The sponsorship project, 4 Kids in Ghana, started 12 years ago and thanks to the local support from the Moosomin community, the program is still going strong.
Moosomin’s Diana Austin, got involved with work in Ghana after she completed high school and from there a bond was formed. When the children’s home she was volunteering at was forced to lower the number of children, she felt the need to help those who had nowhere to go and started her own charitable group..
“Way back when I started the program in 2009, I had no idea what I was really getting myself into. While part of me knew that I was committing myself long-term to the group, I don’t know if I could have predicted when or how the program would evolve. I just knew that if I didn’t do something the future for the four of them was very bleak,” Austin says.
“Although I can say that running the program has been challenging at times, it is still nothing compared to the challenges of trying to survive (let alone thrive) in Ghana. I often think of how it is simply the lottery of birth that I grew up in Canada. Reminding myself of the opportunities that I have, merely because of the circumstance of where I come from, keeps me dedicated to the work.”
The four children who have grown up to be adults, who have been apart of the sponsorship program are Antwi, Emmanuel, Agyenim, Victoria and Victoria’s son.
“The lessons I have learned over the years are endless. It has taught me the importance of relationships. The five involved have needed not only financial aid but emotional support. The sense of belonging they have received from being part of the program is invaluable and as Thomas Antwi said, it is something that will outlive the financial sponsorship. It is also these relationships that have held the program together. It is easier to walk away from a committee or an institution than it is to walk away from five people. Focusing on individuals, rather than collectives, has pros and cons. With respect to the Kids in Ghana, the longevity of the program is undoubtedly tied to the fact that we were focusing on individuals, individuals who would be lost without the program.”
“A hard lesson of running the program is just knowing the realities of the shortcomings with it. I struggle knowing how hard the 12 years have still been for the group.”
“There is so much more that I wish I could have offered them; they deserved to have real parents, caring for them over the years. Not simply a removed figurehead, supporting them financially while they have had to survive on their own, navigating a world as adults when they were still youth. As well the challenge of running the program while I have other responsibilities and demands here in Canada rarely brings out the best in me,” Austin says.
Throughout the years of the sponsorship program, donations have covered the costs of education, healthcare and living expenses for the five individuals. Austin says the end goal of the program is help the four of them reach a lifestyle where they are able to independently support themselves.
She provides a Christmas letter annually, informing supporters that have donated over the years how the four of them are doing now.
The Christmas Card Campaign started 11 years ago and has been the most consistent fundraiser for the Kids in Ghana. The campaign is all about spreading holiday cheer by donating to the Kids in Ghana in honour of family, friends, or co-workers and they will then be sent a Christmas card to let them know of the donation.
To donate in honour of someone, people can send a cheque made out to the Kids in Ghana or an e-transfer to email@example.com along with the name of the person and their address so a Christmas card can be sent to them. All cheques and necessary information can be sent to Box 1407 Moosomin, SK S0G 3N0.
Austin says she is happy to see where the four of them are at right now in life and is thankful for all of the support from the Moosomin community.
“Knowing all the shortcomings of the program (and myself while running it) takes away from “pride” per se in the project. I wish I could have done better by all of them and helped more,” she says.
“I am proud that they are getting closer to independence. I first taught Emmanuel, Victoria, and Agyenim in 2004 when they were little kids. I was teaching them as a group as they were behind some of the others of the same age group. It makes me very proud that they, as well as Thomas Antwi, have not only completed high school but are pursuing post-secondary training from getting a driver license to completing university. It made me proud to hear all of them speak today, seeing how grown up they are and knowing that they are all in a better place thanks to the sponsorship and support of the program. Thanks again to the ongoing support from yourselves at the Spectator and from the Moosomin community as a whole.”
Victoria’s determination in achieving higher education
Last year, Victoria completed her practical nursing diploma from St. Andrews College of Healthcare at Assin Fosu. She is currently working towards enrolling in university.
“From the Kids in Ghana program, if Diana hadn’t done this program I would’ve lacked education, because I’m from a poor family, no one in my family has gotten to where I am now. I’m not saying that to be proud but I’m saying it because I’m happy to be part of a program that has given me opportunities like this for the past 14 years now. It hasn’t been easy but I’m happy,” Victoria says.
Although she completed her nursing certificate last year, she says she’s interested in nutrition and is currently working towards attaining a degree in that field.
“I plan on going back to school to get a degree which will help me get a job, because it’s not easy getting a job when you only have the certificate level of education. That’s why Diana pushed me to further my education,” she says.
“Right now I’m studying nutrition because I want to add it to the knowledge I learned from nursing school. I’m interested in nutrition because I love food, I want to learn the nutritional facts about food and study it more.”
She says she’s happy to experience the journey of learning and grateful to have been presented the opportunities to attend school.
After completing her education and finding work, Victoria says one of her long term goals is to return to the orphanage some day and teach children about everything she has learned from the opportunities she experienced.
”This program is something that words can’t explain, without this program I don’t know where I would be now. This program gave me something to believe in, to believe in having a future,” says Agyenim.
He recently completed a driving course and earned his driver’s licence, which is not very common in Ghana.
