#WorldRefugeeDay: A visit to Egyeikrom Refugee Camp
By Janelle Crubaugh, U.S. Embassy Public Affairs Section Intern
Driving past the gleaming shores of Cape Coast, I anticipated our arrival to Egyeikrom Refugee Camp, located in the Central Region of Ghana. Ghana has demonstrated initiative and leadership when it comes to supporting displaced persons — the country is home to roughly 12,000 refugees, mostly from neighboring countries. This particular camp was established in 2011, following the political crisis after the 2010 presidential elections in Cote d’Ivoire. In 2016 the Adventist Development and Relief Agency Ghana was awarded a $25,000 Julia Taft Refugee Grant in order to implement education and agriculture activities. [Julia Taft was a former assistant secretary of state who dedicated her career to helping those in crisis situations.] In addition, a new multi-purpose outdoor game court built with Julia Taft funds will help tackle the challenge of a lack of child-friendly spaces in the camp, which creates risk situations for youth. My two Embassy colleagues and I were warmly greeted by the UNHCR team and briefed on the history, statistics, partners, projects, and challenges facing the camp, as well as the improvements made through the funding of the Julia Taft Foundation.
A tour around the camp enlightened us to the extensive development being made agriculturally through the harvesting of local commodities, while also showing that the refugees are slowly integrating economically, selling with and within the local community. Our second stop consisted of a viewing of their new information resource center (IRC), which contained desktops, shelves and a new TV, made possible by the Julia Taft Fund. Another separate project we came across that had recently faced some doubt was a briquette project. Mostly run by the Ivorian women, the project aims to implement a more efficient and environmentally friendly alternative to traditional cooking fuels used in the area, such as firewood. A branch of this involved the group of women assembling and selling stovetops, where the briquettes would be used; however, following the initial sale of stoves to the community, the sales stopped as families did not need multiple stoves.
Upon speaking to these women, I was able to utilize my second language of French and tried my best to help translate their new sense of hope with improvements being made within the project. We also spoke of similar projects that had been implemented in other refugee camps in Africa, and how improving upon them and implementing them in Ghana could benefit the refugees and create a means for progress and self-reliance.
The final stops of the tour brought us first to the classrooms filled with wide-eyed and excited school children as they finished up their afternoon classes. Second, we explored the library. Though the shelves were mostly empty, the room was brand new and ready to be used. The library awaited book donations (preferably English) to emerge as a resource for youth and education within the camp. Finally, we concluded our trip at the multi-purpose game court, which was still under construction and, at the time, just an uneven concrete surface with two basketball hoops. Some youth members of the community were playing basketball, an early indication of the potential for future enjoyment, as a result of Julia Taft Foundation Funds.
With my Congolese background, the cultural aspect of speaking French allowed me to build strong acquaintanceships with the youth project leaders and make tentative plans for future volunteer work. What fascinated me the most was the fruitfulness, optimism and enthusiasm that I observed from the community to integrate and adapt into their new environment. I was truly amazed by the extent to which a grant like the U.S. Embassy’s Julia Taft Fund was able to stimulate the development, sustainability, opportunity and skills-building in order to leave the community with viable skills that are sure to benefit them in the future.