FOYS Newsletter 2018 2

On 23rd October 2018, the 20th Anniversary of Focus on your Strengths (FOYS) was celebrated at Calvary Presbyterian Church, Abiriw. The arrangements included an exhibition showing the variety of projects related to health, agriculture, education and culture that  FOYS has undertaken over the last two decades.

FOYS Newsletter img 1The performers included members of the FOYS Movement and Dance Group seen here in costumes created by the Ms Patricia Azu, a tutor at J G Knol Institute who has made many contributions to FOYS and established valuable links with that organisation.

The dancers have some five dances in their repertoire, and their performances were so stimulating that many who came to watch joined in the dancing!

FOYS Newsletter img 2In addition to the FOYS Movement and Dance Group, The Calvary Gibbs Choir (who were on ‘home ground’),  the  J G Knol (FOYS) Singers  together with the J G Knol School Choir entertained the gathering.

Space was available in the programme for an impromptu poetry recitation by Lydia Koranteng (Abiriw JHS).

As can be appreciated, preparing for the event was challenging, and many lessons were learned in the process.

The celebrations were enjoyed by all who attended.

FOYS Newsletter img 5Much of the work involved in organising the event fell on the shoulders of a small organising committee. In this picture, Mrs Patience Gibbs, née Addo, is seen with relatives and with FOYS facilitators in their 20th Anniversary tee-shirts.  From the left: Penning King Ofori-Ansah (Snr),  Felix K Manukre (whose contributions included designing the Anniversary tee-shirts), Willie Koranteng Ansah, Ms Patricia Azu,  Mrs Gibbs, Emmanuel J. Ansah (partly obscured), Mrs Celia Asare (chaperone and chorister), Mrs Charlotte Koranteng, Akua Koranteng, and Francis Koranteng (Treasurer of FOYS). Others involved in planning and organising the event included Offei Isaac, Godfred Vibah, and Madam Abena Foriwa. Opening prayers were offered by King Ofori-Ansah Jnr and closing prayers by Maxwell Adu Okyere; King Ofori Ansah Jr was MC.

In the course of the evening, Mrs Gibbs spoke about the upbringing she had benefitted from in Abiriw. From what she said, it was clear that her grandfather, Mr H G Mensah, popularly known as ‘Nana Tailor Mensah’, and his wife, Nana Yaa Boatemaa, had clearly loomed large in her childhood. She held up her grand-father as an example of an entrepreneur who began his working life by doing an apprenticeship that earned him his nick-name. He subsequently became an importer- exporter and built a substantial house in Abiriw.

Mrs Gibbs gave an account of the opportunities for learning and self-expression that she befitted from when living in that house.

Listeners were particularly interested to learn of the contribution to town life made by Mr Kwasi Anoff from Aburi, who was a Scout leader, organized a dumb-bell group, and taught folk dances.

Mrs Gibbs said that, through her work with FOYS, she was expressing her gratitude for the grounding she had received.

FOYS Newsletter img 6To fund the work FOYS undertakes in Ghana, Mrs Gibbs and her daughter, Ms Rebecca Konyo Gibbs, have participated in a variety of events in the UK. FOYS products, including balms, bags, shirts and ties, have featured on stalls at events held at, for example, Victoria Methodist Church and the New Room, Bristol; groups and individuals have made generous contributions.

FOYS Newsletter 2017 2

FOYS Dance Group  

During her time in Ghana during Autumn 2017, Patience Gibbs set up the FOYS Dance Group. This entailed arranging for pupils from the Presbyterian JHS to be given an introductory dance session by Dr.  Sylvanus Kwashie  Kuwor of the School of Performing Arts at Legon, and to ensure this was followed up by a series of classes delivered by SPA students with SPA musicians. Although fired by the hope of making a long-lasting impact through dance, the initial programme was designed to be intensive and self-contained. It covered three weeks of preparation and was rounded off by public performances.

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Training sessions were held after school hours and attracted some thirty-five pupils, mostly gills.

After rehearsing, and wearing costumes hired from the School of Performing Arts, the Group put on two 20-minute performances in Abiriw. The completed project showed what could be achieved in a short time

As was anticipated, the innovation ruffled some feathers. For example, one father wanted to withdraw his daughter (‘drag her away’) so she could get on with the family wash. Other areas of uncertainty or tension included the transport from  Legon. On  7/10,  the instructors travelling along the Ridge found the road blocked at Amanokrom  because a durbar was in progress. (At Abiriw, Patience Gibbs stepped in and took the rehearsal!)


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The venue for the first public showing had to be altered at the last minute –  because the performance area originally selected was required in connection with a funeral. Flexibility and improvisation carried the day and a successful performance was given on the grass in front of the Presbyterian Church.

When news spread about the FOYS Dance Group, an invitation was received to perform at the enstoolment of the  Mankrado scheduled for 21 October. Once again there was a last minute glitch since the performers were not reminded at the rehearsal on the 20th that the booking had been confirmed for the 21st. As a result, no dancers turned up for the ‘performance call’ at 8 .00 a.m. Mrs. Gibbs’s house!

