Earlier this year, I travelled from Birmingham to a remote part of Africa to work as a volunteer teacher at an Underprivileged Children’s Centre (UCC) in Ghana, to help teach literacy and numeracy. And I took the Young Enterprise ‘Our World’ programme with me…
All of the young children I taught came from a background of extreme poverty where food and clean water are everyday issues for them.
During my stay I witnessed a few power cuts, which I thought were amazing; it would be pitch black for miles around as we all waited for the TV to come back. (We were watching Ghana compete for the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations!) It made me laugh to imagine the chaos that such an inconvenience would cause in Birmingham, but my comeuppance for laughing came when the water stopped for a week!
The UCC is the result of the vision of Billa Mahmud. In 1989, Billa saw the potential of a huge dumping ground, known as the Aviation Fields and began clearing the ground to create football pitches for local youngsters. (A dream shared by most of the young people I met is to own a pair of football boots!) Football is very popular in Ghana and the young people turned out at the Aviation Fields in their hundreds. And Billa began their education, with literacy and numeracy classes, underneath a mango tree! Soon Billa had to find a second, bigger, mango tree as the classes grew.
And what began under a mango tree, evolved and grew to become the UCC. The centre now acts as a school with classrooms in the yard and as an orphanage for those who need it. Billa has also set up a single mini-bus service to drive the vast bumpy routes between communities to bring those young people to school who are not busy working for their families.
Based at The Pump and inspired by working for Young Enterprise, with young people in my own community and in partnership with The Future Leaders programme, Our World took me on an enterprising journey across the globe…! Enterprise was everywhere in Africa. From the hawkers by the main city roads to the traders in the crazily chaotic ancient marketplace where I developed a taste for goat kebabs and bought gifts to bring home.
I arrived in Ghana at a time when the sand from the Sahara desert was sweeping across Africa blocking the direct rays of the sun, but the heat made it feel like I had stepped into a sauna! I visited places where women and children sleep on railway lines next to toxic waste and where children work to survive. And yet, I was inspired by their devotion to rising with the sun and their apparent, but unspoken, belief in a brighter future.
I took a camera to Ghana and, thanks to Reel Access, you can watch this footage of my African adventure and hear Billa describe how enterprise, education and volunteering can change lives and change the world. Our World.