Monday, 12 August 2013

Malaria in Ghana

Maranatha prep-school recently received a donation of mosquito nets from the Ghana Health Service, so I was asked to help hand these out to the students of class 2. I and teachers from Maranatha prep-school then also explained to the students the importance of these nets in preventing malaria and how they should be used in order to be effective. 

A teacher at Maranatha prep-school explaining
how to use a mosquito net.
Malaria is, of course, still one of the big killers in many parts of Africa. According to Doctors Without Boarders “Every year, malaria kills around  660,000 people and infects more than 200 million.” (here is the link) and according to the UNICEF Ghana FactSheet on Malaria from 2007:

• 3.5 million people contract malaria every year in Ghana
• Approx. 20,000 children die from Malaria every year (25 per cent of the deaths of children under the age of five).
• Even if a child survives, the consequences from severe malaria such as convulsions or brain dysfunction can hamper long-term development and schooling.
• The annual economic burden of malaria is estimated 1-2 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product in Ghana.

A lot more has to be done to stop the spread of Malaria. I believe one of the solutions has
Demonstrating how to hang up a mosquito net so
that no mosquitoes can enter
been to make the medication that cures malaria easily available, however, this has also had negative effects. From my experience of talking to Ghanaian friends and family, I have discovered that this medication is used at anytime that symptoms appear that are those of malaria – which may often be just a common cold or fever. This means that it is more likely for the malaria parasites to become drug-resistant to this medicine and thus make it less effective. The same seems to be the case across many African countries, like stated in the Daily Nations Article from Kenya. In this article a pharmacist from Kenya notes It has become commonplace that when some people develop some fever they rush straight to their local pharmacist and demand malaria drugs. In some of those cases, the underlying disease is rarely malaria."

Handing out a mosquito net
It is so difficult to develop medicine and drug-resistant parasite add an additional hurdle. Thus, I believe that raising awareness and educating on this issue is vital. Hence, charities such as Cheerful Hearts Foundation that I worked with on my last visit to Ghana and who are now also a Global Giving Partner Project are so vital in taking over this role. They organise awareness talks at schools on this issue and the students then bring this knowledge back home and educate their parents and extended family. By handing out mosquito nets and educating people about how to prevent malaria and how to use the medication, one is able to save many lives!

Friday, 9 August 2013

Finally Back In Ghana – revisiting my home in Kasoa

During my first week back in Ghana I had the chance to catch up with all of my Ghanaian friends and family that I had missed so much since January 2012 – at last we were reunited again! And how nice it was! I hopped on a tro-tro (the local mini buses that can take you virtually anywhere in the country) to Kasoa, which had become my home from November 2011-Januray 2012. I was surprised by how much of the route between Accra and Kasoa I still remembered! The main difference was that they had FINALLY finished the building of the overhead on this road, which meant that it actually took the 1 hour that everyone said it would take even back in 2011/12 when one was lucky if it took 2 hours!

Some of my students from 2011
The school, Maranatha prep-school, at which I used to teach, has not changed much in appearance, but I found the students much more disciplined and less excited by “obroni” (white person) arriving – perhaps due to the fact that the teachers seemed stricter and as they must now be used to so many obroni volunteers coming to visit the school. However, I was so extremely happy when my students from last time still remembered me; shouting: “Madame Helen is back!”. One even still remembered my full name and we spend our time remembering all the shared memories from my last visit. What made me sad, however, was to find out that my students still did not have a new Maths teacher – I was teaching them Maths during my stay…

Maranatha prep-school in 2013
Many of the teachers at Maranatha prep-school had become my friends during the three months that I had worked there and I was so happy to see many of them again. However, many had left the school to teach elsewhere or to further their education, so there were many new teachers who had only just left Senior High School and many of who were younger than me! Whilst I spoke to many of them it became clear that they did not intend on staying at Maranatha prep-school for long, but were rather just waiting for their exam results before furthering their education or taking on a different job. It seemed like this was their kind of “summer job” and as many did not aspire to become teachers, this was reflected in their attitude towards teaching the students at this school...

Remembering my time in 2011
Education is often stated as the key to development and providing children with a brighter future. However, I believe that only good quality education can do this with teachers that are motivated and inspire. Sadly, I was unsure if this was the case here! A main problem in Ghana seems to be that many people become teachers not because that is what they want to become, but because these are the jobs available and many schools are in desperate need for just about anyone who can teach the children. In addition, young teachers that have just left Senior High School also receive a lower salary, so they are often chosen above the better qualified and experienced individuals. This was clearly also the case at my old school here in Ghana. Teachers normally only stay for short periods of time at each school and I am sure that this too effects students achievements and learning.

