Annual Newsletter: Issue 10


Last Updated: December 2017


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In January 2018 SEPIA will be 10 years old and in preparing to write this edition I have been tempted to look back to see what we have achieved in this time. I am not sure that the longevity of a charity is always something to celebrate and at SEPIA our aim has always been to offer bursaries which stimulate independence rather than create any sense of reliance. But we are a small team and some of our projects have been quite large so it might be a little ambitious to expect all of our partner schools in Ghana to suddenly be self sustainable! However, in the last decade we have managed this in several places and hence, if you scanned back through the newsletters, you will see some school names disappear and new ones appear. It has been a really interesting learning process from the initial feeling that we were expected to solve every problem to gaining the trust and respect of the school staff so that we could collaborate. I won’t list every project we’ve been involved in, as these can be found in our newsletters, but I can tell you that since 2008 we have awarded 30 pupil bursaries, 28 school bursaries, 3 teacher bursaries, 1 medical and 1 community bursary. It is difficult to track our pupils as they often move regions but I do know that 2 are now working within the computer industry, 1 has set up their own music production company, at least 2 are teachers and one is training to become a nurse. We have sunk two boreholes and provided water pumps to serve two communities and built or renovated over 20 classrooms.  Possibly our best achievement, in terms of promoting independence, has been to work with teachers to negotiate funding and equipment from the regional government and the Ghanaian education services.  In general, government funding for schools is very poor but it does seem that if you ask the right people some things are possible!

In Ghana we have now established a great team to manage the projects and negotiate contracts with the local workforce and traders.  Everyone, in the UK and Ghana, works voluntarily and always pays their own travel and subsistence so 100% of any donation really does go to fund the projects. Any progress is only possible because of the support we receive, whether it is from family volunteering to take part in yet another sponsored event or our generous donors who respond to the calls for aid. A huge thank you to everyone who has supported us in 2017.

So, let us look at what we’ve achieved this year. Our main project took place at New Tafo Basic School; this site has both a primary and secondary teaching block. In 2016 we worked on the primary side so this year we looked at the secondary. Our initial aim was to complete work on converting a classroom from a bamboo structure to a solid concrete building. We had made some progress on this in 2015/6 but the project funding had limited us to constructing a waist high wall topped with wire mesh to keep it secure during the school holidays. Now we intended to complete the walls and fit the window shutters and doors. Felix Osei, the Headteacher, is always keen to advertise our partnership and as a result our work with the primary school was already receiving positive attention from the Eastern Region Director of Education. So, when Felix told me the local parliamentary representative was also showing interest we set up a meeting for her to visit and have a tour of the school complex. As a result the school was offered a grant to repair the other classrooms and completely re-roof the whole block. So, for the first time ever, we found ourselves in a joint project with the government! It was an interesting process and one that highlighted the importance of having trusted and experienced people in Ghana to manage work for us; in this case we were lucky to have Felix and his deputy, Lawrence Anyan. By October, our building work was complete leaving the classroom now just needing paint; the structural repairs were done to the other classrooms and the new roof was in place. Like us, the government budget also ran out just before the final painting took place although, unlike us, the government is not now busy raising funds to finish the job! Elections have taken place and government representatives have disappeared, possibly for four more years! There is good news though because, thanks to our Team SEPIA runners, we are on course to start work again in the New Year and complete the project (Photos 1 -4).

Our other two projects this year were both continuing work from last year. In Asafo we have been constructing our second three classroom block replacing the old wooden structures which were prone to damage during tropical storms. This site houses both a primary and a secondary school and our work this year has been focussing on years 4, 5 & 6 of the primary. Each classroom is now in a useable state but work continues. Compared to working in New Tafo, which is a small town, the progress in Asafo, a village, is slow. Despite being near to a new road, the access into the village is via a pot-holed dirt track and getting material delivered often takes a long time and can be more expensive. It seems that the new road has almost cut the village off and, rather than bringing in new trade as was hoped, it is taking it away to other, larger settlements (Photos 5 & 6).

