Archdeacon of West Ham Elwin Cockett has proof that anyone can make a difference


- Credit: Archant

When you’re stuck in a traffic jam in Ghana’s capital, Accra, the last thing you expect to see is a street trader wearing a West Ham shirt.

We had no language in common, but at the words ‘West Ham’ she beamed at me. We were thousands of miles from Upton Park but for a fleeting moment we were two people united by the claret-and-blue.

It was in Ghana that I watched an amazing teacher, Grace, teaching children to read using books sent from east London. Kids were flocking to her, and she had a book for every one of them, and yet she had nowhere to keep those books except a lock-up shed.

In a rash moment, and remembering the girl in the West Ham shirt, I told Grace that I knew a few kind people in east London who might be willing to help her build a place for her books – a sort of library where children could come and read in safety and where the books would be kept clean and dry. “We could call it ‘Grace’s Place’”, I said, getting a bit carried away.

When I got home to England, I began to have second thoughts. But as I shared the idea with a few people it started to take off. It was then that one fellow West Ham fan gave me a cheque for the sort of sum that, in Ghana, makes things happen.

Within months a plot of land was cleared and made ready and then, as further donations came in, the foundations were laid. As other people in east London and elsewhere caught the vision, the new building went up – walls, roof and everything.

Now, incredibly, just 18 months or so since the idea was first raised, ‘Grace’s Place’ is preparing to open its doors, thanks to the generosity of people in east London and Essex. For me, that proves one thing: Making the world a better place is something that any of us can do. All it takes is a decision to do something, and a few like-minded people with generous hearts. More from Elwin

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