Harriet Bruce-Annan - their story, a shared journey.

... follow the African tradition of drumming!

From "plate money" to the Federal Cross of Merit.

Life still writes the most incredible and exciting stories: On December 19, 1965, Victoria LankaiLamptey gave birth to a girl in Africa, who was christened Ani-Agyei.On March 7, 2013, more than 47 years later, German President Joachim Gauck presented said Ani, now called Harriet Dansowaa Bruce-Annan, with the Federal Cross of Merit for social commitment. From Ghana’s capital Accra via Düsseldorf as an African Angel to Bellevue Palace in Berlin – a more than unusual journey that is far from over.

„Former cleaning lady receives Federal Cross of Merit“ is a headline in the Rheinische Post (rp online) on March 8, 2013. And the editorial team goes on to write: „With her association ‚African Angel‘, the former toilet woman promotes, among other things, the schooling and vocational training of socially disadvantaged children in western Ghana.“ Behind these sober lines lies a grueling and exciting journey through life, which only led to the desired goal via many detours. Where and how did it all begin? What did Ani-Agyei dream of as a child or young student? Certainly not of being the guest of honor of the German president one day.

A beaming Harriet Dansowaa Bruce-Annan at the award of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany by President Gauck in Berlin in March 2013 ...
... and in Ghana her protégés in the African Angel Cottage marvel at the pictures of the big award!

With 5.000,- EUR plate money. A house for 26 street children from Bukom

In December1990 Harriet had entered Germany with her English husband, an employee of the British Forces. They initially lived in a hotel inDüsseldorf, then moved to a small apartment in Oberhausen. As a trained programmer, Harriet planned to study computer science in Germany with the goal of working as a systems analyst. But nothing came of it. Instead, she had to flee from her abusive husband to a women’s shelter in Düsseldorf, took a job as a cleaner at the trade fair and cleaned toilets in old town pubs in her spare time for almost two decades.

Bitter and disappointed by life? There was no sign of that in her face: Those who experienced her regularly on a stroll through the Old Town will still have her hearty laugh in their ears.Perhaps that’s why many guests were a little more generous with the tips they put on Harriet’s plate.She collected it diligently until around 5,000 euros were collected. And this plate money became the foundation for a children’s home in Ghana in 2004.

In the 1990s, Harriet Bruce-Annan, back left, was already caring for children from the slum neighborhood of Bukom.

Harriet Bruce-Annan also experienced this misery, which you can see in the picture above, as a small child. And because she knows how bad it is, she already resolved back then to help such children one day.

This drive was and still is so great that she even started cleaning toilets in pubs and at the Düsseldorf Trade Fair to raise money for her project.

She believes that anyone who wants to help can do so.

For years, Harriet earned her living as a toilet attendant; in pubs ...
... and at the trade fair in Düsseldorf.

Zum Goldenen Einhorn, Ratinger Straße in Düsseldorf; birthplace of African Angel.

To collect more money for the children, because the money she got at the fair as a cleaning/toilet lady was not enough, also at night still in some pubs: E.g. in Porky’s, in the Luisiana, in La Bamba, in the Holzwurm, in the Poccino, in Ballermann 6, in the Q-Stall, in the Rosis, in the Schiff Ahoy and also at events; later then in the Einhorn and in Les Halles, where she also worked in the checkroom.
Here at the Unicorn, properly called „zum Goldenen Einhorn,“ Harriet found, many academics spent their evenings. Just the right people to help her with her African Angel project, whose name she had not even created at the time.
There she was approached one day by Jörg, an attentive guest at the Unicorn, who wondered where he saw her working everywhere with the assumption that Harriet must therefore have an „infinite“ amount of „coal“. Harriet explained to him that she was doing all this to help poor children in her native Ghana. Jörg was amazed and said that she was an „African Angel“. – Thus the name for the project was born.
Word of this story spread and Harriet was advised to found an association so that this beautiful and meaningful idea would last and continue if Harriet were no longer alive.
So the association African Angel e.V. was founded on September 15, 2002. The main meeting place for the members of the association at that time was Les Halles; the office was still at Harriet’s home in her apartment.
During this time, also at the Einhorn, she met Jan Einicke, through whom she had learned that he was a graphic designer, and asked him if he could help her develop a logo for the association and make flyers. That’s how Jan Einicke came to join African Angel.
During all this time at the Unicorn, Harriet found great support from the two owners of the Unicorn, Volker Zimmermann and Ulrich Hinrichsmeyer.

