The Telegraph in the UK is running a series of stories providing coverage to the ‘witch children’ of Africa as part of their Christmas charity appeal.
In step 13 of the Worldette Guide to experiencing freedom, creating change and tapping into your Worldette spirit we criticise traditional media for not providing coverage to international stories that need it. We recognized that stories and situations that happen daily rarely account for being ‘new’ – a typical qualifier for the ‘news.’
So that’s why the Telegraph’s recent spin on a story of one of Ghana’s ‘witch children’ or ‘spirit children’ deserves recognition.
The article tells of Paul Apowida, today a 26-year-old soldier for the British Army, who was born in a remote village in the semi-arid scrubland of northern Ghana.
Apowida’s father died before he was born and when his mother died shortly after giving birth, he was considered cursed, a child possessed by evil spirits who would bring misfortune on the entire community, and condemned to death by a soothsayer who instructed Apowida’s stepmother to feed him poisonous herbs.
The belief in ‘spirit children’ or ‘witch children’ has a long, dark history in Ghana and, although there are no official statistics, is thought to have led to thousands of deaths.
In communities where any turn in fortune is always considered to be the work of witches and wizards, it’s the children that take their forms. The community believes they’re carrying bad spirits and the only way to avoid more misfortune is to get rid of them.
Luckily Apowida was rescued by a Catholic nun, Sister Jane Naaglosegme, who had been posted to his village to start a care home for “spirit children”. She nursed him back to health after he had already swallowed the herbs, but they had not proved fatal and, eventually, after two further attempts on Apowida’s life, sent him to a boarding school 800 miles away, in Tema, just outside the capital, Accra.
The belief in “spirit children” has a long, dark history in Ghana and, although there are no official statistics, is thought to have led to thousands of deaths.
The Telegraph reports that in a traditional ceremony, a baby who is thought to be cursed is brought before a soothsayer. A chicken is then sacrificed. If the chicken falls on its front, the child is deemed “normal”; if it falls on its back, with its legs in the air, then the baby is proclaimed a spirit child.
Punishments can include being buried alive, nails drilled into the skull, starvation, boiling oil poured over their heads or through a poisonous cocktail of herbs.
After boarding school Apowida became the beneficiary of a new charity, AfriKids, set up in 2002 by an inspiring woman in her early twenties called Georgie Fienberg. Fienberg had worked with Sister Jane during a gap year in West Africa and knew Apowida from her regular trips to Ghana.
More than that, this amazing woman become his legal guardian so he could move to London where he attended sessions run by British Military Fitness and then joined The Rifles in 2008.
Today, Apowida is an ambassador for AfriKids, one of the three charities The Telegraph is supporting as part of their annual Christmas charity appeal – a deserving choice.
The article ends on an insightful note on the traumatizing and long lasting effects that being deemed a spirit child may have had on his life. The need to prove himself to his accusers.
Apowida, now a skilled rifleman – considered an enormous and respected achievement in Ghanaian society – plans to return to the village where as a baby he was condemned to death.
“I want to tell them, ‘If I was really a spirit child, then I wouldn’t have done all the good things that I have done. I have proved you wrong.’”
Well done to the Telegraph for choosing this heartbreaking cause to raise money for leading up to Christmas. Our only question is why did you wait until Christmas? Could coverage to this cause not have been provided at any time of the year?
We’ll keep you informed of any other articles and coverage the Telegraph gives to this cause. If you would like to donate to AfriKids via the Telegraph Christmas Charity Appeal see:
Have you heard of the issue of ‘witch children’ or ‘spirit children’ before the Telegraph campaign? Could media outlets like the Telegraph do more for issues like this year round and not just at Christmas? Let us know in the comments below.