On this Independence Day, school children in Lawra are proudly marching to celebrate Ghanaian freedom. They wear freshly pressed uniforms, shining white socks and moisturise their skin until it gleams, hold their heads high and march in perfect unison. They are proud of their school, their community and of themselves. It’s a day of real joy and remembrance.

The celebration of freedom from colonisation by Great Britain is a stark reminder of the role that ‘white people’ have played in the history of Ghana, of the negative impacts of slavery and colonial rule, and of the potential positive impacts of collaboration.

ATE, now nearly 7 years old, is extremely proud of the long term, sustainable impacts that we have contributed to in Lawra. We know that we have made a huge difference to many lives, and that the difference we have made is long lasting. We know our projects are excellent, but what we are most proud of, is the way that we are working – in genuine collaboration and partnership.

Almost all of our fantastic development work is carried out by enthusiastic, skilled, knowledgeable people, who have been born and educated in Lawra. They work in their local language (Dagaare), striving to empower people to improve their own lives. They are imbedded in the communities we work in, they ask insightful questions to find out about the challenges facing local people, and listen carefully to responses before working with the wider team to provide solutions. It’s inspiring to be a part of.

ATE now employs 10 staff members. 7 full time staff in Lawra, supported by 3 part time staff based in Ramsbury. All staff members are passionate about poverty reduction, highly skilled in their areas of work, and dedicated to being excellent at their jobs. As we grow, we need a robust team in the UK (particularly to raise much needed funds), but we will continue to grow our Ghana team at a significantly faster rate. We have no desire for ‘white people’ to carry out roles in Lawra that local people can do better.

As the ‘white savoir complex’ hits the media this week (https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2019/feb/28/david-lammy-stacey-dooley-comic-relief-white-saviour-row-uganda-red-nose-day-film), we have been thinking carefully about our own behaviour. We know we can do better at how we represent the people we support in Lawra, and the stereotypes that we perpetuate.

This Independence Day, we strive to be the best we can be, to empower and celebrate the great strength we see in the people of Lawra.

Happy Independence Day!

By Sarah Albeboure