Sandra fled her Tindonsobligu in Northern Ghana in search of a better life, but the streets of Accra were harsh and she felt alone. Soon she found hope, love and a place to call home.
Sandra was born in Tindonsobligu, Bolgatanga, Northern Ghana. She grew up with her Grandmother and Grandfather, always thinking her Grandmother was her birth mother. Her mother was 18 when she gave birth to Sandra, and she lived close by, but she married someone else, and was more of an Aunty to Sandra. Sandra did not know she was her mother and called her Aunty Sara.
When Sandra was ten years old she was sent to live with another Aunt in a different village in Bolgatanga. She helped with work on the farm and with basket weaving. It was difficult to continue her schooling as she was so busy at night weaving baskets until very late, and then helping with farm work during the day. She tried to study and attend school when she could but it was difficult and she was always tired. She wrote her B.E.C.E. exams, but did not do as well as she hoped. Sandra lived with her Aunt for a few years, but she desperately wanted to concentrate on her schooling so she told her Aunt that she wanted to go back to her Grandmother. Sandra’s Aunty was not happy, so Sandra decided to run away. She found money to pay for a tro tro and secretly left when her Aunt was not around. Sandra’s Grandma was so happy to see her and Sandra settled in and started school again.
Soon after this, two of Sandra’s friends robbed a local shop one night. They took clothes and money from the shop, and the next day they blamed Sandra. The shop owner beat Sandra and complained about her to Sandra’s Grandfather. Sandra had never felt much love from her Grandfather, and was not surprised when he believed the words of the shopkeeper over her own plea of innocence. She felt her family did not love her enough to defend her. Grandmother stood up for her, but Sandra felt her Grandfather had never had any love for her, or her biological mother. Sandra’s Grandfather told the shopkeeper that they could do anything with Sandra. Sandra feared she would be sent to prison and knew her family had no money to bail her out, so in fear and desperation, she ran away.
On the streets you hustle before you eat. Nobody cares about you.
Sandra had a little money, from a cleaning job she had been doing after school, and it was enough money to get a bus to Accra. She crept out of the house in the early morning and by the time her Grandmother noticed she was gone, it was too late. Sandra was on a 16-hour bus to Accra. When she arrived, she called her mother to inform her, and her mother was very sad.
She had arrived in Accra and she was not sure where to go next. She had heard she could make money in the Capital city, but everywhere was so different and so busy, compared to her Northern home town. She was 16 years old at this point, and she felt very far from home. It was not long before she made friends with a girl a little older than her, called Jessica, who invited Sandra to the beach that day. They got along well and Jessica invited Sandra to live with her. Jessica had a makeshift tent in Kantamanto, close to the bustling market. It was very poor living conditions; very cramped and dirty under a sheet for protection from the rain and sun. At first, Sandra did not have work, but she began dating a boy called Obed, who said he would take care of her if she slept with him. This turned into a relationship that lasted for almost a year.
In addition to this, Sandra started selling water sachets and bread on the streets. Soon she began to buy sausage meat and gizzard from the market and cook it to sell. She was making money doing this so she rented a kiosk in Konkoma with Obed.
After some time making her living on the streets, she heard of ‘Sir Nicholas’, a man who works with an organisation that helps street children find a better life and education. People were talking about how the organisation can really help people.
By this time she had been working on the streets for a year, and she wanted to leave the streets because she was afraid she would get pregnant and the man she was with would abandon her and she would be left caring alone for the baby. She also felt that nobody on the streets cared for her, so she was always working to survive. In her own words, she reflected, “On the streets you hustle before you eat. Nobody cares about you.”
After some time she met with a girl called Abigail who sold tomatoes to make money. Abigail helped Sandra by offering her advice and being kind to her. Abigail suggested to Sandra that she should speak to Sir Nicholas, as Future of Africa would help her. She helped Sandra find Sir Nicholas and the FOA team. Sandra met Nicholas and quickly accepted the offer to come and stay at the community centre at Norviwo. She desperately wanted to get off the streets and have a chance at schooling. She wanted a safe place to sleep, food to eat each day and above all she wanted to live in a place where people would care for her.
At Norviwo she found exactly this. She settled in quickly and has been very happy. She can now sleep safely and comfortably, without fear, and has access to good food every day. She is delighted to be able to finally go to school or learn a trade without distractions or problems getting in her way. She is happy to be able to improve her reading skills and have books to read.
Sandra had not seen her family for two years, since the day she ran away to Accra. However, this month she went to her home town in Bolgatanga to visit her family, together with some of the staff from Future of Africa. The whole family were excited to see Sandra. She was able to see her birth Mother, Siblings, Grandfather, Aunties, Uncles and other Elders from the community. Her Grandmother has very sadly passed away.
After having a long conversation, Sandra was asked whether she wanted to stay with her family in Bolgatanga or continue being a Norviwo resident in Accra. She expressed her interest in being a Norviwo resident and the family also agreed to Sandra’s choice. They promised to continue being a support to Sandra anytime she needed their support.
Sandra is full of smiles and is enjoying being a teenager in the nurturing environment of the community centre. As she spoke with me, she expressed such sincere gratitude to FOA for all they have done for her. She said, “They are taking good care of me as if I was their own daughter.” She truly loves how much they genuinely care for her, and how she has been embraced as family. Sandra has just turned 18 and is hopeful for the life ahead of her. She wants to create a better future for herself and her family back at home. She would love to pursue a career as a fashion designer or hair dresser.
They are taking good care of me as if I was their own daughter.