The local project, the ‘Friends Foundation’, a Nongovernmental Organization (NGO) in Ghana has been one of the
motivating reasons for starting The Dreams in Africa Foundation. Noor van Hout, founder of Dreams in Africa, spent a year (January 2009 t/m January 2010) in the traditional community of Klikor-Agbozume, a rural underdeveloped area (Volta Region) in South East Ghana as coordinator of ‘Friends Children’s Home and Orphanage’; part of The Friends Foundation. Noor worked closely, and lived with children and workers of the orphanage and school. The people of the local community embraced her as if she was one of them. This special and educational experience gave her lifelong closeness to these people.
Ghana is in West Africa, on the gulf of Guinea. The country has approximately 19,000,000 inhabitants, the majority living below poverty level. This makes Ghana a developing country.
The Friends Foundation was founded in 1993 and has been managed by a Ghanaian pastor/project manager. With the help of his wife and some local staff members, the orphanage and school provides care, support and education for Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC).
The orphanage is shortly named “Friends Home” and the school is named “El Shaddai International School Complex”, ‘El Shaddai’ in short. Together they are The Friends Foundation. Around 35 children between 0-21 years old, live in the orphanage, a haven to keep them from suffering they have endured either from neglect, abuse, poverty, child labor, child trafficking and death of parents. They can’t live with their parents or family members and so Friends Home provides a shelter, food and care for these children. In addition, they are raised and supported into adulthood and independence, according to major Ghanaian values (based on Christian faith) and are encouraged to acquire professional skills through education. The children of the orphanage are attending the school of El Shaddai. This is a Primary and Junior High School, where a total of almost 600 children from Klikor and surrounding rural villages, enjoy education. The new school complex is in association with two Dutch foundations; Foundation to Build (www.stichtingbouwen.nl) and Foundation Plan Africa (www.stichtingplanafrika.nl) in its entirety (three school buildings, canteen and toilet facilities) completed and delivered in January 2010.
In 2009, alot changed and improvements were made on the policy (innovative development plans and projects, staff and parent policy) and the accommodation of the orphanage and school. The enlargement of the project, which is dependent on non-structural donations from the West, however resulted in financial and staffing shortages. This makes development and restructuring of the project difficult. This also means that not enough skilled and educated employees can be recruited, so there is no well-functioning team. Reorganization and personnel training are therefore required to increase the quality of care and so that health care and education can be improved. This will be done in the next two years.
The following activities (projects) specifically lead to sustainability of The Friends Foundation:
– The Farm and vegetable gardens: on 8 different pieces of farmland different crops (like maize, cassava, beans, peanuts and vegetables) are grown, which provides food and income for the orphanage. In the future, the farm might expand to include livestock. In addition, firewood is also a major product of the land, for cooking;
– Kentey weaving: the children of the orphanage learn the most practiced and traditional trade of the Volta Region.
The weaving of fine silk into traditional, luxurious fabrics can be sold on the local market and may serve as an export product to America and Europe through international contacts;
– The Bakery: With the purchase of their own furnace bread consumption can be ensured among the orphans to expansion their diet, as bread (a luxury product) is normally too expensive. It will also provide income through the sale of bread and cake in the school canteen (run by the wife of the project manager);
– The Credit Union (micro-credit provision): on the basis of local contributions and sponsorships + interest, a savings opportunity and micro loans availability has been created so that the children in the orphanage and the people in the community are able to invest in the future and build on their lives.
Since January 2010 Noor is also active as a board member of The Friends Foundation (NGO), in which she filles an advisory and supporting role through direct contact with the project manager in Ghana.