Voice of Care Leavers
My second interview is with one of the care leavers passionately supporting care leavers, upcoming psychologist Akpene Mordzifa from Ghana. She is a wonderful, feisty, inspirational young woman and the conversation we had was a real eye-opener for me in many ways and also invoked gratitude for life.
Read further without delay to find out why.
Interviewed by : Dijana Jankovic (GCLC Working Group Member)
My name is Akpene. I am 35 years old. I live in Accra, Ghana with my husband and our two kids, a girl aged 8 and a boy aged 4. I work as an Alumni coordinator for OAfrica, an NGO. I find my work very useful and rewarding because I am helping care leavers who completed studying to stay in touch and connected.
When I was growing up, at first, I had a good childhood. My father passed away when I was eight years old, and this life event changed everything. My siblings and I had to live with my grandmother from the father’s side of the family. I was out of school for many years. My younger brother and I had to do mini jobs to survive as no family member showed any concern. At some point, we were able to save enough to start school. I was older than all the other pupils at school and always eager and motivated to learn. But we were often sent out of school due to late fee submissions. Because of these challenges, the Headmistress introduced us to OAfrica, which had community support services but also a small orphanage back in 2004.
But again, worse happened to us: my grandmother got sick and left the world and us. We ended up in OAfrica.
In OAfrica, I had all the opportunities I never dreamt of as a child. I was admitted to one of the best schools in the region. At age 18, I was in primary 6 and admitted to Junior High School which changed my life completely since I had to compete with children from high-class society. What really helped me at that time was the home teacher who usually supervised our take-home assignment.
In the home, all my sorrows were taken away by love, protection and reassurance that life is better than what I knew. After my Junior High school, I got admission into one of the best Senior High schools in the country. Four years in senior High school were smooth and not once was I sacked from school for not paying tuition fees or did I ever go hungry. That alone motivated me to learn very hard and compete with distinction in 2011. Earning good grades helped me get into one of the best universities in the country, where I studied psychology and graduated successfully with a second-class upper.
After school, I did my National Services and started working. In 2014, I met my husband and got married. For the first time in a long time, I felt like my life was on track.
After my National Service, I worked with Lancaster University for five years. Currently, I am working with OAfrica as the Head of their Alumni Programme. We aim to reconnect with each other or share our experiences, achievements, and happiness. And to build the family that some of us never had.
I got inspiration from my own challenges. Through OAfrica, I also got in touch with the Global Care leavers community. During one of the cafés, I got in touch with Judith the Secretary fothe Global Care Leavers Community in India. We talked about challenges surrounding the Care Leavers and how it is in Ghana.
I am passionate about this community because I realized that when you live in an orphanage, you have no dependable family. The staff are not always there, they leave and others come. There is no real bond between caregivers and the children. The only real bond is among us, the children. Hence this community is very important to some of us.
That is so beautiful and insightful. Don’t cry because you don’t have something, get up and make it yourself, that is your strong message. Listening to you made me realize how lots of young people who are growing up with the support of their families, take this for granted and do not see that it is a privilege!
Once we are out of care, it is a challenge to fit into society because of inferiority complex and low self-esteem. We often lack exposure and do not fight for the best even when the opportunity is right before us. Most of us come out of care with behavioral issues, affecting our opportunity of getting a job.
I feel that orphanages only provide physical care but can not fix the emotional damage that has happened to us and we grow up with all this emotional damage.
I believe GCLC can make real changes. The community can give voice to all care leavers all over the world because the care leavers must be facing the same challenges globally
I want us to grow in our numbers so that our voices can be heard.
I want all care leavers to know that they are not alone, let us be proud of what we have and who we are and make the best out of any situation
What I will say is that it is not our fault that we ended up in care. Let us stay positive and believe in our capabilities so the next generation will not end up in an orphanage.
We would love to hear and share your story.
The Interviewee has granted the permission to Global Care Leavers Community (hereinafter called GCLC) in a written and verbal format, the exclusive rights to publish, distribute, communicate to the public, translate, archive, store, and use in databases and data networks (e.g. the Internet), the interview hosted by the working group member of GCLC. The interviewee has shared the consent form with their signature for the above-mentioned purposes and is registered in the GCLC records for reference.