I have just returned from the North West region of Ghana, where I have seen first-hand how wonderful supporters like you are changing the lives of some of the most vulnerable children in West Africa.
As always, I return from my field visit with mixed feelings. The work undertaken by our partner Youth Alive is really making a difference in the lives of children. These children continue to be an inspiration to me and reminds us all at the International Children’s Trust why we feel so passionately about our work. Sadly, this inspiration is married with feelings of dismay at the poverty I witnessed, and the heart-breaking stories that many people shared with me on my journey. My hope does remain knowing that our loyal supporters will continue to feel passionately about helping us to change the lives of impoverished families, and give thousands of innocent children the chance to go to school, stay in school, and enjoy their childhood for as long as possible.
Your Support of Youth Alive
Our close partnership with Youth Alive has allowed them to work across 4 districts and 22 communities of Northern Ghana. They are working to remove obstacles to primary and junior high school attendance. Due to high levels of poverty and hardship in these areas, many parents are simply unaware of the importance of supporting their children in their education.
In this region, one of the main obstacles to attending and performing well at school is a high level of violence at home, in the community and in schools. Children are regularly subjected to beatings, verbal abuse and forced marriage. They are expected to stay away from school to perform tasks at home or to earn income for the family. This is not deliberate cruelty, but a symptom of the lack of education amongst families and the community. You can help us to change that.
Amongst all of the stories that I heard in Ghana, one that I will not forget was told by Mary*. She was in the first years of junior school when, tragically, her mother died. When her father married again, Mary’s new stepmother put her to work running the house, fetching the family’s water and looking after the small crop of vegetables that supported the family. Mary told me how hard her chores were every day. She was unable to manage them as well as going to school – but she desperately wanted an education.
Eventually, the situation came to a head. Mary and her stepmother argued and her stepmother punished her by refusing to give her any food. Eventually, unable to cope, Mary ran away. Like so many children, she became extremely vulnerable and at serious risk of ending up permanently on the streets, with nothing to call her own and nobody to turn to.
Fortunately, one of Mary’s friends was working with Youth Alive as a peer educator. Mary confided in her friend, who immediately turned to Youth Alive to help. Their staff visited the family, spending time and care negotiating with her parents. They explained the importance of education to them and ensured that Mary could return to a safe and encouraging home.
The result of the work of Youth Alive with this family has been profound. Mary’s father and stepmother have become part of the project. They are learning about good parenting and how important it is for Mary to be supported in school. She now attends school every day. Thanks to the intervention of Youth Alive, Mary has the prospect of a bright future, and her parents now understand why education is so crucial for their daughter, and fully support her in pursuing her goals.
Mary’s story demonstrates what makes the approach of International Children’s Trust and all of our partners so unique. When we work with children in desperate situations of domestic violence, we address the root causes of the problem. In so many cases, parents resort to violence and abuse because they simply do not know any better. We support them and show them that there is another way. We highlight the importance of educating their children to break the poverty cycle, and give them practical help to overcome the barriers to achieve that.
We Need Your Support
This Easter, children throughout the UK enjoyed holidays, treats, gifts and celebrations. There are so many children out there, like Mary, who have nothing to look forward to except for another day of grinding poverty, achingly hard work and the threat of violence and abuse. Mary’s story shows us that it does not have to be this way. Every day, we are making a lasting change to the lives of children across the developing world.