Local man looks to recruit team to help community in Ghana

OCEANSIDE — Harley Phillips spent the first 50 years of his life supporting himself and family as an aerospace engineer and business executive. The last 28 years he has worked tirelessly to support the village of Tsiame in the Volta region of Ghana, West Africa.
Phillips said his life changed in February 1983 when he experienced “serendipity,” a knack for making fortunate discoveries by accident, while on a business a trip to Africa.
“I met a Ghanian here in Los Angeles with the intent of recruiting him to my business,” Phillips said. “He was a better salesman than I was, and he sold me on doing business in Ghana.”
Phillips bought 25,000 pounds of used clothing called “Obruni Wawo” meaning “the white man is dead, here are his clothes,” and shipped them to Ghana in a 40-foot freight container. Then he embarked on what would be the first of many humanitarian trips.
He became enchanted with the beauty of the children and their families who he describes as “the nicest, gentlest, most hospitable, friendliest, purest people you will ever meet.” Still today, the thought of them brings tears to his eyes.
“I had a serendipitous experience when I got to know and love the people, and realized I could make a difference,” he said. “I liked the word so much that I named my first foundation ‘Serendipity International.’”
Phillips was able to raise more than $100,000, which he used to build a senior high school and send clothing, shoes, computer parts and other items to support the community. He also adopted two families.
He was rewarded for his good deeds in 1997 when he was enstooled as a chief of the Anlo Tribe, an honor for a white man.
“The ceremony, which dates back hundreds of years, was performed in a very sacred place in the forest,” he said. “I was carried through the village on a palanquin, accompanied by much drumming and dancing.”
The president of Ghana was present at the five-day celebration where Phillips was crowned “Torgbi Dunenyo I of Tsiame.” “Torgbi” means “Chief of the Ewe dialect,” “Dunenyo” means “progress” and “Tsiame” is the village.
Now 84, Phillips is recruiting a team to travel to Ghana with him to complete construction of a church. He is also soliciting donations of clothing, food, medicine and educational supplies.
The goal of his African Angels Alliance is to create modern, self-sustaining and high-tech communities where children, who are homeless and orphaned, as a result of the AIDS epidemic, can grow up in a family environment with surrogate parents.
Phillips’ plan is to pair these kids with hundreds of thousands of women made childless by an epidemic of obstetric fistula, a birth injury resulting in stillbirths and permanent incontinence. Victims are often cast out from their own families.
“We can correct this condition with a simple operation that costs about $300,” he said. “Then these women can serve as surrogates to homeless and orphaned children.”
Godwin Fiadjoe is Phillips’ adopted son. He serves as his partner in distributing donations to those who are most vulnerable: women, children and the aged.
He says the immediate need is to generate funds to drill boreholes to provide clean drinking water. The next priority is education.
“Harley has spent several years traveling to and from Ghana and has devoted his time and money, albeit small, towards the establishment of a senior high school in the village of Tsiame,” he said. “Although children in Ghana have also heard of the computer, most of them have not even held the mouse before, let alone been able to join the global communication highway.”
Fiadjoe said more philanthropists are needed to come to the aid of children whose current state of deprivation is not of their own making, rather “a mere fact of birth.”
This summer, Phillips’ goal is to fortify his efforts by recruiting a U.S. team.
“My strength is that I have real people over there who are members of the foundation,” he said. “When I get capital, they can start building more schools.”
To join Phillips’ team as a donor, volunteer or board member, contact him at (760) 754-9222 or by e-mail at harleysif@yahoo.com.

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