Recently back from an eye opening and meaningful trip, City Councillor Cindy Jefferies reflects on what it was like visiting with young women in school in Ghana, Africa.
Jefferies met Marilyn Pottage, founder and chair of Tools for Schools Africa Foundation in London and traveled with her to Africa from there at the beginning of May. There they met with women who received scholarships from the Foundation.
“It was an amazing experience for me,” said Jefferies. “To see a country that is so different from ours where the kind of affluence that we have here in Alberta is not known was an experience that changes your perspective. For lots of people in Ghana, particularly in the northern part, they wake up in the morning and don’t know what they’ll eat or if they will get to eat that day.
“The first three or four days I found myself completely overwhelmed and thinking ‘What are we doing here? We can’t begin to change this.’ I was feeling a little bit heavy about it. After a few days I started thinking these people are carving out a life and they have some happiness.”
For the last three years Jefferies has served as a board member and vice chair of the Tools for Schools Africa Foundation. This is a local organization that has been doing work in Ghana for the past seven years.
The first part of their trip was spent in Accra, which is the capital of Ghana and has a population of about two million people. From there, the pair headed to Tamale and then to the Damongo area.
“Meeting the girls who received scholarships from the Tools for Schools Africa program provided just so much insight into how much of a difference a little bit of help can make,” said Jefferies. “I really think that’s the only way to change anything.”
The pair met with a number of girls on scholarship and talked about how things were going to at school, what their future plans were and reviewed their grades.
“They often shared comments around their life story. There were more than a few that made you choke up and tear up. Without the help that comes from Tools for Schools Africa, they wouldn’t be going to school,” she said. “You think about what life would be like for a young girl in Damongo without an education and it really means that they would be married off at a young age and in many cases they would be one wife of many. They would have to do lots of physical labour – maintaining a house, and work, work, work.
“I’m very grateful we are able to help the girls. I wish we could help more.”
Meanwhile, donations are always accepted for Tools for Schools Africa.
With a $20 donation, a child can receive a soccer ball. Every year Tools for Schools has an annual commitment of $15,000 for scholarships for 44 girls, four of which are for post-secondary students.
For less than $250 a year, a girl in Grade 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 or 12 can be provided education in a public school. A donation of $850 a year would buy 12 months of private schooling, including lodging for a Grade 10, 11 or 12 student. Post-secondary education scholarships cost about $3,200 per student per year.
For more information visit www.tfs-africa.org or call Cindy Jefferies at 403-302-3706.