- Group:London Air Cadets – 282 (East Ham) Squadron
- Age:16-32 years old
- Group Size:12 cadets and 7 leaders
- Project:Building & Community
- Destination:Akuapem Hills, Ghana
In 2017, 282 (East Ham) Squadron embarked on an adventure to help some very special young lives; those of children who resided in an orphanage in the hills of Ghana. The success of this expedition was huge and the cadets made a positive impact to many lives across the Akuapem Hills.
The initial idea was developed by one of the squadron officers, Flying Officer Billy Moore, following a few overseas expeditions to India which were operated by the Officer Commanding 282 squadron, Flight Lieutenant Chris Booty. He wished to make an impact on his cadets and a vision of a similar expedition came to light, one like he had many years ago that had a huge impact on him as a young adult.
From the success of previous expeditions, the squadron vowed to once again give the fantastic opportunity to more young people of East London and equip them with life skills; a sense of community, teamwork, volunteering, and opening their eyes to a different (and very interesting) culture, to name just a few…
The Squadron received a huge interest from its cadets. With over 80 cadets attending at East Ham, selection was hard. Interviews and a selection day sifted through the candidates. Cadets and staff attended a mixture of training days and weekends to cover areas such as community work, fitness, medical arrangements, and teamwork.
After months of hard work and fundraising, twelve cadets and seven leaders travelled to Akuapem Hills, Ghana in July to carry out two week’s volunteering work.
What they did
The cadets worked at the Trinity Home in the Akuapem Hills, 1 hour from the capital city of Accra. Through donations, the Trinity Home began work on constructing a library for the local children a number of years ago that would also act as a safe place for the children to learn and study, as well as to provide a safe and dry centre for them to socialise and learn through the many rain showers that pass overhead. It’s safe to say that this became very apparent when the group began working! Sadly though, the donations ran out and construction ceased, leaving behind just the bare outside walls of where the library would be. After Projects Abroad heard of this, we took it in our stride to send some volunteers to help finish this project. This is when Flight Lieutenant Chris Booty and the 282 (East Ham) Squadron of the Royal Air Force Cadets stepped in.
During the first week the volunteers made traditional mud building blocks, laid bricks and plastered during the day, followed by games and activities with the children in the evening. In the second week the floors were screeded, paintings and murals were created and desks and bookshelves were crafted. This was of course followed with more games and activities with the children in the afternoons and evenings when everyone was resting, or when the weather took a turn for the worst!
Aside from working at the school, the group also got to spend their time doing varied activities in the surrounding area. These included visiting the Aburi Botanical Garden, having drumming lessons, Ghanaian cooking lessons and having breakfast at Castle Restaurant followed by a visit to Cape Coast Castle.
The group were also able to explore various sites of incredible natural beauty and wildlife such as the Kakum National Park and the Shai Hills Forest Reserve.
In order for the project to take place, the Cadets and leaders had to fundraise through many creative ideas. The majority of the funds were donated by means of grants. The cadets were grateful for the support of The Jack Petchey Foundation, Lord Stuart Rose, The RAF Charitable and Singleton Trust, and Kingsford Community School.
“I didn't think I would make it. Raising the money was hard, but I was determined to get to Ghana and help the kids and their community”
Fundraising included taking part in the Sponsored Prudential Ride London bike ride, community bag packs, assisting the community with car boot sales, school fetes, Krispy Kreme sales and cleaning event spaces.
It was tight, but all money was raised two weeks before the expedition took place. Everyone met their target and all helped each other get there. It was a fantastic team effort. The team raised an extra £600 which was used to increase the project budget and treat the local children to ‘goodies’ and more books for their new library.
Flight Lieutenant Chris Booty RAFAC - Officer Commanding 282 (East Ham) Squadron, RAF Air CadetsChris Booty and his group
“Up until our arrival, the group had worked so hard to get themselves to Ghana, from fundraising to training, they were going to make it happen! I knew they would embrace the culture and do their best to make a positive change. Venturing out of their comfort zone, it was going it be a big adventure for them which is what it is all about! We had the perfect team to make that change; to complete a community project and put smiles on children's faces who compared to the cadets, lead very basic lives.
The Akuapem Hills expedition will be one that the team will never forget. It was tough, it was demanding, it was hot, but it brought the best out of the team and brought little tears with it. They stamped their mark on the happiest country in Africa and put forward the best of the RAF Air Cadets. Finally, they put smiles on some very special lives.”
“I am not sure what my expectations were of Ghana before I went.. It was a real eye-opener for me. Working with the kids was great. The smallest things to what we think are insignificant made them smile. We gave them toys and they loved it. It brought a tear to our eyes. It hit home then at how we take things for granted and how lucky we were. The community project was worth-while”
“Ghana was an amazing opportunity to broaden my horizons and open my eyes to a different way of life. By living and working so closely with locals during the project, myself and the cadets were able to develop a greater understanding of how people are making the most of what they have, however limited. Since returning I have considered the things I have and now appreciate them far more than when I left. I am sure this is the case for the cadets. The Air Cadets certainly do foster the spirit of adventure!”
Cadet Sergeant Zuzanna Zapart
“The moment I heard a expedition to Ghana was taking place, I wanted to get involved! More so because the project was to help children. Although I only made a small difference, I feel like I have achieved something great!”
“I wanted to actually help raise the aspirations and ambitions of kids who were of the same age as my brother and had barely a fraction of what he has today. I learnt how much of a difference we made to those kids life at the school when they showed their gratitude through there smiles and hugs which I think is fair to say had the whole team in tears”
Cadet Sergeant Brad Espinoza
“I am very proud of what I achieved by going out there and I’m happy that the children now have a better place to learn”
“We were a team! We started together, we finished together”
This case study may include references to working in or with orphanages. Find out more about Projects Abroad's current approach to volunteering in orphanages and our focus on community-based care for children.
If you would like to learn more about Building & Community in Ghana then please click here.
Alternatively, if you would like to learn more about our other Building projects then please click here.