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Saturday, June 15
The Indiana Daily Student

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Liberian refugees cope with new life in Ghana

The civil war in Liberia might have officially ended in 2003, but for thousands of refugees, home remains very far away. In Ghana, the Liberian refugee camp at Buduburam has existed for 20 years and consists of structures that resemble a fairly standard Ghanaian village.

The camp is filled with the vibrant sights and sounds of children playing soccer, a multitude of shops and people selling water sachets off their heads. If one was to pass through the camp casually, they might not even notice the subtle differences between the two places.

A Liberian woman named Anne originally lived in the southeastern part of Liberia until the civil war broke up her family and forced her to move them so they could have a more stable life.

As the matriarch of her family, Anne took it upon herself to move with her daughters and other family members across countries to keep them safe. The journey took more than two weeks as they would travel and stop in various places until they found a safe place in which to semi-permanently reside. Anne said some of her other family members are still living in Guinea while others have moved back into Liberia. She has been at the camp since 2003 and dreams daily of going home with her family. She plans to go back alone this summer, then work and save money until she can come back and get her children and other family members.

“I just really want to be able to go back to my country,” Anne said. “Here I can’t make a living or have my own garden like I did at home.”

Liberian refugees began coming to the camp in 1990, and since then the camp has made great strides in becoming a self-sufficient community. There are vendors, stores and schools, yet the people of the camp have fairly little autonomy. The camp is officially a United Nations refugee camp, but the people living there have to pay for everything on their own. Food, housing, electricity and even using the bathroom come at a cost to refugees. Most of the camp and its education, female empowerment, and other programs are funded by private donations.

The Movement for the Promotion of Gender Equality in Liberia has worked hard to try to empower the community of approximately 7,000 refugees. Liberian refugee volunteers like Jeremiah have tried their best to help better their community. They fund the school bills for needy children and teach women skills like bead-making, dress-making and making bags. They also sell these products to raise money to support the community.

This situation leaves many refugees wanting to return home, yet some, like 17-year-old Nathaniel, who has been at the camp since 2000, would like to stay in Ghana. He came to Ghana so long ago that he says it feels like home. Political unrest in Liberia turned his life around, and when his father died, his mother decided they needed to migrate elsewhere.

Though life at the Liberian refugee camp appears physically stable, living there can be deeply draining emotionally. Anne said nearly every day Liberians from the camp begin the trek home.

However, their journey is just the beginning of the rebuilding process. Returning to the stability of home might be a long process, but for some, the costs of reconnecting with their families in their native country are well worth it.

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