Saving children from the streets
“We were always running and hiding. We had to be vigilant because if we got caught we would be beaten.”
Siva Vordzorgbe was just eight years old when he found himself living on the streets in Ghana. Today Siva, aged 36, is the founder of an organisation called The Young Shall Grow International. It was Easter Sunday and Siva was recounting his story to a group of 16 volunteers. It was their eighth day of a 10-day project. The group until this point had already experienced the hardships faced by children going to school in the Keta municipality of the country, situated around three hours’ drive from the capital city, Accra.
Siva described how he would move between marketplaces in a desperate bid to find food. Beatings were commonplace, as was being exploited for cheap labour should the wrong group of people catch any homeless children. It was almost inevitable that Siva’s life would fall into the wrong hands. Beaten and weary he began working on a farm in horrendous conditions. He was only 12 years old.
Siva eventually returned to the streets and received numerous further blows until finally there was an upturn in his fortunes. He began working for a farmer again, but this time kindness did prevail. In fact after a couple of years, the farmer rewarded Siva with some land for all his efforts.
“I farmed to pay for my school fees and actually first went to school when I was 14, so I learnt to read and write with some children who were six years old. I look back and smile now.”
Siva hasn’t forgotten the many other children he met on the streets and, still to this day, he goes out to find and save them from this kind of life.
Volunteering in Africa
With his charity, Siva wanted to provide children with the opportunities that he never had. So he partnered with African Adventures in 2013 to help realise his dream.
African Adventures works in a rural, deprived area of Ghana where there are limited prospects for children, with the main industries being fishing and agriculture. The link with The Young Shall Grow International is focused on the provision of opportunity for children through education.
African Adventures has already organised trips for over 20 football league clubs and specialises in providing sports enrichment programmes for community sports trusts to volunteer in Africa. The organisation has helped community sports trusts to raise over £500,000 for their various causes through innovative fundraising programmes.
One of those sports trusts is Burton Albion Community Trust in the United Kingdom. As Burton is the headquarters for Pirelli in the UK, there is a strong link between the Company, Burton Albion Football Club and the Community Trust side – and that’s how a remarkable link between Pirelli and the deserving children of Africa was born.
Burton goes to Ghana
This Easter, Pirelli UK took its support of the annual Burton Albion Community Trust trip to Africa to another level.
For the past few years, Pirelli employees have committed funds that have enabled Burton Albion Community Trust volunteers to travel to Africa to take part in various community projects, such as building houses and volunteering in schools.
This year, 16 volunteers travelled to the Volta region of Ghana. Four Pirelli UK employees were among the contingent: Lisa Jones, Danny Bowles, Michelle Davies, and Tom Tilbe. The cost for a place on the trip was £2,500. Pirelli committed to giving the quartet £1500 each, with the remaining balance raised by the employees through a variety of sponsorship activities.
“The depths of poverty that we experienced leaves an everlasting mark,” said Lisa Jones, one of the volunteers from Pirelli. “It’s unthinkable that in 2019 families are still living without the basics like water and adequate toilet facilities. It’s heart-breaking; especially when you compare it to standards back home. Being part of this experience has certainly opened my eyes. I just hope that organisations trying to improve the places we have seen continue to get the support that they require.”
Volunteers followed a dedicated 10-day programme, participating in teaching and building projects at a local school in Tegbi, and supporting a local female football team.
The contingent also ventured out to a couple of very remote villages and were responsible for the distribution of donations (clothing, sanitary towels, books and toys) that they had brought across from home.
There are very few experience you can have these days that are genuinely life-changing. But this was one of them.