Refugees Magazine Issue 95 (The international year of the family) - My family

Refugees Magazine, 1 March 1994

Excerpts from essays written especially for the International Year of the Family by refugee children in Ghana.

A caring family can mean everything to a refugee child, for it is often all he or she has left in the world. The following excerpts are from essays written by refugee children in Ghana especially for the International Year of the Family.

"I, Emile Delano Cooper, am dedicating this essay to the loving memory of all the innocent boys and girls who have died or continue to suffer in one form or the other as a result of the senseless Liberian civil war, which seems to be endless.

"By African standards, my family is not a very large one. It is composed of six persons. My father, my mother, a brother, two sisters and myself. I am the third child in the family. "Presently we are refugees in Ghana. REFUGEE, a word I never dreamed I would ever be called by! This proves that no one knows what the future has in store ...

"Since the war began, we have had many hard times. We have gone from sleeping in a decent home with warm beds and drinking cold water from the ice-box, to sleeping on the ground in the open air with mosquitoes feasting on our blood and drinking unsafe water which causes us to get ill often.

"Living as refugees is a painful pleasure. Painful because we have to work very hard sometimes and we depend on food rations from the United Nations and contributions from relatives and friends to keep us alive. A pleasure because we have learned the dignity of working with our hands. I could never have imagined myself working in a garden as a means of getting additional food. Now I am proudly doing it."

Emile Delano Cooper,
14, Liberian refugee in Ghana

"My family; it's father, mother, the children and ... grandfather and grandmother, who live with us, too. They are old, both of them. Their faces are wrinkled, their hair is white and they lost almost all their teeth. But they are still in good shape. My grandmother is skinny, but she has remained beautiful, with her keen eye and her smile which illuminates her face. She is always ready to defend her grandchildren ... "

Kayi Da Silveira,
15, Togolese refugee in Ghana

"I am the seventh child for my parents and I am the only child who lives away from them. I used to live in the capital city of Liberia with one of my older sisters to attend school.

"In 1990, when the war started, my sister said she was going to our parents' so she left me with one of her friends, Felicia Toe. But when this friend went to Ghana, she brought me along with her.

"I have written so many letters to my family. I don't think they get these letters because there is no reply. In 1994, I will try to find my family because I am missing them too bad.

"Sometimes I cry for my parents, when I see some girls or boys walking with their parents. I can feel that I don't have anybody in this world. I sometimes miss my mother when I am ill or hungry. I miss my father when I am ill or when I need someone to tell me stories. And I miss my sister and brother when I need someone to make fun."

Beatrice L. Kollie,
17, Liberian refugee in Ghana

"My family comprises my father, mother, two sisters, my little brother and my grandmother. My mother was very dedicated, and one thing I admired was that she cared for every human she was everybody's mother. She never encouraged her children to do wrong.

"My mother was 22 when she married my daddy in 1957.... My father cared for each and every one of his children.

"During the heat of the war, the little food we had was taken away from us by some hard-hearted rebels. We were compelled to go up to the interior to farm.

"On our way to Klay we fell into a rebel ambush. A bullet caught my oldest sister and she fell and died. The little one was caught and raped and died.

"My dear friends, the only family and help I have now is UNHCR.... The rest of my family was killed by rebel forces.

"I was not pleased to leave my country, coming out to a foreign land (Ghana) where I don't have anyone to take care of me.... I cry nearly every night. I worry all day and all night about this kind of ridiculous life."

Julius Seitua,
17, Liberian refugee in Ghana

"My large family never had much money. We cultivated a small garden. We ate once a day, except our younger brother who ate twice.

"On Saturdays, boys went to the fields or helped around the house. Girls helped their mothers to cook or to draw water. In our family, when we get up, we greet each other and then we greet our parents.

"Our united family is now scattered like bird feathers. We arrived in Ghana with our little money. Today we are refugees. As refugees are given food, we eat twice. Our family is so poor that we do not even have shoes to wear."

Hoinso Koffi Mawuli,
9, Togolese refugee in Ghana

"My father's name is Kuevi Simon. He is 54 years old. He's retired. My mum is called Amoussou Marie, 53 years old. She is a teacher. I have a brother and a sister.

"When the strike started, we were suddenly separated. I came to Keta. My mother and my sister went to Benin and my father stayed alone in Lomé with his dog. It is the first time it happens to us. Before, I would see and hear about separation of families and about conditions of life for refugees in the media. But I never thought it could happen to us one day in Togo.

"The day of our separation was so sad. I even cried. It was a Saturday in December when I arrived in Keta. I felt so lonely. I thought of my family a lot. On 25 December, I did not get a present from Santa Claus."

Kokoe Diane Kuevi,
12, Togolese refugee in Ghana

Source: Refugees Magazine Issue 95 (1994)