Wednesday, February 27, 2008

A Possible Partnership in the Works!

Today, the founders of FFCI and I met with Enterprise Mentors, a local microcredit group. I have struggled for months to set up a meeting with them. I feel that helping families develop through training and loans can be a great way to strike at the root of the orphan and needy child problem, and the founders agree. In addition, I made Michael a promise-- one that I feel extends to all the children at New Life and elsewhere-- to help his mother and his family so they can live a fulfilled life. So Michael can keep going to school. So he can eat. So he can live with his mother instead of at the orphanage.

The meeting had taken so long to set up, I had become discouraged and thought there was little interest on the EM side. Imagine my surprise and excitement when they were thrilled at the prospect of working with us in Ghana! Plans for a small office at our school and an exploratory initial program have already been discussed! After our founders return from Ghana (they leave next week!), hopefully the plans will become real. We are all so excited about the help this can bring to our children, their families, and children and families all over Ghana. EM is a well-established microcredit group, and they focus as much on training as they do on loans. We are pleased to be forming a connection with them!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Square Foot Gardening

So I just got back from training on square foot (or meter) gardening, and I just have to say that it is SO COOL!!

First, a giant thank you has to go to Karen Bastow, one of the key people involved with SFG in my area, for being willing to give us free training. She traveled so far out of her way to give of her time and knowledge and we are so grateful!

These gardening techniques are truly incredible. You can create an amazing garden in 20% of the space you would use in a traditional row garden. The use of composted soil gives healthier crops and a higher crop yield. It uses significantly less water than traditional gardens, and takes a fraction of the time to care for, since the method means almost no weeds. We were shown examples of SFG's in Kenya-- some that didn't work, and why, and some that were amazing successes. One small orphanage was able to stop buying vegetables completely, and were hoping to start another garden for food they could sell!

SFG was introduced at New Life last year, but due to various factors, has not done well since. We hope that in our groups this summer we can use new materials to train them, and truly get them involved! We hope to do the same for Sankofa, and for FFCI once we get established. If the people can get the concept and really do it, I am confident that it can help provide for the children. It's not meant to compete with farmers, but to work alongside them and to help bring more food to those who are in need of it. With our two groups going back to back, it hopefully gives us enough time to see how invested they are in the project, and to ensure that it can work. We are very excited! If you have any questions about SFG, check out their website above, or email me.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Issues Affecting African Children #4: Abandonment, Exploitation and Slavery

Today's article comes from Guinea, but it is a problem that, like the others, affects children across the continent. I highly recommend reading it for more details on the specific crisis in Guinea.

The issues of child abandonment, exploitation and slavery are not new, and can take many forms. Child soldiers, sex slaves, indentured house servants, fisherman's "helpers"...the list could go on. Some parents actually sell their children, while others believe they are giving up their children to a better life. Some children are simply taken from the streets when they're forced there after parents die. Others run away from their own slavery and end up on the streets-- just another form of slavery as they are forced into prostitution and theft.

So much of this issue stems from poverty and lack of education. Poverty itself is a form of slavery. However, simply blaming the issue on the broad term "poverty" just doesn't cut it. While the ones who do condemn children to such a situation may be desperate, deliberately placing a child in a situation that brings death, disease, hard labor, psychological trauma, and a complete lack of freedom is vile.

One organization that is trying to help through education is Free the Children. To learn more about them, the situation, and to get involved, visit their site!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Fundraising and Sankofa Mbofra Fie Updates

The following is an exerpt from our fundraising letter:

"After several months as a volunteer at New Life International Orphanage, I thought I had seen just about every joy and trial a West African orphanage could bring—until the day a desperate father arrived. He stood in the dark, narrow hallway of the whitewashed building, clutching the hand of his little girl and holding his toddler son in his arms. He spoke only broken English, so the orphans helped translate his message. His wife had just died, leaving him with the two young children. As a fisherman who spent his days on the sea, he could not properly care for his children, and he had no one to leave them with. We were the third orphanage he had come to asking for help.

“Just small time,” he pleaded as he let go of his daughter’s hand to shift his son to the other arm. She came slowly to me, taking my hand and giving me an impish smile. “I come back when they big.”

The director of the orphanage was nowhere to be found, but I already knew we could not take in any more children—we were already overcrowded. And so, as the only adult there to speak with him, I had to let go of the little girl’s hand and say the hardest word I have ever had to say: no. As I watched him gather his children and trudge slowly up the hill to the road with a look of resignation and discouragement in his eyes, I knew I never wanted to say no to a cry for help ever again.”
Shallee McArthur
Volunteer Program Coordinator, Families for Children International

Please donate today! If you can't, but would like to help, please pass around the letter to friends and family. Click the link above and to find the full letter!

Now, updates and pictures from Sankofa! A new bamboo school house has been built-- a larger one to fit all of the classes. Previously, the older classes had to hold class under the trees. We're happy they now have the room they need!

The new school house being built.

Even with the schoolhouse, studying is hard when sharing a book with 8 other children.

Meet Betty Ampong, a student at Sankofa, wearing her uniform.