My name is Autumn Buzzell and I live and work in Ghana, West Africa with City of Refuge Ministries. Here, I run our school, Faith Roots International Academy, and get to be a part in rescuing and the healing of children who have been trafficked into the fishing trade, orphaned, abandoned, and those who just need a little extra loving. What an amazing gift this life is!

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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Just another day with City of Refuge

Yesterday, John, Stacy, Ale, Daddy Joe, DK, Dora, and a couple other staff members headed out to Laloyna for an investigation and education about Human Trafficking.  It was an exhausting day, but in the end, it was such an encouraging day.

We arrived in Laloyna and met with DK's grandmother, who sent her son David, whom Stacy and John rescued with Abigail and DK almost 2 years ago, back to the lake.  Our staff member James, had to go to the lake to get David again, so when John say DK's grandmother, he really gave it to her!  And she was fighting back...sometimes it doesn't matter how much you talk, people close their ears to what they don't want to hear.

After that, we went to a village that we had visited previously.  I think that I talked about it in another blog where there were so many kids in the village and so few of them went to school.  We went to check up on a couple of kids that we were investigating.  In the end, those children's parents were convinced to send their children to school and hopefully, they will stay true to their word. 

We also met with the chief of this village and talked with some of the older boys there.  The lack of education in this village was appalling.  With 10 young boys there from about 12-16 years of age and only ONE of them knew how to read.  It was really surprising.  When John got to talking with them, he stood up and pointed out the worth of an education or trade to each boy.  They really listened too.  Hearing about John's experience as a footballer in Nigeria...or the fact that a steel bender can earn 500 cedis in a week...or a mechanic can earn more in one day that a fisherman can earn in 2 weeks worth of work.  Those boys need to value themselves so that they can bring honor to that village. 

I was especially proud of DK during our chat with the chief.  He got up and introduced himself, said that he was from Laloyna and that now he lives in Doryumu and attends school.  He talked about his life with us and he did so well.  I could just see a calling over that boy's head.  He saw the horrors of Lake Volta and now he is speaking out against it at ELEVEN years old!  His voice had been stripped away from him, but he has been given a voice to speak out, and we'll continue to encourage him to speak!

We'll be going back to that village in a few more weeks for an education.  I'm looking forward to that opportunity.

After our visit with that chief, we headed into Laloyna to meet with some families who had identified kids as children who were "at-risk" last time John and Stacy came through for an education.  John headed off to meet with one lady, while Stacy, Ale, the kids, and I went over to the ocean to see what was going on and meet some of the kids there.

DK took off running ahead of us...in his nice dress shoes, jeans, and blue button up top.  He ran up to a group of boys who had just come in out of the water and were busy catching crabs.  As Dora, Ale, Stacy and I took our time climbing up to the oceanside, we saw DK running to and fro across the beach, chasing crabs and laughing.  And when we made it to the top, Dora began to do the same thing.

I think about their lives, well, for Dora it hasn't even been a full year since she's come to live with us--and for DK, almost 2 years.  I think about their lives and how much has changed for them.  Dora, neglected and uncared for...living with pigs...not given the opportunity of an education.  DK, working 14 hours on a lake...going the job of a man three times his age and size...alone.  And here, they are back at the very place where it all began...their home villages...and instead of the quiet, trapped, angry, sad children that they came to CORM as, they are happy, joyful, able to play, and able to express who they are now. 

As I watched Dora and DK play, it brought tears to my eyes.  It seemed to me to be so redemptive...the place that brought such pain for so many years in their young lives, can be a place of healing AND they can be a part of speaking out and stopping the same thing from happening to so many.

We met a couple of kids that we're planning on adding to our family there in Laloyna yesterday.  One was a boy named Rapheal.  His story was absolutely heartbreaking. 

His parents moved away to Cameroon, leaving him with his elderly great-grandparents.  They quickly took us to meet the grandparents and it was unbelievable.  The two ladies sitting outside the house had to be close to 100 years old, and the grandfather (the actual caregiver) was probably in his 90's and was blind.  They said that the boy hadn't been home to sleep in about six months.  He roamed about the town and spent most of his time with begging food off of a Gollywood (Ghana's Hollywood) movie crew that were filming down the coast.

After meeting with the families of these children, we moved on to our education at Goi, another village near Laloyna.  In Goi, we found a small group of mothers gathered to hear what we had come to discuss.  John started out talking about human trafficking and then the life on Lake Volta.  He talked about the long work days, the abuse the boys experience, the lack of proper food, the parasites found in the lake water...and in the end, he asked for names to be brought forward of those who know of someone who had sent their child to the lake to work.  They came in droves.  We were busy for probably an hour afterwards, collecting information and talking to families. 

We had to show a lot of discernment as we talked with families at the meeting.  So many just wanted the burden of orphaned children released from their shoulders.  But, we aren't about to take children away from the only family they know.  We want to be able to help equip and encourage families to step forward and help the orphaned in their families, and we can be there for those that have nothing.  But, it did get me thinking about the possibility for a "community school fund" that we can start.  Donors can donate a one-time gift or monthly gift and those monies can be used to pay for school uniforms, exam fees, new shoes, etc, for the government school in these communities.  That way, the risk of being sent away is eliminated, they can stay with their families, and the children can be a helping hand to those in the house as well.

Right before we were about to leave, we met a young mom and her two daughters.  The mother was partially blind and her first-born was completely blind.  John picked up the small girl, who wouldn't have been more than six years old, and called me over and John, Stacy, and I began to pray.  That is the part of my job here that I love...getting to pray for Jesus to heal...pray for the blind to see...for the lame to walk...for the deaf to hear...the mute to speak...

In March, at a crusade in Larteh, we prayed for a woman who was deaf to hear, and by the time the prayers were over, she was hearing.

And so we prayed...in FAITH from what we had seen before...and in faith that God could do the same for this young girl.  When we left, the young girl had begun to see shadows...could point at the nose on your face...so I know, I have faith, that God will continue to heal.

Oh, and I forgot to mention that at this education, Dora saw her father.  I asked her what she talked with her father about and she just said that she told him about school and about Mary and then her father left.  The whole experience was a funny thing for Dora.  It's difficult for Dora to really remember her past.  She lives fully and wholly in the present, so her trip back was a bit strange I think.  She remembered where she used to live...she remembered her father and her sister...but she couldn't remember her sister's name and she had a hard time speaking some of her language (which is a bit funny since it's the same language that most of our student's speak here).  For DK, it was about coming back to speak out.  For Dora, the trip back was merely that...a trip back and then a trip home.  She asked off and on throughout the day when we were going back home.  I'm so glad we could provide that feeling of "home" for her.

By the time we made it back home, we were exhausted.  The day was emotionally draining.  There was so much to think about and pray about and prepare for.  So, by the time it hit 8:30, I was getting ready for bed and I was asleep before 9.

But I love that I'm meeting some of our future children.  I love that we're working on eradicting this problem at it's ROOT.  I love that our Father knows exactly WHO and WHEN and WHERE...so I'm just going to be praying that everything will be revealed in his time.


  1. Hi, your blog really touches me, have been reading it for a while... Just wanted you to know about a website i started ReadYourBiblesChurch.com... It's a place for Bible study guides.. I also put a forum in that can be viewed from a mobile device.. I couldn't find where to contact you privately so I'm commenting, hope that is okay. :) God Bless!

  2. Thanks so much for your information. That would be a great resource for our staff Bible studies. Thanks so much!
    In the future, you can contact me at autumn@cityofrefugeoutreach.com.