LET US SHINE...... is SHINING BRIGHTfrom George McGraw
Report on the Fiona Marra visit to East Kilbride on the 17th July 2009
Let Us Shine charity founder, Fiona Marra from Calderwood, recently came along to East Kilbride Rotary Club to update members on progress at the Kpandai Girls' Academy in Northern Ghana, where ninety four girls were now being educated, thanks to support from members of the East Kilbride community and Rotarians.
During a visit to Ghana in June Fiona had opened Kilbride House, a brand new six roomed dormitory building with the rooms named after East Kilbride districts, where over fifty of the girls will sleep from September, when the new term starts. Fiona took the opportunity to thank the Club members, whose fund raising efforts had paid for the construction of the new building, and she looked forward to another Waverley cruise in July 2010, which members planned to organise in further support of Let Us Shine.
However Fiona reported that there was also growing support from within the local community, including donations from Blacklaw and St Leonard's Primary Schools and Newlandsmuir resident, Billy Leitch, who had taken part in the mountainous 43 mile Corrieyairack Duathlon Challenge, where he finished a very creditable fifth in his class, and raised £700 for Let Us Shine thanks to the support from members of the boxing club at John Wright Sports Centre, where he coaches.
More tangible support also came in the form of two sets of football strips from E K
YMCA which were presented to Fiona for use in Ghana by Past President Barclay Wales on
behalf of Les Goodfellow from the football club.In addition there was a growing number
of visiting volunteers to the school in Kpandai,
who had provided invaluable professional educational and medical support to the
Ghanaian staff. One of these volunteers, Hannah Currie, had arranged that the girls
in Kpandai painted nine music themed pictures on canvas frames, and these had
now been autographed by T In The Park performers, including Paulo Nutini, and
would be available for sale at "Art for Africa" on E Bay from 20 July to raise funds
for Let Us Shine.
On the day of the opening of Kilbride House, the school had also held its first Sports
Day which was attended by parents and local dignitaries. Such was the gratitude of
the parents for the chance in life that their daughters were getting through Let Us
Shine, that some had walked for over six hours to attend the opening.
Fiona noted that this level of interest was one of the main problems at Kpandai, where families turned up daily to request enrolment for their daughters. Fiona said that it was heart rending to have to turn so many away, but the Scottish based charity could only take on more pupils as child sponsors became available. It was only through the acquisition of more child sponsors that the school could grow, and much to the great disappointment of the community around Kpandai it had been decided that there could not be another intake until the remaining few girls without sponsors were linked with a sponsor.
Instead, Fiona said that all the remaining projects, such as the new Kitchen and Toilet Blocks; installation of electricity into all the buildings; and development of the farm would be fully completed this year. This would allow the Charity to maintain the high standards of health and education that were a fundamental part of its ethos in Ghana.
In particular, the farming, which would be carried out by the girls, assisted initially by some parents, would be invaluable, providing a food source for the school which would help offset rapidly rising Ghanaian food costs. The crops of yam, ground nuts, mango and other fruits produced would augment egg production from the flock of chickens recently purchased following the successful "Easter Egg Appeal".
Rotarian, John Murphy, the main organiser of the first Waverley Cruise for Let Us Shine in 2007, warmly thanked Fiona for her presentation and her tremendous personal effort in making dreams come real in Ghana, in such a short time. He noted the need for more sponsors and encouraged more of his fellow Rotarians to come forward and apply through the charity website at letushine.org or the Club website at ekrotary.com