Tom Russell ended up being stranded in Ghana due to the COVID-19 lockdown regulations, contrary to the one week intended stay that he had initially planned.
The British national visited Ghana to source opportunities to expand local Ghanaian businesses to the European market.
Although he was worried about his stranded situation, his entrepreneurial skills and passion for helping people has seen him dedicate his time to help the vulnerable.
Tom Russell alongside his friend Alfred Kwarko, set up a charity called Give Back Ghana, when COVID-19 forced the borders to close, meaning he could not get home.
He told GhanaWeb that the idea of the charity is to help the most vulnerable families in Accra by providing them with some basic need essentials by supplying food and sanitation boxes.
Russell who works in the export sector, said: “It soon became pretty clear we could help on a wider scale. So we sat down and put together an idea for these boxes to put together the essentials for an Accra household to live on for a week.”
The aid boxes, which cost ¢50 ($8.70) to put together, contain 3 kilograms of rice, spaghetti, tinned mackerel, tuna, sardines, tomato paste, as well as toilet roll and hand sanitizer.
The charity has been able to reach 2750 people in 12 areas of central Accra, he told GhanaWeb.
“So the staples of a Ghanaian diet are rice and fish and a lot of tomato paste goes into there with sunflower oil. And that essentially gives you the basis for most dishes to cook up. Obviously, it’s quite a simple box. There are no delicacies, unfortunately. But it’s the classic stuff that will keep people going for a week,” Russell said.
Give Back Ghana has been able to form a relationship with a local supermarket in Accra, which supplies them with the goods, as well as joining forces with another charity to transport the boxes across the city.
The charity has been selected to receive a significant community engagement grant from the Grundfos Foundation to the sum of ¢125,000 ($21kUSD).
“Using the donation received from the Grundfos Foundation will make us provide in excess of 2000 food and sanitation boxes to vulnerable families living in the informal settlement of Agbogbloshie in Central Accra which is commonly known as the World’s largest e-waste dump”, Russell told GhanaWeb.
‘Intimidating at first’
After having his original flight back to the UK canceled, Tom has been in constant contact with the UK government, but as of yet has not had a date set for his return home.
“At first, that was a bit intimidating, not being able to get home. We’re so used to being able to travel at any given moment, to get back to loved ones, or to move around so freely. But this project has definitely helped take the mind off the fact that I am stuck here,” said Russell.
Ghana was the first African country to ease its lockdown measures, but with the borders still closed and millions living in poverty, Give Back Ghana’s packages are received well across the capital.