At Bomponso Primary School we were able to finish off the surrounds of the water pump we installed and also coat it with a special anti-fungal paint. This water pump has made a huge difference both to the school and the community. Firstly, children and families no longer have to spend the first hours of their day collecting water from a distant stream, but also the water now comes from a covered source meaning that it is not shared with the animals and is not full of passing debris. It is too early to say how this has impacted upon the level of water borne diseases that are prevalent in this area but we are very hopeful that child sickness, in particular, will show a marked decrease (Photos 7 & 8).

So that is what we did but, where did the money come from? We are very lucky at SEPIA to have some dedicated supporters and this year started again with generous donations from the lovely pupils, staff and parents at Ropley Primary and Oakley Infant Schools. Both schools have been working with us for several years and it gives me great pleasure to visit them in order to give updates on the projects they support. So many thanks go to the staff for organising, parents for donating and the pupils for choosing to support our charity again this year. A lot of our fundraising comes through our Team SEPIA running events and this year we held two (Photos 9 & 10). Our first was in April when our son, Aaron, took on the baton to run in the London Marathon. Despite having watched me struggle round for many years previously, he seemed quite upbeat about the whole thing and took on the challenge with little fuss. However, training took a bit of a knock in February when he injured himself and the run looked in doubt. Youth and determination got him back running though, and we soon found ourselves at the exhibition in London collecting his number ready for the race. It was hard to tell who was most nervous on the day, Helen, me or Aaron but I think we were all equally relieved when he crossed the finishing line on the Mall. He did eventually admit it was quite tough but then happily pointed out that even with reduced training he still beat my 2014 time.  Overall, he raised £1766 and thanks go to all of the friends and family who provided the much needed moral as well as financial support. Our second event was the British 10k race when we enter a team of six and all wear bright Ghanaian clothing to highlight the cause. This was our fifth year running the event and whilst the team changes every time we do sometimes call on previous participants to enter again. I like to think they come back because they enjoy it but it could just because I constantly pester them! Our 2017 team was made up of our marathon runner, Aaron, nephew Rich, friends Calum and Lewis, niece Lizzie and her Dad Brian. I also joined them for moral support which, conveniently, I found I could give from near the back. Our star this year was Brian, not just because he raised the most, but also because as a non-runner he had to put in a serious amount of training to get him race ready. Lizzie kindly acted as trainer but Brian was still the one going out in all weathers pounding out the miles. A mention should also given to Calum and Lewis who again ran the race in beautiful Ghanaian dresses; not only did they look good, it helped us attract more funds. In total, we raised just over £1500 so thanks go to the speedy six for giving up the time to train, gain sponsorship and run. Also, many thanks go to all the people who then sponsored the runners allowing us to fund the projects. It’s a well worn comment but we really could not do these things without your support. Most of our other income comes from individual donations and out of those I would just like to mention Chester University Archery Club, Lesley Jones, Linda and Stuart Bingham and Lewis Desforges for their willingness to give and give again.

So that’s it for 2017 and a decade of supporting educational projects in Africa. In 2018 we will continue to work towards becoming obsolete by encouraging both the local and national government in Ghana to invest in a decent basic state education for all. However, just in case we don’t manage to achieve that straight away please watch out for our next fundraising event early in 2018.

For all our latest information on the projects please check out our website and follow the link to our Facebook page.

Helen, Aaron and I would like to take this opportunity to thank you all for your continued support and wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year!



Photo 1 -New Tafo Basic Junior High (JHS)


Photo 2 -New Tafo Basic JHS


Photo 3 - New Tafo Basic JHS


Photo 4 New Tafo Basic JHS


Photo 5 - Asafo Primary


Photo 6 - Asafo Primary


Photo 7 & 8 - Bomponso new water pump


Photos 9 & 10 - Team SEPIA 2017