In February 2012, Sarah Gardner, a primary school teacher from Wiltshire, was granted a sabbatical from her job to spend a year working for Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO). Posted to Lawra – a remote area of Upper West Ghana close to the border of Burkina Faso. Sarah had an extremely challenging year in hot, rural Lawra where she was out of depth both professionally and personally. Her role was as a Teacher Support Officer, tasked with improving standards in 96 primary schools.
Lawra is geographically isolated, beautiful and rich in culture. The UN Human Development Report 2010, describes it as a community with chronic food shortages and 100% poverty incidence. As a result of this, Sarah’s isolated house was always surrounded by children. She built relationships with these children and their families, learning about the needs of the community, listening to local people and creating trusting friendships.
ATE has achieved fantastic results in education by enabling children to access and complete education through the provision of free school meals and educational resources. We support economic development by working with small business owners – we provide focused training, mentoring and financial support to enable entrepreneurs to grow commercial education skills and make greater profits to support themselves and their families year-round. We are also immensely proud to make it possible for families with disabled children to overcome isolation and discrimination, and find renewed strength to raise their children to fulfil their potential.
During a much-needed holiday, Sarah told her family about her experiences and they immediately offered to do everything possible to help. By the end of October, Action Through Enterprise (ATE) had been born and Sarah decided not to return to teaching. ATE is a UK registered charity, and a registered NGO in Ghana, working specifically in Lawra, to address some of the issues Sarah had identified through her work.
8 years later, ATE is no longer narrative of a white woman from Ramsbury doing some good, the heroes of the story are the local staff in Lawra – local talent, with local knowledge, doing brilliant work in the local language. Our team is outstanding – bright, skilled, motivated and hardworking.
We believe in the power of working in partnership with local people to enable them to thrive, to promote economic development and improve the quality of life for all people in Lawra Municipality. We are incredibly proud of the development of ATE, and excited to continue to improve and grow our work. By 2025, we plan for every person in Lawra to be able to access our work, if they wish to. This is not about changing the world; it’s about changing Lawra. ATE is small, but it our work is transformational.