Look how far we have come: Ghana Union in retrospect 40 years on!

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Look how far we have come – Ghana Union in retrospect

The origins of Ghana Union can be traced to the old West African Students Union that was vibrant in the early part of the last century, when students on scholarships and private study alike, needed a supportive environment under which to thrive in a foreign land.  The organisation became a hot bed of nurturing community activism and political agitation, but after the independence movement, WASU disintegrated with no real successor.  The various High Commissions took over responsibility for students by setting up Education Departments and employing several welfare officers who provided support for the students.  The Ghana High Commission run a hostel at 3 Collingham Gardens mainly for Ghanaian students and the United Reformed Church, Presbyterian Church and Evangelical Presbyterian Church funded a Chaplaincy on a 4 year cycle that brought priests from Ghana to provide pastoral support for the students.

In the mid to late 1970s, the High Commission became aware of the growing number of Ghanaians in the UK who, were not students and therefore, did not benefit directly from services from the High Commission; it also noticed the increase in invitations to various events and functions by Ghanaians who were self-organising their own welfare and support services.

The Chaplaincy, then run by Reverend Ben Tettey, undertook a lot of preparatory work and facilitated discussions with these groups of Ghanaians to set up a formal organisation for Ghanaians that was arm’s length from the operation and influence, but would work hand in hand with the High Commission when required.

Ghana Union London was eventually registered as a charity in June 1980 with the charitable aims of

  • To relieve hardship and distress amongst Ghanaians in the United Kingdom and in Ghana.
  • To advance the education of Ghanaians and the public at large in the social and cultural traditions of Ghana

Rev. Ben Tettey was elected as the first Chairman of the organisation.  During this period the organisation operated from church premises in Islington and therefore it was able to secure funding from Islington Council to acquire premises at Caledonian Road pay towards its running costs and employ an administrator.

The pressing issue at the time was immigration and with the assistance of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, the organisation set up an immigration advisory service with several Ghanaian lawyers who gave their services pro bono.

The union also got involved in other services, specifically the operation of a printing press with donated equipment to print brochures, leaflets and cards.  It sought and received funding from the Greater London Council to train unemployed youth in printing services under the European Social Funding Scheme and started a literature project for young people.  It was as a result of these bold moves that the Islington African Project was set up as project of the Union to provide ESOL and other training for the ethnic minority communities of Islington and beyond.

Ghana Union responded to the housing issue by setting up a housing association, Atlantic Housing to provide housing to the needy and continued to do so till black housing associations became unfashionable.

After the Ghana1992 constitution was promulgated, Ghana Union was engaged in  a relentless battle to fight for Ghanaians abroad which included sending a delegation to Parliament to have the constitution amended to allow for dual citizenship.

Ade Sawyerr showing award to President Mahama and General Mosquito flanked by Mrs Albertina Planhar

There have been several notable achievements over the years

  • The reclaiming of the Independence Day Dinner Dance
  • Instituting a forum for engagement with government officials from Ghana
  • The publication of the Amanie Newsletter
  • The organisation of one of the most important durbars at Highbury Field
  • The operation of a senior citizen club
  • The operation of a Saturday school for young people
  • The Star Project
  • Community Awards

In 2007 Ghana Union changed its structure incorporating as a company limited by guarantee in 2007 which reinvigorated the organisation after the frequent changes in the funding regime that made it even more important to be self-sufficient.  It added on new objects that would make it more relevant to the Ghanaian community:

  • The advancement of the cultural heritage of Ghana among Ghanaians of all ages and the general public in the UK
  • The relief of those Ghanaians in need by reason of youth, age, gender, ill-health, disability, financial hardship or other disadvantage in Ghana and the UK

Today, Ghana union continues to play an even more important role in the lives of the Ghanaian community as it keeps alive and chases the major challenge of setting up a community hub. This facility will provide a true ‘village hall’ for Ghanaians to congregate and offer support to each other as well as to share successful  and joyous occasions.

Ghana Union remains committed to providing support to its community and determined that it will identify and rewards Ghanaians in the community who provide meritorious and voluntary services to their compatriots.

Running the Union has always been an important activity for which the voluntary members of the executive committee need to be applauded. Without them the objectives of the organisation would have remained on paper, the many activities difficult to complete and there would have been no achievements to boast of.  So even though we cannot mention the names of all who have in various ways helped to steer the ship of the organisation, we must recognise the chairs

  • Reverend Ben Tettey 1980 – 1988
  • Jacob Siaw  1988 – 1992
  • Alex Daniels 1992 -1997
  • Ade Sawyerr – 1997 – 2001
  • Ima Plahar – 2001 – 2006
  • Kwame Adu- 2006 –  2012
  • Danny Oppong 2012 – 2013
  • Emmanuel Quayson – 2013 – present

Fumtumfunafu denkyem funafu, woom aforo bom nan so worididia ne wom a kum

Ade Sawyerr Chairman 1997-2001 with Emmanuel Quayson Present Chairman

Ade Sawyerr

Ex- Chairman 1997 – 2001

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The Matters Arising blog is a collection of thought-provoking, thought-leadership pieces sprinkled with some blue-sky thinking on pertinent issues affecting African communities both in the diaspora and at home. It includes articles on culture, politics, social and economic advancement, diversity and inclusion, community cohesion topics. It is also a repository of the political history of Ghana, traditions of the Gadagme people of Ghana, and the Pan-African politics of Kwame Nkrumah. Read, enjoy, like, share, and join!

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