Ghana Journalism Volunteers Help Refugee Camp Newspaper
Laura Tovey, Assistant Country Manager in Ghana tells us about a new project in which our journalism volunteers are getting involved.
A new partnership has been formed between Projects Abroad and The Vision - a newspaper published for the people of Buduburam Liberian Refugee Camp.
Since the last print edition in October 2005, The Vision has been available online only, at www.thevisiononline.net. But now Projects Abroad has secured funding, the paper goes to print once again. With an initial print-run of 1000 copies, The Vision will become available to those who don't have regular internet access. All journalism volunteers in Ghana now have the chance to spend one or two days a week working for The Vision.
More than 42,000 people live at Buduburam camp, established in 1990 to accommodate a segment of the Liberian population displaced by the civil war that began in Liberia on December 24th 1989. To serve the needs of this population, The Vision was founded in May 2004 by Jos Garneo Cephas and Semantics King Jr., two journalists from Liberia. With its focus on human rights stories, King Jr. says the purpose of The Vision is to provide "information for the purpose of educating, raising social consciousness and assisting the emerging democratic process in Liberia. This is accomplished by providing a forum for setting the agenda on matters affecting the refugees' interests, even holding refugee public officials accountable."
Several Projects Abroad volunteers have already visited the camp and made contacts there to enable them to hunt out the most crucial news stories. The volunteers can also get involved with other stages of production, including editing, proof-reading and providing training for the current staff.
Projects Abroad already funds and works with newspapers in India, Bolivia and Romania. Mircea Samoila, Director of Ghana, edited our magazine in Romania for a year and helped to set up the journalism project in India. Asked why he wanted to get involved with The Vision, Mircea explained, "access to information is a right, and an especially pressing one for the Liberian refugees at the moment. They also have the right for their situation to be presented to their host country [Ghana] in an unbiased and truthful way, unclouded by prejudice and ignorance. Projects Abroad will sponsor the printing of The Vision, so that it can provide these rights to the Liberian refugees in Ghana. The involvement of our own journalism volunteers in the production of the newspaper will ensure that the plight of the Liberian refugees is known outside Ghana as well, and that their story is told also from a Western perspective."
Already the editorial team is looking to the future. Once The Vision is re-established in print form, King Jr. has plans for expansion. He aims for new standards of professionalism, something volunteers can help with by using their skills and experience to help train a permanent staff. The founders also plan to take the newspaper back to Liberia. Each day more refugees return to their homeland, spurred by the hope for peace brought by the election of Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf as President and it is important for The Vision to go with them.
King Jr. said, "My exact plans for the Vision for Liberia include establishing it as the only national paper that would exclusively deal with human rights issues, educating and informing the Liberian citizenry of their basic human rights, which would in turn enable them to protect their rights and those of others. This knowledge will help to easily identify violations of rights not just by government but by other political leaders. That's my.vision for The Vision."