TAQA Employees Volunteer Abroad to Renovate School in Ghana

TAQA, which means energy in Arabic, is an international energy and water company listed in Abu Dhabi operating in 11 countries across four continents. The company contacted United Planet last year to organize a Group Quest to Ghana where they could learn more about the people and country they have operations in. Their Quest project focused on renovating a school while immersing in the culture, strengthening relationships and building teamwork skills. The following is a press release shared with us by Debbie Harlock, the group leader, which details their experience and the impact they made.


If you’re going to do team-building, it is better to get outside rather than run a paper exercise in a window-less meeting room. And if you going to do something practical, it is better if someone actually benefits, so you can see whether you’re doing any good or not.

That was the plan of TAQA Talent when Debbie Harlock took 12 members of TAQA’s Talent Acceleration Programme (TAP) to Ghana to work on a charity project near to the company’s power plant at Takoradi.


“We wanted them out of their comfort zone,” said Ms Harlock, TAQA’s Global Talent Manager. “We not only wanted them to complete a team task, but to deal with challenges like no electricity, running water or bathrooms in the village, as well as being snapped at by the crocodiles and scorpions near their hotel.”

TAP is one of TAQA Talent’s programmes designed to develop tomorrow’s leaders. Designed for grades 3, 4, and 5, the programme was launched last April. A group of internationally mobile, highly rated employees were identified and invited onto an 18 month programme to develop their leadership skills, business acumen and overall future potential.

TAP participants, working as a group to use new and existing skills outside the workplace in a challenging environment, tested their abilities in: alignment and execution against strategic objectives; engaging and motivating others; using opportunities to influence; cultural sensitivity; leadership, planning and organizing; interpersonal skills; and team work.

In addition, the exercise was an opportunity to understand TAQA’s international business and communities in which TAQA operates.

Putubiw, a small village about two hours away from Takoradi, was selected and the tasks assigned were to conduct classes for the local children in basic skills and an introduction to energy, while renovating their local school. Ms. Harlock explained,


“It was to be teaching in the morning and construction work in the afternoon. We arrived in Putubiw to an overwhelming welcome from the villagers. They believe that the future is through their children and were so grateful for the work the TAP group would be doing that to our amazement they arranged a large welcome ceremony that most of the village attended.  It featured ceremonial dancing followed by speeches from the Chief and other dignitaries.  At the school, the children’s excitement was barely containable when they saw a camera, and the resulting pictures, for the first time.   Also, new to the children were laptops and keyboards.”


“From the beginning, it was a challenge,” explained one of the TAP members. “Before we arrived, the classes struggled with not having enough pencils to go round. Teachers and children were sharpening them using razor blades. Luckily we brought hundreds of pencils, notebooks and pens out with us, together with all sorts of other needed stationary.

I can’t even begin to describe their happiness when the team brought out a couple of footballs,” another TAP member shared.


“The children were great help with the classroom preparation prior to painting, by sweeping out the classrooms with a bunch of twigs. They also carried buckets of water on their head up a steep hill so that we could wash the walls.  Their toys consisted of “empty water bottles, cans of coke and a shampoo bottle,” explained Ms Harlock. The initial goal was to paint two classes, however with everyone putting their own money in for more paint, the group managed to paint the whole junior school internally and externally in just five days with the help of volunteers from the community.


Another challenge for the TAP team was to produce and deliver three energy presentations which targeted three school-age groups. This involved experiments, games, and story boards – a style of teaching new to the children. “We started our energy class for 5 – 7 years old with approximately 25 kids in the classroom, but throughout the class the enthusiasm, the engagement and the happiness from the kids were so intense that kids from other classrooms started to show up and we ended up the class with almost 50 kids!” explained one TAP member.


When the time came for the TAP team to leave, the village held a farewell ceremony. They were extremely grateful for all of the gifts and equipment donated from TAQA’s Takoradi office and the TAP team. “The whole village turned out to say thank you – that is 1,500 people,” said Ms Harlock. “The TAP team were made “honorary members of Putubiw” and as group leader, I am now designated as a Putubiw “royal.”


Special thanks go to the team at Takoradi, the HSSE team, the travel team, the HR team, and United Planet (volunteering organisation) for their incredible support and counsel to make this trip safe and possible.

“The TAP team really embraced this work.  Their energy, enthusiasm and determination to add value and improve the lives of the children of Putubiw were fantastic and a life changing experience for all involved.”

Thank you TAQA for reaching out to us to plan your volunteer Quest to Ghana! Your words and pictures tell an inspiring story. To learn more about Group Quests or Corporate Outreach Programs, visit their relative pages or contact United Planet by calling 1-617-267-7763 or emailing quest@unitedplanet.org!

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