to manage for their own needs. Each roof will collect rain water in a tank. One builder is exploring bio fill waste management where the excrement is pumped with gas making them into cakes of fertilizer that can be given, or sold, by the schools to the local farming communities.
Together we are working to provide a 3 tiered effect: community health, education and sustainable income for the schools through these toilets. Today I have a new respect for the impact one loo can make in the world as we #MSHinGhana
WHAT INSPIRED YOU?
My first trip to Ghana, I met Fred Kennedy selling $2 personalised bracelets on the beach. His parents divorced when he was 14, and as the boy in the family, he left school to support his mum and 2 sisters. Fred knew his life would be different if he had the chance to finish his education. Heck! His dad was a university lecturer. How different life could be had his parents stayed together. I’m happy to say, that Fred’s youngest sister Edith is now a nurse thanks to hundreds of tourists buying $2 bracelets.
A year later, I returned to Ghana to travel with Fred. One night, before I left Australia, on Skype, I told Fred that I wanted to travel like he travelled (how naive of me- people like Fred don’t take vacations!). The way he nodded, I knew he hadn’t understood me. “Fred, I want to travel like you travel. If you sleep on the floor, I want to sleep on the floor.” Fred looked at me. “What, no air conditioning?”
During my 5 weeks in Ghana I was privileged to travel like a local with a local. Up North, there’s a village of about 1000 people called Larabunga with the oldest mosque in Ghana. We spent a couple of days in a homestay in that village, and over dinner one night, the village elder told me that he educates the girls in his village, because he believes women will always educate their kids whereas men may move on, like Fred’s dad, to another family. That was when I learnt how educating one, can have a ripple effect that will educate many.
I come from a family of educators. In fact, my parents met as young teachers over 55 years ago in Katherine the northern territory with not one white kid in their primary school classes. It was a given, I’d always get a tertiary degree. Each time I return to Ghana I have a better understanding of what a privilege this is.
HOW DO YOU GET PAST SELF DOUBT?
When I first started out, I thought “I’ll wait ‘til I earn lots of money in my business before I donate” but soon realised that every little bit counts, so that motivates me to appreciate the impact of even small gestures, and started contributing even small amounts to the projects.
I know too that what we are doing will always evolve. Thankfully my profession as an Interior Designer has taught me to be comfortable with making mistakes and recognising that failure is an opportunity for learning and growth.
Like everyone, I have self doubt, but these needs are so big (40% of kids at one school can’t afford underpants) that I have learnt to get over myself, because any delays I make can impact 1000’s of kids and their education.
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR OTHERS WHO WANT TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE/CHANGE IN THE WORLD?
Just one? LOL
- I’m aware, that as a Westerner I have my own values and terms of references, that may not always suit the culture and life in Ghana.
I do my best to listen and brainstorm with the team on the ground, and the schools we are working with to come up with solutions that go beyond just aid – the people impacted must have ownership of the projects, and be as involved as possible.
I do my best. I fail at this often!
- Be really clear on your objectives. There is so much that can be done, that it is not possible for us to do everything. We can’t! So the projects we take on must meet the ASF Objectives, and have impact on many, not just one individual.
DO YOU HAVE A QUOTE OR EXPRESSION THAT YOU LIVE BY?
It’s mine – ‘To make a difference, we have to make a start.’
WHAT ELSE DO YOU DO?
I’m an Interior Designer based in Adelaide. I am also the author of ‘Design You: Create the Life You Want and love my guests on my weekly ‘Design You Podcast’. I really do believe we can design a life in line with our ‘interior’ needs and values, and coach people on how to build the life and lifestyle they want. I am an avid traveller, a Rotarian and you’ll often catch me sharing a wine and food with my positive and amazing friends and family.
HOW CAN OTHERS HELP/GET INVOLVED?
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