The Department of Social Welfare in Ghana has told King Jesus Charity Home it has to pay 5,000 Ghana cedis (equivalent to £1,000 at the current exchange rate) to obtain an operating licence, plus a further 2,000 Ghana cedis every year.  If it does not do so within the next two months then they will close the orphanage.  KJCH registered with the Ghanaian government as a non-governmental organisation operating as an orphanage in the 1990s.  It undergoes regular inspections and has been told it is one of the best orphanages in Ghana.  This is in no small way due to the support of the Ghanaian Children’s Trust and other organisations with which it has links.  In conjunction with UNICEF, it has now been decided that all orphanages must be licensed, a move which we welcome as it is essential that the care being provided for vulnerable children is closely monitored.  However, we are appalled at the amount being charged and the short time the orphanage is being given to find the money.

If the orphanage is closed, all residents over the age of 18 who are currently in secondary and higher education would be made homeless as the government would not provide help for them.  Remember, many of these children and young adults started their education late because of their circumstances before they came to KJCH and to take away their chance of education or training would severely curtail their ability to find work and support themselves in the future.  There is a real possibility they would have to resort to living on the streets.

The reason King Jesus Charity Home has so many residents, currently over 165 ranging from babies to young adults,  is because there are insufficient government orphanages to look after them so where will the children go if KJCH closes?  What will the police do with all the lost and abandoned children they currently bring to KJCH for temporary or permanent care, for which the orphanage receives no funding from the police or the government?  Last year the police asked KJCH to take care of 7 boys who had been trafficked from the central region of Ghana and forced to do manual labour in the Ashanti region.  They stayed at the orphanage for a month until enquiries could be made and they were returned to their families.  The boys were housed, clothed, fed, cared for and made to feel part of the KJCH family throughout this time and not a penny (or Ghanaian pesewa) was received from the Ghanaian government.  What would have happened to these boys without KJCH?

It is fortunate that the Ghanaian Children’s Trust is in a position to pay the licence fee, thanks to the wonderful help we get from our supporters, so the orphanage is safe.  However, the sad thing is that the £1,000 will now not be available to pay school fees and provide food for the children.    We think the Social Welfare Department and UNICEF should think again about the consequences of this action.  Certainly we believe all the orphanages should be registered and licenced, but how do they justify the large amount?  What will the orphanages get in return?  Why can they not allow more time for the orphanages to find the money?  We have emailed the Department of Social Welfare in Ghana to ask these questions, but so far have received no reply.  The Trustees.