Monday, April 9, 2012
EGYIRLKROM REFUGEE CAMP DAY CARE CENTRE
Four Projects Abroad volunteers dug deep to bring food, comfort and a little bit of entertainment to schoolchildren at Egyirlkrom Refugee Camp, near Elmina.
Their visit was organised by Covenant Daycare Centre (CDC) head teacher Margaret Ackonu.
Mrs Ackonu said she had been visiting the camp and trying to find ways to help those living there, having first fled and now facing exile from their homes in Cote d’Ivoire.
The visit on Friday, March 16, was the first of what she said she hoped would be many by her school. As an individual, she was also due to help by giving a motivational talk to raise the spirits of the women in the camps the week after the school visit.
Mrs Ackonu said the school visits were designed as a sort of language exchange so that the CDC children could learn some French and the refugee children could practise their English – something very valuable to these children who in all likelihood will come to call Ghana their home.
For the Ivorian schoolchildren, the visit was met with a great deal of fanfare. As the CDC bus pulled in, older schoolchildren lined both sides of the road, applauding their Cape Coast visitors in welcome. Then, the more musical pupils among them played drums. The CDC children danced to these beats as they made their way to the end of the camp school building and the younger pupils’ classrooms.
The CDC pupils were split into two age groups and joined their peers inside the camp for lessons that included singing in both French and English, and making figures out of playing putty.
Joining CDC volunteers Maria Jorgensen and Stine Lunde, from Norway, and Bonnie Schoovers and Pauline Grobben, from The Netherlands, to report on the visit for Central Press, I was struck by how well the two groups of children played together.
My first time in a refugee camp, I was also impressed by how clean and well spaced out it was, enabling its inhabitants to preserve the dignity all human beings should despite the troubles they have faced.
It was heartening to see the language barriers between the Ivorian and Ghanaian children fall by the wayside as they played and learned together, proving, I think, that in any context, children are just children, who want to play and be loved no matter what hardships they have endured.
The visit also proved very exciting for both groups of children, providing a novel break in their daily school routines.
Mrs Ackonu said she hoped to make return visits as often as possible, but that depended on funding.
Next time, Mrs Acknonu said she would like to bring the Ivorian children to her daycare centre, near Solace Junction in Cape Coast, so they could enjoy time away from the refugee camp. This would require about 200 cedis to hire a bus for schoolchildren and their teachers and about another 200 cedis to buy a cook them food. She said she would be grateful to anyone willing and able to donate funds for this cause.
Ms Jorgensen, Ms Lunde, Ms Schoovers and Ms Grobben each donated 60 cedis for the visit to buy and cook enough rice and chicken to feed 300 of the refugee schoolchildren.
It was a price, they all said, they were willing to pay.
Speaking on behalf of the four volunteers, Ms Schoovers said: “It very interesting to see what a refugee camp actually looked like.”
Nevertheless, she said she was shocked and somewhat saddened by the way the refugee children grabbed at the food they had brought.
“Perhaps they don’t get these kinds of meals very often, which is very sad,” she said.
On a positive note, she said, it was nice to see the two groups of children interacting so well together.