Christiana, 50, has nine children between the ages of three and 18, and she is proud that she can feed them all – alone. Income from her pig farm and soap business has turned around the fortunes of her large family.
“Today, we are an average family. We have food to eat, clothes to wear and I have businesses to run,” says Christiana who lives in Owe, a rural community in south-central Ghana. “My children can go to school without shame because they have proper uniforms and learning materials.”
Things got better when Christiana’s family received a support package from the SOS Children’s Village family strengthening program in 2019. The program improved her household income, and boosted her ability to provide for her children.
When her husband was alive, Christiana sold soap in the market to compliment her husband’s income. His death in 2012 plunged the household into financial hardship that Christiana found difficult to overcome. She used her business savings to feed her children, leading to the business’ collapse.
Christiana fed her children on the cassava and plantain she cultivated in her backyard for dinner every day, skipping breakfast and lunch.
“Those were painful days as I worried about how to get enough food on the table for everyone, and meet their school and health needs,” explains Christiana. “I could see poor feeding was hurting my children’s well-being, especially the little ones, yet I was powerless to do anything. I was extremely sad to see my children hungry.” Christiana says she skipped meals regularly for the sake of her children.
Many households in Christiana’s rural community are food insecure due to financial hardships. Caregivers here make a living from petty trading and subsistence farming. The family strengthening program run by SOS Children’s Villages in Ghana has been addressing the difficulties that threaten the stability and well-being of the children in this community.
Support to Christiana
The support from the family strengthening program helped Christiana revive her soap business and start a poultry and pig farm. Through training, she gained skills in animal and crop production, parenting and childcare.
She then joined a local Village Savings and Loans Association (VSLA) where she learnt important lessons in financial and business management. Members in this association build savings through small regular contributions – funds that enable them to access loans easily.
“I never imagined my life would become better because I had no idea help would come. For a long time, my children wore torn uniforms to school and their classmates laughed at them,” recalls Christiana.
Eleven-year-old Kwesi* is the most outspoken of Christiana’s children. He is happy to join in the conversation to share the changes in his life and family.
“My mum even has a mobile phone,” Kwesi exclaims, looking at the cell in Christiana’s hand. “I used to feel sad we were so poor my mother could not even afford a phone like other parents. And when schools closed due to the coronavirus, I thought that only children from wealthy families with theirradio, television, or internet could afford extra tuition for their children. But I am also attending home schooling with my siblings at the centre set-up by the SOS team, which makes me consider myself rich. I have become confident and comfortable to mingle with my peers at the centre and I have made many friends from different schools.” Kwesi hopes to be a soldier someday to serve his country.
In early 2020, Christiana found herself in trouble again when her income dwindled due to the lockdown measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 infections. She and many other families in Owe found solace in the SOS family strengthening program’s solidarity fund, initiated to help vulnerable families cope with the economic impact of the pandemic.
Through the fund, Christiana received rice, maize, chocolate powder, sugar, garri, tomato puree among many other food items that kept her family going until she could trade again after the lockdown restrictions eased.
“The virus is a small bump on my road to success,” says Christiana confidently. “I have the knowledge I need to rear animals and care for my children. I will work for myself and succeed. I also contribute my share to help others in their time of need. This is a huge transformation for me. Our lives have surely changed for the best.”
*Name changed to protect the privacy of the child.