Although she had thought her ‘whipping into line’ days all lay in the past, Mrs. Gibbs set off to ‘rustle up’ the dancers and ‘save the day’. In the event, contacts were made and messengers were sent in various directions. Then the dancers assembled relatively easily and the performance was given.

The venue for the enstoolment was the ceremonial centre of the community, the  Curve in the middle of Abiriw,  and the occasion was well supported.  Through their participation, the FOYS Dance Group achieved a greater degree of exposure and public approval than could have been anticipated when the project was initiated.

Patience Gibbs said: ‘The creation of the FOYS Dance Group has special significance for me because I started dancing in Abiriw as a child, and because my first job outside teaching was linked to the Department of African Studies at Legon and the Ghana Dance Ensemble. I watched the performance at the enstoolment on the 21st with a great sense of satisfaction.’

Local History Report

Patience Gibbs writes: ‘On September 26th I went to Dodowa to look for the house built there by my grandfather,  known as ‘Tailor Mensah’.  After driving around the town trying to get my bearings, a woman wearing red, [see photo], who is called ‘Obenewa’, responded to the name ‘Tailor Mensah’ by pointing to a house nearby and saying ‘That is the house,  the one with two shop doors.’  I spoke to the current occupants who asked ‘Why don’t the owners come and repair these buildings .. and  the well?’ In one of the rooms there are documents and bits of machinery. A treasure trove.’

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Patience Gibbs continued: ’On a subsequent visit to Dodowa I interviewed Mame Ataa, who is over ninety and lives at the edge of Tailor Mensah’s land.  She told me she  has kept in touch with some of Tailor Mensah’s descendants  and has  ‘attended all the funerals at Patient Stores’


Bunk-beds for the  J G  Knol Institute

In the past FOYS has responded to challenges faced by the  J G Knol Technical and Vocational Institute in Adukrom by donating equipment to the Fashion Section.  On one of her regular visits to the Institute, Mrs. Gibbs became aware of the problems created by the  Free Senior High School (SHS) policy that had just been introduced by the New Patriotic Party (NPP) government  (‘The Akufo-Addo Administration.)

The elimination of fees has meant a marked increase in the number of pupils anxious to follow vocational and technical courses at J G Knol and this had put a great strain on the Institute’s infrastructure.

After discussing the situation, Mrs. Gibbs decided that the point at which a modest grant could make a significant difference was in the improvement of facilities for female students.  A carpenter was asked to make two bunk beds and deliver them to the Female Hostel /Girls Dormitory that was being created in one of the teaching rooms.

Because the new ‘no fees’ policy has generated considerable business for all those supplying educational institutions in Ghana, there were delays in making the bunks, but, eventually, the carpenters secured wood, completed their task and arranged for delivery bunks – with mattresses! –  to Adukrom.

[For background on  the Institute see] 2017 11 10





image 1On 10 March 2017,  FOYS-sponsored a Health Awareness Day that included advice on diet and a variety of medical checks.  It was followed on the 13th by a Workshop  on Garment Production Techniques that marked an extension of the kind of  encouragement FOYS had previously given to  skills acquisition on the Akuapim Ridge.

In addition to the above projects,  Mrs Gibbs was able to use time in Ghana during February / March 2017 to follow up initiatives set in motion on previous visits. These included: the Gibbs Choir, bee-keeping, First Aid Training, the Computer Lab (in Abiriw),  and soap-making.

Health Awareness Day: Arrangements were made with Nana Henaku for the Palace in Abiriw to be used for a pop-up clinic on 10th March.  The Abiriw Assemblyman and the local churches  were involved in publicising the event, and computer teacher Felix Manukure designed an appropriate banner.This was erected by the palace staff on the 9th March, and the next morning the same team set out the required chairs and tables. The event opened with prayers and these were followed by a well- illustrated talk on dietary choices given by Praise Boama of the Akwapim North Health Directorate.


Nurse Rosina Osae (below) and her team moved smoothly into and through their programme.
One-hundred and eleven presented and were given a a a series of blood-pressure, blood sugar, body weight and ENT tests. As the picture right indicates, most of those who attended were older, female members of the community. (Only 15 were in their thirties or younger, while the 50, 60 and 70 ‘somethings’ were well represented; ten were in their eighties, and one was over ninety.) Though in a small minority (about 20%), there were more men than on some previous occasion, and it was gratifying to see both Nana Henaku and Nana Tufuhene.
This profile of those who attended drew attention to the importance of offering, as FOYS has in the past, special health-awareness days in schools. [Cost per person on 11/3/2017: £3.]



The Workshop on Garment Production Techniques, held at the Presbyterian Vocational and Technical Institute/ a.k.a ‘ICCES’, Abiriw on March 14, was led by Pat Azu with administrative support from Ebenezer Owusu. Topics covered included making patterns and garments for women, and placing and making button-holes. Two teachers, 2 dressmakers, 2 students and one tailor attended, and all provided overwhelmingly positive feed-back on the ‘hands-on’ workshop.

In addition to being involved in the planning of the event and providing examples of Ghanaian dresses from her own collection, Mrs Gibbs allocated FOYS funds to subsidise the Workshop fees. [Cost to FOYS £50.] The Workshop was planned and delivered by Ms Azu (PAZU Fashion) with diligence and enthusiasm; it may be repeated.



