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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Friday, July 31, 2015


July 18, 2015--a day I will remember forever.  The sweetest moments.  The tender expressions.  The joy of seeing 8 of my students graduate...the first students to finish school at Faith Roots International Academy.  What an incredible gift to get to be a part of such a day of celebration.

I joined our graduates awhile before the ceremony, to prep them on what to expect and to help them with their graduation robes.

Hats were being fitted.
Laughter ensued.

Excitement buzzed in the air.

They were ready.

Our senior high graduates: Rosemary and Keliy

And our junior high graduates (one of whom needed particular help with his cap): Grace, Robert, Aaron, Stephen, Julius, and Gideon

John and Stacy came to join the preparation and posed for picture after picture with our grads.

But I got the real treat.  I had the joy and privilege of telling the story of Faith Roots and sharing the journey that these students have had with us here.  So, for the sake of history-in-the-making, nostalgia, and all that...today, I am sharing with you my graduation speech and along with that the incredible pride that I have in each of these students who have worked so hard to complete their education with us here.  Amazingly proud!
In 2009, I was teaching primary one in a school in the United States of America.  That year, I met Johnbull and Stacy Omorefe and heard their vision of creating a place for children to learn and grow in a safe, loving, Christ-centered environment.  That year, I heard God call me from my career in teaching, away from my family and friends and all that was familiar, to Ghana, West Africa.  Upon arriving in Ghana on July 28, 2010, almost 5 years ago, John and Stacy told me of their dream to start a school of their own.


And so, Faith Roots International Academy began.


City of Refuge Ministries moved from Community 5 in Tema to Doryumu in November 2011 to begin construction on the school and two houses, the start of the CORM Children’s Village.  Along with 3 other teachers, our 16 CORM children were taught in an uncompleted building in downtown Doryumu.


Among those first students were some of the very students graduating here today.  Rosemary, the most advanced student of the bunch, was taught independently starting a curriculum from the US for 8th grade, the equivalent of JHS2.  Robert, Grace, and Aaron were in my first class, learning the basics of reading and mathematics, we lived together in one house and worked together every day at school.    I was able to see incredible growth in the midst of that challenging environment.


In 2011, we opened the school building to the communities of Doryumu and Shai Hills, welcoming in over 100 students.  Our building didn’t have windows.  It didn’t have doors.  There was no running water or electricity at the beginning.  Gideon, Stephen, and Julius were part of that first class of Primary 6 students.  At the time, we had 10 Primary 6 students and 10 Primary 5 students.  Sir Justice bravely taught both classes while trying to master an American curriculum. 


I look at these JHS students sitting before me today in awe of all that they have accomplished.  They were challenged with a switch in school curriculum partway through their academic career with us and they have thrived under the challenge.  Some of them pushed themselves to learn a new language.  They spent hours upon hours studying.  They learned to express themselves in both speech and in their writing.  They have been leaders on our campus and we are both grateful and excited for what is ahead of them as they prepare to attend senior high school next year—all six of them!


I met Keliy Grobbelaar when she was a student in Primary 2 at a private school in the States.  In 2014, I met with her briefly on my travel back to the States and started a conversation that led to her decision to complete her senior high school here in Ghana while she served with City of Refuge Ministries.  I have seen her grow as a leader, be challenged in a new environment with very difficult circumstances, demonstrate the love of Christ in pure and beautiful ways, and I have seen the hand of God placed on her life as she ministered to many through her music.  Keliy and Rosemary were a joy to teach this year as they completed their senior high school credits this term, working endless hours on extremely challenging projects, learning mathematics that I haven’t practiced for over 15 years, and still maintaining time to complete hours of service to the school and to various projects around the City of Refuge Ministries campus. 


All of these graduating students have also been spiritual leaders on our campus, many participating in our first-ever discipleship program, Catalyst, leading Bible studies, times of prayer and fasting, and worship.  It is our great hope that their faith in Jesus Christ will be a force of change here in Ghana and around the world.  We look forward to see these world-changers in action in the years to come.


Today, it is my joy to see these graduates mark this academic milestone through words they have written and have chosen to share with you today.


I want to introduce to you the first graduate to speak to us today.  Gideon Doryumu has been a student at Faith Roots since its induction in 2011.  Gideon came out 1st in his class and we trust that his BECE scores will prove how hard he worked on his studies this year.  Gideon has plans to attend senior high school to study a visual arts course.  Ladies and Gentlemen, Gideon Doryumu.

