One of seven children, Theresa Agyeiwaa only completed middle school. Her father passed when she was just a baby. Her mother could not afford to send her to high school. She married at 19, and now, at 26 years old, Theresa has three children: a boy and two girls aged eight, six, and three years old.
Theresa and her husband Kwasi ‘Beng, 30, of Obomeng-Kwahu in Ghana, supported their family through hard work. Kwasi, as a day-laborer, usually at farms, and Theresa, as a petty trader selling soaps. On week days, Theresa got the kids ready for school in the morning before loading her soaps on a big tray to hawk as she walked through several towns up to four miles away. Kwasi and Theresa took turns watching their three kids.
“This rhythm was sadly interrupted when Kwasi sadly died,” Theresa told me in the local language during my EVCO Farming Institute (EFI) interview with her.
Kwasi was known in town as a young strong man who was ready to lend a helping hand and never afraid to take on challenges. After playing soccer one evening, Kwasi collapsed while brushing his teeth the next morning, March 10, 2015. He was rushed to the nearby hospital and died few hours later. The family did not have money to perform autopsy. According to Theresa, Kwasi was diabetic. He didn’t take it seriously. He was so busy working to support his three children that he did not have any extra money or time to take care of himself.
After her husband’s funeral, Theresa asked the family for support with the children so she could continue to take her soap on the road as she had been doing. They offered to help her by taking her children to live with them, a system that has been practiced in Ghana for many, many years. This is a system called “modern day slavery.”
It is described this way because in most cases, the second parents do not have the welfare of the children in mind. The second parents are usually in better financial state than the biological mother. They often live in a bigger town or city. Education happens at the discretion of the second parents, and often this means that kids don’t go to school. The second parents would rather have the kids help them with house chores or help financially by selling items such as oranges, water, etc. in the streets. The children suffer the most.
“There is nothing more important to me than to be able to take care of my kids financially as well as be there for them when they come home from school,” said Theresa. “I don’t care how long or how hard I have to work, I just don’t want to give my kids away,” she sobbed.
In rural areas in many countries in Africa, Theresa’s story is more of a rule rather than an exception. Young women, especially, face this problem all the time, and Theresa is not new to this situation: her own father died when she was a baby.
But Theresa is full of hope and anxious for a better life for herself and her children. She is looking for a hand up not a hand out. This is exactly what we had in mind when we developed the farming institute.
EFI will officially open its doors on January 2016, but since Theresa’s story concerns not just herself, but her children, we plan to start a pilot farming project with Theresa in August 2015. Theresa will raise of rabbits and grass cutters at home, which will allow her to care for her children while working to earn income. One huge advantage is that the feed for these two caged animals is abundant at her village and can be found within a block from her house.
Support EFI and help families like Theresa’s by donating to this program.