With this cell phone Harriet organized everything in the first hours of African Angel e.V..
So sah es aus, als Harriet mit African Angel begann. Home Office 2002 🙂
Eine Aktion im Einhorn und das Plakat dazu: "Saufen für Afrika", ein Motto, das wir damals nicht zu laut ausgesprochen haben, da das Ordnungsamt etwas dagegen haben könnte 😉
The logo of African Angel: creation and slogan by Jan Einicke.
This was the first flyer of African Angel. That was in 2003.
This is the inside of the flyer.

Change the world with 50 cents - and save lives.

Soon, regulars at the Old Town bars where Harriet served gave her the apt name „African Angel.“ And they encouraged her to organize her commitment in a non-profit association. In 2002, Harriet and a few friends founded the association African Angel e.V. in Düsseldorf and then flew to Ghana in 2004 with the 5,000 euros in tips collected within a year. In her biography „African Angel – Changing the world with 50 cents“, published in 2009 she describes in detail the prejudices and resistance she had to overcome in the slum district of Bukom in her hometown of Accra before she was able to rent and furnish a house for 26 former street children in a good neighborhood of Accra.

For this purpose, Harriet went to the Bukom slum district and first had to explain to the parents of the children to be taken in what she was planning to do and what it was good for, to place the children in her care. Some parents accepted her offer with thanks, others were skeptical and scolded her. It was not an easy thing to do. But Harriet has not given up trying to help these poor and chance-less children, and in the meantime there are over 100 of them to whom she has given her support, and our support as well.

The first meeting with the parents of the children from Bukom, the slum area of Accra. ...
... Here the parents could ask questions about Harriet's project to help the children of the families.

Before moving in, the children were thoroughly examined by doctors for the first time in their young lives. In the process, the doctors discovered life-threatening illnesses in three of the children that would otherwise never have been detected or would have been detected too late. The treatment initiated immediately saved their lives.

The children who were to come to African Angel had to be medically examined.
Blood draw.
Abdominal examination.
... Through these examinations, 3 children's lives were saved, as they would have died from their otherwise undetected diseases.

2004: the association African Angel NGO is registered in Ghana.

In Ghana, too, an association must be registered with the Registrar General in order to be able to do charitable work. To found an association you need an association president and a secretary Helena, who did all the administrative work while Harriet collected money in Germany. Later, 2 women joined the club, Mama Dora and Mama Patience, who took care of the children. Mr. Bortey, called Bodde, does the janitor work and drives the children to and from school.

Harriet got and still gets further help from her family.

You can get these certificates, ...
... when registering an association in Ghana. So also with the registration of African Angel NGO
Helena Anowie
Patience Lamptey
Dora Frimpong
Mr. Bortey

Registration at school.

Harriet was happy. It was not easy to find a school that would take children from the slums. If this school here hadn’t taken them, there wouldn’t have been another one that wasn’t too far away.

The children, however, didn’t really know what to do with it; it was totally foreign to them.

It actually took 6 months for them to settle in and also appreciate being allowed to go to school.

2004: Job interviews in the school.
Harriet takes care of the still insecure children from the slums, who had not experienced anything like this before.
The teacher also takes care of the new students in a touching way.
Concentration is still difficult.

It all started in this house (rented).

In this house in the Sakumono district, the slum children from the Bukom district experienced for the first time how beautiful a home can be; with their own property, with solid walls, bedrooms with beds, with a kitchen and a living room – with a television (donated by Granderath).

In this house in the Sakumono district, the slum children from the Bukom district experienced for the first time how beautiful a home can be.
Here they were also introduced to books for the first time.
A basketball hoop was also already available.

Finally the school time begins - incl. everyday life.

Everyone has received their school uniform and the daily routine has begun. In the morning to school with school bag and handle man until 15:00. Then doing their schoolwork and playing afterwards; in the evening, the joint evening meal.
This was already a great thing for the children compared to their former life in the slums of Accra. A difference like day and night. Even if a few had to get used to it at first, afterwards they all feel comfortable and appreciate the life there.
They are very grateful.

These are the Friday school uniforms. ...
... And these are the Monday through Thursday school uniforms.
The children are coming home from school.
The kindergarten children in 2004.
Cottage moms get their handle men ready for school for the kids.
Breakfast at African Angel.
Dinner at African Angel's home.

First visit from Germany at the house.

Wolfgang has taken African Angel a long way.
He came, made his own picture and helped with the renovation of the apartment building. That was a blessing.

The children welcomed him warmly, learned a lot from him and had a lot of fun; especially because Wolfgang had brought a lot of presents 😉

Wolfgang helps with renovations in the house.
Wolfgang shows the kids how to paint.
Wolfgang has brought many little things from Germany.
Wolfgang with the children in the church in Sakumono in Accra.

