A Thornhill student has recounted his experiences of the issues facing West Africa during two trips to promote his university’s overseas campus in Ghana.
Matthew Gillings wrote about poverty and inequality, as well as the threat of deadly virus Ebola, that face the country and the surrounding region.
The 20-year-old, who is studying English at Lancaster University, said he found a huge gulf between rich and poor in the country, with services for vulnerable children stretched to the point of complete dependence on charity.
Matthew said that a village for abused children in Ghana’s capital, Accra, had difficulty funding itself and relied on charity
He said: “Children tend to stay at the shelter for around three months before moving on and it houses around 70 children at any one time.
“The police bring children in, but the incredible truth is that the government only gives the shelter 300 Ghanaian cedi per quarter.
“That works out at less than £50 per quarter, which is nowhere near enough money to run a shelter for 70 children.
“The centre relies very heavily on charity and visits such as ours, but unfortunately they don’t get many of those.
“By the end of our short visit, the children were smiling and it felt good knowing that, even for just a few hours, we were able to transform their day and make it that little bit more entertaining.”
And an expert who delivered a talk to the campus on the Ebola virus said that there was a serious risk of virus spreading to Ghana.
Matthew said: “It was a useful talk, and he gave us the facts straight. Whilst I expected he would walk in and reassure everyone, he did quite the opposite and told us that it was a very real and very serious threat. The two known carriers of Ebola in Ghana are currently in quarantine, so now it’s just a matter of ensuring that it doesn’t spread throughout the region.”
International medical association Médecins Sans Frontières said that the virus had killed more than 1,400 people across four countries since the outbreak began in March.
Matthew said that firm friendships were formed across his visits.
“Regardless of whether we discussed the banalities of everyday life or big social issues that we could compare across continents, it was really useful to have the students from Lancaster Ghana with us.”