4 Kids in
ghana! st. mary's african mission project
Update by Diana Austin
Last year, while volunteering at Ashan Children’s Home in Ghana I was informed that they were reducing the number of children due to a command from social services.
his meant that a number of children were being sent away. This was a difficult time for everyone considering that these children were there in the first place because they had no one to take care of them. They had called Ashan home for up to ten years and were frightened at the thought of returning to places they didn’t remember. (Orphanages in Ghana, as in many developing countries, are not exactly the same as the western idea of orphanages. Many of the children in the Ashan orphanage had at least one parent. These parents, however, were unable to take care of them. This was usually due to poverty and/or because they already had many children to care for.) The staff did not want to send the kids away but were afraid of having their license revoked if they did not follow social services instructions. However, one night while talking to the home
manager, Ross, the topic of sponsorship came up. Before I knew it a ball was rolling and the future of four kids in Ghana was forever changed. Since sponsoring all the children was not an option (and for some returning to their extended families was probably in their best interest as the family had been able to overcome their issues) four children were identified as being in particular need. With the help of my parents, St. Mary’s church, and all the generous sponsors a dream became a reality, a sponsorship project was born, and four kids in Ghana were given a chance at a future.
The Individuals Involved Thomas Antwi Boateng (17 years old) Timing can be everything in life. These events came at a particularly crucial moment in Thomas’ life: he was waiting for his Junior High Exam marks to come back. These marks determine one’s Senior High School placement, which in turn determines one’s likelihood of success as the caliber of education varies greatly among schools in Ghana. Nonetheless, Thomas’ marks would have been meaningless if he had returned ‘home’.
Thomas came to Ashan when he was eight years old because his mother had been unable to care for him. His memories of early childhood are quite heart wrenching: they were essentially homeless, occasionally seeking shelter with different family members. He recalls how all of his belonging used to fit into a rice sack and that his mother was so poor she couldn’t afford to buy soap. This was quite ostracizing considering cleanliness is of utmost importance in Ghanaian society. Thomas also recalls eating scraps of food off the table at the local high school because he was so hungry and there was no other food to eat. He winces when he remembers how particularly cruel kids spit in the food or mixed it with broken glass. Before the sponsorship project came in place Thomas
Antwi’s first time seeing the ocean 1
noble soul and aspires to be a solider so he can protect his country and loved ones. His name was constantly heard at Ashan; the ‘Ma’s (female staff) were always calling on him to help because he was strong and the ‘Ma’s knew they could count on him. He always came when called even though he wanted to play soccer with the other boys or tend the garden he planted in the bush.
was preparing to return to his grandmother’s mud house with no hope of a future. He loves his grandmother but knew that there would be no money to pay for fees, books, and all the other expenses that go along with education. This would have been particularly devastating considering Thomas finished first in his Junior High Class and was accepted into one of the country’s top schools. Thanks to St. Mary’s Mission Project he has recently finished his first year at Adu Gyamfi and is looking forward to returning in the fall.
Emmanuel Grundo (14 years old)
Emmanuel’s mother, a northerner, passed away when he was quite young. When she did, Emmanuel moved from the north to live with his father, his father’s wife, and their five children in the Ashanti region. (Emmanuel’s situation is quite common even though having multiple wives is not considered ‘proper’ amongst Christians; it is quite common for men to have multiple families or at least concubines.) However, when Emmanuel was eight he came to Ashan with his half brother Samuel because his father could not afford to care for all of his children. Although life at an orphanage is not always easy for a young child, Emmanuel did not want to leave for he feared what life would be like if he returned to his father’s house. He remembers
less fortunate family members such as nieces or nephews as servants who spend their days doing chores. Emmanuel has many of the qualities one needs for success: strong work ethic, good morals, ambition, creativity, intelligence, and a big smile. All the same, he would have had little chance to live up to his potential without the help of the St. Mary’s Mission Project. Emmanuel was extremely grateful and relieved at the opportunity of sponsorship and is working hard to prove he deserves the privilege. He, along with Victoria and Francis Agyenium, attended a local private school this past year and are currently enjoying just being kids during their summer vacation.
