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17.01.2021 00:57:18 123x read.
GHANA
Fifty years of life and apostolate in Ghana province. (Bro. Jos van Dinther)

Fifty years of life and apostolate in Ghana province.

(Bro. Jos van Dinther)

On Tuesday, 05 January 2021 I celebrated my fifty years stay and apostolic service in Ghana province. Together with my fellow brothers, I celebrated it in the FIC community in Accra with the staff and children of Catholic Action for Street Children (CAS). Looking back at these 50 years, I realize it has been a long journey indeed. During these years, I have always lived in the so-called “mixed” communities: with brothers from the Netherlands, Indonesia and Ghana. It has been a great experience to know that the Dutch culture is not the only one on earth.

After my studies in Ireland during which I had the opportunity to obtain English certificates and able to express myself in the English language, I was adequately prepared to go on mission to Ghana. We were four who prepared ourselves for missionary work. We are all still alive today. A good example is a priest from India who is still working as the chaplain in my home parish in the Netherlands.

The first plan was for the four of us to travel together to Ghana before Christmas in 1970, but this turned out to be too heavy for the brothers in Ghana who had to meet us in Accra. As a result, only Bros. Marcel de Keijzer and Anthony Ruizendaal did so while Bros. Ludanus Peters and I travelled in January 1971.

My first apostolate was to assist in building Nandom Secondary School. We were three builders and about seventy labourers. I worked there for two years. We discovered soon that not many formally trained tradesmen were available in the northern part of Ghana. Therefore, we started straight away with vocational training in Nandom and Kaleo. This was after the work in Nandom Secondary School was completed. Bros. John van Winden and Ludanus Peters started in Nandom while Bros. Henry Schurs and I went to Kaleo.

We started a technical school at Kaleo around 1973, where I worked for 18 years. All educational materials and tools had to be imported. There were many challenges at the beginning with very little to begin with, in addition to difficulties in transportation because the roads were very bad. We wanted to train persons who could work with their hands and we succeeded in doing so for many years, but the initiative to train them at the higher level of education continued to rest on our shoulders.

After eighteen years of headship in the technical school in Kaleo, I had to give up this apostolate because I did not see any future in higher education. It was more difficult for Bro. John van Winden and during my leave we talked about the fact that the concept of practical education was not fully accepted. But we had to acknowledge the fact that people were rather interested in higher academic education than technical or vocational training. It was indeed a disappointment for me. But we had to continue. I had earlier heard this during my home leave in the Netherlands. 

However, I was allowed to return to Ghana but this time to remain in Accra until the council could find me a suitable apostolate. This delayed, and consequently I started a research in vocational training in the southern part of Ghana. The research revealed that many vocational schools could enrol many more students but they did not come forward.

A new vocational school was needed. During my research I came in contact with a French priest, Fr. John Thebault who ran a project for the handicapped. His approach was very clear. He did not gather them all in one institute but asked their families to continue caring for them and he could help them there. I joined him several times and we travelled on a motorbike to meet these persons who were referred to as members of “Hope for Life”. During one of these trips to the slums we could not go further because of the mud. Fr. John left his motorbike in the open and packed his belongings on it. I told him that it was not good to keep the bike in that place but he replied, “Brother I never lost anything during the many trips I have made”.

Indeed he was a man of great trust and faith. We can learn from him. He also brought me in contact with street children. Everywhere we went we met street children and nobody took care of them. I started to work for and with them together with others and eventually the Catholic Action for Street Children (CAS) was established in 1992. As a local Non Governmental Organization, CAS is a Catholic charity organization which advises and educates children from the street in Accra-Ghana. This has been my apostolate for the past 29 years. I can tell you a lot about CAS, but I will limit it to our recent discoveries.

At CAS we offer the children practical vocational training but we do not gather them in one institute. Three categories of street children live in the cities, especially Accra. 1. Children who have come from rural areas (Migrant children). 2. Children who have been born on the streets (offspring of street children). 3. Children of poor families. Each group has different problems and for each group different solutions have to be found. The main reason for children living in the streets is the breakdown of family. These children often lack security and would not want to return to their families. Many people think the reason is poverty and that the government is responsible, but that is not so.

We, especially the churches, can do much more for families who are in difficulty. When married people divorce, the children are the victims. It is a social problem and it should be addressed as such. Now, we try to get the churches involved. I invite people of goodwill to join us in creating channels of love for these vulnerable and underprivileged groups of persons. It is a complex phenomenon and is widespread in many African cities especially towns and villages where there is marriage breakdown. Check our website: www.casghana.org

I am extremely grateful to God for all these fifty years of life and work in Ghana province. I am privileged to have gone through such experience. In June 2021, I will go on "pension", the beginning of another stage in life. Pray for me.

Wishing you all a very pleasant year 2021 and let us all live with trust and have great faith in God.

 Bro. Jos van Dinther.








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