Ghana trip changed Fareham couple's lives
When Lloyd Clewer first visited Ghana in 2003, he had no idea what it would lead to.
But he was so touched by the daily struggles of the communities in the African country that it led to a huge lifestyle change.
Now, the 59-year-old and his wife Karen, 54, have set up a charity to support those in need in third world countries across the globe.
And they have even downsized their home, at Stubbington, to help pay for it.
Farm4Life has gone from strength to strength, building stronger communities and giving children a future.
Lloyd visited Jamestown, in Accra, with a church group, and was struck by the desperation of people living there.
At the end of 2003, the first container full of goods to help the communities was sent, with another charity, to begin supporting farmers and helping them to grow their crops. But it soon became clear that it was difficult to support the farming community.
Karen says: ‘The farmer became ill and in their culture if the man who runs the farm becomes ill no one else will run the land.’
Lloyd says: ‘There were staff issues and trust issues as well. The only reason we are successful now is because we have found someone we can trust.
‘It’s hard to find people like that because they are so desperate.’
Now, the couple have found a man they can trust who takes responsibility for the containers when they arrive.
In 2007, a school opened in the area they had been supporting. They now run a scheme within the charity called Education4life.
‘We saw that there was a need for a school for the children,’ Karen says.
‘When we first got there, the children were just running wild. They had no idea how to interact with people.
‘We started a school with just more than 100 people. In this particular village there was no way the children were going to go to school.
‘There are some children who still won’t go even though it’s free. But it’s about having a fine balance.
‘We try to keep to their culture. We don’t want to interrupt their way of thinking. We try to keep the village as traditional as we can.’
The charity also supports children with disabilities and special needs – something many people in Ghana can’t afford to deal with, or simply don’t know how to.
‘Out there, there is stigma attached to having a disability – whether you have it from birth or develop it as a child. If you’ve got four or five children and one of them is disabled, it is a burden,’ Karen says.
And there are many issues that crop up which you simply wouldn’t encounter back in the UK.
‘The headteacher might be off ill with malaria,’ Lloyd says. ‘That happens a lot.
‘So many people I knew, who I counted as friends, have passed away because they haven’t got the quality of life that we have.
‘But that’s why we do what we do. We are so blessed here.
‘We do have our challenges,’ says Karen.
‘Malaria is the biggest killer of children and the elderly. We’ve lost teachers as well.’
Lloyd and Karen send out a hugely varied amount of supplies – from school desks, filing cabinets, chairs and shelving to wheelchairs and crutches.
They also send sports equipment to encourage communities to get involved in sport, including cricket and volleyball equipment and even canoes.
That’s done through a scheme they set up called Sportz4all.
The charity is based in the grounds of Haslar Hospital, Gosport, where there is a great deal of unused space they can use as a warehouse.
They send out between two to three 40ft containers a year to Ghana – and it costs £6,000 each time.
And although Ghana is where it all began, the charity also supports communities in other countries, including The Gambia, Ivory Coast and as far east as The Philippines.
In Ghana, the charity is funding the construction of a building which will become a kindergarten school.
There will also be a welfare centre which will enable doctors and nurses from the local hospital to hold clinics.
‘We are looking after the ones who can’t look after themselves,’ Lloyd says.
Lloyd travels out to Ghana two or three times a year and there is a trustee from the charity who flies out there every two to three months .
So what does it mean to the couple knowing what a huge difference they are making to people’s lives?
Karen says, ‘It’s great to see things materialise.’
‘I don’t get paid for this,’ Lloyd adds. ‘I do this for the love of what I do. When I know that I have been instrumental in helping someone then money isn’t the issue. Satisfaction is a wage in itself.
‘We are able to get this stuff and give it to someone who can use it.’
In 2015, the charity organised the building of a new school in Ghana, thanks to a £26,000 trust fund they were given.
But how has this impacted on their lives?
The couple, who have two grown-up children together, had to sell their home and buy a smaller property in Stubbington.
Lloyd was working but decided to give it all up while Karen still works part-time.
‘We live a simple life,’ Lloyd adds.
‘I didn’t want to get old and wish I had done something.
‘It’s not easy because there are things that we would like.
‘But we are now so used to having very little.
‘‘We are nothing special at all. I’ve got no real skills.
‘We have been fortunate in life. We are able to give something back to others.’
WHAT DOES FARM4LIFE DO?
Farm4Life works predominantly in Ghana to provide people with relief from financial hardship and social and economic disadvantage.
In addition to advancing the educational life of young people and adults, the charity works to provide opportunities for people to fully participate in the life of their community.
The charity does this in ways which address and alleviate social and economic disadvantage.
Supported by other trustees and friends, and in partnership with other organisations, both in the UK and Ghana, Farm4Life currently runs several projects in Ghana.
The charity is always looking for volunteers to support them and donations of goods which could be of use in the communities they support.
If you think you could help, please visit farm4life.org.