West Lothian accountant Eunice Simpson realised her dream in Scotland after a fire left her penniless

Charity director Eunice Simpson has told how she overcame tragedy and poverty in Africa in order to finally achieve her dream to help vulnerable women.

Eunice, who is a member of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, was left with only the clothes she was wearing when a fire destroyed her student dormitory at Ho Technical University in the Volte region of Ghana, including the money she was saving to take her first professional exams with ACCA.

The mother-of-two, who lives in Bathgate, West Lothian, and is finance director of the KWISA charity that offers advice and support to African women living in Scotland, believed the fire had cost her the future she had worked towards for years.

She said: ‘I lost everything in the fire. The only possessions I had left were the clothes I stood up in. I had lost my money, my belongings, most of my clothes, everything.

‘I cried the whole night. It was a very traumatic experience. I was in my second year studying for a Higher National Diploma in Accountancy and suddenly I didn’t think there would be any way for me to finish my HND.

‘I had saved from my student loan to pay the fee to take my professional exams with ACCA, but all my money had been lost in the fire. My dream had been to qualify as an accountant and to work in the charity sector, but it looked like everything was impossible.’

She added: ‘I spent the first night after the fire with a friend in town. I had to depend on people's goodwill to get by. One of my male lecturers gave me his shirt so I could change the only black T-shirt I was wearing in the scorching sun all day. I suffered mental and emotional trauma for the rest of the academic year. I had to re-start life all over again at a slow pace because I could only buy anything I needed when people showed me kindness by sending me small donations. Life was tough.  

‘I didn’t want to compromise on my education, and I found the strength to keep on going, working from the school library.

‘I decided that my problems were not a mountain that I could not get over and I was determined to keep going, no matter how difficult it was. My faith kept me going when times were hard.

‘I was focused on my passion to become an accountant, as that would enable me to travel and to help people.’

Eunice struggled on and eventually passed her final year of the HND with an upper second grade. She then worked as an accountant and later country director for Cerad International.

A few years later, she started to fulfill her ambitions by moving to Wales with her husband Caesar, where she completed her MBA at the University of South Wales in Glamorgan.

She moved to Edinburgh in 2010 and she worked in finance for the Marie Curie charity.

Finally, she was able to take her delayed ACCA exams and qualified in 2016.

She now works for the charity Voluntary Sector Gateway West Lothian as a Finance Manager. The organisation helps other charities and the voluntary sector to develop their technology capabilities and to make links with public sector bodies.

Eunice is also voluntary finance director for KWISA in Edinburgh. Founded in 2012 by three African women, the organisation aims to promote and empower African women so that they can achieve their full potential in Scotland. It seeks to influence Government policies on equality and issues such as FGM.

Craig Vickery, head of ACCA Scotland, said: ‘Eunice’s story is a wonderful example of resilience and courage, which we wanted to share with a wide audience. Her dedication and passion to help vulnerable women is inspirational.’

Eunice is happy that she has achieved some of her ambitions, despite the challenges she has faced.

Her advice to other women is simple, saying: ‘Believe in God and in yourself and always work hard. Keep your focus and your targets alive. Most of all, keep going, no matter what is happening in your life.’

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"I didn’t want to compromise on my education, and I found the strength to keep on going, working from the school library. I decided that my problems were not a mountain that I could not get over and I was determined to keep going, no matter how difficult it was. My faith kept me going when times were hard. I was focused on my passion to become an accountant, as that would enable me to travel and to help people.’ "

Eunice Simpson