Ghana Trip 2022
I’ve been in Ghana now for four days. I’m in the city of Wineba and traveling around the Central Region. I’ve already seen over 30 children and it’s been an amazing trip so far. I will recap week 1:
~We had a gathering of beneficiaries that included 10 that I’ve known since 2015 and 6 that are new. At one point, the older beneficiaries talked to the new ones and explained all that we’ve done for them. This made the six new beneficiaries seem more comfortable and probably sped up the initiation process. The older beneficiaries expressed how wonderful our care has been and how we looked after every aspect of their life. This was followed by a game of soccer on the beach and playing in the sand and just being kids. It was a beautiful and meaningful gathering.
~We then took the new children back to their homes. The four girls have a challenging home situation that we will work on, and the boys seem to be a bit better off.
~We started off early and went on a 3-hour drive to a secondary school where we have a remarkable young man named Felix. He was number one in his class and the school chaplain. Felix would like to be a secondary social studies teacher. Next, we went to the School for the Blind and Deaf. We have a young man Isaac there who’s deaf and would like to become a teacher one day. Next, we went to Hariom International School where we have five beneficiaries: Mary, Evans, Stephen, Kojo and Francis. They were all doing well and told us of their career aspirations: a nurse, soldier, police officer, doctor, and soccer player. Later we saw two beneficiaries, Joanna and Frederick, at both their schools and homes.
~Dickson, Emmanuel and I met with government social services in Wineba. We have started a partnership with them, and they had asked us to take on the six new beneficiaries. This seems to be a very productive relationship, and we will both be able to help each other. Next, we went to see two young men at a boarding school. They were both doing very well, and the school had great things to say about them. Joseph has one of the biggest personalities I’ve ever met anywhere. Then we went to see Charles who’s learning to be a plumber and install tiles. He’s impressed everybody with his hard work and dedication. He is now trusted to do jobs on his own. From there we went to see Kwesi, one of our former beneficiaries who is now a master craftsman as a car mechanic. Next, we went to see Sarah and Mary, two girls learning to be tailors. After only one year, they are confident they can make me clothes.
~Just seeing amazing success today! One of our young ladies, Christiana, was trafficked twice and then had a horrific home situation. We have now rented an apartment for her and placed in a tailoring apprenticeship. She is now thriving. Charles, holding the Copa Shirt, had not been successful in school and expressed a desire to learn how to install tiles and plumbing. In less than a year, he can now do the jobs on his own. Another boy was struggling with school while living at home. We placed him in a boarding school, and he is catching up quickly. This reaffirms that our approach is working.
~I started the day by visiting Emmanuel. One of the problems we are seeing in schools is the teachers are on strike. Inflation is very high, and the teachers are frustrated by the governments lack of response. So, we visited Emmanuel, but no classes were taking place. Emmanuel is an average student in sixth grade, and he’s not sure what he wants to do in the future. He was very sweet and a pleasure to visit.
~Next, we visited John. Last year I tried to see him in school, but he was absent and the school complained of poor attendance. John said that “school was not for him” and expressed a desire to do window installation and is thriving. Unlike school, he attends installation training enthusiastically every day and is doing well.
~We then went to see Abigail, a young woman I’ve known for about seven years. Abigail is learning to be a tailor. It’s taking her a little longer to achieve this goal because she’s had two babies. We helped her with some birth control a few years ago and now she’s doing well. She’s going to graduate in December and start her own tailoring shop. It is always so much fun to visit Abigail and her lovely family.
~We visited Ebenezer who’s in his final year of junior high school (JHS). In Ghana when you complete JHS you need to take an exam to get into senior high school (SHS). Ebeneezer is a below average student and considering a career in tiling. He’s a warm and friendly young man. I expect great things from him.
~Next, we went to visit Kwesi. He is in sixth grade and a below average student. I spoke to him about either getting more serious in school or considering entering a trade. The choice is his. We had an amazing surprise during this visit. When talking to his mother, we discovered that she took a very small loan we gave her and turned it into a thriving business selling kitchen supplies and food. I was so impressed by her success! It was so gratifying to see.
