25 August 2013

Remembering "Little Rock" and the other children, three years on

Today it is three years since a tragic accident where a minibus, full of schoolchildren, collided with a train in Cape Town. Ten children died, including Lisle (known as "Little Rock" in the media). One organisation that my charity, CHW, works with in South Africa, The Future Factory, had been supporting Lisle in previous years. 

Lisle had already been through so much in her short life, and had suffered a terrible, abusive incident at just seven years old. I had met her a few times and she was always so bright and lively, despite what had happened to her. I wrote more about her story here, this time last year. 


Lisle, and all the children who were in the accident, are in my heart, and my thoughts and prayers are with their families, especially today. 

23 August 2013

Back from Ghana!

I have spent part of the summer in Ghana, and am now back in London.

With some of the school children at New Life
It was really good to visit CHW's projects in Ghana. This was the first country where I set up links for the charity and started to fundraise. The projects CHW supports there are close to Cape Coast. The children had all grown so much and it was just so great to see them again! However, it was also a very difficult trip for me, as the founder of New Life, Madam Ruby, had passed away in June. She was someone who had truly inspired me. I met her when I was eighteen and I think I would have taken a different path in life if it wasn't for her. I was able to spend time with her family, which I am grateful for, as I stayed with them during my trip. Madam Ruby's vision and inspiration live on, as the children she was so determined to help continue to have shelter and an education due to her work.

As well as spending time in Cape Coast, I also went to Accra, and caught up with some former colleagues. I did some legal research there, and in the past, I have also worked in a law firm and at an advocacy centre. I visited the Human Rights Advocacy Centre. If you have studied, or worked in, human rights, it is possible to do internships there. They do very interesting work. 

A lot of my colleagues were talking about issues raised from the Care Reform Initiative (CRI). Currently, children's homes usually accept abandoned children, as well as orphans. As a result of the implementation of the CRI, more children living in homes are being reunified with their families, if possible. This may be with parents, or with other family members. Some people who work with the children say that the children's families often want them to stay in homes (or orphanages), as the children live in better conditions and are guaranteed to get regular meals and have access to an education. This is a very big issue - globally, not just in Ghana - as ideally every child should have a family, and there are serious problems regarding institutionalisation, which will have lifelong effects. At the same time, struggling families may see children's homes as a way to give their children more opportunities in life. Further problems are raised as some homes may have different standards, and if not registered, may not be regulated. It seems that the policy-makers, those working on the ground, and parents have very different views. Ultimately any action must be in the best interests of the child. I would like to explore these issues further and I invite anyone to get in touch with me if they would like share their views on issues of children's homes and reunification (not just in the Ghanaian context, but in general. I am interested in hearing about all regions and countries, and how people are working to solve these problems for children.).

I now hope to post more regularly as I am back home! Wishing you all a nice weekend!