The Gibbs Choir continues to grow in numbers and rehearses regularly. (Often daily!) Enthusiasm has been sustained partly thanks to the key-board handed over on the last visit. (See Newsletter for 2016 /2) On 18 March, the choir gave an evening concert for families and friends at Mrs Gibbs’s house. (Plans were made to post a video of the occasion.)
The Choir is very fortunate to have retained the services of Mrs Bertha Anorh-Nyarko, who continues to provide leadership even though she has moved away from Abiriw. She returned to lead special rehearsals when the Choir was asked to sing at the funeral (on 11 March at Aburi) of the Rev’d Salome Ntobea Twum, who had been the minister at Calvary Presbyterian Church in Abiriw in 2012,.



A remarkable woman who died at forty and yet had achieved a great deal, the Rev’d Twum had made contributions on various levels during her brief ministry at Abiriw. For example, she had sourced funds for the purchase of a generator for the Church, and had raised over GHC 90,000 to support elderly members of the congregation. (See Funeral Brochure.) She had been much admired by members of the choir, not least for her educational achievements and for the contributions she had made through holding posts in national and international organisations.


After the concert on the 18th, Francis Koranteng offered to provide accountancy advice for the Choir, and Mrs Gibbs made further contributions to the group. This was partly in cash, and partly by paying for six members of the choir to join a Calvary Church excursion to Elmina.

Reports were received and checks made on the progress of FOYS projects set in hand on previous visits. In this context it is gratifying to report that excellent use is being made of the Computer Lab donated to the ICCES, that there have been good honey harvests, that some of those trained by the St John Ambulance in first-aid continue to offer their services at events attracting large numbers of people, and that stocks of FOYS soap were replenished by soap-making sessions with Abena Foriwa.




Funding: The work undertaken by FOYS in Ghana is made possible by the generosity of supporters in the UK, US and France. The photograph on the right shows Keith and Verna Carlyle making a generous donation towards the costs of the recent Health Awareness Day. A previous gift from the Carlyles was spent on the paint used on the Presbyterian Junior High School at Abiriw.





*Praise Boama contributed to a scientific paper on an outbreak of gastroenteritis in the Eastern Region that can be found at Email: This document: FOYSA Newsletter 2017/ 1 Portrait

FOYS NEWSLETTER  2016/2 (Autumn)     


A brief record of FOYS-related activities undertaken by Mrs Patience Gibbs during October / November 2016. These included the  handover at Calvary Presbyterian Church Abiriw of a key-board for the Calvary Gibbs Choir and the handover to Abiriw Presbyterian JHS school of a projector for use with IT instruction. These donations were followed by FOYS-Funded pop-up clinics at Asasekokoo (10 October) and at Dawu (11 October), and by a three-day ICT Training  Workshop for young people held at Abiriw (15, 22 and 29 October). The following month, fund-raising activities were held in France (25th and 26th November).

After her arrival in Ghana on 29 October, Patience  Gibbs purchased and then handed-over in Calvary  Church, Abiriw,  a key-board for the use of the Choir (see above). In this, and other activities described here, she was supported by her son, Francis Koranteng. (In white shirt in picture above.) She then pushed-forward arrangements for Pop-Up Diabetes Testing clinics  to be held at Asasekokoo and Dawu. The first attracted 131 people, including a number of school children over fifteen,  and the second 129.




In holding a clinic in  Asasekokoo (pictures left), FOYS was  rising to the challenge of operating ‘off the beaten track’ for, while there is a laterite road to Asasekokoo, it has been so badly ‘beaten’ (eroded) that it can only be negotiated at the risk of damage to vehicles and of injury to limb.  Dawu, by contrast, and because it more or less adjoins Abiriw, offered no challenges of access. However, since it did not have the record of contact with FOYS enjoyed by Asasekokoo, it raised subtly different issues. These were removed by the good work of Nurse Rosina Osae who made contact with administrative officers (including ‘Assemblymen’), and with local health workers – whom she incorporated into her medical team. Thanks to the establishment of good relations, the clinics were  made welcome at  both venues. The good relations were demonstrated  by the prompt provision of tables and chairs – or, in the case of  Asasekokoo,  benches.


On 15 October, and in collaboration with  the Adakasu Education Foundation (AEF),  the first  FOYS-funded  ICT Training Workshop was held in Abiriw. Over a hundred young people – more than half of them female –  began the course that was designed to address their needs directly and  ninety-nine completed it.







The Workshop was held in the Community Information Center, Abiriw, mwhere  local IT teachers employed by the Ghana Education Service, Felix Manukure Kissiedu and  Solomon Frempong-Boateng, worked closely with  Information Center staff member Edward (‘Edie’) Otto- Bekoe.

The group picture above shows some of the participants with instructors, with Mrs Gibbs  and  members of the Committee of AEF. While youthful participants dominate the pictures below, it is possible to pick out the instructors who delivered the programme, and to seen Mrs Gibbs handing a certificate to one of the 99 participants.


