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by Rashid, Canada Nov 25, 2004
Human Rights   Opinions
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In a country of limitless opportunities, in a region recovering from decades of conflicts, stark with poverty, a population waiting for genuine inspiration, corruption at the highest level with high political injustice, and a daily struggle for survival, everyone seems to be at everyone else’s throat. But life has a way of surprising us. And when we only focus on the short run, we often can’t see the significant contributions of a few individuals across the world that should be making headline news but war and conflicts have taken centre stage. Faith urges us to take the long view. It insists that in the long run, “all manner of things shall be well if we work towards it collectively.” As martin Luther King, Jr., so beautifully put it, “The arc of the universe may be long but it bends towards justice,” and like the good book tells us, “The scum disappears like froth cast out, but that which is for the good of humanity remains in the earth”.

In spite of the high level of security alert across the world, there is a group of individuals who are defying the perceived risk and are changing lives across the length and breadth of Ghana. In remote, rural, urban and marginalized communities they bring with them hope, inspiration, and a collective effort of self help and a determination to working with communities whiles changing their lives. From Salaga (East Gonja-Northern Region), Komenda Dominasi, Kasoa, Upper-Denkyira (Central Region) Obuasi, Kumasi (Ashanti Region) they have been touched by the powerful positive force of these unique individuals of young people from all over the world whose only aim is breaking barriers and building bridges while changing lives. In a country where there is the notion that you can only impact change when you have political power everybody likes to be at the center of it. It’s comfortable to grow accustomed to that position or feel entitled to it and then to find one on the margins, instead it is a disorienting and traumatic experience. When it dawns on them that change cannot be brought about simply by having political power and when their expectations fail, when their foundation shifts, they feel anxiety. And anxiety translates into the bitter feeling of powerlessness, accompanied by nostalgia for the past and often apocalyptic thinking about the future. When actions seem possible to us, it is often fantastic and vindictive, for shame drives us to try to fight our way back to where we imagine we belong. When no action seems possible to us, chronic depression sets in.

As we traveled and under took voluntary activities across a land once known by the outside world as Gold Coast (due to the large deposit of Gold across the land) it was a feeling of self awakening and a desire to helping bridge the gap between the rich and the poor. Deep in the rain forest of Upper Denkyira in the central region of Ghana, in a small village of Kramokrom linked by 2 more villages with a total population of 600 people with more than half being women and children and the illiteracy rate of 99.9%.The young and determined volunteers who called themselves Young Peace Brigades were moved by the plight of the people and a sober reflection on the fact that in a land of vast natural resources and in the 21st century the world has a lot more to do in terms of poverty reduction and the spread of technology. With no electricity, dilapidated houses, lack of an access route, the volunteers set out to mobilize the people for what they called Self Empowerment. For weeks we traveled deep into the forest registering the population and counting the number of children who were not attending school. The task was made more difficult with the constant down pour of the rains and scattered settlements which made it difficult for the volunteers to relocate their base and they had to walk for miles in the forest till they found their way back.

But with the enthusiasm, determination and the singing which characterized the whole process, the volunteers showed unity and love towards the people. The villagers made sure that the volunteers never lacked anything. They worshipped, idolized the volunteers, and entertained them; they even named places and settlements after individual volunteers. For three weeks, the process of registering the population and knowing the number of children came to an end. In all, the volunteers registered 600 people from the three communities and had a total of 200 children who were not attending school. With this the volunteers set up a temporary structure, employed three voluntary teachers from a near by village whiles at the same time helping provide education for the children. We promised to maintain and help build a more permanent structure while seeking the help of the education ministry to help the school.

It was an emotional day for the volunteers seeing the children with so much life and yet through no fault of their own, they were living under the ignorance of the society and the inefficient policies of the authorities. For a region where it is renowned for it’s farming activities (cocoa, rice, palm tree and Timber), it saddens one to know that the people get nothing for what they are producing and are barely able to feed themselves and their families. The situation is made worse by the high birth rate among the villagers. The nearest community is a three mile or more walk while the farthest community is a 7 to 10 mile walk to get to the only dispensary or dispenser to get treatment for major and minor ailment if you happen not to catch the only bus that plies the area but that it even comes on specific days and when it comes and safely takes you to your destination, you have to bow down and thank God for sparing your life (because its so full that people sit on the lap of one another and on top of the vehicle). After months of voluntary activities across this rain forest, living and working with the people, I had an insight into the suffering of poor and poverty stricken communities and it helped me to appreciate the work and contribution of this group of young and dedicated people towards the betterment of the society and by thousands all over the world who are devoting their time, talent and resources to bringing hope and putting smiles on the faces of marginalized communities.

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