I first heard about the Future of Africa (FoA) organization from a friend who was working to fight slavery on Lake Volta in Ghana. When he heard that I was going to be in Accra, Ghana, he recommended I get in touch with TK, the director of FoA. TK was driving home in Accra when he encountered a boy lying on the ground. After driving past, he realized that this was a moment when someone needed help; he could possibly provide help, and to walk away was not only callous but also wrong. (How many of us have seen the same and kept on driving?) The rest is history; he just kept on learning, helping, and learning more so he could help more. Eventually, Future of Africa was born with the mission to “mentor youth to cultivate the hope, character, and skills to break the cycle of extreme poverty in Africa.”
TK picked us up and drove us to a safe house for teenage girls, enabling them to transition from living on the street to their new journey of transformation. Here, in this home, there were 12 young women and two children living in a single room but with additional rooms for cooking, congregating, and the offices of FoA. It is interesting that youth frequently don’t stay the first time you take them off the street. It takes multiple times before they realize that the structure and safety really are better than living in the street. (I can confirm this is true from my time working with street children in Maputo, Mozambique.)
In the evening, we went to the Kantamanto Market, near the Ashiedu Keteke Metro Station. There, we walked deep into the market, found the youth that FoA is familiar with, and invited them to come out for food and conversation. FoA comes every Sunday night to the market to meet with the homeless youth there and establish connections, trust, and relationships. In addition, they invite the youth out to the FoA center on Wednesdays. It is based on this mutual trust that FoA will, in time, invite the youth to come live in the refuge of an FoA home.
During the outreach, I spent most of my time talking with this woman, Faith, and playing with her daughter, Precious. Faith is in her early 20s and lives at the market, selling cooked plantains. You wonder what she ran away from such that she still chooses to live here with her daughter. Having walked through the alleys to find the youth, this is not a safe place to spend a night. There are drugs, pimps, and a social hierarchy that makes the weak submissive to the strong. I’m still disturbed by the story of how a guy might force himself on a sleeping girl there. Argh!
This is a very brief summary of our visit with FoA. I was so grateful for our delay in Accra because it afforded us the opportunity to participate in the market outreach. Even with that, we only scratched the surface of all that they were doing. Regardless, I was impressed and will discuss with Elisabeth adding FoA to our philanthropic portfolio this year.
Here are some of the qualities that impressed me about FoA:
- After the market outreach, they debriefed with the staff and volunteers, both on personal impact and reviewing the impact on the situations of the youth we were reaching. This was a training opportunity for the staff and volunteers, a review of the youth and where they are at in their journey, and an opportunity to raise any urgent issues the youth may be experiencing. The sincerity and consistency of FoA are key factors in building trust with the youth. A retrospective like this indicates value is placed on improving.
- TK is making significant sacrifices both for himself and his family. He could return to Canada or the US and build his career. Instead, he is taking a minimal income and sacrificing an established career to fight extreme poverty in Accra.
- The organization is frugal.
- There are very few organizations working with the Accra inner-city youth. FoA is, therefore, clearly filling a huge need here.
- I really like the stage approach to helping the youth. You can read more about it here. I think they are on the right track with this.
- They were aware that success for them is still undefined. This work is hard. Youth will go back to the street. There will be heart wrenching events in the lives of these youth. Some youth will go on to find jobs. Some will experience extreme abuse. Defining success across the various stages is difficult.
- Seemingly, the wealthy in Ghana just don’t care about those in poverty. Not only that, but churches aren’t stepping up either.1 To change the culture, FoA is going to the university to provide training and then volunteer opportunities for students. In so doing, they are growing the hearts of the next generation of adults to love the poor. Students have an opportunity to interact with those experiencing extreme poverty and empathize with impoverished lives firsthand. This raises a generation of Ghanaian leaders who care.
- Not everything is perfect, but they are doing something, and it is making a positive impact on many youth.
In summary, I was impressed with the organization and will look to support them this year.
Check out the Future of Africa website and consider supporting them. They are making an impact in a place where few other organizations are at work. Donating or volunteering to this organization will change people’s lives for the better.
1. I was disappointed to learn that TK couldn’t get the church to step up and help. There is lots of church-service advertising along the roads. Unfortunately, it is advertising that seems to focus more on establishing a name for the preacher and increasing income for the church. Please forgive my synoecism, but what I could observe from the outside was not a Ghanaian church focused on the downtrodden, but rather the church of the preacher focused on wealth accumulation.