Outline of Workshop Programme: 15 October:   Introduction to Computers and to basic mouse and key-board skills; 22 October:  introduction to MS Word and Internet Use;  29 October: Extension of IT skills; introduction to Email Etiquette; File and Folder Management.

At the end of the Workshop, it was evaluated and there was a closing ceremony. Mrs Gibbs presented Certificates to successful  participants, And locally -sourced refreshments were served.

In addition to addressing a deep-felt need for a formal  introduction to ICT, it was felt that the venture represented a very worthwhile collaboration between FOYS and AEF, and between the Presbyterian and Seventh Day Adventist schools in Abiriw.



Fund-Raising in France. On Saturday 25th and Sunday 26th November 2016, Patience Gibbs was in France  raising funds for FOYS  at the  9th annual Christmas market held in Montreuil sur mer. She carried over a wide range of FOYS products for her stall and  promoted the work of the organisation to interested enquirers.

FOYS items included established favourites, such as soaps, balms  and bags, and new lines, including ties and bracelets. The latter, Made in Abiriw of course,  proved particularly popular.

The considerable work involved in   packing and transporting FOYS items was rewarded: and 386 Euros were contributed towards FOYS future projects

For further information: visit



This document: FOYSA Newsletter 2016/ 2b. See also 2016 11 23  FOYS ICT  Brief Report  on ICT Workshop.


FOYS NEWSLETTER 2016 / 1 (Spring)

When Mrs Patience Gibbs was in Ghana from February 29th to April 26th, FOYS activities began with two Pop-up Clinics: one in Apirede on Friday 11 March and the other in Awukugua on Tuesday 15th. nce again Nurse Rosina Osae had prepared the ground by making visits to the towns involved and alerting community leaders. When Aunty Patience reached Abiriw, she and Nurse Rosina fixed the dates, sorted through the existing FOYS stock, and arranged to collect necessary additional items from Accra.        The premises available in the Clinic at Apirede proved very suitable, and the programme, that included a well-illustrated presentation on Diabetes, by a Principal Nursing Officer from the Municipal Health Authority, proceeded smoothly. One hundred and eleven people were screened.

clinic 1 2016:1

Awukugua, half way between Abiriw and Adukrom, provided a well-organised welcome for the pop-up diabetes clinic. Once again Nurse Osae’s team worked very efficiently, and this ensured that, despite a three-hour downpour , the screening went well. More than 70 people attended – including a higher than usual number of young men. The cost of the tests worked out at roughly £2.50 per person, and the budget for the programme was about £450.

clinic 2 2016:2

Patience provided paint for the redecoration of the Presbyterian Primary School at Abiriw – a project supervised by the head-master of the Junior High School (JHS), Mr A M Kwakye-Fianko. In order to keep costs down and ensure those who benefitted had a sense of ‘ownership’ of the project, work was carried out by teachers, teachers in training and senior pupils. Reports indicated that pupils were excited to be sand-papering the walls of their class-rooms and took pride in the task. The initial estimate for the paint and equipment required was £600, but an additional £36 had to be added to that to complete the job.

school 2016:1

Students on the Fashion Course taught by Ms Pat Azu at the J G Knol Vocational and Technical Institute, Adukrom have been graduating without any experience of using the electric sewing-machines they are meant to be familiar with. On the advice of Ms Azu an Industrial Neating and Embroidery Machine was purchased, assembled and, on 22 March, presented to the Institute at a simple ceremony. On the 18th April, the Principal of the Institute, Mr Wisdom Narh Amatey, wrote expressing the ‘heartfelt appreciation’ of the Staff for FOYS’s continued support.

fashion course 2016:1

On Tuesday 30th Mrs Gibbs arranged a one-hour session on careers guidance at the Presbyterian Junior High School in Abiriw. The programme provided opportunities for Pat Azu and Mr Larbi (English Teacher) to speak about the courses on offer at the Knol Institute – and at other vocational training institutes. This was followed by a lively Question and Answer session in English and Twi.

A year ago, Patience took initiatives to establish a choir in Abiriw whose repertoire would focus on compositions by Professor J H Kwabena Nketia. She provided relevant recordings, scores and, later, some financial support towards the purchase of uniform. The choir came together around Winneba-trained choir-mistress Mrs Bertha Anorh-Nyarko. By the beginning of 2016, the choir was receiving appreciative applause for their performances in Calvary Presbyterian Church, and at the end of March choristers sang for their relatives and Aunty Patience at an open-air concert.

They demonstrated that they had broadened their repertoire and that they thoroughly deserved the applause they had been given.   After the performance, Aunty Patience made another donation to the group, and there was a discussion about the possibility of securing additional instruments. While, the group has grown in numbers and progressed steadily under its dedicated choir-mistress, there is a cloud on the horizon since Mrs Anorh-Nyarko anticipates moving away from Abiriw.

choir 2016:1

As on previous visits, Aunty Patience was able to encourage necklace, ear-ring, bag and soap -making activities that are important for FOYS’s income-generating activities at in England and France. To these activities has been added Flip Flop Decoration using beads. It remains to be seen whether these will find a market.

business 2016:1

Follow up to Bee-Hive Making Workshop held in Autumn 2015,  Bees Abroad funded a five-day bee-hive making workshop in Asasekokoo, a village at the foot of the Akuapem escarpment that was delivered during November 2015 by Victor Ayeboo of ADRUCOM. During March 2016, Brian Durk of Bees Abroad visited Asasekokoo, met the chief and saw some of the hives made by workshop members. He reported that eleven of the hives had been colonised and looked likely to produce harvests. (A family trust had donated £1000 for this project. Picture shows procession to place the first hive.)