“For now I’m the town’s emission worker but that is a short term plan. The long term goal is to get work outside of the country, where I can go and work as best that I can. I believe that in this country even after education, getting a job is a problem. There’s many people here who would love to get an education to get a job, I just think if I go outside the country there’s a lot of job opportunities that I could possibly go for. “
Agyenim says he looks forward to working outside of Ghana and hopes to find a placement of work in any field.
“There’s one particularly job that I’m looking towards and it’s at a chocolate factory in Poland.”
“If things go as planned, hopefully I’ll be there and start working. That’s my long goal term for now and it’s not just Poland. I’m reaching out and keeping an eye out for anything maybe even in Canada or the UK, but that’s my long-term goal.”
Perseverance to finish school
After four years, Emmauel finished his Bachelor of Education and Social Work from the University of Ghana in October 2021.
“This program was more like a family to me, I have gone far by graduating from school. To be sincere I had no hope of coming this far and much of that is from the privilege of being a part of this program.”
Although he wanted to go to school for geography and history, Emmanuel had to enrol in a different program due to not having the prerequisites.
“It was unfortunate that I did not do math in high school, so the university had to offer me a different course which was in social work and education. Even though I had no interest and no knowledge about social work, I chose to do it because that was the course given to me,” he says.
”But somehow I’ve learned to like that program because of my background and my situation. It’s almost like it was describing everything I was going through. I only had the interest of studying social work because of human nature and trying to put every individual at the centre of development.”
He recently got a position with the Ghanian National Service, a program for Ghanaians who complete post-secondary education. Emmanuel’s focus in the program is working with the Accra College of Education at the head office in La Nkwantang Madina Municipal District of Greater Accra.
“I also want to say that this sponsorship program has taught a lesson to all of us. I’m hoping that destiny puts all of us in a position that we want to be in and that we are able to be independent on our own. I hope to see a bright future for everyone so that we can come back and help other people. To give other people hope and an education, to give back and help others like the program helped us.”
Antwi’s gratitude for his lifestyle
As the eldest out of the four individuals of The Kids in Ghana, Antwi is no longer receiving sponsorship from the program but is still part of the group’s family.
“Going back to 2009, I had nowhere to go, without this program my future would’ve been a mess. This program has been a heaven to me. At a time where I thought I lost hope, and I didn’t know what was next for me in life, God through Diana and through this program, brought hope back to me,” he says.
“I’m very happy to belong and be a part of this program, I wouldn’t have reached where I am today if it wasn’t for all of the help I received through this program. I was able to finish a diploma course because of it and finish my national certificate. I’m so proud of this program for restoring my hope and giving back to me the future that I thought was lost.”
Antwi says through educational courses he was able to meet and connect with people that he wouldn’t have known, if he was not given the opportunity to attend school, prior to this program.
“My knowledge, understanding of life and how the world works, continues to change, I’m proud of learning this and getting the chance to.”
Previously he was working with the The Nation Builders Corps (NABCO) a government initiative in Ghana to address graduate unemployment to solve social problems. As the program finished in October, Antwi started an importing business called “Tomasani Enterprise,” which is registered with the Ghana Registry Department.
“Currently I run my own business, I own a fabric store in Nigeria and import fabrics from Nigeria to sell around Ghana. That’s what I’m doing right now, we’re hoping that things pick up quickly here and it becomes a stabilized business.”
He says the program’s intentions are to assist them in becoming independent individuals.
“The route of becoming independent was introduced earlier on in this program. The route of getting out of the program is to become independent on your own, the program has assisted me from high school days until now and I can say that those changes I’ve made from then are good.”
He imports Nigerian fabric to Ghana and sell to local tailors and wholesale distributors, his website is: https://tomasani-enterprise.business.site/.
“Coming from the orphanage, we all came from different backgrounds but this program actually built us together as one family. I think this is one of the amazing things that I will always thank God for because we are not just a program, and even in the next 10 to 20 years and we are not in Ghana, we will always have this family. If we all grow out of this program, we still have our family. If Victoria is not in this program if I’m not in it or Agyenim or Emmanuel, what this program has given us is a family that we’ve all built together. We don’t see ourselves as people benefitting from one program, but we see it as a big family,” Antwi says.
“I think this program has really done well and helped us to restore hope to us. We will always be grateful to this program, to Diana, her family and everyone in Canada who one way or the other, brought us together. We were teenagers when this program begun, I was 16 years old and now I’m almost 30 so this program has really helped us long throughout our lives. We’ll always be grateful for this program giving us this family, I always say this is the best family I’ve ever belonged to. I love this family so much.”
One community helping another
Diana Austin says she’s happy of how far the program has reached and is very grateful for the support the community of Moosomin has given. She says the program’s success was because of one community helping another.
“We’re very grateful because without the World-Spectator we wouldn’t be here. I think another thing I’ve learned from this program is how important community is, community not only over there but here as well and I think that’s what’s really helped them get through all of this.”
“When they talk about family I think it’s because without it, they would always be individuals trying to get through, but since they’ve been young the program has built a community for them and it’s provided a way to set themselves up for the world. Moosomin has been such a huge part of this, I think with the support from Moosomin is what has been keeping this program going, not only the financial contributions but even the interests in it. Knowing that people care and are following has meant so much, having the community follow behind it. Even though not all of it has been smooth, knowing the support and the community has been there for myself, has been really good. Thank you to all of you guys.”
Sierra D'Souza Butts, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The World-Spectator