Tag Archives: Ghana

Hungry for change conference: Campaigning in Ghana and London

Father Joe Komakoma, speaker at CAFOD's Hungry for change conferenceIn the third of a series of blogs introducing speakers, organisers and participants behind the Hungry for change conference on 10 November, Father Joe Komakoma from Ghana shares why acting for justice is central to his ministry.

Book now for the Hungry for change conference and hear Father Joe speak >

What’s your job? I am Deputy General Secretary of SECAM (Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar). I am in charge of the Evangelisation Department. I am therefore involved in both administration and pastoral activities.

What inspired you to start campaigning? The quest for justice for all, according to the Church’s Social Teaching.

What’s your favourite food? Vegetables, especially pumpkin leaves, in groundnut sauce.

What do you know now that you wish you’d known at 18? It is not easy to change people’s attitudes.

What’s the main message you’ll be bringing to the conference? Justice for all is possible.

What do you hope to learn while you are there? To hear from like-minded people about their own motivation to be involved.

How far will you be travelling to get to the conference? A six hour flight from Accra to London.

Who is your hero? Archbishop Romero.

How does your faith influence your campaigning? It is the Alpha-Omega of my social activism as a committed Catholic Christian.

Tell us something about you that not many people know. I am a shy 55-year-old man.

Book now for the Hungry for change conference >

Father Joe Komakoma is also speaking at CAFOD’s Pope Paul VI lecture on 9 November >

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Great generation editor of the month: Life is a lottery

Me and Blessing

I am part of Step into the Gap, an amazing gap year programme offered by CAFOD. For most of the year, I am based at Just Youth, a Spiritan centre in Salford, Greater Manchester. There, I am part of a schools team. I go into schools to raise issues about social justice, as well as helping students develop their faith. We also have a youth club called CHRISP, which runs two nights a week for the young people from the local area.

Part Step into the Gap means that you get a month’s experience in a developing country, and this year we went to visit Ghana. We stayed with the Sisters of the Holy Child Jesus. I am not going to lie; it was amazing! If someone was to walk up to me now and say “Amy, I have in my hand a ticket to Ghana, you have to leave tonight”, I would not hesitate taking it out of their hand and running to pack my bags. We were made to feel so welcome by everyone that we met. I don’t think that I have ever felt so “at home” in a place so quickly before. Continue reading

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Step into the gap: An incredible journey

Pouring water“Water is life,” said Sister Eunice, filling up my cup on a hot afternoon in Bolgatanga, North Ghana. And we could definitely see that. Bolgatanga is a place that sees intermittent rain for only a brief period each year, evident in the vast dry landscape.

The harsh conditions mean there is no grass and few trees, and the only crops that survive are millet and groundnuts; that is, if the rains last long enough for them to grow.

My trip was part of the Step into the Gap project, a partnership between CAFOD and the Society of the Holy Child Jesus. I am one of five CAFOD ‘gappers’ across the UK, who work in schools and youth centres exploring faith and justice issues with young people. Our work is enriched by having an overseas experience; witnessing and learning about development first-hand. Continue reading

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Patrick, who is travelling with the Step into the gap volunteers, brings us up to date with the latest from Ghana.

It’s two weeks since we landed in Ghana, but so much has happened in such a short space of time.

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We’ve been welcomed with open arms by the Holy Child Jesus Sisters. Our nine days in Bolgatanga has been a great experience and one that we’ll never forget.   And it’s absolutely true what people say; Ghanaians really do go out of their way to get to know you and make you feel at home.

What has come across to us this last week is that school children in Ghana really do value their education. Many of the children we have met at St Clement’s & St John’s Junior High Schools see their  education as a way to ‘lift’ themselves out of the poverty.

They are also prepared to make great sacrifices to help towards the cost of their education. While Primary School education is free to all, there are certain costs associated with the next level – Junior High School. These are exam fees, extra lesson costs, Parent Teacher Association levies and a computer levy which can all add up to prove extremely difficult for  students and in some case impossible.

Stella’s story is so humbling yet at the same time uplifting. She lives with her mum in a village 10 kilometres from Bolgatanga. Without the support she receives from the Holy Child Sisters she would have no schooling and her future would be bleak. All of Stella’s siblings died, as did her father, and her mother was close to giving up hope. But through the encouragement of the sisters, her mother learnt the art of basket weaving. This gave her a reason to carry on and a means to contribute to her daughter’s education.

Talking with Stella, she says, “I walk into school every day for 6.30am, have a full day of lessons, and then walk the 10 kilometre journey back home in the afternoon.”  But it doesn’t end there. Her village has no clean water, so once she arrives home, she sets off with her water carrier and walks 3 kilometeres to the nearest borehole to collect clean water. Stella returns home, empties it in a container at home, and then sets off again to collect more water. The two journeys to the borehole provide a basic amount of water for one day for Stella and her mum.  Wow, it really knocks you back and humbles you when you here and see this first hand. The Sisters have really encouraged Stella and her mum not to give up. They also contribute towards her education costs; without which Stella would have no education.  This has lifted Stella and her mum, given them hope.  When asked about her future, Stella says, “I would like one day to be a Nurse.”  I will never forget Stella’s story!