Victoria (13 years old) Victoria is the lone girl in the group. Nonetheless she is smart, talkative, and spirited enough to hold her own with the boys. One of my favorite memories of her is from a soccer game. She was leading her schoolmates in enthusiastic cheers and reminded me of many other 13-year-old girls back home (particularly myself at her age).
Judging from her en ergy, zest, and spir ited disposition, one would never guess the adversity that she has faced. When Victoria was a young girl she was separated from her brother after her parents died in a car crash. She was sent to stay with her grandmother while her brother went to live with a family friend. Unfortunately her grandmother was unable to provide for Victoria and, along with two male cousins, was sent to the Ashan orphanage.
Emmanuel, or Grundo, as he is often called, is a charismatic and hardworking boy. He loves to draw, chat, and eat. The other kids were always careful not to upset him, not because he was aggressive but because he was tough and kept everyone else in line. He is a
that his stepmother did not seem to like him and was afraid that instead of going to school he would be forced to do all the hard labor for the family. His fears would likely have became his reality if he had returned as in Ghana it is common for families to take on
Even though Victoria’s grandmother only lived in a village five minutes from the orphanage Victoria was heartbroken when she was told she had to leave Ashan. Her apprehension was understandable considering her older cousin had been sent home a couple years ago due to misbehavior. Since leaving Ashan he had stopped going to school and there was clearly no one looking out for him as he ran 2
Francis was born in the Ivory Coast and came to Ghana with his mom when. He was quite young when he came to Ashan and thus doesn’t remember the details of why or when he came. Like Victoria, Francis originally came to the children’s home with a cousin who was later sent back to live with the grandmother. I saw Francis’ cousin, Daniel, one day when we were in another village for a soccer match. He was shoeless, shirtless, with unkempt hair. Daniel told me how much he missed the orphanage and wished he could go back. He missed all the kids and wanted to go to school.
Victoria is in the middle.
wild about the village and was shadowed by a forlorn look. In addition to being bright and motivated, Victoria was chosen to be part of the 4 kids in Ghana because as a young female, and lack of parental supervision, she was even more susceptible than her male counterparts. On top of that, it was believed that she would be forced to sell water on the streets as many other young girls in Ghana do. It addition to being unsafe for a young girl like herself, selling water on the streets is tiresome and extremely low paying. Victoria is the kind of girl who would fight to survive in any situation, words that describe her include: determined, assertive, and passionate. Still, the truth is that Ghana is a man’s world and without a proper education and adequate supervision it can be a dangerous place for a young girl like her. Thanks to the sponsorship program, however, Victoria has been granted an opportunity to learn, a safe environment to live, and most importantly a chance at a better life.
Francis Agyenium (14 years old) Francis is in many ways the ‘little brother’ of the group because he is quieter, smaller, and much more timid than the others. He is also incredibly sweet and lovable. In some ways it is hard to
describe Francis because he is neither a cheerleader like Victoria nor a leader like Emmanuel. He is the shy boy who would sit with me silently as I did some stretching exercises outside under the tree. He can be extremely helpful.
Francis was identified as a child in need of sponsorship because the managers at the orphanage saw his po tential and did not want Francis to suffer the same fate as Daniel. However, Francis had already left the orphanage before the sponsorship plan came into effect. When I went to go pick him up he was sitting on the front step of his grandmother’s house, all alone, with his head in his hands. I will never forget the way his face light up when he saw the taxi pull up to the house and the way he nervously hid behind a pole while I talked to his village chief (who happens to be his great uncle) about sponsorship.
