Born of Scottish origin, Labrada Joan AKOFIO-SOWAH or simply Brenda as many call her has been a key member of the Caledonian Society of Ghana (CalSoc) since arriving in Ghana in Dec 1972. During the 48 years she has been the catalyst for the Caledonian Society during its most challenging times and has been Chieftain of the Society on two occasions 85/86 and 20/21 and Deputy Chieftain countless times during this period.
In the 48 years she has lived in Ghana, Brenda has been a tireless volunteer and fundraiser with a number of British societies including the Caledonian Society of Ghana, and established together with 5 other people the International Spouses Association of Ghana (ISAG) in 1994 to advocate for protecting the interests of expatriates married to Ghanaian citizens.
The Caledonian Society in Ghana is 101 years old, and Brenda has been instrumental in seeing it thrive as one of the oldest in Africa. As a committee member for over 30 years, she has helped the Society raise funds for countless charities and good causes, the most recent support offering being a support to a street children charity, Chance for Kids, and Burns Unit at Korle By Hospital in Accra. It was through a partnership with the Caledonian Society and a Scottish Charity Resurge Africa and the Japanese Aid that the Korle Bu’s Burns Unit was initially established in 1997; it is now one of the most advanced in the world, and teaches doctors from hospitals in Glasgow in cutting edge burns treatments.
Without Brenda’s determination to keep the society going the British Community would not have been able to celebrate the centenary year of the Caledonian Society of Ghana in 2020. During the Society’s history it has had a number of notable Chieftains not least Mr J.R. John (father of the recently deceased former President J.J Rawlings)
Additionally, Brenda has been the resident Scottish dance teacher for the past 28 years introducing people to the Scottish culture through dance.
Brenda was one of 6 founding members of the International Spouses Association of Ghana (ISAG) in 1994 to advocate for protecting the interests of expatriates married to Ghanaian citizens and serves as a support group to help spouses adapt to the new culture, understand their rights under Ghanaian law and develop friendships. During this time the membership of the Association has increased to over 600 members and has been successful in advocating that foreign spouses of Ghanaian citizens can be secure indefinite residence in Ghana through provisions captured in Indefinite Residence Permit when the Immigration Act of 2000, ACT 573 and in 2003 secured the same rights for spouses under the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre Act, ACT 865 2013 as those available to Ghanaian citizens.
As a founding member and active participant in ISAG Brenda has been instrumental to securing these rights for international spouses of Ghanaian citizens. ISAG continues today to advocate for further changes in legislation around inheritance rights.
Brenda has been a member of the British in Ghana Society (BIGS) since arriving in Ghana in 1972. BIGS is a non-profit-making organisation, established in Accra in 1967 for British people and others with British connections, who get together regularly to socialise, meet new people, widen their knowledge and interest in Ghana and raise money to help support Ghanaian charities and small development projects. During this period Brenda, as she has done with CalSoc, supported the activities of BIGS and has held the position of Chairperson once and Deputy Chairperson 5 times.
At a ceremony to honour her for a lifetime of service, Brenda said she never expected it.
‘‘I was totally astonished because I was told to come to the high commission and come alone. When I came in it was beautifully said. So it was a very big surprise when I discovered what it was. I was gobsmacked’’.
The citation read by the British High Commissioner to Ghana Harriet Thompson noted.
“It is in recognition of these valuable services that Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II appointed you to be a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. It is with great pleasure that, on Her Majesty’s behalf, I present you with the badge of the Order…’’
Speaking to the media after the honour, Brenda said “If you want to do something strongly enough it’s usually possible.’’
She further highlighted the need to uphold the value of service and community.
Meanwhile, her Excellency Harriet Thompson in an interview with JoyNews urged Ghanaians to keep up a strong spirit of voluntarism as a major block for nation-building.
The British High Commissioner to Ghana underscored the importance of voluntary work despite the economic downtown.
“From the grassroots level sharing food with people, through to high-level organisations working out what they can do to support their employees, from the family perspective as well as the wider communities, the advice that people can give to people they know, even in government frankly. So at all of the different levels. As people are experiencing hardships volunteering becomes even more important.”
Labranda was joined in celebration by her family friends and loved ones.