Next, I would like to introduce you to the 2nd in our JHS class and the only girl to graduate from our JHS this academic year.  Grace Yentumi has been with CORM since 2009.  She is a prolific writer and a beautiful singer.  She loves to laugh and emanates joy.  Grace has plans to attend senior high school to study a home economics course.  Ladies and Gentlemen, Grace Yentumi.
Our next speaker, Stephen Ganyo, ranked 3rd in our JHS class.  Stephen joined Faith Roots when we opened to the community in 2011.  He has excelled in his classwork, showed his sense of humor in the many skits that he has been a part of, participated in cadets, and in 2013, became a part of the City of Refuge Ministries family.  Stephen plans to attend senior high school to study a business course.  Ladies and Gentlemen, Stephen Ganyo.
I am privileged to introduce the next student, Robert Anane.  Robert is a young man with great passion.  He loves the Lord with all of his heart and willingly shares that passion with every person he interacts with.  He works hard to be successful and is full of courage in the way he approaches his life.  Robert plans to attend senior high school to study a general arts course.  Ladies and Gentlemen, Robert Anane.

Julius Benyarko is a young man with a life full of great promise.  At Faith Roots since 2011, he has proven himself both creative and energetic.  He was frequently known for engaging the classroom in lively discussions to the entertainment of his fellow classmates.  In all seriousness, Julius is eager to learn and his creativity is continually exemplified in his artistic and musical giftings.  Julius plans to attend senior high school to study a general arts course.  Ladies and Gentlemen, Julius Benyarko.

It is a pleasure to introduce to you our last JHS graduate, Aaron Brabi.  Aaron shows a love for learning, enjoying the art of the written word.  He loves to read.  Aaron has a heart for evangelism and his musical giftings are witnessed frequently as he leads worship in different gatherings.  Sometimes hidden, Aaron’s sense of humor comes out in skits and in his dancing.  His dance skills are the highlight for any dance competition.  Aaron plans to attend senior high school to study a general arts course.  Ladies and Gentlemen, Aaron Brabi.
The first of our senior high graduates, Keliy Grobbelaar left her home in North Carolina in January of 2015 to attend Faith Roots International Academy, complete her senior high school requirements, and serve in ministry with City of Refuge Ministries.  Keliy’s gentle spirit was a great asset to the ministry as she served with our Thrive program, led in worship with our Refuge Worship teams, participated in our Catalyst program, participated in outreach, and served our children in the crèche.  Though Keliy is still uncertain with what the near future will hold, she plans to look for schooling in the States that would help equip her for a return to the mission field, and our hope would be an eventual return to ministry with CORM here in Ghana.  Keliy’s family could not be present today, so the following words are for her from them:
"Keliy, we are so proud that you are graduating and we are heartsore today that we can't share this moment with you. From everything I have heard about CORM I'm sure it will be another reason to PARTY !!! Who would have thought that you would start high school here in North Carolina with 3000 kids & end up graduating in Ghana surrounded by a whole new family …His ways are definitely higher than ours.    
Keliy, you have had a love for Jesus from early in your life and you have loved His voice.  You have always been sensitive towards Jesus leading and we know He will continue to lead you.
We pray for more of Jesus for you so that when you find Him as a buried treasure in a field, you won't mind selling everything to buy the field that many overlook -Matt 13:44
Well done precious one…we can't wait to see you.
Much love,
Dad & Mom"
Ladies and Gentlemen, Keliy Grobbelaar.

The last of our graduates to speak this evening is Rosemary Omorefe.  Rosemary is exceptionally brilliant.  She has worked independently for many years on curriculum that is both challenging and unfamiliar, using curriculum from America.  Rosemary has excelled in all areas, showing a great interest in Anatomy and Physiology and a growing desire to enter into the field of medicine in the future.  She has shown great growth in her writing abilities and enjoyed demonstrating her creativity through personal writings.  Rosemary will take a year off of school to begin to prepare for University.  She will be taking the opportunity to serve in ministry. I know that in the years to come, we will be able to look at Rosemary for the amazing work she will do in this world.  Ladies and Gentlemen, Rosemary Omorefe.


 We weren't short on tears that day.  Every speech, every story, every thank you was a reminder of how far we have all come.  It was emotional and beautiful and filling...filling to overflowing.

Smiles all around.

And dancing...of course there was dancing.

And afterwards...paparazzi!

Our amazing graduates.  Incredibly proud.


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