Humanist Action: Ghana

What is Humanist Action: Ghana?

Humanist Action: Ghana (HA: Ghana) is a Ghanaian women's rights and poverty alleviation program guided by secular humanist principles under Foundation Beyond Belief. The program runs livelihood training programs in the Northern and Central regions of Ghana and partners with local grassroots nonprofits that do similar work.


The goal of Humanist Action: Ghana is to:

  • Reduce poverty and promote self-sustainability
  • Support local expertise
  • Promote humanitarian services in local communities by training future trainers

HA: Ghana focuses on protecting human rights by championing the skills necessary for Ghanaians in impoverished communities to meet their basic needs. HA: Ghana does this by collaborating with local organizations and individuals to empower members of the local community to build a life of self-sustainability and dignity. Each vocational or agricultural training project coordinated by HA: Ghana is specifically tailored to the needs and desires identified by the communities themselves. After each training, trainees are provided with the tools and equipment needed to start a viable business in their field.

7 Founding Principles of Humanist Action: Ghana

Rely on Local Expertise

HA: Ghana is a logical extension of FBB’s Humanist Giving program, which provides catalyst grants to small organizations with a track record of effective, data-driven innovation. HA: Ghana expands upon this idea by providing assistance in the form of volunteers to a smaller subset of grassroots groups working to promote human rights and protect the environment.

The Humanist Action: Ghana approach emphasizes close collaboration with a grassroots partner organization not just because it embodies humanist ideals but also because it is more effective and sustainable.

Shun the Spotlight in the Community

In the communities where HA: Ghana works, the program is built to minimize the visibility of its volunteers and maximize the visibility of its partner organization, because the face of change should always be a local one. The narrative that sustainable change comes from within the community is itself revolutionary and empowering because it counters centuries of colonial and internalized racism.

Tell the Story Responsibly

Even as HA: Ghana tries to hide behind the scenes in the local context, it must build a strong platform for international storytelling to raise awareness about the work HA: Ghana and its partners are doing. Telling this story responsibly means letting the words and ideas of the locals speak for themselves. It means never exploiting images or stories of suffering in order to raise money for the program. And it means focusing on images and stories of resilience and happiness, not just hardship.

HA: Ghana believes it has the responsibility to counteract the unrelenting hardship narrative that the media and other organizations often tell about the places where HA: Ghana works. Such monolithic storytelling is irresponsible and harmful. For more on the danger of a single story, see Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's TED talk.

Build Local Capacity

HA: Ghana volunteers work to increase the capacity of grassroots organizations to provide direct services; they don't provide direct services themselves. You will never see an HA: Ghana volunteer doing a job a local could do (or be trained and employed to do), because our humanism demands that we not exacerbate existing skills gaps or reinforce postcolonial narratives that cast outsiders as capable and locals as needy. Technical assistance should be provided by qualified people and should work toward increasing the number of local skilled professionals.

Therefore, HA: Ghana volunteers do not compete unfairly with local professionals in an already unfavorable job environment and encourage dependence. The ultimate goal is the opposite! The Humanist Action: Ghana aims to make itself redundant in every community it enters.

Learn & Listen First

Despite what countless other volunteering programs seem to think, being a willing American does not qualify anyone to provide technical expertise abroad. HA: Ghana volunteers CAN have a positive impact where they work, but only if they first learn about the cultural context of the partner organization’s work. Without this context, volunteers cannot truly understand the problem their local colleagues are attempting to address, and they are not be able to collaborate effectively with them.

Promote Well-Being and Fulfillment

Although we think it’s important to put the emphasis on community impact rather than volunteer growth, we also believe that a humanist volunteering experience should be safe and fulfilling for the volunteer. The Humanist Action: Ghana provides pre-service training and orientation to prepare volunteers for their transition and work. During service, HA: Ghana staff designs further training to ensure that volunteers can get the most out of their experience and maximize their effectiveness. 

Humanist Action: Ghana places volunteers as a team. The volunteers contribute to each other’s growth and respond to each other’s needs. 

Celebrate Diversity

The Humanist Action: Ghana program is guided by the principles and aspirations of humanism, but our approach is one that many non-humanists have arrived at from other philosophical starting points. We select our volunteers based on their professional skills, interpersonal skills, cultural competencies, and grit, not whether they identify as humanists. We believe that this is, in fact, the humanist thing to do. Moreover, the Humanist Action: Ghana does not discriminate on the basis of race, age, religion, national or ethnic origin, disability, sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity/expression. 

The Humanist Action: Ghana demonstrates its commitment to diversity and culturally responsible service by providing living stipends to volunteers and covering program-related costs. This allows people from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds to apply and places the emphasis on the skills the volunteers bring to the program rather than the experience the program provides to the volunteer.

Where we Work

HA: Ghana is currently based in Cape Coast in the Central Region of Ghana. Cape Coast is the capital of the Central Region in southern Ghana. It is known for its role in the transatlantic slave trade. Now it is a large fishing community with a population of about 170,000. Although Cape Coast is hailed as the citadel of Ghanaian education and has some of the best senior high schools in Ghana, joblessness, poverty, poor sanitation, and falling standards of education at the basic level plagues the region.

HA: Ghana is currently partnering with Services and Advocacy for Persons with Intellectual Disabilities (SAPID), a local nonprofit based in Cape Coast that supports a school for children with intellectual disabilities. SAPID runs a series of vocational training projects that train students in acquiring skills to help provide livelihood support for themselves and their families after school. HA: Ghana is working with SAPID to revive their bakery project, which not only trains students in the skills of baking but also provides jobs for students that have gone through the training program and graduated school.

HA: Ghana has also started the Vocational Training Project in Wiomoah, a suburb of Cape Coast. In designing the project, HA: Ghana worked with community members and leaders in creating a training program that supports and trains impoverished youth in learning a trade to provide self sufficiency. Ten trainees are currently enrolled in the project, where they are provided with all training tools and equipment needed to learn tailoring and open their own business at the completion of the program. HA: Ghana’s trainers are experienced tailors from the local community, and they are committed to providing detailed and impactful lessons to trainees.

HA: Ghana continues to have a presence in the Northern Region where we are supporting a vocational project in Kukuo, a community where women accused of witchcraft can live in relative safety.  Although Ghana is generally well-developed, the drought-prone Northern Region has poverty and illiteracy rates above 75% — 2 to 3 times the national average.

These and other factors create an environment in which human rights abuses are common. Elderly women are often blamed for misfortunes in their families and communities, accused of witchcraft, and lynched. To escape violence and death, they must leave behind their homes, families, and possessions to seek refuge in one of the camps for victims of witchcraft accusations. Although the elderly women are relatively safe from violence once they are in exile, they are subjected to harsh living conditions and further abuses in the camps where they seek safety. Women usually remain in camp for the rest of their lives.

The HA: Ghana program in Kukuo provides women with henna seeds, supplies, training in best agricultural practices, and support in marketing and selling their product.

Past Projects

The original program, The Humanist Action: Ghana, was launched in the Northern Region of Ghana where we partnered with two human rights organizations.  With our first two partners, we have worked on projects including:

  • reintegration of women accused of witchcraft

  • sensitization to lower the number of accusations

  • a healthcare project implemented in Kukuo

  • an agricultural project that trained residents of Kukuo in best farming practices and helped accused women set up backyard gardens

  • a community savings project in Kukuo

  • a vocational training project in Yendi

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