Our promise - Anna Zaaki, founder & CEO, recalls the beginning of the One Love Children’s Home in Tuba, Ghana
We are beginning this article with a video of our One Love Children’s Home in Tuba, Ghana
Anna Zaaki, founder & CEO, reporting
How it all began
I can still remember clearly how the decision to build the One Love Children’s Home meant a step up to the next level. We had founded our Aminu Initiative in early 2006 and since then our task had been to financially support already existing projects in Ghana, i.e. we cooperated with the Günter Frey International School, the day care centre Monika Creche and the “Junior Program”, which our late son/ stepson had started.
Together with our Ghanaian partner, we at some point started to think about ways of expanding our activities. The founder of the Günter Frey International School in Tuba Mamadu Mudasiru (Muda) on many occasions looked after children and young people as well as their families who were in need.
However, as he was approached with more and more requests we together decided to create a place for these children and young people, where they would get all the care and attention they needed.
And together we came up with the idea of our One Love Children’s Home.
Our founder, Amin Zaaki, in front of the One Love Children’s Home in Tuba, Ghana. On the wall you can see our former name Nima e.V.
Not an orphanage, but a boarding house
From the very beginning, we wanted to distance ourselves from the discredited orphanages in Ghana and registered the One Love as a boarding house of the Günter Frey International School.
The kids were between 2 - 20 years old. The youngest of them attended Monika Creche and the older ones the Günter Frey International School.
We did not want the children to be cut off from their families and family members but from the start, thought it of great importance that the children keep in touch with their families and bond with them. Consequently, the children spent their school holidays in their family environment.
Only in exceptional cases, - I remember one case, when one of our children returned from their holidays completely starved - some of the children were cared for in One Love or directly by Muda’s family.
Orphans, half-orphans, social orphans and cultural eye openers
Among the children cared for in the One Love were many orphans, half-orphans and social orphans. What we also learned very quickly is that a lot of our orphans had not even known previously that they actually were orphans as either family members, neighbours or friends already looked after them when they were still babies and brought them up in their own families. This was another reason, why from the very beginning we tried to avoid using the term orphanage, but actually always talk about the “One Love”.
First year of our One Love Children’s Home in Tuba, Ghana
We do not want to confuse the children and young people in our care unnecessarily and thus have not brought up the subject of many of them being orphans or half-orphans. And the concept of what constitutes a family is actually much wider in Ghana than what we are used to here in Germany. For instance, a cousin may be called brother and an aunt mother. What at first seems very unusual to us, is perfectly normal for people in Ghana.
These intercultural differences exist on all levels of our work, which can lead to confusion, sudden insights and shared laughter. As a German-Ghanian team we constantly keep learning and this is what makes our work particularly exciting.
Boarding houses - quite normal in Ghana
In Ghana, boarding houses are actually very common. Their function is to ensure that the children can focus on their education, have a regular daily schedule and are generally well looked after. In the families our children come from, it is often difficult to regularly attend school at all, let alone to do your homework and study. The reason often is that the families do not have any money to pay school fees and the children either do household chores and look after younger siblings, or even have to contribute financially to the household income by doing paid work, such as selling oranges.
We postponed opening the One Love twice as from a German point of view the construction progress was slow which in return perplexed our Ghanaian partners. This is another example for how different both of our cultures are and how from the moment of founding it, we kept learning from each other and had to find compromises.
It was inconceivable for our German team that the children might move into an unfinished building. Everything had to be done by the book after all. For the Ghanaian team this was of minor importance though, as their priority was getting the children into a safe home that was conducive to learning.
We experienced the same thing with other joint building projects. For instance, the teaching on several occasions took place in classrooms which had not yet been finished. They were then completed later on, once the necessary money for finishing them was available.
Intercultural cooperation - working together as equal partners
We, the German team, had to learn an awful lot over the years, especially that we could not and did not want to impose German ideas on our German-Ghanaian partnership.
It was all rather about cooperating and addressing the needs of the local people. It is a shared learning process which is still ongoing. Cooperating between two cultures which are that different keeps posing challenges but at the same time it gives everybody the chance to grow and learn all the time.
I have learned to appreciate this very much over the years and am grateful that our German-Ghanaian partnership keeps forcing us to adopt different perspectives and to make an effort to understand the opposite side’s position. Intercultural cooperation is only possible that way. Working together as equal partners.
Different religions living together
In October 2009, the first 12 children celebrated moving into our One Love even though not everything - but nearly everything - had been completed. Great celebrations took place in the community, all neighbours, family members, teachers and prospective carers for the children attended.
Opening ceremony of our One Love Children’s Home in Tuba, Ghana
We were able to welcome the Chief Imam from Ghana as a particularly special on the occasion. He is the religious leader of the Muslim community and his presence made the opening celebration a very special event.
Even if our educational projects in Tuba and Nima-Accra are in areas with a majority of Muslim families, it never played any role in our work whether somebody belonged to a particular religion. From the very beginning, there was a fairly wild mix of Muslim and Christian children, boys and girls, orphans, half-orphans and social orphans, just depending on the demand we encountered.
This is actually characteristic of Ghana, as Ghana is a very good example for a country where different religions manage to live together peacefully.
The children of that time - our promise
The children of that time have become young adults by now. Some of them have just passed their A-levels, other study or train for a job.
The former One Love children our now young adults and have just graduated from their Senior High School
Unlike other organisations, we and our partner have agreed from the start that we will not release our children from the program when they turn 18 but that we will continue to look after them and support them financially until they have become independent and can manage on their own. We do not regard anything else as sustainable.
One of our One Love students is now studying accounting at the University of Accra - he is amongst the best students in Ghana
Naturally, the educational costs increase with every year our children get older. In order to keep the promise that we have given the children, we will need even more funding in the future.
Every single donation makes an impact. Many of our students are amongst the best in their schools, many times even amongst the best in Ghana.
Every donation counts, as it makes a difference
An even more sustainable way of donating is to give monthly, which is already possible from 5 Euros (approx £4.50) with us.
Please help us to ensure that the children and young people in our care continue to have access to an education and donate now. One click takes you to our website, where you can donate online very easily.
We thank you very much as every single donation matters and has a positive impact on the lives of the children and young people in our care. Thank you so much!