Who are we?
We started from a group of Earthwatch volunteers who visited the Wechiau Community Hippo Sanctuary in 2002.
We set up up the Friends of Wechiau group (FoW) so that we could continue to support this important community led ecotourism site. The members of the group living in the UK registered the organisation with the Charity Commission of England and Wales as an unincorporated membership organisation with the following aims:
“The advancement of education of people resident within the boundaries of the Wechiau Hippo Sanctuary, Ghana, or surrounding areas by the provision of educational materials, funding of teachers and supplies and at the discretion of the trustees the provision of scholarships for individuals to extend their education and training.”
We liaised with the Sanctuary Management Board (SMB) and the Nature Conservation Research Centre (NCRC) in Ghana to decide how we could best support the local community and we jointly agreed that education of young people was the key to the sustainability of this community. Key to the initial development of the education project was Donna Sheppard who works for Calgary Zoo and was then the NCRC Sanctuary Advisor. Donna continues to visit the sanctuary on an annual basis and monitors progress. More recently FoW has formed a partnership with the Savannah Fruits Company who are supporting the trade of organic shea butter from shea nuts collected in the sanctuary area by local women. It is the Savannah Fruits Company (SFC) who disburse the FoW funds for us locally and they provide an independent monitoring role.
The Sanctuary Manager (R.Y.Abudulai Issahaku) acts as a local administrator of the education programme and organises meetings with the local schools, the scholarship students, and obtains feedback and recommendations which are forwarded to the trustees of FoW. In 2015 we provided funds for a motor bike for the local administrator to travel around the local schools to promote and organise the scholarship programme.
From the start the local Wechiau community was involved in the education project with a local based education committee comprising of representatives of members of the Sanctuary Management Board, SFC, schools, former scholarship students and representatives of the local community selecting the scholarship students and the school to benefit from school supplies based on the funding agreed annually with FoW.
In 2009 we had a very successful visit to Wechiau Community Hippo Sanctuary where we met the scholarship students and visited their schools. We also saw the opening of a new primary school and took part with Calgary Zoo and others in the Durbar to celebrate 10 years of the Hippo Sanctuary.
How can I be involved?
You can become a member of the Friends of Wechiau Group by donating a minimum of £15. Membership of the Friends of Wechiau Group is open to anyone who agrees with the charity’s aims. In addition for as little as £10 per month or £120 per year you can sponsor a student to attend senior secondary school. For UK taxpayers the charity can claim back the tax, so please contact us to complete a giftaid form if you make a donation. More information see Donate page.
We hold an annual general meeting open to all members to attend. Even if you cannot get to meetings you can still be be a member and be involved as we communicate with all members by email or post for all important decisions. If you don’t wish to be come a member please consider giving a donation and/or fundraising for us.
You can read more about our plans in our Business Plan 2014 to 2017.
Friends of Wechiau will collect information about its members and supporters and recipients of funds and their families in order for the charity to carry on its work. We will ensure that that the information held will be adequate, relevant and not excessive for the purpose that it is kept. It will be accurate, kept up to date and not kept longer than is necessary. All members, supporters and recipients of funds and their families will be made aware of what personal information is being held, how it is to be used and explicit consent obtained to hold information.
The trustees and officers
The trustees of the charity and officers are elected at the annual general meeting.
The current officers are:
- Chairperson – Ann Bannister
- Vice Chairperson – Janet Kirk
- Secretary – Martin Upson
- Treasurer – John Flynn
- Other trustees – Lisa Porter.
We are a small independent charity where nearly all our funds are focused on funding for education with very small costs for administration. You can check our record on the Charity Commission website.
We thank the Savannah Fruits Company, and the Calgary Zoological Society for providing the necessary resources to enable the funds to be disbursed and to assist with the scholarship selection process at no additional cost.
We are grateful to Donna Sheppard (Calgary Zoo) and R.Y.Abudulai Issahaku (Wechiau Community Hippo Sanctuary) for supplying many of the photographs displayed on this website.