Ramsbury family’s determination to help children in need
Philippa and Charles Gardner with the Karbo Primary School Parent Teacher Association, whom they have been working with
After the Gardner family experienced firsthand how difficult life was for people living in Lawra in Upper West Ghana was they felt compelled to help.
In February last year, 29-year-old teacher Sarah Gardner of Mill Lane in Ramsbury arrived in Lawra, close to the boarder of Burkina Faso, to work as a volunteer education support officer.
Six months later she met up with her parents in Majora for a family holiday and, after telling them all about the extreme poverty she had witnessed, the family vowed to do something about it.
Her mother Philippa, 57, said: “We couldn’t just sit back and do nothing after the stuff she told us.
“A lot of the people that lived near Sarah were very poor and uneducated.
“Often she would have small children knocking on her door and ask for food but she was told by other volunteers to keep boundaries.
“On one occasion she didn’t put a child on her motorbike and take him to hospital and he died of a treatable infection – but she only did this because it was what she had been told.”
On their return to Ramsbury, Philippa and her husband Charles, 59, decided to set up a charity focused on making a difference in Lawra and in September Action Through Enterprise (ATE) became a registered charity in the UK. It is also a non-governmental organisation in Ghana.
ATE is focusing on three projects in Lawra: working with 16 small business to provide financial support and advice; operating a special needs awareness programme to provide basic healthcare and education to people with disabilities; and providing free school meals to 437 children at Karbo Primary School.
Philippa, a consultant psychotherapist, and Charles, a management consultant, went over Lawra for two weeks in January to join their daughter.
Philippa said: “If we hadn’t been helping to improve the situation, the visit would have been very distressing.
“Since the charity was set up school attendance has rocketed and many of the small businesses are starting to make a profit.
“Often children with special needs are shunned by the community or killed at birth because it’s not understood but we are helping to run a monthly support group to raise awareness.”
Sarah returned to the UK two weeks ago and is fundraising for the charity until she returns to Lawra in June. She will be giving a talk about her year of volunteer work on March 22 at Ramsbury Memorial Hall from 7.30pm. To donate, visit www.ateghana.org