Follow us to a time travel and experience from year to year how exiting and sometimes close to fizzle Harriet and her supporters managed to develop African Angel.
All began in Africa. Better…
All began in Africa. Better said in Accra, the capital of Ghana at the West African coast. With a big dream of a little girl. The little Harriet Dansowaa Ani-Agyei (Harriets birth name) lived in Adabraka, one of the better quarters of Accra, but she regularly visited her grandmother living in Bukom, the poor township of the big city. Here she saw the children of her age, living on the street, hungry, dirty, without clothes, sleeping on the naked ground and, worst of all, not going to school.
At that time, Harriet had the dream, that she sometimes would be able to help the children of Bukom!
Children become grown-ups, and fate brought Harriet as a young woman to Düsseldorf/Germany in 1991. Her violent spouse nearly destroyed her life but even in her darkest hours Harriet never lost her faith and her great dream, supporting “her” children of Bukom.
For her dream, Harriet was willing to work hard and sacrifice after her escape to a women s shelter house and the final separation from her husband. Despite her good education in Ghana, she could only find a job as cleaner at the exhibition centre in Düsseldorf while her graduation was not acknowledged; in addition, her German language skills were not good at that time.
However, Harriet received a small and humble apartment where she still lives today. Beside her exhausting work as cleaner at daytime, she worked as toilet woman collecting “toilet coins” at night, as additional income enabling her to pay school fees for slum children from Bukom. Frequenters of the downtown bars where Harriet was working in the toilets got attentive to her tireless work, and called her “African Angel”. Sometimes later, they encouraged her to establish a non-profit-organisation collecting more money for the good reason.
After two failed trials – Harriet did not have enough experience – she finally established at September 11 in 2002 together with six founder members the charitable association African Angel e.V.
The association and its statutes were registered at May, 26 2003 with No 9230, acknowledgement of charitable status and tax off followed in June 2003.
With the association statutes and € 5.000,00 hardly collected “toilet coins” Harriet travelled to Ghana, using her annual holidays. She informed parents and relatives living with their families in the slum of Bukom about her plan, to establish a shelter house. It was mandatory to get the children out of the mess of the slum, care for them and send them out to school from there. However, the parents were sceptical; nobody had ever done anything comparable for Bukom. No public care, no hospital, no school, no social help, nothing. They assumed that Harriet might plan to sale their children. A difficult mission, but Harriet convinced the adults and finally she had 24 children at the age of 4-11 years to care for at African Angel.
Harriet managed to find a…
Harriet managed to find a sufficient house for rent located in a normal quarter of Accra. She also found Kindergarten and premary schools for “her” children.
This sounds much easier than it had been…… because it was a real hard struggle, while nobody from outside is interested or willing to support the poor people from Bukom, or give the former slum children a chance for a better life.
Beside this Harriet established and registered the Ghanaian non-profit association African Angel NGO according the regulations of Companies Code, 1963 (Act 179). Founder members of African Angel NGO are Harriet herself and the first matron, an educated teacher, Janet Dowetin. Since 2004 Janet is working for African Angel, as deputy director and good soul of the house. Matron of the first hour is also Mama Dora, since more than 12 years she is caring for the African Angel children as if they are her own. (Today, African Angel Ghana has more than 15 employees; beside matrons, there are drivers, security men and sport trainer working for the shelter house, people who might be unemployed without Harriet)
Going back to the first days….when searching for the right building Harriet quickly recognized that the property owners where not willing to let their house for “Bukom children”. Therefore, Harriet harked back to a stratagem, she rented a house for herself and “her children”. When signing the rental contract nobody asked her about the number of “her” children…. The house was furnished with much love, and Harriet could finally drive with a minibus to Bukom to fetch “her” 24 children.
In the evening, Harriet had to care for 26 children….why 26? 2 little ones had sneaked into the minibus.
Their lives as African Angel children started with a medical basic examination, the first these children had ever had. The doctors detected deadly diseases at three children, causing an immediate treatment to save their young lives.…. (By the way, the medical examination is still usual for each new African Angel child, so impressive for it causing often the wish “to become a doctor when grown up”…)
In addition, Harriet arranged the first good clothing, she had already some cloth donations at site, but some things had to be sewed, especially the Sunday church clothes. (Since today, Harriet is supporting local sewers with orders for school uniforms and Sunday-church-dresses).
