Call To Action: Family Separation at the Border

Humanist Service Corps News

You may have noticed that the Humanist Service Corps (HSC) has been silent on social media in the first months of 2018.  We want to bring you up to date on an eventful few months.

As you may know, HSC launched in Ghana’s Northern Region in support of Songtaba, a grassroots women’s rights organization. Over the past three years, we have dedicated ourselves to learning about their programs and methods. In addition to supporting various projects, we helped Songtaba make improvements in every area of its internal operations.

Most HSC projects focused on the community of Kukuo, a sanctuary for women accused of witchcraft and then banished from their communities. In partnership with Songtaba and with your support, we helped return 14 women safely to society and provided agriculture and business training to empower not just the reintegrated women, but the entire community of Kukuo.

Near the halfway point of the 2016-17 service year, violence related to a chieftaincy conflict broke out in Bimbilla (the location of Songtaba’s main office and where the HSC team was living and working). We were already exploring additional partnerships in the Northern Region and had identified a potential partner in Yendi: Bang-Gu Manga Integrated Rural Development Society (BIRDS), another women’s and children’s rights NGO working in the Gnani sanctuary for alleged witches. To ensure no future bouts of violence would affect the HSC team, everyone moved from Bimbilla to Yendi to work with BIRDS.

In light of communication and other issues we encountered with BIRDS, we now feel that the decision to start work with the organization was premature. In hindsight, we would have chosen to send the 2016-2017 team home when we moved them out of Bimbilla while Yvonne and Wendy evaluated the BIRDS organization. The 2017-2018 volunteering team was able to complete some meaningful projects, including a vocational training project that has put six Yendi residents on the path toward a career as tailors, but circumstances prevented the team from being as productive as we had hoped.

In December the 2017-2018 HSC team left Yendi as a mutual decision between the volunteers and FBB leadership. We have now entered a new phase of our HSC program, which is an evaluation and improvement process to determine how best to use knowledge gained from the Northern Region as we transition to other parts of Ghana. While we always expected to bring the HSC program to other parts of Ghana, we never expected it to happen so abruptly. We value our work in the north and are continuing our partnerships there to build on our accomplishments, but do not plan to have anyone based in the north at this time. We hope HSC personnel will return at some point in the future.

After extensive research we recognized the Central region as a potential location and Cape Coast, the capital of the region, as a central base for our team. Yvonne, our HSC coordinator moved to Cape Coast in January to carry on with phase II. Stay tuned for another post soon as we update you on the program’s accomplishments since January.

We’d love to hear your questions and comments. Thanks for your ongoing support!

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Throughout my life, this one question has always been at the forefront of my mind when trying something new. As I have moved from place to place, joined new teams and organizations this question would always format itself in one of two ways. How will I make friends? What if I don’t make friends? Naturally, after I accepted the position to be a part of the Humanist Service Corps family and live in Ghana, I began to wonder how my life would look living in a place and adapting to a culture I knew almost nothing about. I would stay awake trying to picture everything about what my new life would entail. Of course, my favorite question had a huge presence during this time. But this time the question took a slightly different form. I wondered how my friendships would differ from those I’ve made working in Philadelphia and Los Angeles or if they would differ at all.


By Hannah Austin, HSC: Ghana Volunteer

Over the years, I have worked to help people of all ages, from a plethora of backgrounds, situations, and worldviews. I have been an educator, a caretaker, and a friend. I have worked in three different countries and cultural contexts, and in many different levels of involvement. Though I have learned many lessons, and hope to continue learning, how to best support those around me, I would like to take the time to discuss one of the biggest lessons I have learned from my experiences: Meet people where they are. Everyone you meet, work with, work for, and serve is a human just as you are. They have their own past, their own personality, and their own struggles. If we are to be effective, we must approach these people with an open mind, patience, love, and creativity. And this mindset really goes beyond work to how we interact with anyone in our lives. This mindset must be a focus for the people we directly serve, for our peers, and even for how we treat ourselves.


By Jude Lane, HSC Ghana Volunteer

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