Ashanti Development was set up by Martha Boadu, originally from the Ashanti Region of Ghana but now living in the London Borough of Camden; David Williamson, a water engineer and long-term WaterAid volunteer; and Penny David, a retired management consultant and Martha’s friend and neighbour.
Martha came to the UK in 1982 but never ceased to worry about her home village, Gyetiase. She described how the 2,000 villagers had to walk up to six hours a day for water to wash, cook and give to their animals, and how they were always tired. She said they had lost their traditional skills long ago having no time to pursue them, and most of the people were hungry most of the time. Women were occasionally forced to travel abroad to work as prostitutes and probably brought HIV/Aids back to the village.
At first, no-one took much notice, but when Martha produced an estimate for £32,000 for attaching Gyetiase to the mains water supply Penny rang WaterAid to ask for their view. There she talked to David Williamson who offered to fly to Ghana and try to bring the estimate down. He came back having cut it to £11,000, though inflation subsequently lifted it again to £18,000.
This sum was collected, thanks to grants from the UK High Commission in Accra, Swiss charity BasAid, and donations from local people and organisations. The taps were turned on in April 2005, amid great rejoicing. Acting on David’s advice, a Ghanaian charity called ProNet, founded by WaterAid, was commissioned to teach the villagers health, hygiene and latrine construction.
At that point, the three were inclined to consider the job done. But one of their corporate donors announced that, because they approved of the way their original grant had been spent, they intended to give them £10,000 a year for the forseeable future. They were taken aback by this unsolicited offer, but realised what a huge improvement it could bring to the lives of Ashantis. They therefore changed their name (previously The Gyetiase Water Appeal) to Ashanti Development and registered themselves as a charity.