Feature Report – “Wiafe”

US photographer Piotr Kuzniar visited some of the isolated rural communities in Accra, Ghana, and reflects on the challenges experienced by one family. Please visit his website to view more of his work. 



In the Greater District of Accra, the capital city of Ghana, in a small area called Nkrumkrom, lives a 14 year old boy named Wiafe, his 7 year old brother and their mother. All three reside in a 150 square foot home on the high grounds of a hill. The home has just one window, no interior walls, no running water and no electricity. Their washing station and the kitchen are located right outside their home. And the bathroom, well, the bathroom is nowhere to be found. Inside, you'll find a large foam mattress where all three sleep. And right above the mattress hangs a massive mosquito net. In the corner stands a bench with all their belongings and clothes packed into bags. And at the opposite corner, pots and pans. That is all. Nothing more, nothing less.

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Wiafe and his mother sit in front of their single-room home constructed from mud and wood.

Wiafe and his brother are now 2 of over 60 children whom TANF Ghana, a local non-profit organization, sponsors and provides access to free education and healthcare. With this sponsorship, Wiafe is able to receive the necessary books and tools for school as well as access to health checkups. At school, Wiafe’s favorite subjects are mathematics, English, and learning his native language of Twi. In his free time he loves to watch his friends play football. Though he is able to attend school thanks to this sponsorship, Wiafe faces major obstacles which prevent him from attending school on a daily basis.

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On average, Wiafe is present at school a maximum of 3 days each week. The other 2 days are spent assisting his mother at a farm situated not far from their home. He helps her plant hot peppers, cassava, plantains and pineapples. It is very difficult for him to carry water up the hills. See, before Wiafe began helping his mother on the farm, his mother used to sell clay pots in the village. Unfortunately, selling pots could not provide enough income to feed the family so his mother turned to farming, making just enough to feed herself and her two children.

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ngo photography, ngo photographers alliance, photography workshops, ngo photographers

Hence, where the second problem presents itself. As his mother is on the farm most days, she is unable to hold another job that can provide a more stable source of income. There are days where Wiafe cannot afford a meal at school, which usually costs approximately 1.5 cedis, the equivalent of US 0.37. Not being able to afford his lunch usually discourages the boy from attending school as he feels that he is looked down upon for not being able to afford a meal.

To get to school, Wiafe walks a few kilometers in the heat, most of the time barefoot. Though he is provided a school uniform and shoes, Wiafe feels pain in his foot and occasionally in his arm, and thus prefers to walk barefeet. Sometimes when the pain becomes unbearable he lays down and falls asleep to forget the pain.

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

"A Police officer," Wiafe responds.

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At 2 weeks old Wiafe was just like any other baby, until one fateful night when his mother left him wrapped in a blanket unattended and walked over to her neighbor to borrow some produce. She was only gone for a few minutes but a few minutes was all it took. As his grandmother noticed from afar, smoke rose from the house and she began screaming for help. Both women rushed back to the dwelling where they discovered that Wiafe’s blanket had caught fire from a lantern that was left beside him. The fire burned the entire right side of Wiafe’s body. Due to the enormous injuries, his right arm had to be amputated. Wiafe spent the first year and a half of his life in hospital recovering and rehabilitating from this accident.

Wiafe is a one of a kind child. Though he faces daily challenges with his disabilities, he strives and pushes himself to be the best that he can. One day, he will become a police officer just like he has always dreamed of. 

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