Ben Eveslage and Volunteer Africa The sponsorship project started to take form at a less than ideal time: a few weeks before I was about to leave Ghana. There were many things that needed to be taken care of: we had to find a school for the kids to 3
go to, there were health problems to be taken care of, health insurance to be dealt with, paperwork to write up, and most importantly we needed to find a place for the kids to stay. Ben and the other volunteers at Volunteer Africa were our ‘knights in shining armor’ during that stressful time. Volunteer Africa (VA) was an organization that was located in a neighboring village called Nkwantakese. Even though they already had a great deal on their own plates, Ben and the others at VA offered to take the kids in and let them stay with the other 15 orphans that VA was taking care of. We are extremely grateful for the support, shelter, and guidance that Ben and the VA crew provided for Thomas, Emmanuel, Victoria, and Francis. Ben also helped set up the project budget and organized the children’s current living situation when VA relocated to the Western region. Their role was vital in the pioneering stages of the project. Their assistance was most needed and greatly appreciated.
Vida Addo and Family Vida is a Ghanaian woman who worked as VA’s cook when they were in Nkwantakese. When VA relocated, Vida agreed to take over the supervision of the ‘ Fab Four’. She not only cooks for them now but also serves as a surrogate mother and manages the funds sent over. The children adore Vida, her husband David, and their three children: Osei Osus (9 yrs), Angelina (6 yrs), and baby Rose (15 months). They sound very happy in her care and it is clear that Vida is not only dedicated to the project but also truly cares for the children. Vida has been a saving grace and deserves a million thanks!
The Austin’s I, Diana Austin first went to Ghana in 2004 as a volunteer with AFS international. I spent six months working at ‘Ashan Development Center’. Due to the impact of the experience and the relationships I had built with the children, I returned to Ghana in the spring of 2009. Since leaving Ghana in October my role in the sponsorship project includes organizing money transfers, monitoring the budget, and communicating with the children and
Vida regularly through Skype and email. I also act as the liaison between the kids and my parents who serve as the link connecting the parish and fundraisers. My parents, Rob and Maggie Austin, who came to Ghana in July 2009, were moved by the experience and forever touched by the kids’ love. They have been an incredible help in making the sponsorship a reality, as they were the ones who convinced St. Mary’s to take on this project. My sister, Danielle, also has a special spot in her heart for the children as she came to Ghana to visit in 2004. Thus, it was easy to recruit her to the project and she has volunteered her design skills in the making of this newsletter.
St. Mary’s Parish St. Mary’s Parish of Moosomin has graciously agreed to take on sponsoring these children as a mission project. They have helped in fundraising,
processing donations, and are vital in helping make the sponsorship a reality.
Sponsors It goes without saying that without the generous donations of the sponsors there would be no sponsorship project. Thus, I would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to all the sponsors— you have made it possible for the children to have shelter, access to education, food to eat, and clothes to wear. It is not an exaggeration to say that it is thanks to our sponsors that these 4 kids in Ghana have a future. Medase Pa! (Thank you in Twi) The truth is the sponsorship project is not just about paying the children’s school fees. It is about giving them a sense of security, a reminder that there are people who care about them, and giving them a family. Sponsorship is their last hope, without it they are all on their own.
Ride for Refugees While we are grateful for all our sponsors, the Ride for Refugees committee in Moosomin deserves a special thank you. Ride for Refugees (R4R) is a nation wide fundraiser put on by International Teams Canada. Mel Konkel, of Moosomin, has organized R4R for the last two years. Even though 4 kids in Ghana may not be the kind of refugees that first comes to mind, the R4R webpage states that they ‘help the displaced, the vulnerable, and exploited. Thus it is easy to see how the 4 kids in Ghana who were ‘displaced’ from their home at Ashan are in essence refugees in their own country.
R4R graciously donat ed over $2800 to the 4 kids in Ghana project and helped provide much need refuge for Thomas, Emmanuel, Victoria, and Francis.
A Year of Trials and Triumphs Things often seem harder in Ghana, and the project was no exception. The past year has not been easy, yet incredibly rewarding at the same time. Probably the most challenging issue was organizing a new living situation for the children. This involved finding someone to care for the children and also finding them some place to live. The most practical solution turned out to be leasing a house in the ‘Habitat for Humanity’ community where they were already living. For around $1000 Canadian we were able to lease a house for the children and thanks to Ben, hire Vida Addo to care and watch out for the children. The situation has worked out very well and the children feel safe and comfortable.
