By JEREMY DIRAC Recorder Staff
Recorder, Greenfield, MA
Published: Friday, March 28, 2008
GILL -- Although much of the country's attention is on Iraq and Afghanistan, in Africa alone there are 10 countries with tragic conflicts, said the founder of the nonprofit Voices for African Mothers, Nana-Fosu Randall.
Randall said that in 29 years visiting war-torn countries for the U.N., from Israel to Cambodia, it was on break in Liberia that she chose to start Voices for African Mothers, or VAM, which attempts to help Africans.
Randall spoke to about 20 people as part of Northfield Mount Hermon School's State of the World series. In the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, NMH started it with the belief that what happens in far-away places like Vietnam, Afghanistan and Uganda is increasingly relevant.
She said that, at a Liberian shopping center, she saw a girl of about 13 without hands or feet sitting nursing a child in her lap. Through her driver, Randall learned that the woman lost her hands and feet after not cooperating with soldiers who raided her home one night.
''That day my life changed and I said I would do whatever I can to help these people who cannot speak for themselves,'' Randall said.
In Swaziland, which is not at war, Randall said a bigger problem is AIDS. There, she met a 7-year-old girl who lost her parents to AIDS. Randall recounted what the girl said.
''If I sell my body for a loaf of bread and an orange, my two brothers will be able to eat. And if I get AIDS, I won't die right away. It will take at least five years. At that time, my brothers, 4 years old and 2 years old, they will live,'' Randall said.
Africans are using guns from Western countries; meanwhile, some African leaders ''instead of using their resources to buy medicine for our sick ones, they use it to buy small arms to kill ourselves,'' Randall said.
But hate is a waste, she said. ''Life is too short.''
You don't have to be a millionaire or retired to help the less fortunate, in Africa or the U.S., Randall said.
''Just put your arms around a child who's orphaned,'' she said.
In 1997, Randall founded a Ghananian Montessori School that now educates 700 students. In 2004, she started VAM. It bought 100 acres by the Volta River in Ghana to create a partly self-sustaining farming, medical, educational and cultural center.
VAM also teaches women in three villages in rural Tanzania how to do things like raise poultry, weave rugs, bake bread, make jewelry and grow peanuts. In Uganda, VAM gave a school of 375 children, desks, benches, books, school supplies and shoes.
After Randall spoke, a group of NMH students asked her how they could volunteer with her in Ghana.
M.E. Jones Correspondent
Nashoba Publications, Townsend, MA
Published: November 9, 2007
TOWNSEND -- Nana-Fosu Randall might not have left her post as Chief Financial Officer for the United Nations, a job she held for 30 years, except that the UN requires employees to retire at 60. To her, that's a key distinction. "I'm not really retired," she said. Describing what she does now in a recent phone interview, she said her global links are still intact. A passionate advocate for causes she champions, her life's work is driven by compassion and an experienced world-view.
As founder of the John William Montessori School in Ghana, where she was born, and a founding member of Voices of African Mothers (VAM). Randall, who lives in New York, stands before audiences all over the United States and the world to deliver a message of peace and hope. Her mission is to raise funds and assemble a coalition of helping hands to build up what war has torn down for generations of African women and children. The school and VAM are separate but her dedication to them is equal.
"I asked myself, what can I offer children growing up in Ghana?" she said. "They are the future." The answer was education. Thus the school was established in 1997 and named for her husband, John, a professor, and her son, William, the "main supports" in her life.
Her role in the school project is personal as well as professional. Randall funded the start-up with her own money, but charitable giving is crucial to continued success. In Africa, there is no government-paid public education, and many parents in Ghana are too poor to pay tuition. The school cobbles together its finances from tuition and donations.
It also accepts additional challenges. Two children there, 7-year-old Kelvin Sefah and his 4-year-old sister, Rosemond, are orphans who live at the school and whom Randall supports, according to Anastasia Tsorgali, chairman of the school's parent-teacher organization. She said the children's above-average academic performance is "very encouraging," but as they grow older and needs increase, the PTA is looking for "permanent support" such as a trust fund.
During her years with the UN, Randall saw global gaps in educational opportunities that she now wants to close. "In 1991, I was in Kuwait. Even in this rich country, with oil floating on the street not all the children went to school," she said.
As a VAM ambassador, Randall shares another vision, that of assisting women and children "who suffer most in war." Ambitious goals include creating a partially self-sustaining agricultural, cultural, medical and educational center on 100 acres of land the organization bought in Ghana. VAM's goal is to help women take control of their lives, offering access to medical care, literacy skills and practical training.
"I have seen so much suffering," Randall said. "When I was assigned to Africa, especially Liberia, it really hit me what war has done. All these handicapped people," she said, and VAM aims to help. "So that is why this is what I will do with the rest of my life."