The office in Düsseldorf is rented; office sharing until today.

After many refusals, a friend of a friend of Harriet’s actually still has space in the back of a room that had served as storage until then.
Astmann and Gundi sublet this room to Harriet.

Harriet gets her first computer and a nice big African-Angel logo poster from Jan, the graphic designer who has helped Harriet from the beginning with design, printing and internet.

Since Harriet cleaned toilets at the fair during the day and those in Düsseldorf’s pubs at night, she hardly had time to keep up with the tasks in the office. That’s why she sought help through advertisements and that’s how she met Peter Schrenk.
He, too, is a blessing for African Angel, because he knows a lot about media work and is well connected.

Through him, Harriet and her association get into the newspapers and on television and her work becomes known.

The idea for a book about Harriet’s life and her project is born.

Harriet Bruce-Annan and Jan Einicke on the board in the office of African Angel e.V.. With him, Steffanie del Maestro-Giehl and Peter Schrenk, Harriet has achieved a lot: The increasing interest in African Angel and the resulting increase in the number of its members, Harriet's book "Changing the world with 50 cents, the Bild-Der-Frau nomination (more about this in the menu item Awards), the purchase of the land for the house in Ghana, the proposal for the Federal Cross of Merit, which Harriet also received, the idea to propose Harriet for a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize, and the support and reception of many children in the cottage of African Angel.
Harriet in the still quite empty ...
... new office of African Angel.
Atsmann Sise (center) and Gundula König still rent part of their office to Harriet and African Angel, respectively. Left Jan Einicke, Vice Chairman from 2006 to 2008.
These are the first reports ...
... about Harriet and her work. These really got the ball rolling.

Sponsorship; an idea by Stefanie Giehl.

With the entry of Stefanie Giehl as a member of African Angel, she became aware of the association through a report in the Rheinische Post (see above), a good structure came into the association. Together with Peter Schrenk she managed the office of the association and started the project sponsorship, through which many children of African Angel got a personal „sponsor“, through which they were financially secured. They had contact through letters and/or also through visits in Ghana from their godparents.
Again and again, organized by Stefanie Giehl, all godparents met to exchange ideas.

At irregular intervals, the "godparents" of the children of African Angel met for the godparent meeting organized by Stefanie Giehl, 5th from left, ...
... to exchange ideas and learn new things from Harriet about the state of affairs. Here in 2007 in the former Les Halles.

The WDR discovers Harriet, the African Angel.

After the WDR had filmed and broadcast many small TV reports here in Germany about Harriet and her project, the WDR decided to send a team to Ghana to the home of African Angel. There they documented Harriet’s successes with the help for the poor children of Buccom in Accra, Ghana in a three-quarter hour report.

WDR travels specially to Ghana to document Harriet's project. Here they are in the school that some of the African Angel children attend.
WDR Africa correspondent Birgit Virnich and Martin Fischer during their filming.
Harriet Bruce-Annan with WDR intern Annika Zeitler.
Harriet receives the WDR team at Accra airport.
The children of African Angel greet the WDR team and give them a warm welcome.

The media in Ghana, newspapers and television, then also interested 🙂

The weekly newspaper THE SPECTATOR reported ...
... 2 times about Harriet's project.
The TV station TV3 from Ghana has also reported about African Angel. Here during the interview with Mama Dora.
Harriet interviewed by TV3 from Ghana.

The success is followed by a new home.

Because African Angel had become very well known during this time, many donations were collected, so that the association could buy a house with a large property, and it was not bad that the landlord of the first house wanted to have the children out of his house when there were more and more. – Harriet was nevertheless grateful that she had found someone at all at that time who had rented her a house in which so many children wanted to live. All the sellers before always wanted disproportionate money for it, because they all thought, since Harriet was from Germany, that she was a rich woman and had „the whole Bundesbank“ with her.

What was funny was that the house that African Angel was then able to buy was a descendant, of a German colonialist, who at that time, after the war, when Togo, formerly a German colony, was divided between the French and the English, who had Ghana as a colony, lived in the Ghanaian part and met and married his wife, a Ghanaian, there.
This man’s name was Herbert Risch.

For 7 years he wanted to sell this house with the land belonging to it and had not found an interested party until African Angel came and wanted it. –

What a luck and what a crazy story. 🙂

A map showing where African Angel's new property is located. The district is called Lashibi.

House and property with potential that Harriet recognized.

In the following pictures you can see why the house and property was not sold for 7 years. It was just run down and the house was not quite finished either.
But Harriet saw that a lot could be made out of all this and bought it. It was clear to her: this property is worth a lot and offers everything the children need for a happy childhood. Perfect was that there were already 2 houses there, so she could separate the boys and girls. In addition, a plot of land never loses its value; quite the opposite.

