How would you describe the mission of our partner in Ghana?
The Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EP Church) is involved in projects throughout the country including reforestation efforts, schools, health clinics, work with HIV and AIDS patients, and many others. Ghana doesn’t have much of an established system for social welfare so the church must step in to make sure its congregants receive assistance when necessary.
How do you fit into their mission?
I am teaching English in the Activity Centre, a program for teenage mothers located on the grounds of the EP Church Headquarters in Ho. The program has 10 – 15 young women from around West Africa every year and focuses heavily on skills training and entrepreneurship so graduates can support themselves and their families.
I’m also working with the Nenyo Habobo street kids project on the outskirts of Ho. There are about 60 children in the program with ages ranging from about 5 – 24. Homeless kids are drawn to Ho by the opportunity to work at the weekly market and they sleep outside among the market stalls. The program offers them food and fellowship along with school uniforms, fees and supplies. Some children have been placed with host families or relatives through the program. The older children are offered the opportunity to learn trades.
What led you to engage in this calling?
Social justice and activism are important parts of my life and of my faith. Being able to do that kind of work through the church and in partnership with the church is an amazing opportunity. Seeing firsthand the good that is being done by the partners on behalf of the church is an uplifting experience.
Are there a passages of scripture that carries special meaning in your daily work?
Psalm 139 and Jeremiah 29:11
What are some challenges facing the partner?
The kids in the Nenyo Habobo project understandably have a lot of needs. They need a place to sleep. They need clothes. They need food. They need love. They need protection. They need direction. This program has been going on for 12 years, a relatively short time, and many needs have been addressed but there is still a long way to go.
The young women in the teenage mother program at the Activity Centre have a passion for learning. Unfortunately the teachers are often unable to make it to class. Taxis break down often here, stranding teachers miles from the school. Illness is common in a country where the water is not safe to drink and mosquitoes carry the threat of malaria. Teachers attend funerals on the other side of the country- a drive that would take only 3 or 4 hours in America can take days due to the state of the roads and the taxis. When the teachers are unable to make it to class the students study on their own as best they can, or they beg other instructors to teach them anything - even if it isn’t the subject their supposed to be learning in that class.
What lesson have you learned working with the EP Church programs that you would like to share with churches in the U.S.?
Every single person can make a huge difference. The street children program was started by a woman that saw a need in her community and got together with her friends to see what they could do about it. The school for teenage mothers was started by a volunteer that realized that these young women and their children were facing enormous odds but that their chances would improve if they received a good education. There was nothing extraordinary about these people- they were ordinary women who saw a need and decided not to turn away from it.
What is a common phrase used in the local churches?
My Ewe is still sketchy after a few months of being here, but there is a lot of praise and thanksgiving going on every week. Kokoe kokoe kokoe means ‘Holy, Holy, Holy.’
Are there books that have shaped your understanding of your work in South Africa?
- God Has a Dream: A Vision of Hope for Our Time, by Desmond Tutu
- Man’s Search for Meaning, by Viktor Frankl
- Say You’re One of Them, by Uwem Akpan
- Sparrow, by Mary Doria Russell
- My First Coup d’Etat, by John Dramani Mahama
Do you have a favorite recipe so people can have a taste of Ghana?
Groundnut soup is available across Ghana and it’s delicious, even though the combination of ingredients may look a little strange to Americans.
2 large onions, chopped
4 large ripe tomatoes or 13 oz. of canned tomatoes
6 ½ oz. creamy peanut butter
7 cups boiling water
4-8 sliced mushrooms
red chilies, to taste
salt & pepper to taste
meat of your choice (optional)
Blanch tomatoes in boiling water, peel the skins and blend into a smooth juice. If using canned tomatoes, blend. If using meat, cut it into small pieces, wash and season it. Add enough water to a pot to cover the bottom and then add the tomatoes and meat. Allow it to boil for 10 minutes.
Put the peanut butter in a big bowl and add 1.5 cups of boiling water. Use a wooden spoon or a blender to blend it together.
Mix together the tomatoes, peanut butter, mushrooms and chilies.
Continue to simmer, and add the rest of the boiling water. Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep the ingredients from sticking to the bottom of the pot.
This is usually served with fufu, a dumpling made from yams, plantains or cassava. It also works with steak-cut French fries.