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Guest Post: Helping Abroad with the Keno Sponsorship Program

Hello, friends! Today I have for you a guest post from my oldest friend, Crissy Payne. I’ve known her since kindergarten, and she’s always been the sort to get to know others, and get involved in the world. During her BSW (Bachelor of Social Work) at Ryerson University, she was given a choice – do her practicum locally, or go abroad. She chose the latter, and found herself in Ghana learning about education in a way she’d never experienced before. Her time there inspired her to start her own organization, and today she is here to talk about it with you. 

I have been working in the community of Amasaman in Ghana, West Africa for 4 years with the direction and partnership of the local program director, Richard. This year myself, Richard, and 2 other volunteers ran a summer camp for 2 weeks serving 43 kids in the community living in poverty. We provided support for kids struggling in school, somewhere for them to go during their summer holidays and a hot lunch.

When it was time to leave I felt that we could be doing more for these kids, many of which couldn’t afford to go to school and weren’t getting regular meals. So I stayed and Richard and I ventured to interview 40 kids in 4 days to build a sponsorship program.

Richard and I met most of the kids at their home when we could, assessed their strengths and needs and heard some stories that emphasize the resilience and determination of people living in a poverty that many of us in the West can’t even imagine. Our vision is of a sponsorship program that provides these 40 kids with the means but also the encouragement to help them excel in extremely challenging circumstances.

We are not introducing a replacement for their parents. Although a few of our kids are orphans, even most of the orphans have extended family who love them and care for them the best they can. We are not offering our support in a vacuum. Our commitment is to the community of Amasaman and it only begins with the lives of these children. We met with many parents who described their struggles to put their children above everything because they know how important education is. These parents are breaking their backs day in and day out in an economy that does not work for them just to provide the minimum for their family and sometimes they can’t even do just that.

The point is that for the amount school fees cost, a parent in Ghana will struggle for weeks to save up, whereas many of us in North America will make that same amount in less than a day. For many, less than 1% of your salary will give a kid a fighting chance to get through another school year while Mom, Dad, Grandma, or Aunty can focus on putting a decent meal on the table.

Feeding a child in Ghana costs less than $1 for one meal, an amount some people in Ghana might make in half a day at work.

Furthermore, most of the parents are working hard to offer their children the opportunities they themselves were never afforded, which means that they are unable to help their kids in the schoolwork they never got to do or even read and understand report cards. Among our kids we have families and extended families of 6, 7 or more kids, the amount of which makes it difficult for the parent to understand and encourage each child’s unique needs when it comes to school.

That’s where we come in. Proficient English speakers with the means to provide what to us is pocket change that will give a child 3 hearty meals for a few days. An extended family who is there at the end of the day to tell the child how great their effort is and to give them the hope that they can succeed in school and rise above the poverty they have been born into.

If I can make any comment about Ghana it’s that it is so vibrant and full of hope. More than 40% of Ghana’s population is under the age of 24. These children are the future and the people of Ghana are well aware of that. The government and the parents in Ghana are taking initiative to ensure a bright future for the youth in Ghana and so our efforts to support these youth are hopefully in line with these values.

Thanks for taking the time to read this. Please check out our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Keno-Sponsorship-Program/584956221613424?ref=hl Whether you’re sponsoring a child or just dropping by to provide us and them with emotional support, I thank you truly for taking the time. Something as simple as a smile makes a child’s day, so if we were able to make you smile with their stories then I think we’ve made a difference together!

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