Stacy Omorefe, Helping Victims of Child Slavery in Ghana
As Meaghan Mackey reports, Omorefe started the City of Refuge Ministries with her husband, Johnbull, after feeling it was her call to help Ghanaian children in need. Mackey visited their ministry last year and caught up with Omorefe more recently for a q and a about her activities.
In 2006, Stacy Omorefe went back to Ghana with her husband where they had fallen in love a half-decade earlier. They called this trip “a survey of the land,” according to their website, while pursuing an overall plan to help single mothers and orphaned and abandoned children. When they went back to the United States, they were startled to find out there was also talk of child slavery taking place in Johnbull’s native West African country.
A few months later they went back to see for themselves the issue of child slavery. Once they arrived at the man-made Lake Volta, they saw child slaves working for their masters, hungry and hollow.
They then established the City of Refuge Ministries Children’s Village in Doryuma, Ghana. It’s a place where children who have been rescued from slavery or at the risk of slavery can call home.
When I was in Ghana in October of 2017, I had the privilege of visiting Omorefe’s ministry when I was studying abroad with a program called Semester At Sea. When I was there, I had the opportunity to interact with children who were recently rescued out of slavery and were undergoing rehabilitation. It was eye-opening to see and learn about modern-day slavery happening in Ghana and witness firsthand what City of Refuge does to combat this issue and educate local communities.
- Stacy, tell me a little bit about yourself and what inspired you to start City of Refuge Ministries in Ghana?
“I am originally from a small town in South Dakota. From the time I was very young, six years old, I felt like I was going to one day live in Ghana. When I was 22, I traveled to Ghana for the first time to attend a Youth With A Mission (YWAM) Discipleship Training School. I met my husband, Johnbull, at YWAM and we were married in the US in 2002. We both had a desire to start a non-profit in Ghana that would reach out to the most vulnerable and in-need individuals. In 2006 we founded City of Refuge in the US and traveled back to Ghana for the first time in a few years to see how we could be a help to the people of Ghana. We started to help a few orphaned children, single mothers and homeless. In 2007 we learned of the issue of children working on Lake Volta and we started rescuing children from trafficking.”
2. What is the mission of City of Refuge for those who haven’t heard of it before?
“City of Refuge Ministries exists to provide holistic restoration for children who have been liberated from exploitation, abuse, or trafficking. City of Refuge aims to prevent exploitation at its roots by empowering individuals and communities to eradicate child slavery and to achieve personal and community goals.”
3. You started this ministry in 2006 and went back to Ghana from the United States. Has this been challenging for you as an American?
“Since my husband is a Nigerian and understands the culture of Ghana quite well it hasn’t been too difficult. We work together well and he takes the lead in most situations where I may not understand all that is happening. The most difficult part of being a white American in Ghana is that the color of my skin makes things more expensive for us and our ministry. It can also provide a false help that I have a lot of money to give away.”
4. What advice can you give people who are looking to move into a new culture and feel they are called to serve internationally?
“Americans don’t know everything. We [Americans] really have more to learn than we have to teach. We need to be willing to stand back and learn the culture and not get ahead of ourselves. Just because it looks different than what we are used to seeing doesn’t mean that it’s wrong…it’s just different.”
5. In what ways do you spread the word about City of Refuge in Ghana and also on a global scale? Do you use social media?
“We do use social media…although not to its full potential. It seems we are busy on the ground doing the work and probably don’t spend as much time as we should on telling the world about what we are doing. One major way people find out about us is by word of mouth from those who have come to visit us.”
6. What do you think makes your work at City of Refuge unique?
“We see ourselves more as a family than an organization. We focus on loving others and making this place feel like home.”
7. What are some of the biggest challenges you face?
“As we aren’t locals from the community I think getting the people to truly trust us and our hearts to love and genuinely help has been a long journey.”
8. How has being a co-founder of City of Refuge changed your life?
“This journey has changed my identity from who I was then to who I am now…it’s happened gradually and deeply. I can’t even imagine trying to live the ‘American Dream’ anymore. I’ve learned that relationships with people , not things, status, or position, make life worth living.”