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Online vs In Line Shopping

While talking with my husband the other night he questioned why I needed to be in Ghana two weeks before my team arrives to run the Reading Camp. Well, a lot has to do with online vs in line shopping. There is no online shopping here in Ghana, so everything is in line or the queue. With a list of things to do and purchase as long as my arm, traffic jams that make New York City look like a country road, and crowded, maze-like markets, it is a wonder that I only need two weeks.

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Today Mercia and I needed to purchase eight dozen t-shirts. We use 12 dozen for Reading Camp but thankfully Ascension Episcopal Church, Westminster, MD, sent four dozen with me. The t-shirt shop is deep in Makola Market in Accra. This is the market for locals, however, after 13 years of shopping there, everybody knows my name.

The queue at the shop consists of a long bench and two plastic chairs. I waited for 90 minutes, moving along the bench to the chairs to get closer to being served. Finally, it was my turn. I chose red, orange, yellow and lime green shirts for the children. Of course the ones I wanted were on the top shelf so the shopkeeper had to get a long ladder, climb to the top and throw them down. Once the eight dozen t-shirts were packed in a large plastic bag, I couldn’t even lift it. We employed Gladys, one of the market porters who couldn’t weigh 90 pounds soaking wet, to carry the load: 30 umbrellas, my eight dozen t-shits, two dozen t-shirts Mercia bought and I think a pot or two. The 30 umbrellas belong to a totally different story.

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I truly am in awe at what these girls can carry. Once those items were safely in our car, we turned our attention to fabric. One of the reasons I shop online at home is so I am not tempted to buy more than I need. Fabrics are both mine and Mercia’s weakness. How can I choose just one? Luckily for me I was buying for a friend and I needed to pick out four fabrics. Plus I needed one for the team, maybe one or two more? Imagine miles of fabrics.

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Okay, ten fabrics, a coconut, some pineapple, grilled plantains and small bag of ground nuts later, we had spent four hours shopping for fabric. Since it was now after 5 o’clock, our drive home would test our nerves, but for sure, we will be returning to the market tomorrow and many other days. If only amazon could deliver the 200 pounds of rice we need to buy directly to the villages.

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Akramaman Reading Camp

IMG_2345By Mr. Seth Agyakwa

In Ghana, one problem we normally encounter in the public school is lateness to school. During reading camp, the same pupils and teachers, who normally report to school late, are always very punctual. Even though lessons start at 9:00 am, by 8:00 am all are present. This is not because of the “whites,” but because the organizers and sponsors of the programme have put in all their best.

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Pupils and teachers do not waste time at home for food because food is served during the reading camp. The food given is not like Ghanaian school feeding programme that pupils refuse to eat even though it is prepared by Ghanaians. With this programme, pupils can even go for more if they are not full.

IMG_6379Again, there are sufficient teaching and learning materials which facilitate teaching and learning. Supervision is very strong. Due to this, pupils who refuse to read in our normal schools are eager to read during camp because of the good atmosphere and materials used. Pupils are also encouraged and motivated to read. I can see it is a factor in pupils showing interest in reading.

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IMG_2336IMG_2332God bless you all for your support towards the reading camp. We pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, just as it is well with your soul. Amen

Seth is a teacher at St. Paul’s Junior Secondary School. He has been volunteering at our summer reading camp since 2011. He is married with three children. Last weekend the team attending his newborn’s “Outdooring”, the baby naming ceremony. It was fun to welcome baby Perez into the family. Seth’s hospitality to the team was heartfelt.

Thank you notes are on the way.

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Why Do I Come Here Year After Year?

I thought deeply about this question as I packed three suitcases with school supplies, water filters, children’s blankets and pillowcase dresses getting ready to leave the US. Then I packed three more suitcases for the team that is arriving next week and pondered some more. Why do I leave my family and all the comforts I take for granted every day, to travel 9,000 miles, at least 17 hours on a plane each way, to sit in the dark at night with no fan, then to be tossed about like a rag doll in a car or bus each day as we travel the torn up dirt roads of Ghana?

This is why.

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I have always wanted to help children and when I felt that tug on my heart in 2004, I knew that God was calling me to help these children. When I first came to Akramaman in 2005, it was truly a village. Many children wandered around aimlessly. Only a handful of children went to school, mostly boys. There was no electricity, no clinic, and for many no Hope.

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Akramaman 2006

Now it almost a city. Electricity flows through many homes. The clinic serves 15,000 plus people in surrounding villages. The school system has over 500 children enrolled, a new computer lab and they are building a high school.

