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!
Rebecca M. Wheh Martha S. Johnson Marvis Tweh
Janet Kai Semiria H. Kortu Florence Daniel
Markula G. Ledlum Pauline Nah
Rachel T. Wreh
SCHEFO staff member Camilla Hermann is at Buduburam for two weeks to check in on our projects, update communication structures, and maintain the connection between our New York and Ghana bases. Camilla will be posting regularly about the work she and other SCHEFO staff members are doing on the camp.
We would like to extend a special thanks to Henry Gartor, who has provided us with free internet and printing during my stay on Buduburam.
The first two days in Ghana have disappeared quickly into the heavy heat of the Harmattan season. We spent this time going around to our beneficiaries, checking in on those who are sick, and making contact with the few surviving non-profits on the camp. It was wonderful to see everyone again!
Keith and I conducted two staff meetings on Wednesday and Thursday respectively. During these we discussed the upcoming Nutritional Certification Program, progress on the Kitchen Project, and took suggestions for potential seminar topics. These seminars cater specifically to our staff and beneficiaries; we teach what they want to learn. We’ve found that these seminars are important means of building community.
The suggested topics were as follows: domestic violence, personal hygiene, HIV/AIDS, and child abuse. We will pick two of these to orchestrate after the three day Nutritional Certification Program has been completed.
The Nutritional Certification Program is a three-day intensive seminar that will provide the necessary education and skill training that our Kitchen staff require to fully support our beneficiaries. Each day we will begin with a breakfast of meat pies and a short lecture, followed by an interactive workshop. We will cook lunch as a community and learn about the nutritional properties of the food involved during this process.
The topics of the educational sessions will be nutritional content of foods, basic nutrition, personal hygene, breast feeding, and psychological health. The necessity of these last two topics is paramount when considering our target beneficiaries: single mothers and their children who have been forced into commercial sex work as a result of the conditions on the camp.
We are currently coordinating with the head nutritionist on Buduburam, a Ghanaian named Adam, who works in conjunction with St. Gregory’s Clinic, the only medical facility available to the 60,000 refugees living on the camp.
On Wednesday evening we convened a Board meeting with members Jerry Braimah, Emmett Tumbay, Mae Moisema, Henry Gartor, Director Keith Kortu, and myself. Our sixth board member, Elizabeth Glaeser, was deeply missed. She is currently working on behalf on SCHEFO in New York alongside our Creative Director, Anna Bjerknes to apply for funding for the Kitchen Project. The meeting went well into the night as we discussed plans for SCHEFO and outlined a strategy for nailing down the logistics of a repatriation effort in the coming years. Also on the agenda were sustainability projects.
One of the daily challenges we face at SCHEFO is sustaining communication between our Buduburam and New York Offices. The frequent electricity outages, low-bandwidth internet, and unreliable cell phone service all contribute to regular headaches for both teams running fundraising campaigns and projects respectively. This is why we are so excited for two new technological innovations that will help improve our communication and our interactions with the world at large.
This week, Skype released a new, low-bandwidth version of its uber-popular video chatting freeware. The program, Bespoke, will be used specifically by the UNHCR to improve communications at refugee sites. When our New York Director, Camilla Hermann, is on Buduburam in January, she will meet with the head of the UNHCR branch on Buduburam to get SCHEFO set up with Bespoke capabilities. We expect this exciting improvement will have a huge positive impact on our communication between the two sites.
The second, and arguably more profound technological advancement comes from Ushahidi. An innovator whose peer, FrontlineSMS, is also doing amazing work. Ushahidi is a crowdmapping platform extremely useful in the event of violence outbreak or natural disaster in the developing world. In a recent blog post, the author describes lessons learned in their Liberia operations. A thorough and useful examination of what the organization has done well, and where it can improve, the post emphasizes a need for multiple approaches to data collection and implementation.
Ushahidi, although working in markedly different areas than The SCHEF Organization, has discovered what we too encounter regularly: a lack of education and adequate technology makes a difficult job all the more challenging. We applaud Ushahidi for readily acknowledging that their platform is not necessarily the best for all circumstances or groups. This is where FrontlineSMS comes in. Where Ushahidi requires organizations upload spreadsheets of data, FrontlineSMS uses text messages to plot the development of conflict and disaster.
Both Organizations are doing critical work in improving communication in the developing world. We hope that adopting these new methods of tracking conflict will help prevent repetition of the same heinous wars that sent the Liberian refugees to Buduburam nearly twenty years ago. In the present, however, The SCHEF Organization is working hard to provide for the most vulnerable members of this community and encourage repatriation.
Women work two-thirds of the world’s working hours and produce half of the world’s food, yet they earn only 10% of the world’s income and own less than 1% of the world’s property.
Today we celebrate the Defenders: those people who have committed to act against human rights violators and to act for the protection of all people. The values of universal Human Rights are at the core of our work at SCHEFO.
Arguably the most important recent advance in Human Rights is the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW.) The Convention provides a legal basis on which the international community can demand equal rights for women. As Nick Kristof so appropriately quotes in his eponymous book Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, “women hold up half the sky.” The greatest advances in human rights necessarily involve women, who have traditionally been discriminated against in nearly every culture and who represent the world’s great untapped resource.
The SCHEF Organization is working to improve the lives of Liberian single mothers on the Buduburam Refugee Camp. Our focus on women’s rights and gender equality is what lead us to create the BUDU fashion initiative that provides both immediate income to the local, women-led vocational schools on the camp and additionally provide funds for us to build the Buduburam Kitchen Project. You can become a part of this mission today and contribute to positive change in the lives of single mothers on the camp by purchasing BUDU items for your friends and family this holiday season! Visit our online store or make a donation in a relative’s name on our website. Help us celebrate Human Rights Day by making a difference in the lives of the women of Buduburam!
The latest news from Buduburam is grim. While Haiti receives millions of dollars in doctor services and supplies in response to its cholera outbreak, no such help exists for the forgotten refugees on Buduburam. Keith Kortu, Director of SCHEFO, reports on the situation on the camp.
“Poor sanitation on the Buduburam Refugee settlement is the root cause of the malaria and cholera outbreak. This especially affects women and children, which constitute a greater percentage of the camp population.
The outbreak is due to the insufficiency of basic sanitation services such as public toilets, waste removal, insecticides and other sanitation implements. These are unavailable to the refugee settlement where more than 50,000 Liberians, Ghanaians, Nigerians, Sierra Leoneans, and Ivoirians live.
The SCHEF Organization in this light, has decided to conduct a clean-up exercise once a month, as effort to assist the National Catholic Secretariat (N.C.S.) that is currently responsible for sanitation in the camp.
Our first clean-up exercise began last month, targeting the zone 9 area which is known as one of the camp’s poorest sanitation areas. Education about sanitation is paramount to achieving healthy living conditions in the camp. SCHEFO is planning to do this through community through workshops, community outreach, and the provision of garbage bins at various locations in the twelve zones of the camp. We recognize that true results will only be achieved through adequate monitoring and funding.”
- Keith Kortu, Director of The SCHEF Organization