Money Matters The money that our sponsors generously donated has been used to pay for the children’s school fees, books and living expenses. Each month we send money for food, a salary for Vida who cooks and looks after the children, allowance (which the children use to
buy food at school and transportation) and extra needs (as we all know life is full of unexpected costs). A general financial report follows although not all expenses are included. Those interested can email me for more a comprehensive report. (Note: GHC stands for Ghana Cedis, dollars are Canadian, and other than the value for the lease all conversions are using the 09/08/2010 exchange rate of 1 GHC: $0.72 CAN)
2009/2010 School Year Costs: items cost
Agyenium’s textbooks (gr. 6)
Agyenium’s uniform (gr. 6)
Emmanuel & Victoria’s textbooks (1st Yr. Jr. High)
Emmanuel & Victoria’s Uniform (1st Yr. Jr. High)
School Fee (1/day x 234 days x 3 kids)
Thomas Antwi’s fees
Thomas Antwi’s Supplies for School
Major non-school expenses: items cost
5 year lease on a house in Nkwantakese
4 mattresses and covers
Stove & cylinder
Ecolak bags (thick plastic bags to store kid’s clothes)
Extra Set-up Costs
Money for new clothes (bought in July 2010)
Money for new shoes (bought in July 2010)
Health Care Costs
Break Down: Monthly expenses Oct ‘09 to Sept ‘10
Total school costs for ‘09 to ‘10
Back-to-School Allowance (20 GHC/kid)
Total other major expenses Oct. ‘09 -Sept. ‘10
Transportation for Thomas Antwi to go to school
Total of Major Costs
Total School Costs for ‘09-’10
here we go again: year two of 4 kids in ghana. When we began the project my mom, Maggie, and I independently had the same thought. Even though we only had enough money to get started we decided to leave it up to God to pro-
ing a good job is still not easy. Having an education, especially from a tier one school like Adu Gyamfi, can make the world of difference though. The idea that ‘education is the key to a future’ is particularly true in Ghana. Thus, the sponsorship program not only gives the kids a roof over their heads, food in their bellies, and shirts on their backs. It has also given them a chance at a
children satisfy the other levels of the triangle. It provides them with a sense of belonging, and helps them achieve their goals. The project empowers the children with education and a sense of worth. To make it through another year, though, Thomas, Emmanuel, Victoria, and Francis need your help. Like last year we need financial help to cover education and living costs. If you are interested in supporting the St. Mary’s Mission project you can email me at email@example.com for more information or send donations to *St. Mary’s (please see contact information below). Collectively the sponsorship makes the world of difference in the lives of these children. 4 kids in Ghana thank you!
contact information: Diana Austin email
Maggie Austin phone
vide what we needed. We relied on our faith and a year later it is clear that it was the right decision. It has not been an easy year for anyone involved. To be honest it was more difficult than any of us had imagined. It was a struggle but it looks like the storm has passed and the growing pains are starting to ease. After an eventful trip around the sun, the St. Mary’s Mission Project is in a similar spot to where we were a year ago: school is about to start again for the kids and its time to fundraise. Emmanuel, Victoria, and Francis are going to be starting at a new school, which is walking distance instead of a long bus ride. They are excited while also a little sad to say goodbye to their friends from the former school. Thomas Antwi, on the other hand, is returning to Adu Gyamfi, the same high school he attended last year. His new challenge is going to be deciding whether to study business or general arts. It is a hard decision because while he loves history he also excels at math. He also feels pressure to choose an area of study that will help him find work later on. Even though unemployment in Ghana has significantly decreased from 20 to 11% in recent years, find-
future. A couple of weeks ago, Thomas told me how in one of his high school classes the teacher was discussing Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs. Thomas identified that his lowest physical needs of food, water, and shelter are met thanks to the mission project. Beyond the basic necessities, however, the mission project also helps the
St. Mary’s Mission Project phone
4 kids in Ghana
St. Mary’s Mission Project
Box 9, Moosomin, Sask.
* Cheques can be made out to St. Mary’s Parish