Security officer George Kusi-Manu is returning to the impoverished Ghanaian school he attended almost 50 years ago to oversee construction of toilets for 100 children.
George is using two years’ worth of annual leave from his job at Lindum to spend three months back in Bonsua, the African village in which he was born.
He has already raised hundreds of pounds to pay for the toilets and has project managed the first part of the building work from his home in Lincoln.
But now he is flying back to the village in Ghana’s Offinso District to oversee construction, most of which is being carried out by parents of the pupils at the school.
George, who left the school aged 15 and came to England in the 80s, said he was compelled to help after hearing how both pupils and teachers were forced to use nearby bushes as toilets.
“A few years ago I decided to make contact with my old school to see how it was getting on. I spoke to the head teacher and he told me that the pupils were really enthusiastic but that they were struggling as the community was still so poor,” he said.
“Firstly he told me how ICT was difficult as they had no computers. He said staff were teaching by drawing computer screens on blackboards and showing pupils where the different keys would be.
“I decided to raise money to send them two computers and they were so happy when they arrived, although it turned out they didn’t have any electricity to plug them in. I spoke to the neighbouring medical centre and they agreed to let the school use their supply, so I arranged for cables and electricity poles to be installed.
“Once the computers were up and running, I had another conversation with the head teacher and asked if there was any other way I could help. It was then he told me the school didn’t have any toilets and that everyone had to use the bushes if they needed to go.”
George researched how much it would cost to buy materials to build an outside toilet block and was given a quote of 15,000 GHS (equivalent to £2,000).
“The parents, most of whom are farmers, had agreed to carry out the work. This is quite usual in Ghana. It was actually my parents and their neighbours who built the school in the first place,” he added.
“I then spoke to some of my Ghanaian former school mates who have also moved to other parts of the country and we collected a few hundred pounds to get us underway but unfortunately we ran out of money quite quickly.
“I was telling my colleagues at Lindum about the project and my supervisor immediately donated £200 to get the work restarted. Then, when the company Board heard about it, they donated another £400, which means we can get it finished.”
George said helping to support the village he grew up in gives him a reason to smile every day.
“We were so poor growing up and it was only thanks to my teachers and the dedication of my parents that I managed to learn enough to pass the test to get into a high school in the city,” he said.
“This was almost unheard of in Bonsua and provided me with the platform to qualify for university and eventually moved to Russia and then London.
“I came to Lincoln after my marriage broke down and I lived in the YMCA in Monks Road and other places, while I trained as a teacher at Bishop Grot. I then worked in several schools in the East Midlands including Lincoln, Boston, Peterborough and Grimsby before a back injury forced me to look for other employment.
“A friend told me that Lindum was known to be a good employer and so I applied and I’ve been here since 2012.”
George is due to return from Ghana in April but said he will continue to help the school as much as possible.
“It would be good to install a tank on the roof of the toilets so the children don’t have to flush with a bucket of water when they have finished,” he added.
“Also, the school has a leaking roof, meaning the classrooms are flooded in rainy season. I would love to get enough money together to fix it for them.”
General Manager of Lindum Security, Barry Marks, said the team were proud of George and his commitment to improving the lives of children in Ghana.
“What he is doing is amazing,” he said. “George is so committed to helping his old school and doing whatever he can to support the families in Bonsua.
“The children have so little and the school building is so dilapidated. George is changing their lives with the work he is doing.
“We are really proud of him and look forward to seeing the photographs of the finished work when he comes back.”