The property with the house that Harriet found was not in good condition. But she saw directly what could be done with it.

Now the renovation started. Everything was made homely.

The task was to clean up the property and renovate the two buildings. For this purpose, a lot of building material had to be ordered and installed.
Material for the floor, for the path, for the pipes, tiles for the floors and walls, paint, stones for the balcony, cement, sand, steel and water.
Of course, everything was financed by donations. – Since there was not always enough of it, the whole thing faltered again and again, and one could only continue when money had come in again. But in the end, as always, enough money was collected so that the project could be completed.
It was a lot of work – 4 months later the children could move in.

Here are a few before and after pictures.

Offene Küche vorher.
Offene Küche nachher 1
Offene Küche nachher 2
Küche vorher.
Küche nachher 1
Küche nachher 2
Trinkwassertankfundament in Arbeit .
Drinking water tank foundation finished with 2 new drinking water tanks.
Before (without a path).
After; way in progress 1
After; way in progress 2
After; way finished.
Before; balconies or terraces without balustrade.
After; balustrade in progress 1.
After; balustrade in progress 2
After; balustrade almost finished.
Before; toilet in progress.
After; toilet nicely tiled . - Only needs to be cleaned.
Before; shower without tiles.
After; shower tiled.
Before; power cables are being laid.
After; all is connected.
... And everyone can dance.

Moving in.

New cabinets, new beds, new chairs and tables had to be bought, hauled and assembled for the new house.

The inauguration of the house; and visiting German ambassador in Accra.

For the inauguration really many levers have been set in motion. From Düsseldorf, Peter Schrenk and Stefanie del Maestro-Giehl, members and volunteers of African Angel told the German ambassador about the story and invited him to the inauguration of the new house. He, Dr. Marius Haas and his wife Misho gladly accepted the invitation and even helped to organize it.
Jan Einicke, 2nd chairman of African Angel e.V., signed off on everything and gave Harriet a free hand to pursue her dream of giving the children of Bukom, Accra, a good childhood and thus a future for a self-determined and responsible life.

This was a great thing; and still is!

Harriet is very grateful for all this.

The inauguration of the new house was attended by Pastor Pupulampo, ...
... Dr. Marius Haas, the German Ambassador to Ghana and and his wife Misho and Mr. Swaniker, from the Cadastral Office.
Gifts are exchanged. ...
Even Lego was given away to the kids.
Pastor Pupulampo prayed for the house and its future together with the guests.
The inauguration banner was cut.
Tour of the new house. ...
From left to right: Herbert Risch, the previous owner of the house, Dr. Marius Haas, the German ambassador to Ghana, Harriet and Pastor Atisia Swaniker. ...
Television was also there.
The children, waving German and Ghanaian flags, are also there to say thank you.
From left to right: Mr. Swaniker, Harriet, Dr. Marius Haas, the German ambassador, and his wife Micho Haas and Heribert Risch.

"Thank you," says Harriet and the children. The first successful steps in Africa have been taken. - Let's go on!

Before …
… After.
The children can now learn in peace. ...
In the open kitchen, everyone meets to eat.
If the weather is nice, ...
... the children sit outside the house to eat and do homework.
But when it rains, the children naturally go inside. But since that became too cramped over time, Harriet built the new house.

Harriet and two African-Angel girls „of the first hour“, today, after 10 years, they live healthy and happy with a future in their own country!

To be continued ...

African Angel Cottage creates a home for 100 slum children from Bukom.

In a very short time, the two houses were prepared so that the move and the admission of 25 new children from Bukom could take place at the beginning of 2008. On March 13, 2008, the African Angel Cottage was ceremonially opened in the presence of the German Ambassador Dr. Marius Haas. Shortly thereafter, African Angel e.V. decided to start construction of a third cottage:multi-story with computer training room, library, first aid room, overnight accommodations for interns and guest rooms for visitors and sponsors.

Harriet actually built the 2 ½ story third house brick by brick, just as donations were coming in to African Angel. Particularly important to the funding of this house was also Harriet s success at „Golden Picture of a Woman“. The nomination and the awarding of the reader prize in 2011 was of course a wonderful experience for Harriet, and a building progress for the African Angel Cottage in Ghana. After more than five years of construction and the equally long fundraising campaign „Building Blocks“, Harriet was finally able to start the final finishing work in the new 3rd house of the African Angel Cottage in October 2012. One year later it was done: Except for a few tiles and a little paint, the building was finished – with space for over 40 new slum children.

... follow the African tradition of drumming!

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