However, the largest problem Harriet had to face, no school, no kindergarten was willing to accept children from Bukom. The risk of aggressiveness of those former slum children at different ages and without any basics (no English knowledge, only “Ga” the local language of Bukom) seems too big. Harriet became desperate calling in at each school and kindergarten. And finally, at the end of her holidays, she was successful, when leaving Ghana for Germany the under 6-year-old children were attending the Bethel-Kindergarten and the others started school at the Christ Preparatory School.
As a matter of course Harriet accompanied “her” children at this special first school day. Could she imagine then that only 12 years later the first four of those kids would start their first year at university?
After Harriet’s return to Germany a hard time occurred for Harriet, while she was responsible for the monthly living costs of the African Angel shelter house and the school fees payable three times a year, alone….How proud she was to hold the receipt of the payment for the first school trimester in her hands!
Back to Düsseldorf, Harriet had to increase her hours working as toilet woman, but she also took the opportunity talking to many people about “her” children in Ghana finding slowly sponsors. Beside this, she was responsible for the paper work of the African Angel e.V. association. However, her project slowly grew.
Harriet’s tireless work, at day…
Harriet’s tireless work, at day as cleaner at the exhibition, at night in different bars as toilet woman, did not stay unnoticed. One of the innkeepers Harriet was working for became so curious for African Angel offering her to accompany her at her next trip to her project in Ghana, “to have a look by himself”. Therefore, “Uncle Wolfgang”, as the children called him, travelled with many presents in his luggage to Accra. Indeed, the successful gastronome from Germany had never imagined that he would have had to spend his vacation renovating the African Angel house….Since this visit “Uncle Wolfgang” is a truly member and dearly friend of African Angel! In addition, his report from Ghana supported Harriet to acquire more sponsors and donators.
Until autumn 2006 Harriet administrated…
Until autumn 2006 Harriet administrated the association from her small apartment in Düsseldorf, where also all requests and phone calls ended up. While Harriet was working outside around the clock, many things stayed crude. An office could be the solution, and by friends, Harriet found a nice back room for little money. For a better work she would now need a volunteer, so Harriet found the author Peter Schrenk willing to work for African Angel e.V. Thanks to his engaged work and support of many more helpers African Angel grew consequently.
Harriet used her year holiday to be with “her” children at important events, for example at school graduations. The regular school graduations are a nice motivation for the pupils! While the former slum children made it very well at school with excellent records, their way to thank Harriet for their new life!
February 2007 the newspapers in…
February 2007 the newspapers in Düsseldorf/Germany made reports about Harriet and African Angel e.V., and already in March 2007 the television company WDR filmed Harriet at the exhibition centre in Düsseldorf and at African Angel in Ghana. The reports in newspaper and on TV about Harriet’s job and her social engagement in Ghana caused attention. Especially the 1-hour-TV report sent end of August 2007 brought many people as sponsors to African Angel. Until Christmas 2007 more than 250 people were willing to support Harriet with donations.
Despite this good news, Harriet had to face a hard problem when coming to Ghana. The property owner meanwhile found out that the 26 children living in the rented house were not Harriet’s descendants, but she is caring for slum children….The tenancy was cancelled, and Harriet had to look out for a new home. It was hard to know what to do….
Harriet used the increased donation and managed to buy, with a lot of luck and cold sweat, an own property in the quarter of Lashibi in Accra, a nice plot with two existing buildings, more rack and ruin than intact, but with large potential, the African Angel Cottage!
In shortest time, Harriet managed…
In shortest time, Harriet managed to furbish up the two existing buildings moving the children start of 2008, and in addition housing 25 new children from Bukom. Of course, it was a hard piece of work to enclose the plot, renovate the existing buildings and furnish them sufficiently.
The celebratory dedication of the new African Angel Cottage took place by presence of the German ambassador to Ghana, H.E. Dr. Marius Haas, at March 13, 2008. It was also the start of a nice friendship between the Ambassador couple and Harriet, until his resignation H.E. invited Harriet and the children regularly into his private residence.
