Classic Response 2006: G4 GHANA DIARY
SOS Children’s Villages invited G4 to Ghana to see the work they are doing there. Jon, Ben, Matt and Mike immediately jumped at the chance.
Most of us have not travelled much before. Matthew hadn’t been on a plane before we got involved in the X Factor so we were all very excited about getting the opportunity to go to Africa. Equally we were nervous as we didn’t really know what to expect but most of all we wanted to experience how a charity works on the ground and to see exactly where the money goes.
After a briefing from SOS we set out to meet families affected by HIV/AIDS which are supported by SOS projects. Even at 8am the heat was unbelievable.
We met Winfred and Eva – who are both HIV positive - in their home. They have two children of their own and they are also caring for Eva’s late sister’s children (two orphans). Miraculously all four children are negative (HIV).
SOS works in partnership with an organisation which Winfred and Eva helped to set up called Goodwill. All Goodwill’s cousellors are themelves HIV positive and their aim is to help overcome the stigma of HIV/AIDS in Ghana. They identify the families with the greatest needs, allowing SOS to provide further support.
“Today’s been a real crash course. It’s my first time to Africa and it’s been a real eye opener. What got to me early on was Winfred talking… his story is so awful and yet he was so positive. The key thing that SOS is doing is helping to raise awareness about HIV which is no mean feat because of the intense stigma. They give people the chance to share experiences by being able to access counselling with people who are in the same situation - ‘I’m eight years ahead of you and I’m enjoying my life and am still alive…it’s not the end of the world’ - When HIV gets people they assume the worst”.
That afternoon we travelled for about 30 minutes from Tema to a rural community where SOS works to meet Joyce. Joyce is HIV positive. She only found out last year when her husband died. Her and her husband had seventeen children together; two children have died. Her youngest child is nine years old and in addition she is caring for her eldest daughter’s orphaned children. When her husband was alive she could go to the market and trade goods to provide for her children. Now her husband is dead she cannot leave the children and because of her illness she is unable to trade. Joyce now depends on the support she receives from SOS Children’s Villages. All of her children are back at school. SOS Ghana are working with Joyce to identify income generating opportunities so they can provide her with the start up materials she needs for her own business. In time Joyce will once again be able to provide for her children.
“..the saddest part for me was when we saw Joyce and when we sat down to talk with her…she looked so sad when she told us about losing her husband to AIDS and for her it must have been so difficult to lose him to something that she didn’t understand completely and then to be told that you have the same disease. Her strength of character is immense”.
At around half five we had to leave them and after a lot of funky handshakes and shouting goodbye we left.
Day One - Thoughts
“SOS is doing so much to challenge the stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS. They are managing to break it down and do it in a way which makes the people they are helping feel comfortable…it was really refreshing to see that personal side of let’s sit down and talk and share experiences and find the right solution”.
“The best moment of the day for me was interacting with Eunice, sharing my cap and sunglasses with her and taking her photos and showing her how to use the camera…it was a rapid evolution of a friendship and that moment was incredibly special.”
“It is nice to see directly how SOS is helping them…they are doing incredibly valuable work and helping to put a smile on people’s faces… SOS really works with people on a day to day basis”
“…the informal settlement was such a shock factor for me personally…walking along you do realise exactly what you’re seeing then the smells start…it’s unbelievable… it is an amazing thing that people are able to cope with that kind of environment…seeing Patience and seeing her house which she rents…the room itself is no bigger than a double bed and four people live there.”
“I have some powerful images in my head which I don’t think I will ever forget”
We set off in the SOS bus for the SOS Children’s Village Tema, which is situated in Tema town about 20 minutes from Accra and was the first village to be built in Ghana in 1974. Many children were being abandoned by their families because of certain traditional beliefs and because of poverty.
There are fifteen family homes at the Children’s Village with 10 children in each house. The houses are built in the traditional round-hut style and have been painted in bright colours. It is a really happy and positive place for children to grow up.
The Village Father welcomed and briefed us on some of the backgrounds of some of the children we would be meeting and gave us an introduction to the SOS Village.
We then set off to the multi purpose hall where some of the children were waiting for us to perform …some wanted to dance and others wanted to play instruments…it was great watching these children with so much life loving performing. We decided to return the gesture and sang a couple of songs for them which the staff and children seemed to love!
We met the amazing inspirational SOS Mums who dedicate their lives to caring for these children.
We had lunch in the Family houses with the mothers, SOS staff and the children…it was great to share this time with the families.
We spent time playing with the children in the nursery playground and it was fantastic to have this time interacting with the kids and learning so much about them and SOS.
Day Two - Thoughts
“It’s great to see how they automatically have a family - a mother and father, brothers and sisters…they live in a well cared for family environment”
“Without SOS these children would have had to survive on the streets, most would not have survived, or would have died as abandoned babies”
“SOS is doing a brilliant thing by giving them the long term care and time that they need”
“Simple things make them really happy and SOS is giving them the opportunity to lead a simple, safe and ultimately a danger free life”
“I got quite emotional when we were in the playground and I was just looking around and taking it all in and seeing all these children having so much fun and yet knowing that they have all been orphaned or abandoned and realising that this is what SOS is all about - giving these kids a chance to live…literally SOS gives them that chance”
“I’ve been really impressed with SOS, the work they are doing in the informal communities and the homes they are providing for orphaned children…it is all good work”
If you wish to support our ongoing work for orphans everywhere, then you could become a sponsor or regular donor.