~We went to visit two children who are thriving, Michael and Ben. Both are tailor apprentices who will be graduating in December. They are able to make all kinds of clothing and are very sweet.
~We then went to visit two more apprentices that will be graduating in December. Richard and Isaac have both learned auto body work. As you could see in the picture, they took a rusted old truck and were in the process of making it look brand new. Both boys were so appreciative of the help we’ve given them, and they can’t wait to start their own business.
~Our final stop of the day was to see Augustina, a girl who struggled to learn while living at home. Her family insisted that she helped smoke fish, sell the fish, and do all the kinds of housework. She’s very smart but was unable to succeed in school living at home. We moved her to a boarding school, and she has blossomed. Augustina is looking forward to becoming a nurse one day.
~The next two days were devoted to Elizabeth’s (aka Lizzy) marriage to Peter. We have known Lizzy since 2012, and she has shown great resilience in overcoming adversity to achieve many goals. Our family has developed a special fondness for her, so these events were very special. The engagement ceremony, is really the traditional wedding. The ceremony is held in the brides hometown and the wedding will be in the grooms hometown. This involved the bridegroom bringing gifts and money to the bride’s family. Lizzie read me a letter from her parents thanking me for caring for her for the past 11 years when they were unable to. This was very moving and Lizzie and I had tears in our eyes. I was honored by being presented with the cloth that was reserved for the father of the bride. I am so proud of her and what she has accomplished. She will be graduating from University with a teaching degree next year.
~The wedding ceremony was a 5-hour lively and joyous service with dancing, singing, and preaching.
~Since it’s a Sunday and we could not do official visits, we hung out at the office in Sogakope with about 12 beneficiaries who live/work nearby. We talked, ate, and had a good time kicking a soccer ball around. I was especially proud of Joshua and Daniel. Joshua has become an electrician. He has passed both his commercial and residential exams. The only step left is to plan his graduation ceremony. I first met Joshua in 2010 and after all of the ups and downs we have experienced together it is amazing to see his success. Daniel was always a strong student and wanted to become a soldier. He was a school prefect in secondary school and we expected him to achieve well on the exams that all secondary students take and become a soldier. However, the first time he took the exam he struggled in a couple of areas. He retook the exam and passed. He’s not applying to the military and has the grades to succeed. Joshua is in yellow and Daniel is in white.
~Christina Marsh-Bohm Joined me for the next six days. Christina was a former student of mine at Metuchen High School and is currently a banker at Nomura. Christina is also a member of the Board of Directors of Breaking the Chain Through Education. She provided critical insight and was a great addition to the trip.
~Today we saw 11 beneficiaries throughout the Volta region. I’ll group them into three categories according to their program/stage.
~First, we saw Ernest who is in the final year of junior high school. He would like to go to the excellent senior high school Keta Senior High School, that another beneficiary, Mawularm, currently attends. Although Ernest is achieving strong grades, his test scores are not of the same caliber. We will provide him additional support so he can improve his test scores. Ernest would like to study business and become an entrepreneur.
~Mawularm is in the equivalent of 11th grade at Keta Senior High School. He’s doing very well academically and has a sweet and vibrant personality. One of our goals for the upcoming school year is to strengthen any subjects that need improvement through tutoring. We want to increase his chances of getting accepted into a good university. He hopes to be a lawyer in the future.
~Next, we went to another boarding school to see two sets of brothers: David and Setsophia, Ebenezer and Elikplim. David, the oldest, is finishing up junior high school with plans to attend senior high school next year. All four are generally doing very well. Their caregiver, Mama G, loves them so much that she specifically asked for us to send her more boys like them!
~Gabriel is at a vocational school studying to be an electrician. We met and spoke for a while with one of his teachers who explained the difference between a formal education at a vocational school versus pursuing an apprenticeship. Attending a vocational school prepares you to attend a technical university; job prospects from a university degree are much better (higher salaries and positions within the government and more prestigious institutions). Gabriel would like to continue onto the university path.
