Atonkwa Village

Trip Start Feb 21, 2010
Trip End Apr 18, 2010

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Flag of Ghana  ,
Friday, April 9, 2010

Last week I visited the Atonkwa Village with Esther. I have been working with her on a funding proposal for her NGO called Firm Grace Foundation. Firm Grace Foundation is named after Esther's niece Grace who inspired her to become a seamstress. When Grace was a baby Esther made all of her clothes and when they went to Church, everyone would rave about the well dressed baby and inquire about the brilliant seamstress. All of a sudden orders starting coming in for more baby clothes, then school uniforms, wedding and funeral dresses and purses and bags. Esther could hardly keep up and decided she needed to start a business. Then she found Global Mamas. Global Mamas taught her some basic business skills and shortly after, My Redeemer Liveth Fashion opened on the corner of Jackson & Kings Street. As business grew, so did Grace's health issues and five years ago she passed away in just her early 20's. Grace's death fueled Esther's desire to mentor young woman to start their own businesses so that they could afford health care and provide proper nutrition to their children. She started taking on apprentices and her business grew to 5 full time staff. Two years ago Esther stumbled on the Atonkwa Village and noticed that the majority of its population was young women under 20 years old. 'By the Grace of God', Esther found her calling and started Firm Grace Foundation.

Her vision is to improve the life conditions of Atonkwa and the six surrounding villages by teaching women basic handicraft skills in order to create a reliable source of revenue. The products will be sold to locals, tourists and international markets. A volunteer program will be developed to attract skilled professionals to enhance the project and create international awareness. Global Mamas supports her cause and asked me to help. Working with Esther was an incredible experience and I've learned a lot more than I've taught.

In the past two years Esther has managed to secure land for the workshop and office, build relationships with the village elders and acquire approval from the village chief. The junior pastor is a man of many talents and has taken on the role as project manager and at this very moment workers are digging up the ground and starting to construct the building. The day we visited the village it was very quiet but a few women sat at the site watching the workers. When Esther spoke to them they said that they were waiting for it to open! Esther has invited them to join her in Cape Coast to get started but the women cannot afford the transportation into town and will have to wait months or even years for the building to be up and running. The junior pastor spoke of the severe poverty in the village and of the recent hike in teen pregnancy. Men from other villages travel to Atonkwa to pay the young girls 50 pesewas for sex. The young girls are so desperate for money that they succumb to the pressure and sell their bodies for less than 20 cents Canadian.

We have applied for a 10,000 pound grant from the UK's Department of International Development and if it is approved the girls can be trained and start to make a life for themselves within the year. Esther said that visiting the village and working with her on the grant has made me a life time member of Firm Grace Foundation and I can't wait to visit Ghana in the near future for the grand opening. In the mean time I've decided to learn to sew so that I can help teach when I return.

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Sweet D on

Most amazing blog Mel, such an incredible story and you are a wonderful story teller!

gramma_nance on

Fingers crossed (and prayers said) that they get the grant! What a wonderful story.

Judy on

Mel, I'm looking forward to your return, but will miss the blogs.

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