Rebecca in Ghana


On March 12th, 2011, as High Sheriff of Belfast, I was honoured to have been invited to the Ghana Independence Day Celebrations in Northern Ireland at the Willowfield Parish Church Halls, Woodstock Road, Belfast. The celebration was characterised by different activities which portrayed the rich cultural heritage of the people of Ghana.The day was climaxed with a comprehensive entertainment package including musical performances, Ghanaian drumming and dance, leading to a session of Ghanaian and African food tasting.

Ghana gained independence from British rule in March 1957 with Dr Kwame Nkrumah as the first President. She was the first African nation south of the Sahara to gain independence and this year’s event was  the fourth consecutive celebration in Northern Ireland.

Introduced to the event by the Chairman Dr Daniel Bonitei, I said:-
“Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you all for taking time out of your busy schedules to join in the celebration of the achievements, diversity, leadership and above all the unity and hospitality of the Ghanaian community in Northern Ireland. I am very pleased to be part of this celebration, not just because it is held in Belfast, but due to the sense of unity and community that it brings to us all. Celebrations like this may come once in a while to alert us to the sense of belonging and citizenship that we all share. It brings a reflection of our culture and heritage that we might not always get the chance to celebrate or display otherwise.

With hard work and support, and the commitment of everyone here, we would be able to achieve a much better, brighter and prosperous future.Tonight’s event is a step in the right direction and I would like to encourage each and every one to take on the responsibility to make that dream a reality… A reality of securing the future with the unity and diversity that we celebrate today by encouraging everyone to actively get involved. Our future is determined by our joint responsibility. It is therefore important not just to hold on to the heritage but to build through diversity and unity a community that is cohesive and welcoming… A community that everyone feels part of and would give everything to build… To build a shared community, where everyone feels the need to contribute efficiently to its growth and prosperity without fear or intimidation.

We aim as a city to build a community where everyone one feels safe enough to express their culture, heritage, beliefs in a responsible manner to bring that diversity, while ensuring we foster unity throughout the province and encourage active citizenship. Every one of us have a part to play in the social, economic, and civic life of Belfast and Northern Ireland which can only be the best way forward if we do so responsibly, mindful of the fact that we are all equal citizens and equally share in the future of our countries together.

To the Executives of GHANI (Ghana Association of Northern Ireland), I would like to say congratulations for the hard work you have put in to this evening. I am glad that the Ghana High Commissioner to the UK, H.E. Professor Kwaku Danso-Boafo and other dignitaries have made this visit to participate in the celebrations as well. I would like especially to say “AKWAABA” (which means welcome in the Ghanaian language). I wish you all a successful evening and a prosperous future in Northern Ireland. Thank you.”

I was therefore delighted when Rebecca, the eldest daughter of my close friend and colleague, Suzanne Wylie, Director of Health and Environmental Services in Belfast City Hall,  decided to volunteer to teach children and work with an AIDS charity in Ghana as part of her community outreach programme. Her mother Suzanne is responsible for Community initiatives in Belfast and the placement showed all the hallmarks of that committment.

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