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'Tribal chief' renews pledge to children of Ghana

PUBLISHED: 18:30 03 May 2010 | UPDATED: 10:11 02 July 2010

Lynne Symonds has helped thousands of deprived children by improving education and health through the Wulugu Project she set up more than 16 years ago

Lynne Symonds has helped thousands of deprived children by improving education and health through the Wulugu Project she set up more than 16 years ago

Tara Greaves

A woman who has been honoured for her work helping to transform the lives of children in poverty-stricken Ghana has urged people to continue to support her charity after being turned down for a Comic Relief grant for the third time.

A woman who has been honoured for her work helping to transform the lives of children in poverty-stricken Ghana has urged people to continue to support her charity after being turned down for a Comic Relief grant for the third time.

Lynne Symonds has helped thousands of deprived children by improving education and health through the Wulugu Project she set up more than 16 years ago - even being honoured by being made the chief of two remote tribes for her tireless work.

But she appealed for people in East Anglia to continue to support the project after once again being turned down for funding.

“Wulugu has helped many thousands of kids in Ghana and quadrupled the numbers of girls in Wulugu schools in the remote north as well as rescuing hundreds of older girls from slavery,” said Mrs Symonds, who lives in Great Melton.

“We are now starting to extend one of our vocational schools for girls. It is the only lifeline for many with huge waiting list for girls to have education. They learn about nutrition, health and family care as well as a locally marketable skill. Before we came along, they were really without hope. Now the whole community is working with us to change so many lives.

“We have just been turned down by Comic Relief for a grant to help more women and girls. They say: 'It is not clear that this approach will bring about long-term sustainable change in the lives of women and girls in northern Ghana.' This despite our enormously successful track record, all achieved without employing anyone. I know we are competing with large charities that can employ professionals to raise funds and this is a real problem.”

Though disappointed Mrs Symonds, a retired teacher, said the Wulugu Project had managed to do so much in the past without the grant help and would do the same again if local fundraisers continued their generosity.

A Comic Relief spokeswoman said: “Comic Relief has a robust process for assessing each application against set criteria. We cannot comment on individual cases but offer a telephone appointment with unsuccessful applicants to offer feedback.”

Mrs Symonds, who made the national headlines in 1996 when she became the first white woman to become a tribal chief in northern Ghana, is planning not only to go ahead and extend the vocational school but also push on with another scheme to make dilapidated schools useable again.

“Over the years we have been able to make enormous improvements to schools that have been damaged by the weather,” she said.

“Relatively small amounts are needed to put the buildings back into use. The areas we work in are so remote that the children are likely to be left without a building for many years. This means that most drop out of education completely.”

Currently top of the list are: Kubori Primary, West Mamprusi, which has major cracks in the walls that are falling down and needs flooring and windows at a cost of £3,500.

Yagaba Primary, West Mamprusi, which needs roofing, floors, new walls, plastering and painting. This is a major project and will cost £4,000.

“We have had so much support in the past from local people. Everyone who has given should feel very proud of themselves. It doesn't matter how small the donation, every little helps and 99p out of every £1 goes directly to changing lives,” said Mrs Symonds who runs the project with help from an eight-strong committee.

If you would like to help, write to Wulugu Project, Church Farm, Great Melton, Norwich, NR9 3BH or call 01603 810748/ 01603 628709.

For more information about the project visit www.wulugu.co.uk.

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