Kofi was just a student. But a few years ago he dropped uni to work towards a better future his country – building schools, founding a farm and fighting for social and environmental improvements in Ghana.
He renovated the first school when he was 19. Now it is a full-time charity job. “At first it was more an adventure with some friends and family members”, said Kofi Nkrumah about the weekend in 2009 he spent with 15 other people building a roof for a school in a village nearby. They raised the money by selling self-made earrings to friends abroad. Kofi got to know his friends abroad by working in a travel company in Ghana. 1,500 earrings were sold in Germany, the UK and the USA – 1,500 dollars were collected. It took another weekend, another 20 people and selling another 2,000 earrings to finish this first school. “At the end of it we were sure that we wanted to continue”, Kofi said.
Beyond building schools
The group put up a Facebook page and founded an organisation called “Building for a future generation”. They approached the education office for a list of all schools in Ghana that needed help. After traveling to these schools the group selected three of them and made their Facebook-community decide which one they were going to renovate first. They sold 4,000 earrings and were able to finish the school in two months. This was only the beginning. They founded a certified NGO, selected three directors on a volunteer basis and set their goals. These do not only include building and renovating schools. The team also organises social awareness talks to inform school children about hygiene, HIV and malaria. Another issue that is important to Kofi is the environment. Together with his organisation he has started to to educate primary school kids about planting trees and using less plastic.
Earrings are not enough
Their next project was even bigger. They built an entire school with nine classrooms from scratch. At first this should have cost 50,000 euros – hardly imaginable to fund that, especially by selling earrings. They managed to cut the costs to 15,000 Euros, all of the directors still working without any wage. The group made more earrings and got partner organisations in many countries to help with donations. Their dream, however, is not to rely on donations in the future. This is why they built a cocoa bean farm two years ago. It will take at least five more years until the farm will sustain itself, says Kofi. Together with the cocoa beans they grow some bananas and corn, which enhances the growth of the cocoa beans. “50 percent of the sold food is given to orphanages for free”, says Kofi.
More than just a volunteer job
Kofi does not rely on his organisation to finance his living. He works for a British organisation as their contact person in Ghana. There are a lot of problems in his country that still worry Kofi. He talks about the used electric devices such as TVs from Europe that are sent to West African countries where the devices are burned. He talks about children that are sent to orphanages at the age of 7 or 9 and are forced to go back to the streets at 18 without the chance of finding a job. For these orphanages, the organisation also organises a yearly Christmas gathering to help the kids socialise, Kofi explains.
Apart from the three volunteering directors, the organisation has a few workers who are paid on a monthly basis. After his first few years in his NGO, Kofi dropped out of university as he did not find the time to study. His studies in Chemistry seemed too abstract compared to the hands on work with his team. This year, however, he plans to go back to university, starting a course in Human Relations. “I had to study something related to my organisation. It is more than a 24/7 volunteer job. It’s my life.”