The Africa Sankofa Fund aims to empower rural communities located in Ghana, West Africa.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

News Letter April 2007



Volume II Issue I April 2007

The legendary Sankofa bird is a powerful symbol for the Akan people of Ghana, West Africa, with its head turned facing backwards, often with an egg in its mouth. The Sankofa bird looks back to where it came from, as it decides the path that it will take in the future. In the same way, past history and traditions must be remembered and respected as plans are made for the future. The new Africa Sankofa Fund chose this symbol because it represents the philosophy which will be adopted to turn the charity’s objectives into reality.


The Africa Sankofa Fund aims to empower rural communities located in Ghana, West Africa. Initially it will do this by targeting the education of children through provision of facilities such as day care centres and libraries where none exist. This will be extended to include instruction of teachers and day care providers in order to enhance the quality of education and care that they provide. This objective will best be realized with the establishment of an educational training centre, located in New Edubiase in the Ashanti Region, from which training will be taken to the surrounding communities. In the area of health, facilities in chosen communities will be provided in order to supplement current services.
Some History
The Africa Sankofa Fund was first conceived by former Saskatchewan residents, Comfort and Rod McLaren, after they relocated to Ghana in West Africa. The couple returned to Ghana, Comfort to her homeland, and Rod to the country in which he taught school in the early 1970’s. They operate a hotel, the African Rainbow Resort, which they built in 2002, located on the coast of Ghana in a small fishing village called Busua. They also maintain a home in Comfort’s home village of Amudurasi, next to New Edubiase in the Ashanti Region.

Ghana is celebrating its Fiftieth Anniversary since regaining its independence, and is seen by many to be an example of a success story in Africa. The country is rich in many mineral resources, and has a long tradition of farming. In spite of its many assets, there are areas in which Ghana needs assistance, and the McLaren’s are actively involved in finding solutions to problems that the people in their communities identify. While they often utilize their own personal resources to assist, they have found that additional financial resources are required in order to overcome the challenges that are encountered.

Offers of assistance and encouragement have been forthcoming from many parts of the world. In order to maximize that potential assistance being offered from Canada, the African Sankofa Fund was established, and status as a registered charity has been granted by Revenue Canada (Tax Number: BN 84617 0363 RR0001).

First Project – the Amudurasi Community Daycare Centre

Most people in the western world take education for granted. They assume that their children will have access to it, and that they can expect the education itself will be of high quality. This is a luxury that is not shared by everyone in the world. Here in Ghana, primary education has been widely available for more than fifty years, although not all children have equal access, and the quality that is available is often inadequate.

The problem is not an easy one to resolve, especially if one looks at the large picture. The obstacles are daunting, starting with a shortage of funding all the way through to the poor condition or non-existence of many facilities, and including the uneven level of qualifications of teachers. This is especially evident in the rural areas of Ghana where the majority of the population still live.

Many rural women in Ghana are the primary and sometimes sole providers for their families. In the past, they could rely on support from their extended family members to assist with child care while they worked on their farms or while they traded in the market. With the gradual erosion of the extended family as a result of urban drift, changing lifestyles, and a host of other factors, these women are forced or take preschool children with them, or leave them with children who should themselves be in school. Under these circumstances these mothers are not able to provide proper nutrition or nurturing for their young children.

And so it is not surprising that the first project which the African Sankofa Fund has undertaken is the construction of a Community Day Care Centre in Amudurasi, a village located in the Ashanti Region of Ghana. This Day Care Centre will accommodate up to 150 preschool children, aged 2 to 4 years. Once the Centre has been constructed, volunteer teachers from outside of Ghana will be recruited to share their experience and skills with the day care providers in the centre, thus ensuring that they will provide their charges with creative and challenging experiences in an atmosphere of nurturing.

The Centre has been designed with three rooms plus a kitchen. A grant from the Local Initiatives Program of CIDA (Canadian Development Agency) enabled construction to begin. Foundations were cast in March, 2006, and walls followed. The CIDA money was used to buy materials and to pay for qualified tradesmen. The local community has been providing additional labour, while the Chief of Amudurasi made land available at no cost for the building.

The success of this project relies not only on funding but also on the active participation of community members. Community members are organized to work on the site one day every two weeks. In this photo, sand and cement is being mixed by hand.

Women bring water to the job site, using the traditional method of carrying their containers on their head.

The sand and cement mixture is formed into cement blocks.

(These photos were taken in February by Jim Maxwell during his recent visit. Jim’s wife, Jean MacPherson is a Trustee of the Africa Sankofa Fund.)

The initial application to CIDA requested sufficient funds for completion of the three classrooms. The grant was approved for a much smaller amount of money, and so construction has focused on the first classroom and kitchen. In this photo, Comfort and Rod explain the layout of the building to Shayna Stock, whose father, Stephen, is one of the trustees of the Fund.

Comfort had supervised the construction and arranged for building materials. Here she is discussing the next phase of the job, the roof, with, Asante (right), the head mason, and the carpenter who will do the job. If funds permit, she plans to have the roof in place before the heavy rains begin in May.

A Word about our Trustees

Support for the Africa Sankofa Fund comes in many forms. Trustees play the very important role of ensuring that Funds are spent in accordance with the objectives of the Fund and within the guidelines required by Revenue Canada. There is no remuneration for the work which these Trustees offer, and without their involvement, the Fund could not operate. Each of these individuals and their families has demonstrated their interest in Ghana and their commitment towards the goals of the Fund. A big thank you to our trustees – Medassi Pii! These are the current members of the Board of Trustees:

Rod McLaren, Chairman, residing in Ghana
Kathleen Baillie, Treasurer, residing in Saskatoon, Sask.
Comfort McLaren, residing in Ghana
Kirsten Bosch, engineer, residing in Marsden, Sask.
Stephen Stock, Planner at TransAlta, residing in Sarnia, Ont.
Jean MacPherson, teacher, residing in Maidstone, Sask.
Bruce Caldwell, insurance broker, residing in Halifax, Nova Scotia

Recent Visitors
Although the Africa Sankofa Fund is still very young and its first project is yet to be completed, a number of visitors have come to see how the work is progressing. In February, Shayna Stock stopped by. She and Comfort went to the work site, and then visited the day care in its temporary location, under the shade of some palm trees in the village.

Jim Maxwell visited Ghana for the first time with his wife, Jean, and their family in 2005. Jim returned this year and was in the country at the time of the celebration the Ghana’s 50th anniversary on March 6. Here he is celebrating with Rod and Comfort on the rooftop of the African Rainbow.

February was a busy month for visitors. Trustee Kirsten Bosch also was here. She made time in her short trip to Ghana to drop in and discuss her plans for helping the Africa Sankofa Fund to achieve its goals.

How You Can Help

There are different ways in which individuals can help. Perhaps the easiest and most effective at this time is with a financial contribution. At this time, contributions are required to enable construction to continue on the remaining two classrooms of the Daycare Centre. Remember - a tax receipt will be issued and your donation will act as a credit against your Canadian Income Tax. Mail your donations to the treasurer as follows:

Kathleen Baillie
334 J.J. Thiesen Way
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
S7K 5P4
Phone (country code 001) (306)934-0054
E-mail Address:

For more information, contact Kathleen in Saskatoon (as above), or Rod and Comfort in Ghana:

Rod and Comfort McLaren
c/o African Rainbow Resort
P.O. Box TD1106
Phone 233-31-32149
Mobile 233-20-9295977

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is great info to know.