Bee abroad 2016:1

Meanwhile back in Bristol: On March 5th James and Rebecca Gibbs set up a FOYS stall a part of the Fair Trade Fortnight at the New Room, Broadmead. They were able to establish contact with Fair Trade activists, tell people about FOYS, and raise £35.

Stall 2016:1

Message from Mrs Patience Gibbs: FOYS operates thanks to the open-hearted generosity of supporters on three continents, and I would like to thank all who have enabled the organisation to fund programmes such as those described above. Because I constantly assessing the impact of what FOYS does, I am convinced that the services provided are valuable. They are certainly much-appreciated. Meda mo ase.’


Special projects to mark 80th birthday

This issue of the Focus on Your Strengths (FOYS) Newsletter includes accounts of work undertaken in Ghana by Patience Gibbs in connection with FOYS during September – October 2015


Shortly after reaching her 80th birthday, Patience Gibbs, seen above on the steps of a primary school, spent seven weeks in Ghana. During that time, she promoted and supervised various FOYS and FOYS- related activities. For example, she sponsored two pop-up health clinics and a five-day bee-hive-making work-shop.
On the same visit, she made considered donations to Abiriw Presbyterian Junior High School and to the J G Knol Vocational and Technical Institute.
As has become the pattern on her visits to Ghana, she combined special projects with overseeing the production of soap, necklaces and bags that will enable FOYS to generate income to support future activities

Health Education Pop-Up Diabetes Clinics were held at Anum (21/9/2015) and Abiriw (2/10/2015). That at Anum, where Nurse Rosina Osae made extensive preparations and where local leadership provided great encouragement, resulted in 147 people being tested.
Attendance at the Clinic held in at the ahenfi in Abiriw was affected by power cuts that impeded communications, and, as a result, numbers were down.
In the clinics it runs FOYS links communities with local health services, offers information, and conducts screening. Over the years pop-up clinics have focused on diabetes, glaucoma and hyper-tension tests.

In a development that involved working with new partners, FOYS shipped two storage-boxes of medical supplies that had been collected by members of Trinity Methodist Church, Penarth. These supplies were passed on to Rosina Osae for distribution at her discretion.
Bee-Hive Making Work-shop. Over the years, Patience Gibbs has been in touch with UK-based NGO Bees Abroad (BA), with regular BA visitor to West Africa Brian Durk and with some of those involved with the charity’s partner organisation in Northern Ghana , ADRUCOM. Having secured funding for Victor Ayeboo of ADRUCOM to run a five-day workshop, Patience Gibbs liaised with community leaders and helped Victor assemble materials. The work-shop was successfully conducted at in Asasekokoo, below the Akuapem Ridge, 19th-23rd October.

The skills-acquisition activity was well-supported in a village that had – within the last year – been peripherally involved in violence against bee-keepers. Each of those who attended the five-day course ‘took home’ a hive they had made.
The strips for the top of the ‘top-loading hives’ that had to be precision cut were sourced in the Brong Ahafo Region, but apart all other materials were found locally. They included wa-wa board, raffia-palm, mud, nails, bottle-tops, corrugated iron, and barrels.
Pictures show different kinds of local material being used for the construction of hives, and hint at both the application of the participants and the various age groups involved. Work-shop leader, Victor Ayeboo, can be seen wearing a banded shirt in the final photograph of the work-shop below. That picture catches something of the enthusiasm of participants.

Supporting education and training:
Rather than gathering old friends around her to mark her 80th Birthday, Patience Gibbs donated paint to the Presbyterian Junior High School at Abiriw. Led by the he Head-master, Mr Kwakye-Fianko (seen in group photograph with Mrs and Dr Gibbs), staff and some of the pupils brightened up their environment.
!n consultation with Design Tutor, Pat Azu, Mrs Gibbs donated a specialized sewing-machine to The J G Knol Vocational and Technical Institute in Adukrom.

stablished by the Holland Ghana Foundation as a ‘Trade School that institute is now part of the Ghana Education System. It sets out to offer practical training. However, like many other educational bodies in Ghana ,it is under-resourced. Staff members have great difficulty In providing ‘materials for practicals’, and the Institute lacks equipment. Ms Azu reported that the sewing-machine was much appreciated.
See ; 2015 10 FOYS Newsletter 2015 Autumn on Ghana/ Ghana 21/11/2015

FOYS fundraising event at Victoria Sq

A FOYS fund-raising event was held at 8 Victoria Square in Bristol, England on Monday 28th July, 2014. It was attended by eleven member of Victoria Methodist Church, all of whom have taken a long-term interest in the charity.