Randall attended school in England and college in the United States, but her roots remain in Ghana, where her 103-year-old mother lives. "I miss home," she said.
Her father wanted her to be a nurse, but she chose accounting. "I was good with figures," she said. For her, it's been a helpful profession of another kind. After she'd obtained her master's degree, she met the United Nations ambassador, who supported her application to join the world peace organization in 1974.
"They were looking for women," Randall said. "It was very hard at that time. There was a quota system."
Over the next three decades, Randall built a career and made friends all over the world, citing close connections with people in Canada, the Netherlands, Africa and Germany, where VAM board members now come from. They all share common ideals, she said.
Randall will be the keynote speaker at "A Night of Peace" at Memorial Hall on Friday night. Sponsored by Squannacook Elementary School teacher Fred Goldberg, whose fourth-grade class and parent-partners are taking the fund-raising side of the project into the community, the event will also feature exotic sidelights. African music will be joined by ethnic food sampling and an array of unique browse-and-buy options such as authentic African jewelry and custom-made items inspired by Randall's African art collection and created by an Arizona artist. World-famous musician Tony Vacca and other members of the renowned group World Rhythms will perform.
"A Night of Peace" will start at 7 p.m. in Memorial Hall in Townsend on Friday, Nov. 9. Admission is free.
© 2007 Groton Landmark. All rights reserved. Reproduced with the permission of Media NewsGroup, Inc. by NewsBank, Inc.
Ghana News Agency
Asutuare (E/R), Feb. 15, 2005 GNA - A delegation from the Voices of African Mothers (VAM), an American NGO for the promotion and development of women and children in agriculture and communication has visited Asutuare in the Eastern Region.
While in the town, the delegation interacted with the people to identify their needs and how to find solutions to them.
Nana Labokie II, Queen mother of the area, who received the delegation appealed to them for assistance to tackle the challenges facing women and children to improve their living conditions. Miss Barbara Knaub, Chairperson of VAM, stressed the determination of the NGO to help the people in the areas of education, job training, personal cleanliness, healthcare and AIDS education.
She said the NGO was to launch a programme for the advancement of issues of women and children and to create awareness about their importance in the society.
Miss Knaub said, It is hoped that by instilling these principles in women, they will eventually create an atmosphere of peace in Africa. She later took the people through HIV/AIDS education to create awareness about the disease especially among the youth.
Nana-Fosu Randall, a Ghanaian President and Founder of VAM, said African women must be bold to say no to wars because women and children suffer most in conflict situations.
Wars do not build but rather destroy nations and bring unnecessary pain, hunger, distress and suffering among women and children, she said.
She stressed the need to promote peace, sharing of resources and the creation of understanding among people of the world and called on African leaders to end wars, conflicts and civil strife to ensure the development of the continent.
Professor Melville Johnston, an Information Communication Technology (ICT) expert and a pioneer member of VAM, promised to recruit specialists to Ghana to assist the people in the area.
Mr. David Stott, an agriculture specialist stressed the importance of sustainable agriculture to enable the people to feed themselves and to ensure food security in the area and the country.
Accra, June 6, GNA(Ghana News Agency) - The Voices of African Mothers (VAM), a non-governmental organisation (NGO) aimed at promoting conflict prevention and bringing women together to initiate dialogue on peace building was inaugurated in Accra at the weekend.
The founder, Nana-Fosu Randall, a Ghanaian woman working with the United Nation (UN) headquarters in New York, said the objective of the organisation was to create an Internet space dedicated to preventing conflicts and supporting peace efforts through non-violent methods in Africa.
VAM also seeks to be an instrument of education and advocacy on behalf of women and children in Africa, she said.
Nana-Fosu noted that violent civil conflicts that had engulfed parts of the continent, always left in their wake widespread destruction of social and economics infrastructures with a greater impact on women and children, hence the formation of VAM to ameliorate the trend. She called on African mothers to say no to violence, crime, conflict, war and separatism.
Mrs. Monica Westin, a pioneer of the organisation from the US, said the African continent was yet to reach the millennium goals due to wars, HIV/AIDS, tribalism, religious fighting and lack of portable water.
She said Ghana, as one of the few stable countries in Africa, has maintained the culture of peace and it must remain just that for the sake of the children because they are the future leaders.
Mrs. Westin said VAM would embark on a campaign to provide culture of peace in Africa.
Reverend Ama Afo Blay, Director-General of the Ghana Education Service (GES), said wherever there was war, women were the sufferers and called on women in Ghana to pray for their children in schools to become useful citizens in future to enable them avoid immoral activities.