‘HELP ME LEARN AFRICA’
The Charity ‘help me learn Africa’ provides volunteering programs that help support children’s education in developing countries. Through their volunteer programs, they raise funds in order to provide educational resources and infrastructure to villages with little or no access to education. They offer group building programs, as well as, teaching and nursing/medical programs that promote health education in local hospitals and schools.
With over seven years experience, the charity founder, Louise Barea, a local staff nurse, has established projects in Ghana and Kenya with views to expand to Uganda and Ethiopia. She not only manages all projects and local fundraisers but often takes part in some of her volunteering programs. Her vision is to continue expanding ‘help me learn Africa’ by providing access to education to as many children as possible.
Earlier this year, the Gibraltar Football Association nominated the charity for the UEFA charity award and confirmation was received last month that the UEFA Foundation Board of Trustees had decided to award this year’s 50,000€ award to Help Me Learn Africa.
An elated Louise commented on hearing the news, “This will be life changing for the kids,” Louise says excitedly. “Imagine the amount that I can do with €50,000 when I managed to build a library with €20,000 – it is going to be crazy.” Louise takes up the story herself in an interview for Globe Magazine:
Tell us about yourself and your journey into charity work and volunteering?
My name is Louise Barea, I am the founder of ‘helpmelearnafrica’ and also a GHA staff nurse. I started volunteering almost ten years ago now; it started when I took a trip to the Cheshire homes in Tangiers with the Youth. It really made me view things differently and gave me an insight as to what giving back was like. Before I knew it a few years later, I spent months in Ghana building a school.
Ghana happened by accident really. There is no specific reason as to why Ghana, but it just so happened that there was a group of people volunteering with a UK based charity organisation, who were going to build two classrooms there and I jumped at the opportunity.
Was it difficult to set up your own Charity?
I think difficult is an understatement. I never imagined the amount of work and deception I encountered (from some, who would want to take advantage from a charity). I really struggled at first, I felt I had no idea what I was doing, but luckily, I had help from professionals, who guided me.
What are the aims of the Charity?
The charity’s aims are to provide education to as many children living below the poverty line as possible. Before Covid, the plan was to expand to another two African countries but that’s on hold now. We provide projects in Ghana but we are looking into finally commencing projects in Kenya as the charity is currently supporting a school and orphanage there in the Kibera slums.
What would you say have been your main accomplishments so far?
I think everything that we have achieved so far is an accomplishment. I say we because although I am the driving force and the founder of the charity, I have a team of people in Ghana and in Gibraltar, who help me; without them nothing would be possible. Although I am happy at how fast the charity is growing and how much we’ve done so far, we have only just begun. This year has been a little different for us since projects got cancelled and we had to focus on feeding over 3,000 kids a day for eight weeks during Covid lockdown in both Ghana and Kenya. Something I never imagined we would need to do.
How can people support or get involved in your charity?
Sign up and Volunteer! I Am always encouraging people to get involved in volunteering as I believe everyone needs to experience first-hand how it feels to have such a large impact on other people’s lives. I also feel it’s important for people to experience different cultures and see what life is like when you hop on a plane a few hours away. I want people to understand how lucky they are to live the way they live. I also always need a lot of help with fund raising so any ideas and help is always welcome.
Many volunteers have supported your project. For those reading, what is required to become a volunteer on your project?
Simply sign up! Projects are announced on our social media platforms once or twice a year. Then, myself and the team guide you from there.
Describe a day in the life of a volunteer, who has travelled to Ghana for one of your projects.
Volunteers work hard during projects whether they are teaching projects, building or medical projects they are required to give it their all and make the most of their experience. They need to be ready to be surrounded by children 24/7 and adapt to new cultures and surroundings. They need to learn how to ‘rough it’. We eat, sleep and live like the locals there and this sometimes might mean, not showering, eating a lot of rice, and limited electricity. But please don’t be discouraged, trust me… this doesn’t mean we don’t have fun. We enjoy Bonfire nights with plenty of dancing, travelling to waterfalls, hiking and more. Weekends are for leisure and we make the most of it.
More recently you have been Queened. Tell us about your reaction when you were told?
Utter shock. I am still in awe of what happened. I feel so privileged to have an official Ghanaian title, which will give me so much freedom to continue my work; its an honour to have my work recognized by the community.
What is your Queen name?
Queen Louise Dugbaki
What does this title mean?
It basically means freedom for me. I own land, and rights and can continue to do as many projects as I want without having issues I’ve encountered in the past. I am now recognized and can evolve.
Tell us about your Queen ceremony and the symbolism of your outfit?
I was dressed and painted by 8 women, who wrapped me up in ‘royal’ clothes. I was made to look ‘Voluptuous’ as big is beautiful in Ghana. I was painted with symbols of respect and loyalty on my arms and legs. I was washed and needed to drink from a royal cup as a sign of purity. I was blessed and then it became a huge ceremony of dancing where all villages watched and joined and took pictures with me.
What is the vision for the future of your Charity?
To continue to develop education and expand; I want more and more people to volunteer and support ‘helpmelearnafrica’ to grow.
Is there anything else you would like to tell the Globe Magazine readers?
I would like to express my gratitude to everyone in Gibraltar for the continuous support, and to all readers…sign up for future projects. Help make a difference!
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