Patience Gibbs gave a vivid account of the Glaucoma Screening conducted in Abiriw during March, and, after questions and tea, the supporters were able to stock up on FOYS products. Several different kinds of soaps, bags, and balms were available, and more than £150 was collected for future FOYS activities in Abiriw.

FOYS arranges Glaucoma Screening for more than 300

On 25th March,2014 thanks to special funding, and local health professionals, a Glaucoma screening clinic will be held for pupils attending schools in Abiriw, Akwapem North, and their teachers. There will be no charge.
It is anticipated that 170 pupils from the Presbyterian schools in the town and 150 from the Seventh Day Adventist Primary School, together with 14 teachers, will be tested.
Attention has recently been drawn to Glaucoma and the World Health Organisation has published worrying figures about the increase in the number they anticipate will be affected by the condition. It has been emphasised that this is a major problem and everyone should know their status.
In Ghana, Glaucoma has sometimes been neglected when it comes to focusing attention on particular ailments. This is partly because World Glaucoma Day coincides with Ghana’s Independence Day, and, despite the best efforts of members of the Glaucoma Association of Ghana, the problem has been overshadowed.
In Abiriw , a local organisation, Focus on Your Strengths , established by Mrs Patience Addo Gibbs, has already sponsored one Glaucoma Clinic. That was held on 20th September 2013 and attracted nearly 100 townspeople who were tested, without charge, by a highly trained and well equipped team.
FOYS has secured funding to sponsor a second clinic and, in response to particular needs has identified school-aged children as the group that is particularly ‘at risk’. In delivering the clinic, FOYS be building on experience gained from running Diabetes clinics. It will also draw on the understanding, commitment and skills of local health personnel, and on the capacity to organise such events that has been built up in the community.
The number being tested on this occasion – nearly 350 – reflects the determination of the organisers to make a significant impact on the health provision in the community. The testing is vital and will be the initial step in assessing the needs of those suffering from, or liable to suffer from, Glaucoma.

FOYS Activities…and a reflection on the life of Maya Angelou, March – April 2014

On 25th March, thanks to special funding, and to local health professionals, Dr Eric Acquaye, Vida Ansah, Esther A Karrey, and Charlotte Adarqwa, a Glaucoma screening clinic was be held for pupils attending schools in Abiriw and their teachers.

One hundred and seventy pupils from the Presbyterian schools in the town and 150 from the Seventh Day Adventist Primary School, together with 14 teachers,   were tested.

The decision to make the clinic the major FOYS activity for the first part of 2014 was taken partly because the World Health Organisation had drawn attention to the prevalence and debilitating impact of Glaucoma. WHO has published worrying figures about the increase in the number affected by the condition and medical sources have emphasised that Glaucoma is a major problem in Ghana. It has been recommended that everyone should know their status.

Glaucoma has had to struggle for attention. This is partly because World Glaucoma Day coincides with Ghana’s Independence Day, and, despite the best efforts of members of the Glaucoma Association of Ghana, the condition they target has been overshadowed

The Clinic on 25th March was the second Glaucoma Clinic sponsored by Focus on Your Strengths and followed one held on 20th September 2013. On that occasion, nearly 100 townspeople, mainly adults, were tested, without charge, by a highly-trained and well-equipped team.

FOYS secured funding to sponsor the second clinic and identified school-aged children as a group particularly ‘at risk’.

In delivering the clinic, FOYS built on experience gained from running Diabetes clinics – as well as the September 2013 Glaucoma Clinic. Once again, the organisation relied on the understanding, commitment and skills of the local health personnel named above, and on the capacity to organise such events that now exists within the Abiriw community.

The (large) number being tested – nearly 350 – reflected the determination of the organisers to make a significant impact on the health provision in the community. The clinic represented the initial step in assessing the needs of those suffering from, or liable to suffer from, Glaucoma, and follow ups were put in place.

Bulletin to Library

Other initiatives undertaken by Patience Gibbs during her time in Ghana during March/ April 2014 included donating copies of The Bulletin of the Society for African Church History to the Library of the Akrofi Christaller Institute in Akropong. The copies (Volume 1, Number 1 and numbers 3-4) of The Bulletin had been obtained thanks to the Rev’d David Weeks in Bristol and she had taken them with her in order to fill a gap on the shelves.

The Institute Library provides resources for post-graduate students welcomed the copies of these issues of a pioneering journal that was crucial to the development of the study of African Church History. The Deputy Librarian,  R.A. Cantey, wrote a letter of appreciation.


Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou

During her visit to Ghana in March 2013, Patience Gibbs spoke to the Presbyterian Women’s Fellowship in Abiriw about Maya Angelou, whom she had known when they were both working at the Institute of African Studies, Legon. FOYS Newsletter 2013/1 carried a picture of Maya Angelou, a note about her and some lines she had written. The death of the inspiring woman on 28th May 2014 prompted an outpouring of eulogies and tributes.

As is clear from her autobiographical volume covering her time in Ghana (1962-65), All God’s Children Need Travelling Shoes (published 1986), Maya Angelou made a number of important contacts while in the country and had some significant experiences. She lived modestly and perhaps her most remarkable public engagement was taking the role of Mother Courage, the eponymous (anti)hero(ine) of Bertolt Brecht’s play.

