The last few weeks in Louise Barea’s life could be considered a case study in providence. Within three weeks of landing in Ghana, she was founding a charity with a large team of volunteers. Suffice to say, a lot has taken place in a short amount of time and within that short time, she has built a foundation to help the children in the fishing village of Kewunor in the Volta region of Ghana that Louise describes as “a little piece of paradise in an impoverished land”.
The roots of this story begin in 2013, when Louise first joined a group of volunteers to help build two classrooms and teach for two months. The following year, she returned to build four more classrooms, and it was here that she cemented the relationships she had made on her first visit.
Over the years to the present day, she has received messages over social media updating her on the state of the school, and found that the situation was worsening. Through her friends in Ghana, Louise had learnt that the school was being used as it was intended, to educate the young people of Kewunor; but as word spread, so did the population of the school. In the four years from her 2014 visit, the school had grown from 10 to 370 students as children from two other villages began attending the school. The children had a strong desire to learn as they paid roughly 18.5 pence to attend (an average daily income for their families was around 30 pence).
The teachers did what they could with what they had to ensure that they could teach those who laboured to learn. With the popularity of the school came new problems; two further rooms that were being built were left without a roof or floor (and one incomplete wall) due to complications with the funding, the school was unable to provide all the textbooks required for this huge increase in numbers, and there appeared to be 6-8 children per desk.
This year, Louise returned to Kewunor to see what needed to be done and how she could help. The first step was to calculate the amount of textbooks needed and travel to the capital, Accra to purchase them. Louise, with the help of her friend turned project manager Sammy, found that 1,500 textbooks per subject were needed. So after buying what she could with her own funds, Louise set up a GoFundMe page with the hope of raising of raising £1,000 and began to blog about her experience and the conditions that the children were learning in on Instagram (username: louisebarea).
Within a day and a half, she had £1,500 and the donations were not stopping. In considering what could be done with all the money that was coming in, she resolved to fix the school. She spoke with a plasterer, whom she had previously worked with, and started to complete what had been left undone. She then asked the children what they needed, and these hungry minds told her that they needed food. Louise then organised with the locals of Kewunor and fed the children (one of which who was top of his class had not eaten in four days). The money kept coming through the more the people of Gibraltar became aware of the situation through Louise’s social media. As the time came for Louise to return home on the 28th of October, a trip to see a place that was on her mind and in her dreams became a mission to improve the lives of the children in Ghana. Within days of her return, a website was up and running for a charity she had founded in Ghana (helpmelearnafrica.com), where people could donate but also enlist to help. She had met with lawyers and created bank accounts to collect the donations officially.
The plan now is to build a library by July 2019 and she needed a team to do this. Within three weeks of her return home, she had group of 39 volunteers. Eight of these 39 volunteers are a team of professional contractors from local company InVision, and with their help, she not only had the expertise to build the library but she had an architect designing it.
The doors are still open to be a part of this project that will continue to make an impact in the lives of the Ghanian people of Kewunor, and to meet the 370 children that Louise knows by name. She will be holding a meeting for prospective volunteers on the 20th of December. If you would like to be a part of this mission, all you need to do is enlist on the website to receive more information.
For more information or to get involved with this worthy cause, visit helpmelearnafrica.com.
BY JEREMY GOMEZ