Serving disadvantaged communities in West Africa by empowering local leaders who have a positive humanitarian vision for their community.
This blog maps the evolution of the organization's vision through the thoughts, experiences, and collaborative projects of our team. Visit GroundUpGlobal.org for more information and how you can help!
GroundUp executive director Camilla Hermann is living and working on the Buduburam refugee camp from November 14, 2012 - December 18, 2012.
By 8am, when we begin our walk to the SCHEFO Office, the sun is already aggressively hot. Each footfall kicks up fine brown dust that settles on one’s skin, clinging to a mix of perspiration and sunblock. The calls of “Obruni!” ring out as I pass, a way of welcoming foreigners, often followed by the question “how are you?” to which one always responds, “I am fine.” Our walk to the office takes twice as long because Keith stops every few feet to greet members of the community and exchange news. He knows and cares for everyone here, a fact which always becomes apparent when we move through the camp.
In many ways, “Liberia Camp” is a world unto itself, formed in a moment of great tumult and anguish as thousands fled the brutal war in Liberia. Those who live here know every narrow passageway between the earth-block houses and live within the network of their closely-tied community.
As we arrive at the office, three young women are already seated outside waiting for us. Mr. Chea produces a key and opens the door while Ephraim and Keith tote our fan and extension cable inside. There is one plastic table, one wooden desk, and two long, low wooden benches that run along either wall. The SCHEFO team welcomes the young women inside and sets up their laptops in order to take down the womens’ information. They are here because they do not have UN-issued ID cards, and so cannot benefit from the limited repatriation packages offered by the UNHCR.
GroundUp Global has been working with The SCHEF Organization to provide safe repatriation and holisitic reintegration for the Liberians who remain on Buduburam, but wish to return home to Liberia. This is a monumental task, as anyone on the team will tell you. But that is precisely why we are a team. No one person, nor organiaztion could do this alone (The UN, arguably the largest organization in the world, has not been able to account for all the refugees who came in as a result of the Liberian civil wars, though they have done their best.) Ultimately it takes a dedicated collaborative effort, first and foremost from the refugees themselves, and then from nonprofits on the ground (SCHEFO) international nonprofits (GroundUp Global) the Ghanaian Government, the Liberian Government, and the United Nations.
A few weeks ago I sat down with the Liberian Ambassador to Ghana and his Consul General to discuss the necessary steps in facilitating repatriation of former refugees across international borders. It soon became apparent that we shared a vision for how this work should be accomplished, and with the Ambassador’s blessing, the Consul General generously offered her time and support to the cause. Two days later Keith, Mr. Jallah, Ephraim, and I were sitting in a hotel restaurant sharing plantain chips with five other Liberian women the Consul had engaged to be part of a planning committee for a fundraising event to benefit the repatriating refugees.
The date was set for December 15th, and our work began in earnest.
We are thrilled about this amazing opportunity to both showcase the talents of those living on Buduburam and to engage with the Liberian diaspora in helping to repatriate the unregistered refugees who do not have the means to return on their own.
Much more to come!
The Staten Island Liberian Community Association (SILCA) hosted a celebratory banquet in honor of the 165th anniversary of Liberian independence.
Vamba S. Fofana, Chairman of SILCA, addressing the banquet
(from left to right) Mrs. Sulunteh, Ambassador Sulunteh, SILCA President Teele Brown
The celebration continued on Sunday with a Ministerial Alliance Intercessory Service, where our Executive Director spoke to the congregation about the challenges faced by the remaining 2,000 refugees on Buduburam. Many people from the community passed through Buduburam before coming to the US, and some still have family members there.
Executive Director Camilla Hermann speaking at the Intercessory Service
all photos by Oliver Hermann
The people of Buduburam are frustrated: they are frustrated that they are constantly suspended in a state of waiting, whether it is waiting for a job to come around, waiting to go back to Liberia, or waiting for an opportunity to leave Buduburam for a life abroad where hard work is rewarded.
Kelsey Vala is a new member of the SCHEFO team, working as an intern on Buduburam. In the coming months you will get a glimpse of camp life through the perspective of our newest interns and their personal experiences. We hope that reading about these experiences will allow for greater connection between our New York base and our work on Buduburam. All photos in this post were taken by Kelsey.
My first few weeks of working at the camp have gone by quickly. I have become oriented with the day-to-day goings-on of the camp. I have become acquainted with the small children that play together in the shade of the SCHEFO building. And I have become fully immersed in this culture that is all too often only on the margins of our minds, our thoughts, our prayers.
Unfortunately, last week some of my work at the refugee camp came to a halt. Some disargeements broke out among the refugees. The conflict was only exacerbated by the Ghanaian police force that overreacted to quell the situation. I was at Buduburam for a few hours the next morning. Though the camp was peaceful, there was tension in the air. The children kicked around a soccer ball because school was canceled for the day. The people were angry and frustration was brewing.
The people of Buduburam are frustrated: they are frustrated that they are constantly suspended in a state of waiting, whether it is waiting for a job to come around, waiting to go back to Liberia, or waiting for an opportunity to leave Buduburam for a life abroad where hard work is rewarded. Working for SCHEFO has opened my eyes to some of the problematic systems of this world, where large populations of people are altogether forgotten by government help. In truth, the government seems to be relying entirely on Non-governmental Organizations, such as SCHEFO, to aid people in need I hope to contribute whatever I can to SCHEFO in the short time I am in Ghana.
One of my first projects is to create a short documentary of Buduburam, so people can have a clear understanding of the camp and the people who live here. I am also working on a pen pal project between students in the camp and American students. This will create a heightened awareness of other cultures and will demonstrate the importance of reading and writing.
Rebecca M. Wheh Martha S. Johnson Marvis Tweh
Janet Kai Semiria H. Kortu Florence Daniel
Markula G. Ledlum Pauline Nah
Rachel T. Wreh