Tenth International Conference on War Tax Resistance and Peace Tax Campaigns - Brussels, Belgium 2004

Voice from Ghana

By Michael K. Badasu

2.3.2

I am Michael Badasu from the Ghana Mennonite Church Youth Peacekeeping Organization. We are connected to the church, but not all members of the church are members of the Youth Peacekeeping Organization, and this organization also has Muslims and other non-Christian members. The Ghana Mennonite Church is our main sponsor. We also receive contributions from our members and from abroad (Germany).

Refugees

We work for refugees from other parts of Africa. Ghana has about 10 refugee camps. We decided to help one of those camps (700 refugees) and collected food items in agreement with government officials.

Our major purpose is to promote peace among Africans, because for lack of peace people from other parts of Africa are now in Ghana as refugees. We started talking to them about means to avoid war in our countries.

We also support refugees who have no home in Ghana. Because some of them don't have documents, they are not allowed in a camp and stay somewhere in the city. We help them to find a place to stay. We have a particular attention of orphans and street children (often 5-10 years old).

Youth

Our organisation has a program for training youth in skills, particularly dress-making, carpentry and batik dye. Many youth come from the country side to enjoy city life without any skills. We try to give them a skill so that they can go back to their village and start making a life. Life in the city without a job is terrible. They are eager to get some training. According to statistics some 70% of the youth are unemployed. Some don't eat on certain days for lack of money. Some sleep on the street. The same lack of skills, money and home applies to refugees. Sometimes we receive some money for shelter and food. Some food comes from a farm we have in the country side (coco, maiz, …). Some congregations help us. But often as a pastor I am over-asked by other congregations who want to help refugees.

Skills

We want to have workshop for some of our youths. We have acquired two plots of land for building, to put up a workshop for youth who are interested in learning. Four persons are there already to facilitate the training in carpentry, dress making and batik dye. When the youth go there they'll learn a skill and will be able later to work self employed.

Broken families and robbery

We also want to help orphans or women with children: very often because of hardship the husband runs away form home and leave his family behind. Some women even kill themselves in such a situation. We send orphans to a home (orphanage) of our church.

We also try to reduce armed robbery. Youth left by their parents tend to become robbers because they don't have a meaningful job or a home. They turn to bad company. We talk a lot to robbers (particularly to those not caught by the police) and try to convince them that their practice is bad, and to learn a job so that they will not have to rob.

Aids

Because of their hardship girls tend to be prostitutes and sometimes get aids. Prevention of prostitution and aids is also one of our objectives. Six weeks ago we organized a workshop (through the Christian Council of Ghana) on HIV-aids. Before marrying youth are asked to prove trough an official hospital doctor they are free of HIV. The government does a lot, but needs the help of the churches.

School

With foreign Mennonite help we also built a three classroom school for children who had to walk too far to another school. Now we have 115 children and four teachers there. But we have to build toilets (also because it is a  government requirement): that's what we are doing now and we hope to finish those toilets by the end of September.

I am glad that here at this conference I met Nana-Fosu Randall who is working for a school in Ghana and who will be in Ghana next December. We share each others' views.

(transcribed and edited from a tape recording by Dirk Panhuis)