Back to the positive info :) The best part of the day was probably to see my host dad again and my host brother! My host dad, Rev. John is also the director of the school, so I spend much time also talking to him and catching up about everything that had happened in my absence. He has now started his own charity called JAWU Hope Foundation. So do take a look at his website and why not like their facebook page at Their mission is to provide assistance to the less privileged children in their community through education. Most of the volunteers will be placed at Maranatha prep-school and of course, I am a great fan of this school and believe it is in desperate need of some inspirational and motivated teachers to make learning more fun! To contact the foundation e-mail or contact me! At the moment, the lease of the land the school is built on will expire in 2014, so they have already purchased a new plot of land and are starting the building process for the new school. I really do hope that it will be done on time for the students of this school to continue their education. If you would like to help with this building project you can always contact me and I can put you in contact with the director, Rev. John.

I can’t wait to report on all of the adventures ahead and all of the experiences I will gain during this second trip to Ghana :) Keep your eyes open for even more updates :) 

And why not follow me on twitter for many more and frequent exciting tweets on what is happening on the ground here in Ghana! 

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Thank you for your help in raising an amazing £530 during my Global Giving UK Bake Sale!

I have now been in Ghana for more than a month and I realise that it has been just as long since I have updated my blog… :( I was thinking about it all of the time, but the internet connection has been very slow and limited and, therefore, all the blog posts that I have already completed had to wait until now to be uploaded! Over the following days I will be uploading them one by one, so keep checking to stay updated! :) I have now also purchased a mobile internet modem that I can use for any future blog posts I create :) In this post I hope to share with you more about the fundraising Bake Sale that I held on 23rd June in Shere, Surrey in aid of Global Giving UK:

The day was a great success! With all of the generous help of many neighbours, family members and friends we were able to bake so many cakes, cookies, waffles and even pretzels (there had to be something German too ;) )! The weather held with us for most of the day too and, of course, without the many kind purchasers who often also gave a generous donation we would never have been able to raise a staggering £530 for Global Giving UK! I never expected to raise so much and I am certain that the money will go to a fantastic cause! While I am visiting the projects out in Ghana I will be keeping you posted about where the donations will go and how they will be used!

Victoria and Min stopping cars :)
Victoria decorating cupcakes
Special Thanks goes to my old school friends Min and Victoria, who were able to bring great enthusiasm, joy and countless ideas, which made the day so fun and successful! The night before the Bake Sale, we stayed up late baking and preparing the decorations for the table and rapping cakes and cookies. On the day, too, they were great at persuading walkers, cyclists and church goers to enjoy a piece of cake and were happy to explain more about Global Giving UK! 
Frank selling pretzels
My younger brother, Frank, surprised me with his great self-confidence as he stood by the side of the road with a huge sign around his neck, stopping cars that were passing through the village, in his hands holding a basket of freshly baked pretzels and making sure that everyone knew how delicious they were!

Of course such a Bake Sale could never take place without the help of MUM, who spent the entire week helping me bake and helping me buy all the needed ingredients! I believe together we came up with some great cake ideas that sold well, such as the Chocolate-Orange cupcakes. Many other recipes were sent through by friends and family and were put to great use on the day.

I will be holding another Bake Sale on October 6th and hope that on this day some other old school friends, perhaps even from Germany, will join me to make the day another success! So please do send me any easy to make cake recipes that I can use for that one :)
Thank you everyone! I really enjoyed the day, even though it was exhausting, it was so fulfilling and I love knowing that all the money and time and effort has been well spend and will go to amazing causes in Ghana! 

Saturday, 8 June 2013

25 days to go!

I am currently half way through my exams and, thus, thought it would be a good idea to write a little update about my preparations for my time in Ghana! I must admit my head has not really been with my revision, but rather already in Ghana… we will see how that is reflected in my exam results when it is time for those…

The article about my Bake Sale is now out in the Parish Magazine issue for this month
Bake Sale Poster!
and looks great! I have also already received many great cake recipes and ideas from my supporters. So thank you to everyone who has done that and if you have not done it yet, but have a great idea for an easy to make and delicious cake then please do send me the recipe! Posters have also been prepared and are ready to hang up around Shere :)

I am also hoping to go to a car boot sale and sell some of my old things to raise money for the Global Giving partner projects in Ghana. I have already gone through my cupboard and established which things I really do not use. In addition, I have asked my friends and family to contribute any things that they do not need anymore and that I could sell on the day. I am sure all of us have a pair of shoes or a bag that we thought was nice at the time we bought it, but have never actually used, or now no longer fits our
A cake my friend made, hope mine turn out just as well :)
personal style. All money made at the sale will go as a donation to Global Giving. One of my friends (Haoqing) has surprised me, as she has already been able sell her skateboard in aid of Global Giving, which I am delighted about! So if you have anything that you think I could sell on the day, I would appreciate if you could let me know by e-mail (at and we will arrange for me or someone else to come and collect the things!

On the Global Giving UK fundraiser page that I have created at I am already more than halfway to my target of £400! Thank you so much for all your help and support for this great cause! 

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Some good process in my preparations for my upcoming trip to Ghana

As mentioned in my previous blog, I want to keep you all updated about my preparations before I go to Ghana so that you can find out more about the process involved and my thoughts and feelings.

