The school was getting rid of more than 200 “old but useful” chairs from its R-3 classes when the school groundsman, Kos Skouroumounis, happened to see Shanton Sinka collecting unwanted furniture during a council kerbside collection day.
Kos offered to help load the furniture into Shanton’s ute and learned it was being shipped to Ghana for a women’s shelter funded by Aussieghana Relief, a registered charity set up by Shanton and his wife Rae-Anne.
When Kos mentioned that one of the three schools he worked at was replacing classroom furniture, Shanton knew he could put the items to good use and collected three ute loads of couches and chairs as well as old uniforms.
“The timing was perfect – we were about to get rid of a heap of things and Shanton was more than happy to collect them,” said Stella Maris principal James Quigley.
“It was a win-win for all.”
Shanton told The Southern Cross that the items would go to a school near the women’s shelter that the charity has assisted previously with exercise books, pencils and backpacks.
He said the project to build the shelter was prompted by his own experience with domestic violence.
“When I was 11 years old I witnessed my father chasing my mother with a machete,” he said.
“My brother and I were forced to fend for ourselves as our mother fled our home and my two sisters were sent to live with family members.”
“I didn’t see my mother again until I was 22.”
In 2009 Shanton visited Australia and met Rae-Anne, who spent a year in Ghana with him in 2010.
“That year changed me forever, pushed me way beyond my comfort zone and made me look at life in a very different way,” Rae-Anne said.
“I was stunned to see the lack of opportunities for girls and women. Early marriage was expected and if the girls were fortunate to have been able to attend school or have a job, once they were married, they were expected to be in the home, tending to their husbands and producing as many children as ‘God’ provided them with.
“I was shocked when I found out that a woman is expected to endure cheating, verbal abuse and physical abuse. If a woman flees the marital home due to violence, she is forced back to the marriage by her own family.”
Rae-Anne said the construction of the women’s shelter was Shanton’s passion and had been funded largely by them. They also pay for the shipping containers.
“We are very determined to finish the shelter this year all going well,” Rae-Anne said.
The couple are planning a clothing drive this year and are also happy to share their story to schools and community groups.
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