Even in spring 2008 the…
Even in spring 2008 the board of African Angel e.V. decided to start the erection of a new, multi-stage third house, with enough space for new children, PC-school room, offices, library, medical room and guest rooms for abroad project visitors.
This undertaking was financed by the donation campaign “Building Blocks”, and Euro per Euro the construction material was bought and the wages for the workers paid. Therefore, the actual construction time was 6 years, and since 2014, the third house is finished, as Girl s living house and administration. The two existing buildings are for the boys. (Today, 98 children are sheltered at the African Angel Cottage)
In 2008 the first volunteer Lena came for some weeks to African Angel Cottage and she helped with much fun and engagement with the daily work to care for 50 children.
Among the African Angel boys…
Among the African Angel boys are some talented soccer players while soccer is a Ghanaian passion….,but in Ghana also a business. In 2009 while Harriet was at site some “soccer talent scouts” got attentive to one of her boys, and he did not return from school in the evening!
An immediate search operation confirmed Harriet’s fears: The child had been “abducted” by a professional soccer talent scout. Harriet fought like a lion mother for her puppy and finally she got him back and safe home to the African Angel Cottage.
After Harriet had calmed down again she realised this could happen repeatedly, and she would not be able to protect “her” boys, only, if African Angel would become a soccer school! Beside their normal school education, the children would receive a professional soccer training, and their omnipresent dream of being a soccer player would be fulfilled, without risking their school career.
Said and done, Harriet looked out for a good soccer trainer and hired him. Since 2009 he is training the African Angel Boys building up the juvenile soccer league. Because African Angel did not have enough players for the soccer teams, some poor players, mostly from the township of Nungua, joined the training and the teams. Even during 2009 3 juvenile soccer teams could be formed, African Angel Teams U 17, U 14 and U 12.
For Harriet the nomination and…
For Harriet the nomination and grant of the grand award of “Goldene Bild der Frau”, one of the most famous and largest women s magazine in Germany, was a wonderful experience, and a progress in construction work of the third house making more rooms of the ground and first floor ready and habitable.
As special surprise for Harriet at the award evening, the editorial staff of “Bild der Frau” had invited the African Angel girl Veronica and matron Mama Dora to Germany. This journey was of course a highlight for both of them; they flew for the first time, slept in hotel for the first time, saw Germany for the first time. They visited friends, as the Ghanaian Ambassador to Germany, H.E. Paul Aryene, and the German association office.
As award winner Harriet was stormily greeted when back in Ghana, and according Ghanaian tradition she was pelted with wheat (maybe comparable to the European tradition to pelt rice at bridal couples?) The children enjoyed touching the beautiful award figure, even if most of them did not understand.
The following visit of the co-sponsors of the prize money, company Jacobs, at African Angel was also bringing much joy to the children, and the visitors!
Thanks to the continuous completion…
Thanks to the continuous completion of the third House and the use of the finished first floor Harriet was able to house currently new children from Bukom enabling her to celebrate the 10-year anniversary day of African Angel with 73 children, toast with a bottle of coke or lemonade for everyone!
Nach 10 Jahren spürte Harriet auch selbst, wie nachhaltig und langfristig ihre Vision angelegt ist, denn in diesem Jahr kamen African Angel Kinder der 1. Stunde in die 13. Klasse, und würden in wenigen Monaten ihre Prüfungen zum Abitur ablegen.
After 10 years of hard work Harriet slowly realised how sustainable and long-term operating her vision was, because in 2012 four African Angel children of the first hour would graduate college. How big had “her” children have been during the years, and how many are they now. Nevertheless, her main work in 2012 was finish of construction of the third house, because with now 70 children it became tight in the existing buildings.
The anniversary party was celebrated in October 2012 in Düsseldorf, with Music and lots of friends, Happy Birthday and go on African Angel!
In January 2013, after her…
In January 2013, after her return from Ghana, Harriet fand a letterbox scaring her a little bit, a very official looking white envelope sent from Berlin. After opening her breath caught, Harriet Bruce Annan awarded Federal Cross of Merit! Obviously, it took some time after Harriet was able to call her board members, who could not understand her words correctly while her voice was screaming; she was so excited and happy!
