Two years ago Sarah Smithurst made her first trip to Africa, looking to set up a crime-fighting scheme in Ghana.
Back home, in Nottinghamshire, she is responsible for co-ordinating information passed on to the county's police force through a similar organization, Crimestoppers. It was on the back of Crimestoppers' success that she was asked to travel to Ghana to set up Crimefighters.
Since that first visit in August 2009, the scheme has gone from strength to strength, spreading throughout the different regions of the African country. Wednesday will mark Smithurst's last visit to Ghana, in her role as a consultant for Crimefighters.
In the two years since she was first asked to help, the organization - a sort of citizens' intelligence network that helps law enforcement agencies - has been put into place across the country; the last remaining areas are the northern regions of Tamale, the northeast side of Bolgatanga and the northwest region of Wa. This will ensure the confidential phone line is up and running across the whole country.
"This will be my last trip to Ghana as part of the Crimefighters project and the final piece of the jigsaw. It has proved to be incredibly successful," Smithurst said in a statement, "The information that has come into Crimefighters has helped police track down armed robbers and gain crucial intelligence on drug dealing."
The Ghanaian version of the organization works on similar lines as the British one, although it is not run as independently as it is in Britain; the calls are handled by Ghanaian police. However, it still allows for rewards to be paid for information which leads to the conviction of criminals.
Smithurst, who is based in Mansfield, was also responsible for training operators on how to handle calls that come in and what to do with the information. The call centre is now staffed all through the day, with information being relayed to regional control rooms.
Smithurst returned in October 2010, to launch the scheme in Accra's Brong-Ahafo section, Sunyani and the Cape Coast. Her third visit in February 2011 saw the introduction of Crimefighters in Takoradi, the capital of the country's western region, Ho in the Volta region and Kumasi in the Ashanti region.
Since it was launched the call centre has received in excess of 1,000 calls directly related to criminal activity in Ghana and more than 13 million people now have access to the confidential information line.
"When I first went out to Ghana I didn't know what to expect. Until you get there and see it, feel it and live it you can't imagine what life is like," she added, "The police force is very different and is seen as being very corrupt. Members of the public don't trust officers which is why Crimefighters was launched to give people another way to pass on information. The project has really grown and it has been amazing to have been part of that."
Her last visit will also coincide with the delivery of a container full of donations for the police service, a local orphanage, schools and hospitals. The donations were a result of Smithurst's desire to help the people on different levels, after being struck by the poverty and lack of essential items on her first visit.
She enlisted the help of the National Police Aid Convoys, a charity that was started in 1993 by police officers in Nottinghamshire and continues to procure and deliver humanitarian aid across the globe. Their support allowed Smithurst to organize the packing and transportation of an earlier container that reached Ghana in August 2009. A second container was sent in February 2011, making the most recent one the third. The container measures 40 by 9 by 7 feet, weighs eight tons and takes six hours to unload.
"While I was working with police during my first visit I saw how in need they were of the equipment and basic protective items that our officers are automatically given in this country," she explained, "They had no stab vests or high visibility clothing and are working in extremely challenging conditions, with little or no protection. Although their uniforms are very smart and they take a lot of pride in their professional appearance, basic protective equipment is not always available to everyone. I also wanted to see the real Ghana and went to visit schools and orphanages near the police headquarters. What I saw broke my heart and it made me realize how much we take for granted in this country."
Among the items in the container this year are high-visibility police uniforms, police equipment, police body armor, bikes, baby clothes, hospital equipment, a wheel chair, two sofas, shirts, tins of paint, tables, a television, a printer and a box of toys. The police equipment was been donated by policemen and stations from across the country. Other items have been donated by schools, community groups and residents in Nottinghamshire, with local scout group - the Merlin Explorers - helping pack the container.
"I may be returning to Ghana for the last time to complete the Crimefighters project but I hope to continue sending aid over to the school and orphanage. I couldn't do it though without the generosity of police forces and members of the public not only here in Nottinghamshire but across the country and their support never ceases to amaze me," said Smithurst.