Richard, at the same vocational school, is pursuing leather working (shoes, belts, etc) and will be graduating later this year. He’s one of the best in his class.
~Michael is preparing for his entrance exams for university. Some of you may remember Michael as he spoke at our BTCTE Annual Fundraising dinner in 2018. He’s living in the home we helped him build and making brooms to earn some income while he waits. Another beneficiary, Christian, had struggled in school and dropped out, so we helped him get a driver’s license. He needs some assistance getting work, and our staff is focused on this. Michael in white and Christian in yellow.
~We visited Dickson at his home in the Volta region. He graduated from secondary school recently, but he needs to wait a year before attending university (due to a Covid delay). He is living with his family and doing construction jobs to earn some money. His mom is in need of a new wheelchair; we had purchased her one last year, but it didn’t hold up in the rocky village. We will look for a sturdier one for her. Dickson has been experiencing some back and hip pain, possibly the result of the work he did when he was trafficked. We’ll arrange for a doctor to evaluate him soon.
~Gabriel is so sweet. He’s one of the children who were featured in the movie The Rescue List (known as “Teye” in the film). He will complete his apprenticeship in auto body work next year. I visited him at a fancy hotel where he was on a different type of job, sanding down the furniture and repainting it.
~Promise is in his first year in secondary school where he’s doing well academically. He’s also a great athlete and made onto the school football team. He’s hoping to be discovered by a professional football team. He’s unsure what career to pursue, but he has time to figure it out.
~It’s always a pleasure to visit our graduates and to see how they are doing. Dora is a tailor and is pregnant with her second child. She was very welcoming and gave me a pillow as a gift. She’s living in her family compound and hoping to get married soon.
~One highlight of my trip was seeing the fabulous Tulasi brothers! Each one is so sweet and possesses a clearly defined goal for his future. Harrison would like to become a college professor. His twin Henry would like to become a police officer, and James would like to be a medical doctor. Henry and Harrison are in their final year of JHS and are preparing to take their exams to be placed in a Senior High School. James just completed his first year of JHS. We visited them at their house. Earlier this year, we replaced their leaky roof. The boys were so grateful and were showing off the repairs.Henry in yellow, James in white and Harrison in red. Never their field agent is posing with them. The house is in the background.
~Wisdom was the first boy I met in Ghana when I was part of his rescue mission in 2010. Wisdom seems very happy and is doing well in his first year of Senior High School. He wants to attend a technical college after SHS to pursue an electrical degree. He would then like to join the military as an electrician. It’s amazing to see how far Wisdom has come!
~I saw 6 beneficiaries, 3 of which I’m in touch with frequently from America. They were all so appreciative of the support that we provide. They expressed how they couldn’t imagine what would have become of them without our help.
~Benedicta is in her final year at the University of Ghana in Accra. We have provided her housing, tuition, feeding etc. She has a double major in linguistics and sociology. We were discussing different job possibilities for when she graduates.
~Isaac recently graduated SHS, but he needs to postpone additional career training in order to earn money. His family needs his support, so he’s been working in a grocery store to help care for them. However, we are concerned about Isaac losing his momentum, so BTCTE will step in to help Isaac’s family so that he can pursue a trade. He agreed to move to our housing in Sogakope and do an apprenticeship in construction.
~Roberta is amazing and a star student. She’s working at a gas station and waiting to start university in January to become a nurse. She has applied to three schools and is waiting to hear which schools will accept her.
~Emmanuel is a young man who suffered from elephantiasis and needed to have his leg amputated a few months ago. His spirit and resilience are remarkable. For the past month, he’s been living at a specialized hospital that works with amputees. They will fit him for his prosthetic leg and they have a workshop to manufacture the prosthetics on site. They will then give him physical therapy and teach him how to use his new leg and care for it. He’s so appreciative of the help we’re providing. We discussed his next steps after his release from the hospital, and he expressed an interest in becoming a tailor.
