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Hickling Christian’s help for overseas schools

Hickling builder Harvey Gibbons set up the charity HOPE 26 years ago to help schools in developing countries, which has impacted the lives of many people. The charity is currently working with schools in Ghana, and would welcome any support.

It was after two trips to Romania with Lenny Grimes, a Norfolk electrician, to voluntarily improve medical centres in Romania, that Hickling Methodist Harvey Gibbons, a local builder by trade, decided to form the charity HOPE in 1993. The charity’s vision was to build educational infrastructure that would improve the lives of people in third world countries.
Harvey’s blueprint was to visit and assess potential projects, and recruit local Norfolk trades people and others to voluntarily work on the schemes. To make sure that all the money raised by the charity was spent on the people in need, Harvey and the volunteers all stayed locally and completed the projects with help from local people.
HOPE has successfully completed assignments in Romania, India, Sri Lanka and Ghana, as well as supplying books, computers and general school equipment. The charity also helps to sponsor children that cannot access education through the lack of funds. They are now concentrating on schemes in the city of Wa, in the sub Saharan North-West of Ghana.
Harvey started on the projects after receiving a phone call from Blathnaid Crilly. A friend of his daughter Fiona, they had worked together on a project in Dubai. Blathnaid, who was working in a remote rural area of Ghana for Voluntary Services Overseas, asked HOPE if they could help with resources, as the school she was working in was devoid of basic equipment.
HOPE sent her around £500 worth of books and stationery. Blathnaid then encouraged Harvey to look at projects in Ghana, which resulted in HOPE taking on a project in Mangu.
The Friends of Mangu web site says. “In 2009, Friends of Mangu recruited the services of a Norfolk based charity, HOPE, to help complete the project. A group of volunteers from their charity visited Mangu and, in the space of two weeks, installed electric lighting and power sockets and decorated all parts of the school. They followed this up with a consignment of school furniture and computers. The school has been so successful that the number of pupils has increased to a point where there is now a need for additional classrooms, and teachers are looking for redeployment into the school, instead of out of it!”
The local university now shares access to computers and the power supply created resulted in a night school being set up which raised the literacy rate in the area from 20% to 80% in two years. “Following the success of the Mangu project, HOPE received a considerable amount of publicity in Wa, and several other schools expressed a wish for our help” Harvey said.
Harvey went to Wa to assess the most suitable project, and focussed on Bishops High where he started the work in October 2012. They renovated the classrooms and provided a computer centre. The volunteers sponsored many of the children’s schooling, as education is not free in Ghana, as well as equipping the school football team. This was followed up in 2014 by the renovation of classrooms and another computer room at Nakora M/A primary school.
Harvey and Simon Gorton returned to Africa to assess another school, and in 2016 HOPE created a large dining/reception room at the first all-Girls High School North in Northern Ghana, where girls from Muslim and Christian families are educated happily together.
Harvey said “These ventures have a huge impact on local communities and are driven by volunteers from the Norfolk area. But we rely heavily on Ghanaians Mohamed and Razak who keep in touch with local people and officials. They help bring these projects together.”
HOPE is a very hands-on charity. All the cash raised is spent on the individual projects which are overseen by Harvey from start to finish. Volunteers pay for their flights and they all chip in to cover the cost of food which, in the main, is very cheap.
HOPE is planning projects in Ghana for 2019. If you would like to help HOPE bring hope to schools in Africa, or can support the charity, contact Harvey Gibbons on 01692-598725 or email him at gibbonshl@live.co.uk .

The picture of the Mangu class working outside while their new classroom is completed is courtesy of http://friendsofmangu.co.uk/

This story first appeared in Stalham’s Community Scene magazine.

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