Araba McMillan sponsors a boy in Ghana. Visiting him gave her a great understanding of Plan's work and she was pleased to see the country where she herself was born.
In January this year I fulfilled two long-held ambitions - meeting the child I sponsor through Plan and visiting the country where I was born. I travelled to Ghana with my father to meet 15-year-old Atteh. I was born in Ghana in 1964 when my parents spent a few years there teaching. My connection with the country led me to sponsor a child there – and it was great to be able to visit while my Dad was able to come too.
Our day started early with a taxi from our hotel to arrive at the Plan in Accra by 7am, then we went off with the driver to Koforidua, to the office for the Eastern region of the country – a drive of about two hours. Plan staff there gave us an introduction to the work that Plan are doing in the whole of Ghana.
Then we made the trip to Asesewa community to meet Atteh. We dropped by the Plan-supported school he attends and were introduced to his class teacher. Plan has provided the school with toilets and hand washing facilities and gives school supplies every two years.
We handed out pencils and stickers we’d brought with us, and then Atteh came with us in the car back to his home.
We were taken to sit in a lovely shaded area with members of Atteh’s family, including his grandfather and grandmother, his father Daniel and his second wife, his twin brother and step-sisters and various other aunts, uncles and cousins!
They were all excited when they learnt my name was Araba and that I was born in Ghana – just like them. Araba is a Fante name indicating that I was born on a Tuesday. I was welcomed into all their lives as ‘sister’ – a pleasant change from the UK, where my name marks me as ‘different’!
It was reassuring to see that Atteh is very much like the boy that we see in photos – quiet and shy, slow to smile but surrounded by a very loving family. Like many teenage boys he loves football. His favourite subjects are maths and English. He told us he thinks maths helps him to play well on the pitch - and that English will be useful because football can lead to great things!
Atteh’s family are small-scale famers. Most of what they produce is used to feed the extended family - they are able to sell very little. They grow mangos, cassava, maize, palm-fruits, plantain and bananas.
As our visit to the family drew to an end, we exchanged gifts – my Dad and I were delighted to receive locally made beads and two huge baskets of fruit. We presented the family with a photo book, calendars, tea towel and pencils, bubbles and stickers.
After we’d taken Atteh back to school, we went to see another of the schools that Plan supports in the local area, and called in on a micro-finance group meeting. It was extremely well-organised: we watched as members of the scheme paid back small loans (for fertilizer and the like) and also paid their weekly subs in. Plan have obviously done a lot of research and work in this area to make sure that there is no risk of theft or fraud, and to encourage as many people as possible to take out small loans to grow their businesses. It was inspiring to see this in operation.
We were very impressed with the sort of lateral thinking that we saw Plan doing out there – tackling teenage pregnancy by setting up girl’s football clubs for example. It’s good to hear that this indirect approach seems to work. I was also very taken with the low-tech, high security way the micro-financing was set up, and the thought and care that has gone into making the system sustainable.
The whole day was superbly organised by Plan staff. Dad and I were made extremely welcome and delighted to see first-hand that our sponsorship is supporting such valuable and important work.
Find out more about child sponsorship
Find out more about our work in Ghana.