A life no child should lead
‘My grandmother really struggled to provide for all 12 of us. We could not even afford to buy soap,” explains Ama. “On Saturdays we would wash our clothes in dirty soapy water that had already been used by our neighbours.”
The children only ate what their grandmother brought home from the hotel where she worked as a casual labourer. “It was always burnt rice,” Ama remembers. “We dried it in the sun and then recooked it. Occasionally she bring discarded fatty chicken parts. When there was no food from the hotel, we drank sugarless porridge for breakfast, lunch and dinner.”
Malnourished, stunted and hopeless
The lack of nutritious food meant Ama and her siblings were severely stunted and became anaemic. Stunting is a big problem in Ghana - nearly 25% of Ghanian children under the age of five are stunted. Stunting prevents normal development and causes serious health problems, many of them fatal. Stunting, if not quickly addressed, can have life-long implications – a lack of energy and difficulty concentrating mean that many children who suffer from stunting are unable to succeed at school. Many, like Ama, drop out. This in turn affects their job prospects and so the cycle of poverty continues for generations.
Ama, already desperately ill, became even sicker when a huge abscess developed on her jaw, making chewing and swallowing horribly painful. “I dropped out of school and stayed at home. I had so little energy, I just sat on a chair hopelessly every day waiting to die,” says Ama softly.
A new home, and a brighter future with SOS Children
In 2010, SOS Children’s Villages became aware of Ama’s plight and the children were taken into the care of an SOS family at our Children’s Village in Tamale. Here they received all the support, care and protection they needed to flourish. One of Ama’s first memories in her new home was being taken to the doctor by her SOS mother. “I will never forget when he drained the abscess – I don’t remember any pain, only that all along my SOS mother held my hand and gave me encouragement. I had never experienced that kind of love and affection before.”
Ama’s SOS mother also remembers the first few months after Ama joined the Village well. “Initially she had problems eating her food. She had starved for so long that her tiny body could only take in little amounts at a time,” she says. “She would hide burnt rice in her room because she was scared that the food would run out.”
Five years later, Ama has adjusted well and is a typical, fun-loving teenager with a passion for reading. “My new life is great,” she beams. “I don’t worry about food, what to wear or what to buy. Anything I need is available.” She is working hard to catch up at school and dreams of going on to university. “Education will turn my life around, it will help me to shape the future that I want!”
We've been helping vulnerable children like Ama in Ghana for over 40 years. Find out more about our work there and how you can help.