Asiakwa is a small farming community located just over 60 miles away from Ghana's capital, Accra. Though poverty levels in Ghana are low compared with many other African nations, deprivation is nevertheless common in rural parts.
Opportunities are typically scant in Asiakwa, and many of the area's young people move to the capital to seek their fortune. Largely, they are disappointed, and numerous youngsters find themselves on Accra's streets as a result. We came to Asiakwa to bring opportunities back to the region.
A deprived community
As an agricultural community, Asiakwa specialises in growing plantain, maize and cocoa. Recently, the Ghana has been held up as a model economy throughout the wider region, and living standards have risen for people across the country.
However, people in rural areas such as Asiakwa face continued hardships. Child mortality has decreased, but key wellbeing indicators remain weighted in favour of urban areas. Though conditions are better in the south than they are in the inhospitable deserts of northern Ghana, Asiakwa and communities like it are dogged with poverty to this day.
A telling example of this is the sanitation situation in Asiakwa. Here, many people depend on free-flowing water for hydration. Plumbing is all but non-existent. This puts residents - and particularly children - at risk of waterborne illness, - while also reflecting the wider deprivation prevalent in the region, and the lack of development in rural Ghana.
Scarce opportunities for young people
Increasing numbers of adolescent girls are coming to Asiakwa and other southern communities from Ghana's north. Attracted by the allure of better overall living standards in the south, they often find themselves carrying out menial work and missing out on the opportunities integral to a successful life.
Many work as kayayei - or “head porters” - offering luggage and goods transportation for a charge. Usually, these girls do not go to school. Inevitably, they miss out on the education they need to find better work later on, and find themselves occupied in such strenuous casual labour for their entire working lives.
Lack of opportunities in Asiakwa means that migration of young people to the capital is on the increase. However, unqualified young people often find themselves out of work in Accra as well, and without a regular income, end up living on the streets.
What do we do in Asiakwa?
In 1992, we began work to bring opportunities to Asiakwa. We wanted to give young people the chance of a decent life in the place where they were born.
At our Children's Village, young people with no one to care for them can find a loving home and lifelong support. Beyond the Village, our community work is integral to providing these opportunities to as many people as possible. We support vulnerable families so that children have what they need to get a decent start early on in life.
Education for all!
Good education is vital to boosting a child's life chances. That's why we offer a place at our SOS nursery to children from vulnerable families in Asiakwa. Here, they mix with children from our Village and benefit from learning and play with those their own age. From here, children from the Village and the community go on to one of our two SOS schools in Asiakwa, where they continue their education right up to secondary level.
Caring for bodies and minds
Education is only half the journey. Our medical centre offers healthcare to children from our Village as well as families throughout Asiakwa and the surrounding towns and villages. We run HIV/AIDS awareness to help reduce the spread of a disease which remains widespread in Ghana.
From our SOS Social Centre, we help families cope with extreme pressure. We offer all manner of support, from practical assistance such as daycare to guidance and support including counselling and parenting advice. Thanks to our help, young mothers who would otherwise be forced to give up their babies are able to provide stable and caring environment for their children.
In Asiakwa, SOS Children is helping local people create opportunities for their own community. By strengthening the vulnerable and providing the basics, we are working towards a successful future for Asiakwa's children.