Our Story

Ten years of changing lives

We began by listening to the people of Lawra – and have evolved into a locally-led charity with a model that puts community and local expertise at its heart.

A gathering of disabled children and their families. . . a meeting of people with HIV who wanted to start small businesses. . . a primary school where pupils were too hungry to learn.

In 2012, the people of Lawra challenged everything Sarah Gardner thought she knew about development work. Sarah was a VSO volunteer in the Upper West corner of Ghana, where she quickly realised that real change was desperately needed. A UN Human Development Report had described chronic food shortages and 100% poverty, and she saw it every day. Something had to be done.


“I think what we got right were the fundamentals – mindset, mission, values – and they guided us through the hard times and inspired us in the good.”

Sarah Gardner, Chief Executive

Karbo Primary School PTA decide to open kitchen, January 2013

One of our first small business owners, Patience, a market trader, granted in July 2013

Action Through Enterprise launched in late 2012, and within months things began to change. Hundreds of children at Karbo Primary studied on a full stomach, courtesy of an ATE school lunch. A groundnut farmer, two weavers and several other businesses thrived on ATE grants and mentoring. And dozens of disabled children attended monthly disability workshops, where every session began with a song.

This was just the start. Supported by funds raised initially from Sarah’s family and neighbours in Ramsbury, Wiltshire, and then from an increasing number of trusts and corporate sponsors, the charity has grown.

After ten years, we see children who were once pupils experiencing their first taste of a school lunch, now heading off to college or starting businesses with an ATE grant. We see disabled children once written off, now studying or working and playing an active role in the community. We see struggling entrepreneurs and aspiring apprentices now running successful businesses, learning a trade, taking on staff and training their own apprentices. There is action, there is enterprise, lives are transformed.

“I am certain that poor communities will remain poorer without international development, and that with it – done well – it can be a force for dramatic transformation.”

Gabriel Maanibe, Strategic Advisor


We now have a local team of over 30 staff – project managers, mentors and cooks – working through rural community hubs where we can have maximum impact. They’re supported by a small UK-based team.

In 2019, we codified our approach as the Hub Model, in which all our programmes are run through village hubs by a dedicated manager. The SNAP disability groups are supported by three specialist staff.

School by school, business by business, village by village, we have expanded our reach, ensuring everyone in Lawra District (50,000+ people) can access our services. With a carefully managed growth plan, led brilliantly by the Ghana team, we have proudly achieved that two years ahead of schedule.

But there’s more to be done.

Initial training workshop for 13 new business owners, October 2022

Kaamil Issahaku, Lawra Manager, outside the new Nandom Inclusion Centre, April 2024

Action Through Enterprise is expanding, bringing our model of community development and hope to a new district – neighbouring Nandom.

In 2024, we have completed work on an Inclusion Centre that will be at the heart of the new operation. Recruitment is underway and we plan to begin supporting schools, businesses and disabled children very soon.

And it doesn’t end there. With Lawra will continuing as a Centre of Excellence, we aim to replicate our model across Nandom, across the Upper West, across Ghana and beyond. For over a decade, we have brought ambition, hope and sustainable change – and we are excited about what can be achieved next.


“I’ve been a supporter for over ten years and I’ve seen ATE develop its own thinking, its own learning, its Hub Model. There’s an opportunity, not just in Northern Ghana but across the poorest parts of Africa, for this model to create more successful communities and give more opportunities to hundreds of thousands of people. That’s a fantastically exciting prospect.”

Sir John Sawers, former British ambassador at UN and head of MI6

Registered Charity: 1149988