Sunderland woman returns to African tribe where she has helped thousands of children

A Wearside woman who was made the first white female chief of a major African tribe has returned to the country where she has helped thousands of people to live better lives.

Tuesday, 19th June 2018, 6:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 19th June 2018, 2:36 pm
Lynne Symonds with Wulugu students.

Lynne Symonds is involved with The Wulugu Project, which has helped hundreds of thousands children in the deprived area of Northern Ghana, providing them with an education and improved chances in life.

She became involved in education in the country when she met Wulugu Project co-founder Karimu Nachina in 1993 and heard about the challenges preventing Ghanaian children, especially girls, getting an education.

Lynne Symonds with Wulugu Naba Professor Nabila who enskinned her in 1996.

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Lynne made headlines around the world when she was made the first white tribal chief of the Mamprusi tribe, specifically chief of enlightenment and education back in 1996.

Lynne has now returned to the tribe, where she remains the first white woman chief of the Mamprusi, to see the progress there.

Speaking to the Echo Lynne, who lives in Norfolk after being born in the Chester Road area of Sunderland and raised in Farringdon, said: “Last week we visited many of the communities we have helped recently.

“In some, the small children screamed in fright at my white skin and blond hair, and women ran away.

Lynne with women at the Wulugu Project.

“Many people here have nothing at all, it’s hard to imagine.

“But they want better, healthier futures for their children and, by helping with education, we are told that we are really changing things.

“Last Saturday we celebrated the 25th anniversary of Wulugu Senior High, where our work began.

“When I first visited, in ‘95, there were approximately 60 students and few teachers.

Girls staying at the Wulugu Hostel.

“Now there are almost 2,000 students, many girls, and 80 teachers.

“We opened the first hostel for girls.

“It has been packed ever since but now girls sleep two per bunk bed and some on floors and there are two more hostels.

“Educating girls was rare and difficult when this school opened.”

Last November Sunderland Rotary Club presented Lynne with a Paul Harris Fellowship honour, from International Rotary, for “furtherance of better understanding and friendly relations among peoples of the world”, something which she describes as “a huge honour”.

“In Ghana there are 47 Vocational schools for girls,” Lynne added.

“We have opened seven of them, and in the most inaccessible districts.

“This is all in spite of constantly being refused funding from major donors.

“We rely on friends and supporters who want to be sure their money is well spent and nothing wasted.”

Lynne, whose dad Tom Luccock was Sunderland’s first Crime Prevention Officer for the police force, is also an honorary Fellow of Sunderland University and will be back in the city next month for graduation ceremonies.

For more information on the Wulugu Project go to