I spoke with Moses, the Headteacher at St Clement’s. He says, “My main challenge is the state of the buildings, especially the classrooms, they are not conducive for learning.  We need facilities for the children to have practical lessons, having no computer doesn’t help. ICT is a compulsory subject in all schools in Ghana, and it is really difficult to teach without the technology.”

The school gets only 200 Ghana Cedis (approx £90) for the whole year from the government, so they have to appeal to parents for money. Many parents either can’t afford this or don’t view education as a priority. Moses loves his job and says, “The staff and the children are great. Seeing children learning brings me joy.” Moses is also a catechist in his community, which means he has to sometime leave school to visit sick people in his community. The parish community life and school life all tends to merge into one – he’s a very busy man.

We also met Melanie who runs the Sirgu Organisation for Pottery and Art. Melanie is 76 years old and was educated by the SHCJs.  She set up this project which involves teaching skills such as weaving, wall painting and pottery to local women.

Many of the women are illiterate, so the project gives them a steady income and security. The aim is to give the ladies skills with a view to gaining more community bargaining power, as together they are stronger. It’s also very important for these skills to be passed on to future generations and not die out. So children who are not academic at school are encouraged to take up these skills.

We have learnt so much in Bolgatanga and already feel so much part of the community. Thank you to all those at home in the UK for your well wishes and prayers. We look forward to sharing more with you on our return.

Best wishes

Patrick (and the gappers)

Are you ready to Step into the Gap?

If you’re inspired by our gappers and want to know more visit us at cafod.org.uk/stepintothegap. Applications are now open for 2012! Sign up for an unforgettable journey today.



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Snapping it up: Life, history and worship in Ghana

As our Step into the Gap volunteers continue their Ghana journey, Emma takes up the tale.

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So we have come to the end of our first week in Ghana! It’s been a heck of a week…from schools to football matches to visiting sacred crocodiles! We’re loving the challenges and opportunities of this overseas experience!

On Saturday afternoon, we went to watch local children play football on a full size pitch outside Bolgatanga Cathedral. The crowd of children were quite nervous speaking to us at first, but once they got used to our presence, there was no stopping the conversation flowing! What we did learn was that football really unites the children of Bolgatanga. Elizabeth, who cooks for the Sisters, arranged for her son to take us to the match. Amos, 13, loves attending the football to support his 9 year old brother Pius, who is a key player in the team.

On Sunday morning, we were up bright and early and sat in Church by 6am waiting for Mass to begin. The wait was definitely worth it when in walked a huge Gospel Choir! There were over a thousand people at Mass. Even the Priest had 20 altar servers with him. What made our morning though, was when one of the young altar servers, Gabriel, recognised us from watching the football the previous day and ran up to us to greet us.

Mass was a wonderful experience with singing and dancing for 2 whole hours. At the end of Mass, Father invited Sister Eunice and the four of us to come up to the sanctuary and introduce ourselves to the whole congregation…that’s 1,000 people staring at us! It was daunting, but we got a wonderful Bolgatanga welcome from everyone. It’s amazing how just knowing a little of the local language is so well received.

Once Mass had finished, we were invited to attend and participate in Sunday school with Sister Angela. The children don’t go to Mass with the adults, they have their own separate service, and over 300 children attended. We got a warm welcome from the children who were fascinated to see us celebrating the service with them. The children gathered around us at the end and just wanted to chat with us forever, which we all loved.

After a hectic morning, we were lucky enough to have an afternoon off and spend time with Sister Eunice. It was a brilliant afternoon. She showed us the culture of Ghana. She drove us to Paga where there is a lake with crocodiles. The crocodiles are sacred to the area; as tradition has it, they once showed a Chief where there was available water during a dry season. Don’t worry though…the crocodiles were used to humans, so none of us were bitten!

After the crocodile trip, we went to Pikworo, a former Slave Camp, where Aaron our guide, told us the history of slavery in the area. It was  a moving experience, when you think that Ghana’s historical path started at these slave camps.

We popped in, on our way home, to visit the Presentation Brothers, Edwin and Valerus, who are friends of the SHCJs. They welcomed us with a cup of tea and some biscuits. This was a lovely end to our first week in Ghana.

Lots of love,

Emma and crew

Are you ready to Step into the Gap?

If you’re inspired by our gappers and want to know more visit us at cafod.org.uk/stepintothegap. Applications are now open for 2012! Sign up for an unforgettable journey today.

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