By Jo Ward
Local charity Help Me Learn Africa, founded by Gibraltarian staff nurse Louise Barea, has received a grant of €50,000 from the UEFA Foundation for Children.
“This will be life changing for the kids,” Louise says excitedly. “Imagine the amount that I can do with €50,000 when I managed to build a library with €20,000 – it is going to be crazy.”
Having previously been involved in charity work focusing on children’s education for over seven years, Louise founded Help Me Learn Africa in early 2018 after a huge demand from people who volunteered to visit Africa and help her. “I have established projects in both Ghana and Kenya – but we mainly focus on this small village called Kewunor in Ghana,” Louise explains, “and last summer, together with 29 volunteers from Gibraltar, we built the largest building in the district – a library – in four weeks.”
As well as the library, Louise and her team built two classrooms and kitted them out with desks, books and anything else that was needed. “After going to Africa for so many years I have realised that education is probably the only way to alleviate poverty, so although I can provide T-shirts and meals, in the long run that is not going to alleviate anything,” she says.
During the coronavirus pandemic the focus had to change and an emergency feeding programme was organised. “We have been feeding 1,500 kids a day and unfortunately because Ghana has extended their lockdown measures, I haven’t been able to fly out there.” Louise relies on her two project managers and four project leaders and works in conjunction with Beach Camp. “This is where we stay when we go out there and they are really focused on helping the community.”
The charity has had a long association with the Gibraltar Football Association (GFA) who have worked with the charity previously and donated national team kits for the children. “Football is huge in Africa, so even giving them kits is like giving them a million pounds,” she says.
“When GFA General Secretary Ivan Robba contacted me in February and said they wanted me to apply for the UEFA award, I thought it was a long shot.” Soon after Louise left for Ghana and spent two weeks making and editing a video showing just what the charity had achieved by raising funds for children in Africa to have an education, highlighting the football aspect as well. She says that when Ivan called her to tell her that she had been awarded the €50,000 grant, her jaw dropped. “I did not expect to win as thousands of charities had been nominated.”
Louise works hard raising funds for her charity by holding raffles and events, including Zumba sessions, but this award will be make a big difference. “I can’t really divulge what we will do with the money at the moment because I need to discuss it with my team, but I can assure you it is going to be something huge.”
For more information and to see the charity’s latest updates, visit www.helpmelearnafrica.com.