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Orphanages in Ghana

An orphanage in Ghana is a public, religious, fraternal, philanthropists or a private institution for the care and protection of children without parents.

Orphans in Ghana can be categorized into 4 classes, the first to the fourth class orphans. The first class orphans are said to be children who has lost both parents through death. The second class orphans are said to be children who has lost one parent through death but the other parent unable to care for them. The third class orphans are said to be children who were abandoned by unknown parents when they were infants. The fourth class orphans are said to be children with known parents but are unable to care for them.

For the past 2 decades, religious orders, confraternities, and municipalities have established orphanages all over Ghana as a response to the increasing poverty. Orphanages opened more rapidly in most cities in the country from the year 2002 to 2007.

A few orphanages existed in the country before 1980. Religious groups usually founded orphanages not only as a response to increasing poverty in the country but also as a Christian duty of caring for orphans, destitute and other disadvantaged and underprivileged people. The Church therefore took care of abandoned and illegitimate infants.

Industrialization, urbanization, and immigration contributed to the proliferation of child-care institutions. In pre-colonial Ghana, orphans were indentured to foster families in exchange for their work. But during the 20th century, growing towns with struggling immigrants could not rely on indentured service to solve the problem of orphaned and homeless children. Wage laborers experienced periods of unemployment, and often succumbed to illness and accidents, creating large groups of children with no parents or with parents who were unable to care for them. Religion and ethnicity separated the immigrants from the town's residents.

After Ghana gained independence over British colonial rule in 1957, education was emphasized over work, and middle-class women, who dedicated their time to nurturing their children and doing charity work, were actively involved in social issues pertaining to children. They played an important part in the reform movement of the post independent era.The reformers, responding to growing urban poverty and influenced by transcendentalists, sought to provide shelter and education in the midst of nature for orphaned, neglected, abused, abandoned, and delinquent children. They believed that separating children from adults and placing them in institutions in rural areas, structuring their activities, and educating them would turn them into good citizens. For children who had already experienced a life of vice in the city, the reformers established industrial homes, houses of refuge, and reformatories with an emphasis on work and vocational education. The
 innocent poor–orphaned, abandoned, and neglected children were educated in orphanages. Some institutions were defined by gender and others had age restrictions. By the year 2000 orphanages could be found in almost all regions of the country.

As industry expanded and immigration increased, more children lost one or both parents to accidents, illness, and despair. Fraternal orphanages were established, as well as orphanages financed by local governments. Philanthropists also established orphanages.

Private bodies also established child-care institutions. But most private child-care institutions are supported by contributions from individuals, the children's surviving parent or relatives, and their communities, with little or no aid from the Government. Boards of trustees, whose members were the respectable and wealthy citizens of the community, ran the orphanages. They usually volunteered their service, considering it a religious and communal obligation. They raised funds, made policies, admitted children, and hired and supervised the superintendent and staff. The superintendents are educators or religious leaders who viewed their work as a vocation. Many stayed in their positions for decades, shaping their institutions' policies, maintaining contacts with their communities, and providing stability and continuity of care.

For the past few years, some reformers have begun to attack orphanages for being overly regimented and sheltering their children too long. They argued that clustering children with similar backgrounds bred pauperism, and that institutionalized children were not prepared adequately for life struggles. They advocated dispersing the children into families.

The reformers intensified their criticism of orphanages, blaming them for obliterating individuality. They declared that the best method of caring for dependent children was at home or in an alternative family. Institutions, they said, should be considered the last resort. For children who needed an alternative home, they suggested placements in screened, unpaid foster homes under the supervision of social workers. The children were expected to attend school.

Orphanages responded to the criticisms by striving to create homelike institutions. They broke the large congregate bedrooms into small units, built cottages in which small groups of children lived with a home mother, relaxed the discipline, added more recreation and enrichment programs, and cultivated children's individual talents. Orphanages that could not modernize were closed or consolidated.

Volunteer Opportunities at orphanages in Ghana

Volunteers assist in caring for orphans and abandoned children and also providing them education. Caring work includes, assisting in cooking for the children, bathing them and showing them love. Volunteers can also assist in teaching English language and other subjects and extra curriculum activities at the orphanages and the schools pertaining to them. A local teacher will guide volunteers during the first week of classes at the orphanage in regard to lesson plans, schedules and teaching curriculum. If the volunteer or volunteer-intern is ready at the beginning of the second week, he or she may begin teaching independently.

For further information about volunteering in an orphanage in Ghana or in other volunteering activities in Ghana with our organization, please click here.

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