Annual Newsletter: Issue 9


Last Updated: December 2016


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Looking back over the past 12 months I would have to say that I think 2016 has been our most successful year to date; which is rather odd when the accounts tell me that we received less money than in 2015! So what did we do and how did we do it you ask; well sit back with a nice drink and let me tell you.

Firstly, let us look at what we achieved. For some time now we have worked with four schools in Ghana, three of these (New Tafo, Asafo & Kute Buem) comprise of both a Primary and  a Junior High and one (Bomponso) has just a Primary. There is always a list of jobs to do in each school and so we are frequently consulting with the head teachers and staff to decide which projects are the current priorities based, obviously, on their needs but also on our ability to fundraise. At the beginning of this year we were in the fortunate position to offer each school a budget of £500 for a small project. This was partially because we had received a couple of unexpected donations late in 2015 from Ropley School and the Archery Club at Chester University plus an overdue gift aid payment from HMRC. We decided to organise the projects to coincide with my visit in February so I could be there to see the work in action and help out where possible.

At New Tafo the project was to concrete the walkway in front of the primary classrooms because it had become pitted and dangerous and then paint the whole primary school. Last year we had been able to finish building the new classrooms so although it could be argued that painting was not an educational priority it did make the school look finished and the children were really pleased and proud of their ‘new’ rooms. So on this occasion we made the decision that by creating a nicer environment we were also improving the children’s educational experience. This can also be said for the teachers, many of whom came in during their weekend to help with the painting (See pictures 1 - 3).
In Asafo, the priority was to continue with the work on our new three classroom block. In 2015 it got to the stage where they we useable and now we are working on raising the walls to roof height and adding in the window and door frames. Many classroom walls in the rural areas of Ghana are only built to waist height and thus are open to the elements so if we can enclose them it means lessons can continue regardless of the weather. As a result of the bursary we have now enclosed the first of the three classrooms (See picture 4)

At Kute Buem we are still working to complete the refurbishment of the Junior High. Having repaired the structure in 2015 we were able to plaster the classrooms both inside and out and add the window shutters and doors. It is always an adventure to visit Kute because of its remote location and this time was no exception. We travelled in a teacher’s car and I’m sure if ‘Sat Nav’ existed in this part of Ghana it would say the journey should take about 5 hours. However, that would be ignoring the state of the roads and, largely due to the roads, the poor condition of the car! When you break down, and from my experience it is when rather than if, you really hope the driver can fix the problem because if not you have to walk to the nearest settlement or, if that’s too far, you hope for a passing mechanic! On this trip the driver managed to fix the puncture but we had to flag down a car for the mechanical problem. They then drove to the nearest town and gave a message to the local mechanic who arrived a couple of hours later on his motorbike. So, not too different to us calling the AA really! Anyway the journey took about 11 hours to get there and 10 to get back but the time in between was worth it. On arrival we met with the local chief and his elders and then the school children performed some traditional dancing (see pictures 5 & 6)

Our link with Bomponso is relatively new, since 2014. A primary school had been built in the community in the 1950’s but it was poorly constructed and in 2004 the government decided to knock it down and rebuild a safer one. However, they only had enough money to rebuild half of the rooms and so classes were forced to share. It continued like this for the next decade and as a result the school roll decreased as parents, unhappy with the conditions, kept their children at home. These children would then help out on the family farm or go to the market to sell goods instead of receiving an education. It was at this point that SEPIA was invited to visit and as a result we started our project to build a new three classroom block. This was completed in 2015 and so their 2016 bursary was used to provide desks and equipment for the teachers. During my visit to Bomponso I became aware that every morning the children would spend the first hour or more collecting water from a nearby river. Whilst that itself was not so unusual I had noticed that there was a well on the outskirts of the school. It turned out that the well had partially collapsed and so could not be used and the community was unable to raise the funds to repair it. So, a new project was born and by November of this year the well was back in working order with the addition of a hand pump which not only made gaining water easier but also meant that it was sealed and so will remain free of debris and hence will be a cleaner, safer source. This water pump not only serves the school but also the whole community of about 500 people. It also means that the children no longer use time going to the river and instead spend it in lessons gaining their valuable education. Funding this, which cost nearly £2,500, kept us busy during the summer and became our main project this year (see pictures (7, 8 & 9)

