We are so pleased to announce that on August 2nd, 2014, eleven young women received certificates stating they had successfully completed A Ban Against Neglect’s Women’s Empowerment Program. This is our THIRD graduating class! The certificate proved that the women received training in a vocational skill and basic business practices. But the certificate means much more than just this. This certificate shows the young woman is transforming her life. It shows she is providing for herself and her child. It shows she is part of a growing community of young women in Ghana that are unleashing their potential through ABAN’s programs!
The following is a speech read by two of our graduates at the ceremony. We think it sums up their journey through our programs well!
QUEEN MOTHERS, FAMILY, INVITED GUESTS, FRIENDS, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN,
God has been good to us in so many ways and today, in the presence of everyone, we want to thank Him. We thank God for the blessings of life he has given us, for the gift of our children He has blessed us with and for the opportunity to have gone through two-year training with ABAN. Today, eleven of us like many before us, graduate from this program. Most of us came here alone without any company. We walked in by ourselves. We came with few dreams and little hope, and yet today, we leave with plenty.
We look around us and see a totally different picture of ourselves today. Our little babies then crawling are now walking and talking. Our knowledge and skills have been developed. Our lives have been transformed and our future is looking bright.
For two years, we brought ourselves to a kind of discipline we thought we could not come under. We accepted the changes that came into our lives because we knew they were for our own good. We welcomed a tradition that was foreign to us but has eventually become a part of our everyday life; a tradition of hope, faith and trust, of hard work and of change. We would like to sum this change up by using our director’s favorite proverb: “Break the rules.’’ We broke the rule that said we were marginalized and so had to be poor. We broke the rule that said our children have to suffer for our mistakes. The rule that said we will not be here today in this celebration of success, like you all can see, is being broken as we speak.
We as a team have shared so many things together. We have lived together while being happy and sad, doubtful and optimistic, fearful and yet very hopeful. We know that this is going to be the beginning of a new life for us. We are going to put into practice all that we have learned over the years. But we know it’s not going to be easy. We are hopeful that we will succeed in life and we ask that you pray for us.
Whilst in ABAN, we were like children. As children, we talked like children, thought like children, dreamt like children, behaved like children. We know we have made mistakes, but we have also grown. Now is the time to make the best of our life and create a legacy that our children will be proud of someday. We will continue to learn until we can also teach and be a blessing to others.
Long live ABAN. God bless you all!
We are so proud of all of our graduates and cannot wait to see them continue to transform their future!
In August 2014, Gladys Obuo will graduate from ABAN as a trained seamstress. This is no small accomplishment – her hard work of the past two years has equipped and empowered her to break free from a cycle of poverty. Gifts from donors like you have given Gladys the strength and resources to build a stable future for herself.
Soon she will return to Tutu, a city north of Accra where her grandmother and siblings live, and begin a sewing apprenticeship. Before celebrating this important next step, Gladys agreed to share her memories of ABAN with us.
What is your favorite memory of your time spent with ABAN? I am happy every day here because all girls in the house get together to chat and do other fun things together. But this place can also be quiet. Everyone is kind of in control of their own life. So I get time to reflect on my life and what I want for my future.
How have the women of ABAN, staff and classmates, empowered and inspired you? When I entered the program, I had a lot of issues bugging me and I would cry a lot. I learned to open up to people and when I did that, I received advice, support and encouragement. At ABAN, I know I am never alone. I am now able to concentrate on my apprenticeship and not worry so much about everything.
How has ABAN helped you surmount the challenges you face as a woman in your community? The skill training has definitely helped me. I know that once I am perfect at dressmaking, I will be financially sound to make good and healthy decisions.
What was your favorite childhood toy? I had a Barbie doll, the kind that you could braid the hair. I sewed dresses for her and carried her with me everywhere.
What would you do if you won $1,000,000? I would start up a big business in dressmaking. I would get all the industrial machines I would need for a smooth operation and employ a lot of people to work for me. I would invest in other businesses as well, like selling cloth in a cloth factory.
If you could start your own nonprofit today, what would be its mission? To take care of young girls from poor homes experiencing abuses of all forms. Just like ABAN does, I would like to give them shelter and the opportunity to make better lives for themselves.
What advice would you give to a new ABAN girl? I would plead with them to be patient and remain focused on their skill training so that they can take better care of themselves in the near future. I would want them to know that this is just a phase that will pass, but before it does they must take advantage of the programs that ABAN is offering in order to be great.
Denicia told us that when she joined ABAN she was just looking for a place to sleep, stay, and feel safe.
Now, a year and a half after finishing ABAN’s two-year women’s empowerment program, she is back in Secondary School or “SS” (the U.S. equivalent of high school) and her son Desmond has started nursery school.
Denicia had always dreamed of following in her grandfather’s footsteps to become a military officer. But in order to accomplish this goal, she knew she would have to return to school.
