A Visit to Great Vision School with Opportunity International

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This is a guest post by Gareth Simpson, Director of Philanthropy and Strategic Partnerships, Opportunity International.

Great Vision School Classroom Built with a Loan from Opportunity International

Great Vision School Classroom Built with a Loan from Opportunity International

In September 2014 I was fortunate to visit Opportunity International’s programmes in Ghana, where the charity supports 70,000 small businesses with microloans and provides savings facilities to over 375,000 poor Ghanaians.

In Ghana, education is highly valued, as many know that a child with an education is more likely to break the cycle of poverty. But the Government’s State schools are bursting at the seams and the youth population is growing rapidly. In response, many community leaders and retired teachers are establishing community schools.

I visited Great Vision School – only a short distance from the major town of Kumasi but the roads were bumpy, winding and dusty making it feel like a different world altogether.

The head teacher of Great Vision, Samuel, founded the school in 2008 as a response to the lack of quality education in his home community. Samuel has worked with Opportunity International to grow the school and he now has 800 pupils.

Samuel knows the responsibility he has and his teaching staff were smartly dressed and enthusiastic to teach. The facilities were basic but the children had a hunger to learn and Samuel made a point of ensuring every child could access text booksAll of this combined was getting great results. Great Vision had ranked fifth in the region’s exams – with all 22 children who sat exams passing.

Great Vision School children receiving text books on first day of term

Great Vision School children receiving text books on first day of term

For those children and those still learning at Great Vision, a brighter future is ahead of them – all made possible by the hard work and determination of Samuel and his team and supporters like you.

Thank you.

How New Farming Techniques Are Helping Me

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Lucy Banda, Smallholder Farmer, Anchor Farm Project

Lucy Banda, Smallholder Farmer, Malawi

A Guest Blog by Lucy Banda, Smallholder Farmer, Anchor Farm Project

I first learned about the Anchor Farm in 2012 after a visit to a friend’s field. It was just before harvest. Upon walking through her field I noticed how strong, healthy, and productive her maize and soya crops were. She told me about the project, and how it had helped her improve her crop yields. I wanted to have healthier crops too.

It was then that I joined the project. Lustia, the field officer who works for the Clinton Development Initiative in my village, has taught me to use new farming techniques to help improve my soil, make my land more productive, and increase yields of my crops.

Before joining the Anchor Farm Project, I produced about twenty-two 50 kg bags of maize and four to six 50 kg bags of soya beans each year. After the second growing season with the Anchor Farm Project, my annual production of maize increased to sixty 50 kg bags and my annual soya bean harvest to thirty-seven 50 kg bags, which has increased my yearly income from $50 to $750.

Now, with this extra income, I have been able to build a new house and purchase a solar panel that brings light into my home, which enables my children to study at night. After the second growing season with the Anchor Farm Project, my income increased further, and I was able to buy an ox cart – one of only seven ox carts in my village of more than 500 people. I also bought one full-grown ox to draw the cart, and one younger ox, which will soon be old enough to draw the cart too.

This year, I hope to increase my soya production, finish my house by pouring a concrete floor to replace my current dirt floor, and buy a vehicle. Having a vehicle will help me and others in my village access markets to buy and sell goods and reach hospitals for health care. I now serve as secretary of my local farmers’club which hosts demonstrations of new farming techniques, so I can help other farmers improve their crops and incomes so they can better support their families too.

The Anchor Farm Project is an initiative set up by the Clinton Foundation. The Project aims to ensure food security for over 21,000 farmers and their families in Malawi, Africa. The project benefits from £500,000 in funding from players of People’s Postcode Lottery.

From Amsterdam to Antenna: Putting the Green Challenge winner on display

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By Corrinne Burns, Contemporary Science Content Developer, Science Museum, London

The Gashouder

The Gashouder is a unique event venue

When my boss sent me to a disused gas storage tank in the heart of industrial Amsterdam, I briefly thought she’d taken leave of her senses. But I needn’t have worried: these days the Gashouder, as it’s called, is a unique event venue. On the 11th September, it hosted the final of the People’s Postcode Lottery Green Challenge 2014. The ultimate winner of the Challenge, as you might know, was Bio-Bean – a London-based start-up who turn coffee waste into green fuel.

I was in the audience, representing London’s Science Museum. In the weeks running up to the ceremony, our Contemporary Science team had decided that we wanted to put the winner’s technology on display in our science news gallery, Antenna.

Antenna Topic Zone Environment

Antenna Topic Zone Environment

This posed a challenge. We like to be first to break a science news story, so we wanted to get the Green Challenge winner on display as soon as possible – within three days.

To put that into context, it normally takes a few weeks to complete an exhibit like this. We have to really understand the science behind the story we want to tell. We’ll talk to the scientists involved, as well as a few independent experts. This helps us write a balanced story. We also need to borrow eye-catching objects for the display and physically install them – it’s a museum, after all.

BioBean's Display

BioBean's Display

Thing is, when we’re planning a display, we usually know what the story is going to be about! This time, we didn’t. We only knew that it would be one of the five finalists who had made it to the ceremony in Amsterdam.

So how could we plan a display when we didn’t know what it would be about? Simple – we planned five displays, one for each finalist! That way, as soon as we knew who the winner was, we could be ready to go.

That’s how I came to be sitting in a giant Dutch gas tank, popcorn in one hand and phone in the other, waiting for the announcement. Although any of the five finalists would have been deserving of investment, the ultimate winner was Bio-Bean. Arthur Kay, the company’s CEO, had won the jury over with his presentation.

The moment Bio-Bean’s win was announced, I called home and set the Museum wheels in motion. Our designers started planning how the display would look. My colleagues Georgie and Sharon began writing labels for the display and sourcing nice photos to go with it. I caught up with Arthur for an interview, which is now part of the display, and he gave me some great items to show our visitors – fuel pellets and a sample of diesel, both made from spent coffee. You’d never guess, to look at the fuels, that they’re made from a product most of us think of as waste.

BioBean Display in Case

BioBean Display in Case

Finally, I jumped back on the late night Eurostar ready to be back at my Museum desk the next day. We had a display to make! And, right on target, we did it in three days. If you come to the Antenna gallery in the Science Museum you can see it for yourself. You can also read about Bio-Bean and my interview with Arthur online – I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section.