The first Christmas in Adukram

In the bigger cities of Ghana in West Africa, December buzzes with action. Families decorate trees in their courtyards with lights; carols are heard in all the busses and shops. People greet one another with “Afishiapa”—Merry Christmas. Children wait eagerly for gifts of new clothes and for feasts including their favourites—sodas and chicken. And churches share the life-giving message that the Messiah is born.

But in Adukrom, December 25 passes like any other day.

Adukrom is a small village in the eastern hills of Ghana where most people survive as day labourers or subsistence farmers. Making just 50 cents a day, people can’t take the day off, but have to keep working. Children in Adukrom have never looked forward to any gifts or special meal for Christmas.

But in December 2012, children in Adukrom celebrated Christmas for the first time ever.

Two months before, the Adukrom Assemblies of God Child Development Centre was opened. Two hundred children were registered in the program and began receiving access to education, health care and weekly activities at the local church.

For Christmas, the children and their parents came together for a special Christmas celebration. They had a meal of fried chicken and jollof—a traditional dish of rice in a spicy tomato sauce. The older children performed dances, sang local carols and recited Bible verses. They also heard the message of how Jesus Christ came to earth to save us from our sins.

And many of the children received their first Christmas gift ever.

Boys received three-piece suits and girls received skirts and tops. Before buying the gifts, the parents came together with centre staff and all agreed the children needed new clothes most. In Ghana, it’s traditional for children to get a gift of new clothes at Christmas—special clothes that they’ll wear in the coming year.Christmas-8

Shy, eight-year-old Gifty Akakpo is one of eight children in her family. Her father works as a day labourer and her mother washes clothes. The family lives hand to mouth, never sure if the parents will return home with food for that day’s meal. Gifty has never even thought of getting a Christmas gift before.

Her mother, Mary, buys clothes for her children only when absolutely necessary, and Gifty gets hand-me-downs from her older sister.

So Gifty will remember the Christmas she got a new outfit for the rest of her life. She arrived at the centre wearing a green and orange dress handed down from her sister, and she left with a new white skirt and top.

“When all the parents were invited to the centre to talk about a gift for the children and we all agreed on clothes, I did not think that it was true until we were called again and my daughter was given a nice dress for Christmas,” says Mary. “I am very surprised and happy.”

Mary is overwhelmed with how the centre is helping her daughter.

“I don’t even know what to say. I cannot understand that somebody so far away who has not even seen Gifty could love her so much. And not only Gifty, but all the many children,” says Mary. “I say a big thank you to the people who sent money for the children to get new clothes this Christmas.”

Thanks to caring sponsors around the world, children like Gifty not only got their first presents, but are also starting a new phase in their lives—one filled with hope and purpose for their future.

Written by Vera Mensah-Bediako

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Written by: Amber Van Schooneveld

Amber Van Schooneveld is the Managing Editor of Compassion International's blog.