Ghana Trip 2023
Lisa and I arrived yesterday and were picked up at the airport in Accra by Dixon and Emmanual, two of our full time employees. We drove with them for about 2 hours to Sogakope, Volta Region. We were exhausted and settled into our hotel named Somewhere-- let the jokes begin.
The day started the normal way it does at this hotel. We waited for over an hour for an omelet and toast. They insist on serving us sausages despite the fact that we don’t eat them. The result is that I have made friends with the hotel dog that remembered me from last year. He follows me around hoping for more scraps.
After leaving the hotel we went to the office to meet our beneficiaries. We were first greeted by two of our recent graduates, Bernice and Rejoice, and our third staff member, Never. Bernice graduated as a beautician and Rejoice as a caterer. We discussed opening a business and how to save up to be independent. They were very receptive to our advice and we are developing ways to ensure that they follow through with the plans. For example, we might open a savings account that we have the ability to monitor and that they can only make deposits in for a period of time.
Over the course of the day we met with several other beneficiaries at the office: Andrews, Wisdom, Richard, Della, Robert, Kwame, Laway, and Jonathan. It was great to see them and they all seemed excited to see one another as well. We chatted, took pictures and hung out for a few hours before taking an excursion to the land that BTCTE purchased. We discussed our plans and the purpose of the center.
Next we went to look at the proposed sites for the women’s businesses. Rejoice, the caterer, would like to rent a space directly across from a secondary school. This would provide a steady flow of daily income. Bernice found a space in the center of a bustling market area, so it seems promising, We then went to see Emmanuel at his tailoring apprenticeship. This is the young man that suffered from elephantiasis. He is doing very well.
Today began with a long drive to visit three beneficiaries at two different Senior High Schools (boarding schools). The first stop was to see David who’s in form 1, or his first year of secondary/high school. David only began school in January due to delays caused by the pandemic, so he is still adjusting. He seems to be working hard and maintaining his grades and doing well academically. We will provide tutoring to help him maintain his progress.
Next, we visited Shepherd, also a form 1 student but at a different high school. Shepherd has excelled in school and his high school is one of the largest and most prestigious in the area. Shepherd, like David, is doing well overall but still adjusting. HIgh schools have become overcrowded recently due to new legislation that made secondary education free in Ghana. Nonetheless, Shepherd is truly enjoying his learning experience and seems serious about his education. He spoke enthusiastically about his favorite subjects, graphic design and leather work. He would like to pursue a career in this field one day.
Mawularm is a young man that we have been supporting since 2012. Now in form 3, Mawularm is a top student and a very serious young man. As he is now finishing his last year, he’ll soon be taking a test to get into University. He is interested in a career in either law or business.
We have had a busy couple of days visiting new beneficiaries and seeing others who we have watched grow up over the past thirteen years. Yesterday, we met five new beneficiaries and listened to their stories. They have been through so much at such a young age.
Today was devoted to seeing our longer term beneficiaries. It’s so gratifying to see them learning trades and becoming successful. Always fun to see Junior with the soccer ball. He is our beneficiary Bernice’s son. We are about to help Bernice start a business as a beautician.
We were joined by Julian Festerheim, Metuchen High School class of 2009. We started the day by visiting Christiana. Christiana is a young woman we took on in 2018. She had been trafficked twice into Ivory Coast. I’m not sure how she is able to be so sweet after enduring so much hardship. She’s in a really good place now with a kind master craftswoman who she is learning from and lives next to. We placed an order for shirts and dresses with Christiana and her Madam. Christiana’s only request was an iron to help her improve her tailoring.
After visiting Christiana, we went to Solomay and Michael at their student housing near the University of Winneba. These two university students have been our beneficiaries since 2012. Solomay is studying nutrition, and Michael is studying business. We had a really nice visit with them and played a game of draughts. This is like checkers on steroids. Look it up if you are interested.
Next we went to see Essel who started his own business as a tailor just 3 months ago. He’s doing very well and has many work orders. His shop is modest, and we feel he would benefit from a $250 investment to allow him to buy cloth and a mannequin/display area. He’s saving his earnings and showing signs of great promise. This is what we were hoping for when we started setting up our beneficiaries with businesses. He was very appreciative of our support.
We then went to see Elizabeth and her 3 month old baby daughter named Queen Esther. Michael and Solomay were at her house. She allowed me to cook a vegetarian meal for Lisa and myself while she cooked traditional food for everyone else. I’m sure Solomay and Michael helped out, but Elizabeth basically organized a banquet for us in her home. We had no idea she was going to so much trouble--she sincerely wanted to show us her gratitude. We are so proud to have helped Elizabeth to reach this level. She will be graduating in November as a teacher. She’s hoping to be placed near her husband Peter, so that they could live together.
