Starting My Nonprofit at Age 22 – Interview with TANF Founder
There are few people like Rev. Laud K Akuffo. The founder of TANF Ghana, a grassroots NGO in Ghana providing access to education and healthcare to underprivileged children, turned his difficult upbringing into incredible strength and determination to help children who are facing the same challenges he once did. He founded his nonprofit right after college, with no money in the bank. The first year was not easy, he even got into debt, but his perseverance never failed. He knew that things would improve and he would be able to help even more children. He was right.
We -virtually- sat with Laud for this third GivingWay nonprofit interview to talk more about his story, TANF, and the current situation in Ghana.
Rev. Laud K. Akuffo
Can you tell us how it all began – when did you establish TANF Ghana and what motivated you to take action?
TANF Ghana’s story began 8 years ago. I was just 22 years old but full of ambition. There were many children in my community who were unable to go to school because of their underprivileged background. So many obstacles hindered their way to getting an education, and success later in life. Child labor in impoverished areas in Ghana is still prevalent. I had myself faced a lot of challenges during my youth and was involved in many different forms of child labor instead of going to school.
One day I asked myself, “What can I do to help people who have been going through similar challenges?”. Then, I thought to myself that “everyone can help the underprivileged, but it takes a victim of a similar situation, like me, to truly understand what it means to help the underprivileged”. I wanted to do something to give those children an opportunity to have a good life. I do believe that easy access to education and healthcare is a human right for every child you know. That’s how you break the cycle of poverty; with these two main foundations: access to education and healthcare.
With that in mind I registered my nonprofit TANF Ghana in 2012 and we started by helping only 5 children. Today we support 65 children; we provide all they need to be in school (and succeed!) as well as health insurance that we renew every year. TANF Ghana pays for their school tuition, lunch fees, school uniforms, books and other school supplies, etc. That way, we empower Ghanaian children to thrive through education, healthcare, and hope.
Today, TANF Ghana relies on the dedicated work of 5 volunteers that assist in our day-to-day activities.
TANF Ghana sponsor the education and healthcare of 65 children
What are the main objectives of TANF Ghana and what has been achieved over the years?
Our sponsorship program currently supports 65 children in their education and by providing them with healthcare services. Beyond our sponsorship program that is a very holistic long-term project, we also organize short-term projects and activities for a greater number of children. For example, we organized 5 Christmas parties for over 10 schools, with a total of 6,000+ beneficiaries. We also have free “vacation classes” (or summer school) attended by over 7,000 students.
As we believe in the importance of tackling every aspect of poverty for a child to succeed in life, we are also branching out and conducting adult-focused activities. We have helped 15 women kick start their business through microfinancing. We have also recently conducted health screenings for over 3,000 people in 5 communities.
While we are taking up new challenges, we also remain true to our core focus: enabling children to get an education. For that reason, our biggest project to date is to build our own school.
Indeed, many children are on our waiting list to go to school. We have purchased land to build our own school, where we will be able to accommodate and help over 400 children every year. We have not yet raised all the necessary funds, and will be more than happy if our partnership with GivingWay will contribute in any way possible to make this dream come through.
How has the Coronavirus crisis affected your work? What are the challenges it creates in the immediate, mid-term and long-term periods?
The lockdown has really affected our work; children are not going to school and will have a lot to catch up after the pandemic. We need to make sure that no child will be left behind in the process. We are not able to get volunteers to come assist in our day-to-day activities which is a big logistical challenge.
But beyond the scope of our organization, we are most worried about the community we serve. Many families in Ghana rely on roadside sales for their daily income. When people have to stay home and the roads are empty, there is simply no income, and no income means no food. There is no pantry or refrigerator full of food, no grocery store down the road. There is no government assistance, no savings, no other work. They have only themselves, and with their source of income cut off, starvation becomes a real threat. And in order to put food on the table, other needs go unmet, like soap, water, and sanitary pads. With a highly contagious virus spreading around the globe, basic hygiene supplies become essential but are often pushed at the bottom of priorities.
At TANF, we understand how vital it is to meet physical needs, and that is why we have launched our COVID-19 Relief Fund. This relief fund allows TANF Ghana to provide families with essentials like food, water, soap, and sanitary pads, and many more. We are also educating families about the coronavirus, and teaching proper handwashing techniques. During this uncertain time, families are given hope when they know TANF is there to help them get through it.
Laud and a volunteer distributing supplies as part of TANF COVID-19 relief effort
What consequences of this crisis are you most worried about?
We don’t know when our children will start going to school again, how they will catch up with their education and if all of them will be able to. As a whole, there is also a real concern over how badly will both our educational and health system here in Ghana be affected by this worldwide crisis. Vulnerable families are worried about the extend of the global crisis, will they be able to get by? How bad is it going to hit them?
Here in Ghana there are a lot of families who have gone, are going and will go through hardships (even more in the post-COVID-19 world), and for that reason, I keep asking myself: “what can I do to help those who are going through similar challenges I went through?”.
But my message is clear: “Hope has not yet ended”. Never give up! We can all make a positive difference in this world. I know that, with the necessary support, TANF has the possibility of growing to reach even more people. Follow us on this journey, as TANF continues to grow and touch more lives.
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