A World of Friends, Sweden, is a small Swedish based NGO. Our purpose is to run aid projects aimed at improving the health, education and economic standard of poor children and women in Ghana and in Southern India. The Swedish Board consists of six regular members and two deputy members, most of whom have been, or are currently employed in medical and educational professions. Chairman of the Board is Ms Britt-Louise Theglander, who founded the organisation, Ms Theglander has been engaged in questions concerning education and sponsorship of deprived children in Ghana and India since 1987.
In 1994, a Children’s Home was founded in the village of Biadan, close to the city of Berekum in the Brong Ahafu region, with funds provided by SIDA (Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency). The village association of Biadan put their Club House at our disposal to house the children. To begin with we admitted 25 orphaned or abandoned children, who were cared for by locally recruited staff. All these children have now grown up and live their own lives, and we have subsequently admitted new young children in need of help.
In 2004 we applied for funds to Radiohjälpen/Världens Barn to build a new Family Home on premises outside Biadan, put at our disposal by the chiefs of the district. On these premises A World of Friends had previously built an International School, for children from nursery school level up to ninth grade, which has been in operation since 1998. Our orphaned children have all attended this school. In addition children from Biadan and Berekum have been admitted.
In the village of Okorase, Suhum, Central Region, Okorase Experimental School was built already in 1989, and now comprises levels from nursery school up to ninth grade. In Okorase we support around 50 children from the poorest families, with the assistance of their Swedish sponsors. We pay for their tuition, school uniforms, books etc until they have completed their compulsory education. One child from each family is sponsored, but we provide monthly food rations for the whole family. Our African coordinator, Dr Nana Ababio, has been involved in our projects since the start. He is a highly qualified person, with a background in the worldwide organisation Education International. Dr Ababio is very dedicated to the task of caring for the welfare of our children and works entirely on a non-profit basis.
In Southern India, Tamil Nadu state, A World of Friends supports children from low cast families, mainly in the villages of Orikkai and Illupapattu, in the vicinity of Kancheepuram. With the help of Swedish sponsors we pay their tuition fees and provide them with clothes, school uniforms and materials and their families with food rations once a month. Our children attend the local government schools. Additional education and help is provided by A World of Friends’ Evening schools, which are popular among all the village children, most of whom attend every evening. Thanks to this educational support many children from low cast families have managed to reached university levels and we are especially proud of some of our girls who are now working in banking, as engineers, nurses etc.
Many years ago the village women initiated their own Banking System, whereby they can get loans to purchase a sewing machine, a cow, or start a small enterprise. A World of Friends has provided funds for these banks for several years. We are also running a Sewing School for the women. After acquiring sewing skills, many of them have been recruited by the textile companies.
Our local coordinator in India is A V Raghu. He is very dedicated to his task and well liked both among the children and their parents in Orikkai and Illupapattu. Mrs Walarmathy, who lives in Okorase, is assisting him, and working closely with the women’s projects.
At present we have around 300 paying members in Sweden, many of whom are also sponsors of our African and Indian children. A large part of our proceeds, however, come from private donors and from Swedish school children. Since 1994 we have financed the management of the Children’s Home in Ghana with means collected by Swedish school children.
The efficiency of the means donated to our organisation is high compared to that of many larger organisations. Our administration costs are very low as all the board members in Sweden work on a non-profit basis.
Another advantage of being a small organisation is that we are in full control of the funds, from transferral of the money to the way it is used in the care of the children and in our various projects. As corruption is a major problem in countries like Ghana and India, we do not cooperate with local NGO’s. To be in full control of our local partners we have established our own subsidiaries, A World of Friends, Ghana, and A World of Friends, India.
A disadvantage of being a small organisation, however, is that our financial situation is very vulnerable, which also sets limits for growth and development. Increasingly we feel the need for a solid economic base. As soon as we have to make larger investments, e.g. purchase a new school bus, construct or repair a school building or fix showers and toilets for the orphaned children, we run into problems. When we apply for funds for such purposes from companies or official aid organisations we are often denied help with the motivation that our organisation is too small. Thus we find ourselves in a vicious circle.
Nevertheless, we are proud of our accomplishments to date and are eager to continue our work both in Ghana and India. We are grateful for the support from our Swedish sponsors and school children and hope to reach out to international sponsors as well..