Today I had my first training session with Global Giving UK in their London office in preparation for my time in Ghana as Project Evaluator. It has all been very exciting and I have already learnt a lot! We went over some of the ways that partner projects can connect with new donors and make the most use of their existing networks (which can be much bigger than they might think) in their fundraising activities and how social media can raise awareness about their project. The training has also made me realise the amount of people I know and how I can get, not only them, but also their contacts, involved in this project in many different ways.

Today has not only provided me with great insights into how to evaluate projects, but it has also made the whole trip become more real. Now I am truly excited to get on the plane and fly off, but I know there is still a lot more to do before then!

I have already started fundraising on the Global Giving website (here is the link so, please do take a look at it and pass it on to anyone you think may be interested in the project and could perhaps support it! I would also like to take the opportunity to thank all of you who have already donated!

In my fundraising endeavours, I have also been planning two Bake Sales in my village in Surrey (Shere). I will be holding one on the 23rd June, before I leave the UK and then one when I am back from Ghana on the 6th October. I have lived in Shere for most of my life and I am very excited to get some of the community members involved in baking and selling the cakes. If you have any great cake or even cookie recipes please do let me know and I would also be grateful if you could help me in the baking or selling process. I am lucky to already have my younger brother, Frank, on board and hopefully I will also have some friends from my old school join me. I have already written an article for the Parish Magazine about the Bake Sale and my project, so if you receive the Magazine, keep your eye out for my article! All I need now is good weather on the two days.

Not only is there the fundraising that needs to be done before I can leave the UK, but I still need to apply for my visa and start packing. Luckily, I have already booked my flights, got all my vaccinations and travel insurance. 

I hope that with all these exciting things going on, I will still find time to revise for my upcoming exams. 

Thank you to all of you who have already donated to my Fundraiser and I look forward to reporting to you how your donations have helped create change in Ghana once I am out there!

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Investing in more effective ways of giving - my quest for summer 2013 in Ghana

Would you like to find out more about International aid? 

With more and more people and institutions debating the impact of international development and increasing attacks on its effectiveness, I would like to invite you to follow my journey evaluating NGOs in Ghana.

Research into the effectiveness of " Radio Guru "  
the Mountain Trust's radio school in Nepal, April 2012

Many of you will have helped me raise funds for the charity I worked with last year in Ghana for 3 months from November 2011 – February 2012 (Cheerful Hearts Foundation) as I helped them reach their target requirement of raising $5000 from at least 40 unique donors, in the Global Giving Open Challenge – which enabled them to gain a permanent place on the Global Giving website. Through this I got to know Global Giving and how it gives each charity, that fulfils certain criteria (for example they have to be registered as a charity in their own country) the chance to receive funds they may traditionally not have had access to. 
Global Giving was set up as a charity fundraising website to change the way people give, offering donors a transparent, high-impact giving experience. In addition, Global Giving supports their partner projects with training and feedback from the UK. This year is the first year that they will be sending volunteers to evaluate the impact and the effectiveness of the projects. I am delighted to be part of the team and cannot wait to get started. I will be evaluating Global Giving UK partner projects on the ground in Ghana, by checking how they use their funds, if they go to the projects they outlined on the Global Giving site, how the funds can be spent more efficiently and effectively and how their projects can be improved. 

Of course, trips like this always require a certain amount of funding. In addition to travelling costs and living costs once I am in Ghana, I will also be making a £400 donation to one of the projects I will be evaluating (the one where I believe it will be used most resourcefully and make the biggest impact) and I will also be paying for the training session Global Giving UK will provide, as they are a charity and are unable to provide these kinds of resources for free, if they wish all donations to go to their project partners. This means I have started my fundraising endeavours and hope that with your help I can raise the £400 donation and the £250 Global Giving cost for training and administration. The £650 is only my minimum target and I would hope to raise more to support these great projects. 

However, this time I do not just want to ask you to donate money, without getting anything in return, but I would like to try something a bit different by giving those that are willing to support me a small reward. Therefore I propose the following:

  • Donate £1 and get one BIG Thank you
  • Donate £20 and get a Postcard from Ghana
  • Donate £30 and get a Video message from me and the people you are helping in Ghana
  • Donate £80 and get a traditional African blanket/tablecloth
  • Donate £100 and get traditional Ghanaian bag
  • Donate £500 and get an original Kente Woven Textiles to tailor make clothing/bags etc.
  • Donate £1000 and get a tailor made traditional African dress/ shirt
To Donate in pounds (£) please go to my Global Giving Fundraising Page by clicking here.
If you want to donate in Euros, please visit my fundraiser on the betterplace site by clicking here. 

I hope you find this an exciting project and worth your investment and I believe that in order to make international development work we have to invest in evaluation to see how projects can make every £1 achieve more ! 

I will be writing regular updates on this blog in preparation for the trip, but more frequent updates will follow once I am in Ghana. With those blog posts you can then find out where your donations have gone and what kind of impact they have made. I will also be reporting on my experiences, impressions and what I have learnt along the way.

Thank you!