Maya Angelou was involved in other productions at the Drama Studio, where she supported Efua Sutherland. She combined this with holding a position in the Institute of African Studies, and being involved with a literary and Pan-African publication, The African Review. That journal carried her name, among others, on its masthead and published such writers as Bessie Head and Kwame Dawes.

Maya Angelou gave little indication to those who worked with her at Legon of her remarkable abilities and her amazing strength of character. However, reading the acknowledgements of her influence that appeared after her death, it is clear that the time spent in West Africa helped to prepare her for subsequent phases of her life.

The lines quoted in the 2013 newsletter remain relevant and thought provoking and bear repeating:

When I say… “I am a Christian”
I still feel the sting of pain.
I have my share of heartaches
So I call upon His name.

When I say… “I am a Christian”
I’m not holier than thou,
I’m just a simple sinner
Who received God’s good grace, somehow!



FOYS Activities, March – April 2013

While in Ghana during March and part of April 2013, Patience Gibbs was able to take forward the work of Focus on Your Strengths, the not- for-profit organisation that she set up to work, particularly, with women and young people in Abiriw, in the Eastern Region.

Second Hepatitis B testing Day. 19/03/2013, at schools

With the help of Nurse Rosina Osae (who writes in the pop-up clinics below) and the team she assembled,   ‘pop-up clinics’, funded by FOYS, were run at the Seventh Day Adventist and the Presbyterian Primary Schools in the town. In all 150 pupils were tested and, as with the adult clinic held in November 2012, all those tested were found to be negative. In addition to the tests, there was a presentation on the causes and dangers of Hepatitis B infection. In answer to a question about Hepatitis B, one pupil explained that he knew of the illness because footballer Stephen Appiah had suffered from it.

Steven Appiah

Steven Appiah

[Born in 1980, Appiah has played for the Ghana national team at youth, Olympic, and senior levels. He captained Ghana on their World Cup debut in 2006 and was a member of their squad for the 2010 World Cup.]

Nurse Rosina Osae on ‘FOYS –backed Health Clinics Abiriw, 2010-13’

Over the last three years, the Ghanaian not-for-profit organisation, Focus on Your Strengths (FOYS), has funded a series of worthwhile and successful clinics in Abiriw. Before initiating the series of health clinics, Mrs Patience Gibbs consulted Dr Joseph Opare about local needs and the most appropriate programme to set in motion.

Since taking his advice, FOYS has backed one-day clinics held on 15/10/2010; 01/04/2011; 30/03/2012, 07/11/ 2012 and 19/03/2013.

I have been privileged to work with Mrs Gibbs and have taken on responsibilities for ‘on the spot organisation’. In this role, I have been fortunate to coordinate health personnel based at Tetteh Quarshie Hospital. Teams have included: Charlotte Adarkwa, Principal Nurse; Mr Danso, Senior Physiotherapist, and James Amanakwa, Health Promoter.

Intervention in the community’s thinking about health issues has included providing advice on, for example, balanced diets , exercise regimes, and protection against sicknesses and conditions such as Diabetes, Hypertension, Hepatitis B and HIV/AIDS.

In order to reach various sections of the Abiriw community different venues in the town have been used. These have included Calvary Presbyterian Church, the ahenfie, and, in March 2013, to reach school-children, the Seventh Day Adventist and Presbyterian Primary Schools.

Programme for a one-day clinics typically include a health talk and testing (perhaps for blood/ sugar, or Hepatitis B). We have also been able to screen (for Ear, Nose and Throat problems), go through physiotherapy exercises, and take measurements – perhaps of weight or blood pressure.

Those found to have high blood / sugar levels or high blood pressure have been referred to local clinics or hospitals.

All the clinics were successful and all have been much appreciated, indeed the expressions of gratitude from those tested or treated have made participation very rewarding.

Students wait for their tests

Students wait for their tests

At the end of the session the pupils were challenged to maintain their negative status and this challenge was subsequently discussed with mothers and grand-mothers at the Presbyterian Women’s Fellowship (PWF) meetings.


The Presbyterian Women’s Fellowship (PWF) remains central to the contact Patience has with the women of Abiriw. In addition to attending fellowship meetings and church service, Patience was able to lead a session on four women selected for study: Florence Nightingale, Yaa Asantewa, Mother Theresa, and Oprah Winfrey. She spoke about the roles as social reformers of each of the women, drawing attention to the variety of motives that drove them.

Patience concluded with a prayer written by Maya Angelou, whom she had known when they were both working at the Institute of African Studies, Legon, during the early Sixties. The prayer ends:

When I say… “I am a Christian”
I still feel the sting of pain.
I have my share of heartaches
So I call upon His name.

When I say… “I am a Christian”
I’m not holier than thou,
I’m just a simple sinner
Who received God’s good grace, somehow!


From links established in the UK, Patience knew that Brian Durk, a Cheltenham-based apiarist who has made several visits to West Africa with Bees Abroad, would be in Ghana during March.

