The orphanage story worldwide is not necessary a pretty one, for Africa and for that matter Ghana, it is a cacophony of unimaginable confusion between well-wishers, philanthropist and the social welfare system
As a previous administrator of an orphanage for two years and a philanthropist myself this is an endless battle between several conflict of interest, while some people have the passion and the zeal to help and uphold the wellbeing of the innocent child, it is the majority who take advantage of the vulnerable; either as a means to amass wealth to themselves or join the line of “self-righteousness”.
We also have the group that has a genuine and true passion for these children but just lack the management skills to handle this noble field of social need. These group of people are dreamers like me who just can’t stand aside and watch, they start with a few children and its going great, they become the angels of the day, but as society become aware of what good they are doing the demand rises and then work load become burdening, mostly their first choice is to employ hands, unfortunately they are not able to find people who share in this passion thus the mismanagement of the resources and the children’s wellbeing in the long run – the stories are obvious in the media
Unfortunately since most of us do not have physical evidence concerning lack of governments control in this area of charity (but we all know it exist including you reading) I will keep my peace on this topic in going too deep. Stories of social welfare officers taking advantage of the lack of management skills of orphanage founders and managers as a yard-stick to take bribe, overlooking errors when they are satisfied in their pockets or pushing this charities setups to extinction when you fail to satisfy them.
With the current tread of Ghanaian governments and social welfare to close down orphanages it has become a scary story (some even hide to operate such honorable cause), lots of good paper work but poor practical application. Some of the rules are just inapplicable in the communities in which this orphanage setups reside, an example is proper sanitation installations in the orphanages, even though this is a noble quest even government establishments in some of this local communities in which this orphanages reside do not meet the necessary requirements. On the side of food and accommodation – how many rural poor families in Ghana on which this orphanages reside are able to provide three (3) meals a day for everyone in the family? (I must admit that even when an orphanage is able to provide this basic need some community members even become jealous – because they are unable to do so for their families who are presumed “free”)
My greatest fear is that society will continue to have this need of the orphan child and whiles government is doing its best to regulate the startup of new orphanage homes it will not have all the resource and personnel to take care of this growing need.
Worse of all what happens to people who feel it is their calling and ministry to engage in this social gap? What is the government and the world at large doing to support this noble quest? I surely have many more questions and the problems so cloud my mind just like you reading. It is difficult to see the middle line
I love the policies to keep children safe and I also admire the mindset of those who have the passion to help these children regardless their experience, but it will forever remain true that we all have a responsibility to our society, a responsibility of love. Mother Theresa ones said “Love is not patronizing and charity isn’t about pity, it is about love. Charity and love are the same — with charity you give love, so don’t just give money but reach out your hand instead.” I know of endless noble sayings that back the establishment of such charitable endeavor in fact that is what religion is about.
It is hard to explain our solution without making references to Drive Aid Ghana, kind of advertisement isn’t it? But at least we are making impact so I will go ahead.
We at Drive Aid Ghana have found a middle way amidst all this confusion a solution we hope will go a long way to help both the children and the society at large
To help you get an idea let me take you a little back to our education project
I hope you are aware that Ghana has been ranked to have the lowest education systems and policies by The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in 2015 (full story: http://www.bbc.com/news/business-32608772) it is unfortunate for a country to sink this low, knowing that education is the driving force of major development for every country, yet this is the fate of Ghana – not necessary because we lack the resource, but a typical display of the effects of corruption and “micromindnizm”. On the local level we are making some progress but more on private bases, this leaves the rural poor communities vulnerable and with limited options, the local government school is their only choice (I do not have enough pages to elaborate all the problems in the government based/supported schools – besides you already know them!). This is where we come is as an organization, we could startup schools (The usual approach most NGO’s use) or we can support the existing school system and find ways to help them improve, especially on basic learning skills – reading and writing, we as an organization choose the second option.
We support the existing education system in the communities either government based or private, with education resources including volunteers local and foreign to help better the standards and promote cultural exchange. But we do not stop there – we know the local education system is bound to follow the curriculum of the government which as you read earlier has great flows and does not have room for slow learners or the resource to make education fun and practical, we take the fun outside the official school hours to an after school education project were we organize the children weather in the formal school system or drop outs and engage more volunteers, this time making it fun, paying attention to slow learners and practical for daily survival in the Ghanaian economy
We take it a step further – knowing that most children aren’t able to get the three meal daily required for successful growth which accounts for stunting and most of all malnourishment, we seek to provide extra feeding meeting the children’s daily nutritional need, we have started permaculture along with the expanding of our Moringa farms
So in short we are feeding them, checking their nutritional/ general health need and making learning enjoyable, explains why our after school project keeps growing faster that imagined.
Once this children are properly fed, educated and cared for emotionally through love from volunteers there are no other options but genuine smiles of satisfaction and hope, a chance to thrive in faith and to extend that love to the community in which they live in and beyond
With a success story of 368 children under our education project it was becoming obvious some of the children did not want to return home after closing, not for lack of food but lack of a loving family or even a place to call home.
The feeding program had brought in another set on needs that desperately needed attention –Orphans! I was very quick like most dreamers to think “we need to start an orphanage now” to host all this homeless children who are growing by the day and then it hit me, where are all the children when we are not around to help them? The answer is obvious, they are on the streets or been temporary absorbed into charitable families, but the constant demand for financial dependency will either find them laboring to help this families survive or be kicked out and the cycle continues
Besides setting up an orphanage to accommodate this children there is another choice, which we believe is far superior to starting orphanages, it’s to incorporate them into extended families or philanthropic families, but the financial problems still remains, and this is where we come in to help, we incorporate this children into local families and support with basic resource and care to make sure they thrive in this families, we watch out for educational needs, food, health and emotional concerns and provide solutions, it lessens the burden for us as an organization to find people to manage this children and also help the children grow in communities and families they love and know, it takes out eminent question of what happens to them after they turn 18 (eighteen) since by then they might already have guidance and examples to look out for and most of all they get a place to call home – (it’s a wonderful feeling you can ever give a child!). All the children under our projects knows were their support is coming from so they can opt out if they feel a family is not suitable or we discover any form of abuse, and we know where our support is coming from – our lean farms that we constantly seek to expand and from well-wishers like you, Once the farms are well expanded they become sustainable, we get food for the host families to care for the children, we buy education materials from excess crops, and the Moringa farm becomes a cash crop from which we develop, oil, leaf powder, various cosmetic products.. The options are limitless – but for now with our five acre farm and over 95 acre more to develop we have a long way to go – my point it agriculture is the most sustainable way to go!
We are looking forward to carry this project even higher – provide vocational and skill training in a more advance level than we are doing now.
How can you help? You can start up your local initiative and let us know how we can help or you can support us expand our farms (which is providing the major resources to finance the other projects)