Katherine Everest is a young Australian lady who lives in Melbourne some 600 miles from Adelaide, South Australia. She recently rang me to say she had just discovered this site and that she had been working in Buduburam for a couple of months in 2005 as a volunteer. Many people ask me how do I know that what I say about Buduburam is true - so I asked her to send me a report on her impressions of Buduburam. Here it is:
From: Katherine Everist
Hi Dick, Here is the letter that I promised you. I really am going to struggle to keep this short, because there is so much to tell about Buduburam but I’ll do my best to keep this relevant to the site. The first thing I will say is the reports on your site are accurate. The situation there is one of constant struggle and hardship, in saying that and considering the context I think the residents of Buduburam have done a fantastic job in many regards to make it a liveable place and some have succeed in becoming self-reliant and have contributed to a thriving community in some ways. However I do believe for the majority life is a daily struggle. When you think of a refugee camp what do you picture? Make shift tents, absolute squalor, disease. I am not trying to glorify Buduburam, but the situation there is different to what you would imagine in many ways. My first impression was one of shock, walking down the street, there are people totally kitted out in the latest fashions, there is contemporary music blaring from speakers and there are people happily chatting away on cell phones. There are schools; some children have the chance to get an education that is not saying all do because there are many families that sadly do not have the means. The schools though are extremely over-crowded and very under-resourced.
There are so many churches and I believe this serves as a fantastic outlet for the people because their faith is so strong and to have a place where they can worship safely and when they want is a real privilege. There’s a health care clinic, this is over-crowded and people will not always get seen on a timely manner, but it is in operation and when I was there had international doctors working. I don’t want you to think Buduburam is something it is not, there are many problems and many people who are in need of vital assistance. In the eyes of the international community though Buduburam is a “success story”, for many of the reasons that I mentioned above and as a result major aid organizations have pulled out and believe that it is a self-sufficient community that will go on running well by itself.
However there is the constant problem that people can’t work, Ghana is strapped for resources and can’t have over 40,000 refugees competing for their jobs. So the majority of these people spend their days sitting idly by, doing nothing, with no stimuli. A situation like this, for months and years on end breeds desperation and depression. And with no chance to generate an income there’s the constant problem of finding the means to survive. The focus is on children’s education, but many adults, fled Liberia during their schooling and haven’t resumed education. Now people are returning to Liberia and many I talked to were worried because they believed they had no skills to offer and would struggle to find work. Sure some people are doing ok, but reports and through talking with locals indicate that this “success story” is confined to those who have relatives living abroad, who send them money on a regular basis. This is believed to be around 10% of the inhabitants. The majority are left with very little resources and very little opportunity to generate money. And everything on Buduburam costs money, from the schools, to the water, to the toilets.
Occasionally the World Food Program distributes basic staples, such as flour and oil, but to qualify to receive food is almost impossible and the majority receives nothing. The overcrowding in Buduburam is a big problem, the pod of land was not designed for this many people, more people are arriving and sucking the resources dry. Furthermore Ghana does not have the means to support such a large amount of people. But with no international assistance coming from any of the major organizations I really dread to think what will become. Because ultimately the more people who arrive, the harder the struggle becomes for survival and with it being perceived as a “success story” there’s no end in sight. I really worry for the people there, because the international community perceives their situation, considering the circumstances to be good and even though by comparison it is, there are still massive inequalities and a severe lack of opportunity.
Residents now are returning to Liberia, other’s have been repatriated elsewhere, but there are still thousands that can’t return to Liberia, their there lives have been erased, many had political ties. These people don’t have relatives overseas that can support them or assist them in seeking refuge elsewhere and so right now Buduburam is the only place for them.
I hope this is ok. If you would like any info regarding a particular issue just let me know. This is a very basic run down of the situation. Regards, Katherine __________________________________________________