A unique donor came forward and offered to sponsor Denicia to return to secondary school after she graduate in 2012. This sponsorship was created as a revolving loan, meaning that Denicia has five years to pay it back after she graduates. Once the loan has been repaid in full, the sponsorship will be granted to another ABAN graduate who shares similar dreams of returning to school!
Denicia is currently in her final term of SS. Her favorite class is social studies because the professor tells entertaining stories that make the whole class laugh. She is on the recreational soccer team and scored the game-winning goal against their biggest rival at the end of last season! She also started a recycling initiative on her school’s campus when she saw them burning the plastic waste. The school now collects the plastic for ABAN to transform into empowering products!
We recently sat down with Denicia to catch up and hear about her plans for the future.
We asked what she saw for herself 10 years from now.
She said, “I pray I’ll be successful, that I can take care of Desmond, be employed as a soldier. I’ll be a role model to other girls and young mothers…young SINGLE mothers!”
When we asked what she defined success as, she explained, “When someone starts out rich, it’s hard to tell if they’ve been successful. But if you struggle in life…then one day you can look back and say yes, I’ve done well. I’m successful. That’s me.”
We have some exciting news! Rose got a promotion!
Now, don’t get me wrong, we get excited when ANYONE gets promoted at ACE, but Rose deserves a little special recognition.
We had thought we lost Rose when she abruptly left the ABAN program a mere five months prior to her graduation back in 2012. But it turned out to be a mere hiccup on her journey. As our teenaged selves can relate, Rose felt a little lost and soon fell into the peer pressure of bad company. After some months back on the street Rose attended her peer’s ABAN graduation and as we celebrated their achievement she humbly asked for a second chance.Rose became the first beneficiary employed by ABAN. Now an excelling seamstress at our sewing center, ACE, Rose uses her natural creative talent to sew ABAN products that contribute to the ABAN mission and pay her salary. And hard work rarely goes unnoticed at ACE.
Our head tailor, Papa, has a keen eye for ACE workers who go above and beyond what is required of them.
First thing you should know about Rose: She is a natural leader.
Rose is respected not only by ACE (even as the youngest of the seamstresses and tailors), but by all the current ABAN “Queens” in our program.
Her loyalty and trustworthiness are evident by how many ABAN girls and ACE employees go to her seeking help.
Her boisterous personality can sometimes be misconstrued as being stand-offish, but spend more than a few hours with her, and her true nature shines through brighter than the smile she’ll flash at you after cracking a joke.
Next thing you should know about Rose: She is creative. Rose thinks outside the box. She challenges the way something is being done if she notices a problem.
As we continuously try to design and develop new products, Rose is always the first to take on the challenge of trying to sew the prototype.
Papa increasingly turns to Rose to aid in his new product development endeavors as he recognizes her gift for coming up with fresh, new ideas.
The most important thing you should know about Rose: She is a servant.
When lunch is ready, Rose serves out portions to the rest of ACE. When everyone is closing from work, Rose sweeps the center. When someone needs an errand to be run, Rose is always willing.
Being a leader and being a servant seem contrary to one another in today’s society. And yet it’s exactly the type of leader that I believe has the most impact on others.
Ask Rose. She’ll tell you.
While her path may not have been conventional, it surely has been transformational.
Thank you for your continued support in helping us empower women like Rose!
It was 11 a.m. We were to begin the graduation ceremony in two hours and yet the rain clouds were threatening our outdoor venue, decorations were still going up and some of our ladies were getting nervous about their speaking parts. As each issue surfaced, I found myself addressing God like a buddy. With all my appeals, I must have really been a nuisance that morning!
But I kid you not. As guests began to arrive, the clouds pulled back for sun to stream through and the last Birds of Paradise centerpieces were put in place. Tables and chairs filled with the girls' families and friends here to celebrate them and out came the delicious rice balls and groundnut soup from Hephzibah's kitchen. Now I was getting excited!
Our keynote speaker for the afternoon, co-founder and director of Youth Movement for African Unity, Razak Yakubu, described the graduates' transformation and spoke passionately about each woman’s potential to strengthen their own communities, to influence the future of Ghana. ABAN Alumni, Rose, recited the poem “The Road To Happiness,” Denicia recalled each senior's unique quirks and Gifty had the crowd laughing with her bean analogy, defining how to be present and grateful for where you are. But the fun wasn’t over yet! Next, ABAN juniors took the stage performing a choreographed song to “He Paid the Debt'' and acting out their story from the streets to ABAN. Diplomas were shared. Pictures snapped. Dancing accomplished. And more smiles than you can count were shared that day.
At some point that afternoon, I found myself standing up on some steps watching our graduates laugh their hearts out, holding their diplomas and proving, once again, that each one of us is capable of much more than we can imagine. This year has most certainly been filled with the Lord's abundant grace!
Thank you for your continued support of ABAN! Know that even if you were not there to help us celebrate, you were with us in spirit! We cannot begin to tell you how much your time, encouragement and donations mean for our programs and for the development of the ABAN girls in the program!
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