FREED to transform the lives of children

The only indication of the function of the room is the word "library" scrawled on a piece of masking tape above the doorway.

Inside there are boxes and books scattered haphazardly amongst mouse-drop ridden shelves and a pile of yellowing newspapers stacked precariously in the corner.

This was the sight presented to a team of Northamptonshire volunteers when they first arrived at Nandom Hospital medical library in Ghana.

But within a week the room had been transformed with a full wall of bookcases, categorised books and journals, and even a fiction section for lighter reading.

The work was carried out by a team of 20 volunteers working for charity FREED UK, set up by dental surgeon Dery Tuopar from Kettering.

Mr Tuopar grew up in Nandom before coming to university in the UK where he has worked ever since. He currently works at Kettering General Hospital and Northampton General Hospital maxillofacial units. Despite becoming used to western comforts Mr Tuopar continues to return regularly to his hometown and fundraises to develop health and education in the Nandom region.

He works closely with FREED UK secretary Anne Hicks, a clinical nurse specialist from Higham Ferrers. During their recent trip to Ghana, they helped to set up the hospital medical library, commission a kitchen at Nandom Hospital and complete the construction of a borehole at the hospital farm.

Mr Tuopar added: "The impact has been absolutely huge. The hospital has been so busy because they know about the work we are doing. People are now moving away from traditional methods of treatment and coming to the hospital which is now a centre of excellence.

"All of the other projects have been absolutely fantastic and the team has achieved so much, we even got coverage in a national Ghanaian newspaper."

Miss Hicks, who works at Northampton General Hospital, was tasked with kitting out the new library with medical books.

She said: "There are books here that I brought over the very first time I came to Ghana six years ago, and they have just been sitting at the bottom of a box. Now they have lots of shelving to store the books and they can actually see what they have. It will be an excellent resource for the trainee nurses FREED UK sponsors but also for all hospital staff."

The second project to be completed by FREED UK on their November trip to Ghana was the construction of a 4,600 borehole at a farm used to provide food to the regional hospital.

Tests from the borehole revealed that the water was safe to drink and the pressure was strong enough to irrigate four square acres.

Miss Hicks said: "The original aim was just to be able to water the crops so it is a real bonus that the farmers can have drinking water as well. The nearest borehole is two miles away so this will improve their quality of life and ease of access to water in more ways than one."

Further tests will be carried out on the minerals in the water to give the farmers precise information on the best crops to grow. Once the crops are harvested the food will be sold to the hospital kitchen so it does not have to rely on more expensive supplies transported from outside the region.

The farm will also provide jobs for local people and the borehole has built-in water troughs to provide drinking water to livestock.

There is also the potential to develop the farm and provide running water for nearby Ko A Primary School.

Miss Hicks explained: "Because the borehole has strong pressure, for a further 4,000 we could construct an irrigation system for the farm. We could also pipe the water one mile away to the primary school so they could have a tap with running water. This would cost a further 2,000, with the local people building the trench for the pipes.

"What we have done at this stage makes all these other steps possible, it doesn't restrict us at all. The only restriction is money."

The third completed project was the hospital kitchen which has been under development since 2007. During the recent trip FREED UK finished the interior of the building and officially opened it for use. The kitchen and canteen is now being used to provide food to patients and staff, plus schools in the wider community.

The aim of the kitchen is to reduce the number of people cooking meals on the bare grounds of the hospital to feed their sick relatives and to improve nutrition to help recovery rates. With no kitchen in the past, patients suffered from malnutrition and would sometimes die after successful operations due to a lack of adequate food.

It is also hoped that the kitchen will reduce the amount of livestock people bring to the hospital grounds such as live chicken and goats which wander around freely.

MP for the Lawra-Nandom region Ambrose Dery added: "FREED UK have done so much to assist development in this area. I thank them for leaving their comfort in the UK and coming here. I cannot emphasise enough the importance of good nutrition in the recovery of patients. We will work with FREED moving forward."

The final task of the two week trip was to deliver winter clothing to Ko A Primary School and Ko Secondary School.

Miss Hicks delivered fleeces, jumpers, jackets and tracksuit bottoms to more than 30 students at both schools donated from the secondary school in Bedfordshire she attended in her childhood.