Accompanied by a Ghanaian apiarist with whom he was working on establishing a training hub for bee-keepers in the Central Region, Brian visited Abiriw and Patience took him to see some of the seven hives that have been constructed since FOYS funded bee-keeping workshops. In addition to giving advice about positioning hives, the two specialists set in motion plans that led to follow-up visits and the harvesting of honey from colonised hives.

A gallon and a half of superior honey, together with wax, was subsequently extracted and contact was later made with a honey-seller who advised on marketing the bee products.

Brian Durk

Brian Durk


As on previous visits, Patience was able to trigger soap and balm-making activities. News of trainees passing on of soap-making skills was shared and four batches of soap were manufactured over two days.

In the process of soap production there was experimentation and on this visit successful tests were conducted in connection with the order in which ingredients, particularly the aloe vera and the oil, were added.

(NB The test was for hepatitis B and the clinic was made possible by a grant from St Julian’s Charitable Fund.)

FOYS activities, September – November 2013

As you may be aware, Abiriw, a town on the Akuapem Ridge in the Eastern Region of Ghana, remains the centre for the activities of Focus on Your Strengths (FOYS). In the last three years, FOYS has organised clinics in public spaces and in schools in Abiriw that have raised awareness and provided diagnosis about Diabetes and Hepatitis B. These clinics have also provided advice and support for sufferers. The experience of organising the clinics has been that, if some outside funding is available, local resources can be mobilised for the benefit of those who, for a variety of reasons, do not use the medical facilities available in hospitals.

The presence of a number of blind or partially -sighted people at the clinics prompted FOYS to investigate the possibility of arranging to test for glaucoma. Research showed that this was a problem that ranked worryingly high in the nation’s medical profile, for, aaccording to the World Glaucoma Federation, 8.5 % of the Ghanaian population suffers from it. Moreover, it is only one of several debilitating eye conditions

There is some provision for eye care in the Eastern Region of Ghana, but it is inadequate. For example, the Eastern Region has a population of over two million, but they are served by only 4 ophthalmologists, 2 optometrists and 22 ophthalmic nurses. Furthermore, very limited health budgets mean that eye care is available only in hospitals – at Mampong (Tetteh

Quarshie) and, for more sophisticated analysis and treatment, at Koforidua. Experience shows that few can meet the costs of transport and hospital fees. (These are typically GHC 30 per visit for suffers for eye complaints.) As a result, eye care is sadly neglected.

It was in this context, and thanks to donations made and funds generated in the UK, that FOYS set in motion plans to hold an Eye Clinic in Abiriw. Drawing on experience gained in mounting earlier clinics, the component parts were brought together relatively smoothly. Using her wide contacts and building on the relevant infrastructure, Nurse Rosina approached appropriate bodies and individuals. The task she took on included making contact with Mr Opare, the local Director of Public Health, and lining up a medical team led by Dr Acquaye.

In Abiriw, the capacity for ‘staging’ clinics has been built up over the years and those with experience played their parts very efficiently. For example, a large poster (see above) was created, publicity flyers were prepared (using resources in the Abiriw Community Information Centre), and the town-crier was employed to make announcements. Preparations at the ahenfie (palace) weremade by Abena Foriwa and her helpers. All the component parts came together on September 30th when townspeople began assembling at the ahenfie from 6.00 a.m. and registration began.

Registration took place in the main court-yard of the palace, with adjoining spaces and buildings were used for different tests

One hundred people signed up; ninety- six of whom were eventually processed.

Since optometrists in Ghana have to test both those familiar with the alphabet and those unfamiliar with it, they have the option of using either the ‘Tumbling E’ chart or the familiar Snellen Chart.

Tests for a variety of eye conditions were carried out and the results were as worrying as had been feared: all but ten of those who attended were found to have one sort of eye problem or another. The following were the major ocular conditions encountered: Refractive errors; Cataracts; Diabetic Retinopathy; Hypertensive Retinopathy; Bacterial Infections; Viral Infections; Agricultural injuries to the eye; Trauma; Sickle cell retinopathies, and Allergic conjunctivitis.

At the end of the clinical session, a ‘team photograph’ was taken. Dr Acquaye spoke appreciatively of the initiative taken by FOYS and the importance of the financial support it had secured. He added that he normally saw only a trickle of patients in his office, and that he relished being able to get out to see so many on a single day. The photograph brought together the ‘home’ team of FOYS regular workers as well as the ‘visitors’ who brought specialist skills.

On Dr Acquaye’s recommendation some of those who had attended the clinic went on to Tetteh Quarshie Hospital or Koforidua Hospital – where some were issued with spectacles. During October 2013, the regular Wednesday morning meetings of the Abiriw branch of Presbyterian Women’s Fellowship provided opportunities to drive home the lessons of the clinic and to hear how those diagnosed with problems were following the medical advice they had been given.

The same forum provided opportunities to encourage women to take part in the National Health Insurance Scheme, and to exhort those who had a card to make use of the facilities it entitled them to.

The next (sweet) story is short and tells itself; it is a sequel to the bee-hive making and bee-keeping activities encouraged by FOYS.


Many, many thanks to all who have supported FOYS and made the clinics and workshops possible.

Patience Gibbs, Bristol 20 12 2013