On a world trip in 2003, Learn Grow Lead Co-Founder, Erin Douglas met Stephen Dankwah, a Ghanaian working at the Cape Coast Castle. Stephen’s story and his vision of helping orphaned, trafficked and other disadvantaged children enroll and stay in school through senior high school and beyond, deeply resonated with Erin.
Due to the loss of Stephen’s father at a young age, he spent school vacations working on cacao and food crop farms to support his family. In 1989, Stephen was trafficked to Cape Coast, where he was promised education and a good job, but instead found a life of indentured servitude forced to work for free. In 1994, a sympathetic friend found a job for Stephen at the Cape Coast Castle. With dedication and hard work, Stephen rose from employment as a laborer to become a senior museum guard and tour guide.
Stephen’s passion to help children in need is immeasurable. After noticing that there were many children around Cape Coast Castle, selling ice chips or working in the fishing industry, he decided to dedicate his life to helping these children. He single handedly funded the education of 27 children for a year with his small salary. Stephen himself has three children, two of whom he adopted.
Erin’s heart melted and she was forever changed and committed to serving the kids. Since 2003, Erin Douglas and her U.S. friends began fundraising bi-annually to help pay school fees for the children. Their donations went to the Children Helpers Foundation (CHF), an NGO established in Cape Coast by Stephen and local advisors, to serve the area’s population of orphaned and neglected children. Besides paying for education, CHF provides vacation classes, cultural dance classes, educational tours and simple entertainment for the children. Once a student has graduated, CHF takes measures to help them continue their education beyond high school and find them suitable employment.
In 2013, Anika Jackson, along with Erin, formed the non-profit organization Learn Grow Lead to continue supporting CHF and their sustainability projects in Ghana and ultimately make a long-term impact on global poverty by supporting projects in developing countries that empower young people to get an education and achieve a sustainable livelihood.
Learn Grow Lead, currently serves over 125 children annually through the Children Helpers Foundation. In 2014 and 2015 Learn Grow Lead seed funded the Helpers Farm as a sustainability plan for CHF and the Shashiri Orphanage for 24 CHF children who had previously been living on the streets.
Learn Grow Lead has begun reviewing projects in other areas of the world in need of support and aims to expand their reach to others in need.