WULUGU SILVER JUBILEE 1993 TO 2018 – PRESS RELEASE
WULUGU Silver Jubilee – 1993 to 2018
Supporters of a Norfolk-based educational charity had more than 400,000 reasons to be cheerful when they gathered for a landmark a silver jubilee celebration for the school that the charity first helped. That figure represents the very least number of children for whom the Wulugu Project has offered a brighter future in the 23 years since it started its work in the remote, northern region of the African state of Ghana.
The charity, founded in 1995 by farmer’s wife and former science teacher Lynne Symonds, took its name from the first school with which it was associated, in the village of Wulugu.
Back then, there were just 60 pupils at Wulugu’s secondary school: today there are nearly 2000. What’s more, the campus includes three hostels for girls. From the outset, the project has placed special emphasis on giving young women the chance to study in safety and to boost their career and employment prospects in a part of the world where such opportunities were traditionally hard to come by.
More than 80 volunteers and donors from across Norfolk and beyond reflected on this and other achievements at a tea party held on Sunday, September 2 at The Old Rectory in Lynne’s home village of Great Melton, near Wymondham. The gathering was entertained by the Fine City Chorus barbershop singers, storyteller Laurie Steel, whose tales had a Ghanaian theme, and Wymondham Rotarian Hugh Morgan, playing a barrel organ.
Because of Lynne’s tireless work in the country, she has been made chief of three tribes in Ghana and earned the titles Woman Chief of Enlightenment and Education, Chief of Peace and Friendship and Queen of All Philanthropists. But she told the gathering that none of the Wulugu Project’s work would be possible without the loyal support of the organising committee – whose meetings are held around her kitchen table – and those who had loyally supported the charity over the quarter-century.
The Wulugu Project is run on a shoestring budget thanks to the level of support Lynne receives from volunteers, not just across the eastern counties but in and around her former home town of Sunderland. It has no paid staff. It’s a similar story in Ghana, where a culture of self-help is encouraged and the vital local knowledge of voluntary team keeps building, maintenance and running costs to a minimum.
The charity receives no funding from large-scale donors and yet succeeds in boxing far above its weight in what it achieves. Lynne says: “We’ve been able to help, at the very least, 400,000 children in Ghana, have built or repaired something like 100 schools, plus hostels for girls and women teachers, have opened seven vocational schools for girls in some of the most neglected and dangerous areas, and much, much more.
“Many people there have nothing at all – it’s hard to imagine – but they do want better, healthier futures for their children. By helping with their education, we are told that we are really changing things. “So much has happened over these past 25 years. When I first visited Wulugu Senior High, there were approximately 60 students and few teachers. Now there are almost 2,000 students, many of them girls, and 80 teachers.
“Educating girls was rare and difficult when this school opened. We opened the first hostel for them, and it has been packed ever since; girls sleep two per bunk bed and some on floors. And now, there are two more hostels. “In Ghana, there are 47 vocational schools for girls and we have opened seven of them, in the most inaccessible districts.” She adds: “Our work is far from done: there is a great deal more that we need to do. We rely on friends and supporters, who want to be sure their money is well spent and nothing wasted, and we thank them for their continued commitment to our project. Also, we welcome any new faces and groups interested in getting involved.”
The project emerged out of a chance meeting at a science conference in Japan between Lynne, then a teacher at Hethersett Old Hall School, and Karimu Nachina,the head of the newly opened Wulugu school in Ghana.
Friendships between their British and Ghanaian pupils blossomed through exchanges of letters. And, when they discovered their pen-pals were desperately short of books, Lynne’s Hethersett pupils got together a consignment to send off to Africa. The Wulugu Project charity was formed in due course, and its activities have been broadened gradually over the years to embrace a much wider geographical area of northern Ghana.