~Cephas surprised me with a beautiful Father’s Day poster he had printed. It contained the following message “There are no words to express how grateful I am to you dad, for everything you have given me and the family. Happy Father’s Day with Lots of Love from your son, Cephas.” Cephas is graduating next month as a mason and can also do tiling.
~Joshua is also learning masonry and tiling, and he’s in the same apprenticeship program as Cephas. The two of them work and live together and seem to have developed a nice friendship. Joshua is in his second year so has one more year to finish. Both boys are hardworking and on track to be successful in this trade. Cephas is in green and Joshua in blue.
~One of the most rewarding parts of the trip was to see beneficiaries who had struggled in the past doing so well. Rejoice struggled at school and didn’t have a stable family to live with. She didn’t want to attend a boarding school. Nothing seemed to be working. With help from her BTCTE social worker Confidence, she decided to attend a vocational school for catering. She is living in a nearby apartment with other students. She seems so happy and made us donuts and a cake in appreciation for our help!
~Cornerstone Boarding School boys. Mighty is finishing JHS 3 but struggling academically. We are going to we will make sure he gets extra help next year. Shepherd is graduating JHS and will begin SHS this fall. Freedom, Shepherd’s brother, is in 5th grade and doing well.
~I went to Awate Tornu, the community in which we built a school in 2013. We had built six classrooms. It was so exciting is to see how the school is growing. Pencils for Promise (pencilsforpromise.org) added another building with four kindergarten classrooms. The community is building a JHS. Before our involvement, the community did not have a school.
~The big concept behind Breaking the Chain Through Education is that if victims of child trafficking can succeed if given the opportunity. Dela is a prime example of this. He has always wanted to be a primary school teacher. When I visited him years ago at his family home, they had placed a blackboard on the back of the house so he could practice teaching his nieces and nephews to read. He’s now in his final year of Senior High School. He was elected school prefect which is a great honor. The candidate must be approved by the faculty and then elected by the student body. Dela’s teacher said he he expects Dela to do very well on his entrance exams for university in the fall.
~We went to see beneficiaries in their apprenticeships, many of whom will be graduating shortly.
~Andrews and Laway are training to be tailors. Andrews had to overcome two back surgeries from injuries that took place when he fell on the edge of a boat. We have been working with Andrews for about 10 years, when he was a young boy. He will complete his training next year. Laway has been with us for four years and is progressing quickly as a tailor.
~We’ve known Bernice since she was a young girl. Visiting her is always a highlight. After changing her mind a bit, Bernice has now settled on a career she’s enjoying. She is becoming a beautician. She would also like to be a fashion model one day.
~Here are our electricians. John, Joshua, and Sampson. As long-term beneficiaries, we have been caring for all three for over ten years. These are the boys that prove that perseverance pays off. They have overcome very difficult upbringing to become successful young men. They are each on track to graduate within the next year. Many of you may remember stories about Joshua who we had trouble rescuing years ago.
~Robert is shown hard at work welding. Last year, Robert decided last year that he didn’t want to be in a traditional school but wanted to pursue a trade. He has enjoyed working in this field. Robert came from an area of Ghana in which two tribes had a land dispute. The only region of the country in which I saw a major police and military presence. He’s now living in one of our houses in Sogakope and is very happy.
~Richard is learning Graphic Design. He completed JHS 3 this year and wanted to find a career in which he could use his artistic talent. He’s doing an apprenticeship in Sogakope but still lives with his family. I saw his mom at the market, and she came up and gave me a big hug.
~Solomay is working as a waitress this year. She will begin University in January. Ghana has a program that makes it easier to get into university at 25 years of age. Solomay just turned 25 so she is excited to begin school and pursue a career as a nurse.
~Daniel is finishing his trade as a mason and will be graduating next year. Daniel had to interrupt his training to care for two elderly grandparents. He was able to arrange to have a sibling look after them so he can finish up his trade. The other beneficiaries were teasing him about his facial hair and calling him Grandpa.