So that is what we did but where did the money come from?
I have to be really honest and say that fundraising year on year doesn’t get any easier. I know we could do better and maybe we should advertise more or seek corporate funding (advice welcome!) but actually, for us, knowing exactly who the money comes from is very important. It means we can feedback to people personally and, where possible, show them exactly what we used their donation for. In general our money comes in relatively small amounts hence an individual roll call would be rather long, so forgive me if I start by offering a universal thank you to all the people who have contributed to our projects this year. There are a few groups who I do want to mention though as they have coordinated fundraising for us. Ropley, Oakley and Perins schools have all helped us again this year and I really enjoy going into the schools to give the pupils and staff updates on our progress and specifically how their contributions have helped. As adults we often get a little blasé about giving charity donations, possibly because we are frequently asked to contribute to one cause or another. For children though, particularly in primary schools, this can often be their first encounter with fundraising and so I believe it is all the more important that I can go back to them to show them exactly what their efforts resulted in. Due to family connections, we were also supported by staff and students at the Universities of Chester and Winchester. In Chester, the Archery team held their second fundraising shoot for us and in Winchester the staff sponsored Team SEPIA when they ran in the British 10k. The Rotary Club of Alresford once again gave us a most generous donation which was used for our water pump project in Bomponso. They have become great supporters and I was pleased to be able to attend a Rotary function recently to show them the results of their help.  A good proportion of our money this year resulted from the 2016 Team SEPIA event which again involved a group of 6 volunteers running through the streets of London dressed in the best Ghanaian colours as part of the British 10k. This was our 4th year in the race and, having used most of the family members for the previous events, I thought recruitment might be a bit tricky. Well, my first pairing was quite easy. Lewis Desforges had run for us before and enjoyed it enough to return and Calum Sheppard is always up for a challenge. Both are friends with Aaron, who, some say conveniently, was on an archaeological dig in Spain at the time of the run. So, whilst encouraging them both to take part wearing long dresses, he was unable to compete himself! The second pairing, however, required a little more enticement. Helen is really the educational brain behind SEPIA, I do most of the public bits and often receive much of the credit but Helen keeps me on track and makes sure our projects meet the needs of the schools. Therefore the idea of running along Piccadilly and by the Houses of Parliament wearing bright Ghanaian clothes was not, at first, embraced wholeheartedly by her. However, Helen does appreciate how valuable a water pump can be to a community in Ghana and just needed a little incentive. My next move was to recruit her good friend Tina Newman (possibly by saying that she could run with Helen) and then the trap was set. Helen couldn’t leave Tina to train on her own and so, despite the fact that neither had ever run 10k before, the second pairing was in place. This just left one more place, because I always like to run, and Helen organised this by asking a friend and past student from the university, Heidi Snook, who just happens to combine her busy teaching career with running! We had a great team and the run was enjoyed (or is that endured!) by all; we also raised over £2000 towards the water pump project. So my final thanks go to the 2016 Team SEPIA runners and the many kind people that sponsored the team (see picture 10).
2017 is set to be the year we run to succeed, literally! Through the luck of the draw, SEPIA has gained one charity entry into the 2017 London Marathon and so we are hoping that this will be a big fundraiser for us. We will be launching our campaign early in the New Year and telling you more about our new and simple ways to donate. Then, in the summer Team SEPIA will be metamorphosing again to take on our 5th British 10k. Who will be donning the Ghanaian clothes in 2017? Start forming a queue now!
For information on the projects please check out our website and follow the link to our Facebook page for the very latest news and pictures.
Finally, 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 & 2 - New Tafo Primary repairs


Photo 3 -New Tafo Primary Staff


Photo 4 - Asafo Primary


Photo 5 Kute Buem JHS


Photo 6 - Welcome dance at Kute Buem


Photo 7 & 8 - Bomponso Primary original water source


Photo 9 - Bomponso new water pump


Photo 10 - Team SEPIA 2016