Life Academy is providing a path toward independence for adult survivors of child trafficking.
OUR LIFE ACADEMY STORY
Life Academy is a Touch A Life program aimed at providing vocational training opportunities and life skills development for young adults in the organization’s care. Touch A Life provides long-term rehabilitative care for children rescued out of slavery in Ghana, West Africa. While many children will proceed through traditional channels of the Ghanaian education system, ending up in local colleges or universities, some young people find a better fit for their futures by pursuing vocational opportunities in lieu of typical schooling options. Life Academy fills the gap for these young adults by providing them with the resources and training they need to become successful adults, employees, and entrepreneurs.
The Life Academy program is located in Accra, the capital city of Ghana, and it operates on a 12-month cycle. The goal of Life Academy is to prepare the young adults who have graduated from the Touch A Life Care Center to be self-sufficient and responsible for their livelihood. Specifically, this program also prepares participants to gain and maintain meaningful employment and equip them with professional skills.
Launched in February 2016, the Life Academy program currently serves eight students in their early twenties.
The goal of Life Academy is to inspire and prepare our students to gain and maintain meaningful employment and take responsibility for their futures. The Life Skills programming equips young adults who are survivors of exploitation to make positive life choices through professional skills education.
As part of Life Academy, students participate in sessions related to banking, health awareness, public speaking, and goal development.
Ghana Sewing Collective
For the first year of Life Academy, students agree to participate in the Ghana Sewing Collective led by Eunice, a Life Academy Mentor. This part of the program is designed as an introduction to working for a small business owner, as well as working with a team toward a common goal. Eunice guides the students through the basics of sewing and pattern making and the students create products made from handmade batik fabric, traditional mud cloth, and leather.
During the second year, Life Academy students are earning a salary from the Ghana Sewing Collective and working five days a week in the Sewing Collective studio. With time set aside for literacy classes and therapy sessions, the student artisans are developing their sewing skills and creativity, as well as learning how to take inventory and record client orders.
Products that are created in the Ghana Sewing Collective are sold in Accra, Ghana, as well as in the United States at various retail partners and the annual Touch A Life Art Auction.
The current class of Life Academy students were rescued from forced labor and exploitation as teenagers and did not have access to a traditional education path. To increase confidence, Touch A Life has partnered with experienced educator, Sarah Palshof, based in Accra who is providing weekly literacy classes to the Life Academy students.
To continue their path toward healing after the trauma of exploitation, Life Academy students are meeting every other week with Dr. Rachel Pugh, a Clinical Psychologist from Wales, UK with over 21 years of clinical experience. The group therapy sessions focus on topics such as constructive responses to anger and identifying emotions.
OUR LIFE ACADEMY TEAM
EUNICE MAKU AYIKU-NARTEY, SEWING COLLECTIVE MANAGER
Eunice Maku Ayiku-Nartey is a respected seamstress in Accra, Ghana and owner of Eunimak Fashions and Soft Furnishers. With over 25 years of experience, Eunice provides training and leadership to the Student Artisans at Life Academy.
Having a mother who was a fashion designer and a father, an accountant at Cable and Wireless now Vodafone, Eunice recognized my talent in art early in her childhood. After completing Accra High School, Eunice proceeded to study embroidery at the Singer Sewing Center also known as Kalbs Sewing Center in Accra, Ghana. Later, she majored in Fashion Design at Blake College in London and served as an intern at Army and Navy stores in Guildford, U.K.
Back in Ghana, Eunice took several courses on Entrepreneurship and set up Eunimak Fashion at Adabraka in 1993. Eunimak, by word of mouth has grown from a local to an international brand through trade fairs and now makes custom made clothes for distinguished ladies and the American, Zimbabwean and Canadian embassies. Eunice is also a member of Association of Ghana Industries (AGI), which specializes in European and Afrocentric clothing for ladies, gentlemen and children, as well as accessories such as tote bags and soft furnishing in home décor.
DR. RACHEL PUGH, CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST
Dr. Rachel Pugh is Clinical Psychologist from Wales, UK with over 21 years of clinical experience who provides bi-weekly therapy sessions with the Life Academy students.
The first decade of Rachel Pugh’s career was spent practicing across medical and community mental health based settings within the NHS, and the most recent decade was spent in Cambodia, where she worked as an advisor to a mental health NGO, TPO_Cambodia, training and capacity building 20 Cambodian Psychologists across the country. In 2008, she established Mindbody Practice – Cambodia, providing a holistic safe haven of psychological and massage therapy for the international expatriate community in Phnom Penh.
In 2014 Dr. Pugh relocated the her practice to Ghana. Working with a range of presenting problems, my main areas of interest include depression, (including antenatal and postnatal), reproductive health issues (termination, pregnancy loss and infertility), childhood trauma and abuse, bereavement, chronic health issues (cancer, chronic pain, tinnitus), relationship difficulties, expatriate adjustment and cross cultural issues.
SARAH PALSHOF, EDUCATOR
As a native of Denmark, Sarah Palshof began her studies in the field of Social Studies and Early Childhood Education at the University College of Copenhagen in 2011. By 2015, she had earned a Bachelor’s Degree in this field and was eager to embark on a career working with children. While attending college, Sarah was given an opportunity to volunteer for an orphanage in Hohoe, Ghana. Soon after this experience, she knew she wanted to continue this work in West Africa. Sarah now calls Accra, Ghana, home.
Sarah has been a teacher for children and adults with and without special needs for five years and provides private tutoring for the Life Academy students. She is passionate about supporting children in nurturing, loving environment where they can learn and experience new ideas that will build their confidence.
When Sarah is not in the classroom, she take that same energy to the yoga studio where she teaches group and private classes. Sarah incorporates yoga into her Life Academy curriculum as a way of promoting a holistic learning experience.
CHRIS AKUFFO, LIFE ACADEMY LOGISTICS MANAGER
Chris has spent much of his carrier in Accra, as a logistics manager (being the “go to” for many businesses related to the music and entertainment industry, security management, and health services). Organized, diligent and cheerful, he brings a fresh energy to the Life Academy program.