Federal Cross of Merit, the recognition of a very special life. “Former cleaner is awarded Federal Cross of Merit” wrote a newspaper (rp online) at 2013 March, 8.
This high recognition of our founder and board means also a tribute to African Angel e.V., for the hard work of many years. That s why Harriet accepted the Federal Cross in the name of all African Angels and the children of Bukom.
For African Angel it is…
For African Angel it is essential that sponsors and donators are secure about application of funds, beside the unique possibility to visit the project in Ghana personally, if wanted at any time.
Therefore, end of 2012 the board of African Angel applied for the DZI seal of approval for the business years 2010 and 2011, allocated in April 2013.
The years 2012 and 2013 are currently under consideration at the DZI authority in Berlin for prolongation.
The former underprivileged slum children…
The former underprivileged slum children housed by African Angel did not need any motivation for learning. The children instinctively know, or sense, their unique chance. They are thirsty for knowledge, diligent and use their talents.
No wonder, the first four young students graduated college in spring 2013. In addition, of course with excellent score! The four boys had started school at the age of 11 respectively 12 years, and they really did it! Among them one of the deadly ill children, who required treatment after the first medical examination 12 years ago….
As a matter of course, Harriet wanted to enable them all possible options of education, including university degree. Unfortunately, Ghana does not have enough universities. The situation is desperate, every year 200.000 college graduates cannot start studies due lack of university places!
Harriet developed the concept enable the four boys a university study at feasible expenses at Ukraine. She had made the experience with her own son, who had already studied medicine since some years over there.
In October 2013 the first four African Angel students travelled from Accra to Donezk to start their university education, while nobody could suspect then how badly things would develop in East-Ukraine short time after.
After a successful preparation year…
After a successful preparation year (learning Russia language and first studies) the students had to return to Accra from Donezk in Mai 2014, continuing their studies with the second University year in Kiev in August 2014.
Easy said but hard to do. If Harriet had not travelled to Kiev for a few weeks in summer 2014, the change of university from Donezk to Kiev would not had happened. Not for our African Angel students, nor for many other foreign students affected by the civil war in East Ukraine. Harriet negotiated with universities, but she also managed to receive an official assignment from the Ukrainian minister for education addressed to the West-Ukraine universities. Without her activity, the ongoing of studies would have become in question.
Today we are hoping on donations enabling us to finance their studies also in the future. Thank you for your help!
The third house was finally completed in spring 2014, and until end of the year 85 children were housed at African Angel.
Also the new project “Vocational training centre” made small progress in 2014. However, due to drastically increased prices for material and wages the construction site stagnated time after time. When the vocational training centre is ready, it will enable 8 young men from Bukom each ½ year to be trained as mechanic. The products of the workshop will be marketed by young Bukom girls learning the profession of “market woman” at the same time. Young people from Bukom should have the chance to learn a job to make their living breaking the wheel of poverty.
At last, in spring 2015…
At last, in spring 2015 it happened. Harriet had always plan to shelter 100 children from Bukom, for a new home and a future in their own country. Housing 15 new children from Bukom, her dream number is actually caught.
However, worries are there. Because children become grown-ups, and so again 5 young African Angel students graduated college this spring. All of them have best results qualified for university. Among them the first four girls, Harriet’s proud!
Although at the moment African Angel does not have the funds to enable their studies, so we are asking for your help. Support our donation campaign STUDY!
A reason for worries are also the continuously increasing living costs in Ghana. This bad trend exists since 2013, but the situation is going worse. The expenses for the African Angel Cottages have increased from 2012 to 2013 about 100%, and the following years show the same tendency.
Harriet is determined to counteract this development by farming food, fruit, vegetables and crop in the African Angel Farm garden. There is space for farming around the site of vocational training centre, and the first seeds and plants are already set in the ground.
Now the farm has to be made arable, and most important, irrigated!
Therefore, 2015 is dedicated to “well sinking” because without water there is no farming and no harvest! Please note our donation campaign “well sinking”!
Thank you for your support!