When I decided to volunteer with International Volunteer Headquarters, I wanted to help children, but I was intimidated by children and didn’t believe myself capable of working one on one with them. I therefore chose to work in the agriculture program, working on a farm owned by an orphanage so I could work and have minimal contact with children. Little did I know that those six months would change my perspectives on children and life in general.
Upon my arrival in Ghana, I was placed at an orphanage with 28 children, located in the town of Bawjiase in the Central Region of Ghana. My original role at the Christian Refuge Orphanage Center, now called United Hearts Children Center, was to help on the farm to provide the orphanage with a consistent and sustainable income.
In order to be productive and keep busy, I quickly became more and more involved in the orphanage itself. As time went by, we found more children who needed food and a place to sleep. However, as the number of children grew, the amount of space and food grew scarce.
Each child at the orphanage had a unique story. Many had lost parents in car accidents or floods. Many of the children have family in Bawjiase, but the relatives had so many children of their own that they cannot afford to care for another. A few of the children were abandoned and found by others who brought them to Pastor Elisha, the orphanage’s founder and director.
Due to the rate of poverty in this area of Ghana, many families just don’t have the resources to care for a child or as many children as they have. Many organizations and dedicated people in this area and around Ghana are working to turn this situation around, but it is a slow and difficult process. The goal of the orphanage is to help by educating and supporting these children so that each of them can grow up to be strong and capable adults.
To help with the problem of unaffordable education and poverty, the orphanage is striving to become a community-centered project. Once the new home is finished, we will begin building a community school geared towards accommodating all children in the community who cannot afford to go to school. It will serve children from daycare through grade six, and there is room to add a junior high school in the future. We are trying to make it clear to the community that this is not a school for orphans, but a school for any child wishing to receive an education.
The hope is that after this school is built, it will eventually be governed and supported by the community it is meant to serve. In the distant future, we, meaning foreign affiliates and invested community members, hope to also build a public library to keep the community dedicated to education and development. To help raise funds for building a new school, I have partnered with an organization called Mama Hope, a charity organization based in the United States dedicated to funding service projects in countries all over Africa.
My role in partnering with Mama Hope is to spearhead a project to raise $20,000 to go towards building the new school. Along with writing letters to family, friends, newspapers and businesses, I will soon be introducing the project to the Lawrence campus. I hope to get involved with student groups dedicated to children, education or international development to assist in fundraising and spreading knowledge of my cause.
Even public schools in Ghana have expensive enrollment fees, which many children cannot afford. That is why this school will be geared toward children of underprivileged families who cannot afford public school tuition. Our hope is to get enough community support so that foreign aid can eventually phase out and the school can be self-sufficient. We have worked with people associated with the orphanage as well as community members from Bawjiase and neighboring towns who are dedicated to this cause and who are willing to work to make this school and the future orphanage self-sufficient.
For more information on the work of Mama Hope, or to donate, go to http://www.mamahope.org/United-Hearts-School.html. To learn more about the United Hearts Children Center, visit www.unitedheartschildren.org.