We had a very busy couple of days to tell you about.
On Sunday, we had 17 beneficiaries meet us at the beach. We celebrated with a buffet lunch, playing soccer, searching for crabs on the sand, and taking a long walk on the beach. It gave us a chance to get to know our children better, especially the newer ones that we only met one year ago for the first time. This gathering also allowed our beneficiaries to get to know one another better. We are trying to create a connection and community among our beneficiaries. Many come from broken and dysfunctional families, and having an additional circle of caring friends is an enormous benefit.
Over the course of the day, everyone really bonded and had fun. It was amazing to see the children just being kids, playing and running around carefree. All our beneficiaries have been denied these childhood experiences. Some of our children are now young adults, but none seemed too old to enjoy the day.
We visited some of our newer beneficiaries today at their school. They are 4 sisters that range from age 10 to 15. They are absolutely adorable, but we had many concerns about their home life. After being trafficked for 6 years on Lake Volta, they were rehabilitated and then reunited with their mother. However, the situation remains unsettled. While at the school, we explored the possibility of the girls becoming boarding students.
Next we visited Charles and Ebenezer, two young men doing apprenticeships in plumbing and tiling. They’re working hard and making good progress. Today they were given permission from their master craftsman to do repairs in their own apartment (that they share).
Victoria is 16 and finishing JHS 2 she just came under our care a couple of months ago. She spoke pretty good English actually - wants to be a bank manager. We met her, two of her sisters, her first cousin who is a math teacher (we asked him to tutor her) and her grandmother and mother.
I’m going to try something different on this post. We met 5 incredible new beneficiaries today but I’m going to highlight one. Christiana was amazing. She had been working on the lake till she was 8. She then started going to school. They placed her in class 3 because of her age. I’ve seen this before and the children struggle in school. Not Christiana she is one of the top students in her grade. We are going to look into placement at a boarding school to help her succeed and one day fulfill her dream and become a nurse. The family also presented me with a necklace worn by chiefs.
Today I met a new Beneficiaries named Emmanuel and he is learning welding and car straightening. They take cars that would be rejected by a junkyard in America and restore them before sending them off to a Car Sprayer to finish off. See picture below. Emmanuel has a really sad story. He was trafficked at 5 years of age by his aunt and worked for his first cousin who physically and emotionally abused him for ten years. His cousin was arrested by IJM and the police. He then spent 5 years in a rehabilitation center where he did absolutely nothing. He just waited for the times when he had to testify against his cousin. His cousin was sentenced to 8 years in prison for trafficking. Emmanuel was then placed in the apprenticeship. He lives with his master and will occasionally go and see his mom. Master is Kwame and seems like a nice man. When I arrived I was a bit upset because I thought he was living in the junkyard but it was only where they worked.
These incredible children have overcome so much hardship. Many are continuing to have to persevere. The emotional and physical abuse that they have experienced is heartbreaking. We are just getting to know our 28 new beneficiaries and figuring out the best path forward. Our goal is to give them a chance at a better future by taking care of their education, healthcare, and everything else that they need. Thank you to all who help us do this work.
We also have a sponsorship program and we now have a new group of beneficiaries that need your support. Please go to btcte.org and sign up to support our beneficiaries.
Went to see a new record of 14 beneficiaries today. Six of them brand new. Those stories are heartbreaking. We go through their life story of being trafficked. Some more than once. They are so sweet and we are so proud to give them a chance at a better life. We also went to see long time beneficiaries at their boarding schools. We had some superstars with one being the top student in his class and the other elected as school prefect (like student council president).
I just want to share the type of stories I listen to and the resilient children we care for.
Hannah: 11 Class 2: Likes school. Crowded home. Happy at home and at school. I think 11 people live at her home. Only eat twice a day. Banku both times. Very little protein. This was a very difficult backstory. Born in the Ivory Coast. Mom had been trafficked. She had four children with another trafficked man who was owned by the same master. Mom took four children back to her birthplace in Ghana. Mom trafficked her back to Ivory Coast for 40 cents. After 6 months she requested to go back to Ghana and the master let her go. Mother tried to traffic her again but she was stopped by the CCPC Community Child Protection Council and Social Welfare. I spoke to mom and we made it clear we would not tolerate her trying to traffic Hannah ever again
This was a first meeting her care will improve now that we are helping her. She needs a sponsor.