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Just a few of the classes at the primary school

Today at St. Paul’s Preschool graduation, I listened to the Assemblyman, the Pastor of a local church, the head of public education for the region and the representative for the Anglican education system implore parents to take raising their children seriously and to support education whether it is St. Paul’s Nursery, Preschool, Primary or Junior High. They talked about holding teachers accountable and encouraging students. There is much more than a glimmer of Hope for these children.

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I watched 37 excited six year olds put on their cap and gown and march through the crowd of parents to receive their Kindergarten diploma. Most of the children I have known since they were born. God willing, one day I will watch them put on another cap and gown and receive their high school diploma.

Smile after smile warmed my heart and told me the answer to my why. It’s the same answer I give my grandchildren each year when they ask “Grandma, why are you leaving.” “Because someone has to go and Jesus asked me to help him take care of the children. If I don’t go, who will help them?” Some of us are called to go, others are called to stay at home and mind the home fires and others are called to support those of us who do go. Thank you to my family, friends and many, many donors who have made all of this possible through the years. I may be the one here in Ghana, but YOU ARE THE ONES WHO HAVE SUPPLIED THE HOPE

Sixty Water Mamas and So Many Babies

DSC_0385By Deborah Albert

So far, so good! The experience so far has been way beyond my expectations. I came as a newcomer to West Africa, and what better country to first visit. As expected, I was a bit nervous when I first arrived in Accra, and my biggest hope was that I didn’t get sick from any of the food or water. My focus, however, quickly shifted to the work I’d be doing as part of the GMHope Team.

After the initial team briefing at Aunty Mercia’s house, I felt very at ease and excited for what and who I’d meet at each village.

DSC_0066One highlight of the journey to the first village has to be the lovely and relaxing boat journey. Well, I was a bit reluctant to get in the boat as I have a fear of deep water and countless past experiences that testify to that! More the less, the calm and stillness of the nature around me filled me with peace and serenity.

DSC_0245After meeting, interacting with and teaching the mothers, I knew that all the planning, preparation, saving-up, fundraising and excitement of the trip was well worth it.

The mothers were very delighted that we came, as were the chiefs and assembly men. The sing-a-longs that broke out during the program were heart warming and allowed me to witness the sense of unity which glues many of these villages together.

DSC_0418DSC_0437Overall, I am having the time of my life but if there is something that I must say I’m not pleased about, it is the long bus journeys. None the less, these journeys are not a problem when I see the smile I bring to the mothers’ and babies’ faces

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Ellen Baffour-Arhin is center and Deborah to her right.

Deborah Albert is  a 19 year-old British -Nigerian Medical Physiology student at the University of Leicester. Her understanding of the socio-economic determinants of good health has made her very passionate about providing high-quality care where possible.

DSC_0275Deborah is the first team member that we have accepted from outside of the United States. Working with small children poses problems is we cannot get a solid background check on each team member. Most team members have been referred by previous members and clergy. Deborah’s youth pastor and college professors convinced me that Deborah would be a good fit for our Water Mamas program. They were right. Deborah is a strong, confident young woman and excellent trainer.

Many thanks to Water With Blessings for their program.

THEN A MIRACLE HAPPENED!

By Debi Frock, Founder/Executive Director

My good friends in Ghana

My good friends in Ghana

I just landed in Ghana yesterday. The sights, sounds and smells brought back a flood of beautiful memories as soon as I stepped off the plane into the sunlit sky. Each year when I return it feels like I never left.

The flight was longer than usual; going from Washington, DC, to Dubai, laying over in Dubai for 23 hours than an 8 hour flight to Ghana. I think I am caught up on all of the latest movies and the trip in Dubai was very interesting. Have you ever seen a 7 star hotel?Dubai 3

I arrived around noon and I was tired but I needed to stay awake to acclimate my body to the time change (four hours later than on the east coast of the U.S.) On top of that was the 86 degree temperature with no air conditioning. It was a long day but I made it to midnight when the electricity died, no lights, no fan. But I knew that my next day, Friday, July 8th would be a day to celebrate.children

In 2010 the United Thank Offering of the Episcopal Church, U.S.A., gave Ghanaian Mothers’ Hope $40,000 to build a primary school. Notice the small building with the taxi in front of it. That was serving as their primary and junior secondary school at the time. About 100 children attended school. After opening the preschool/kindergarten more children wanted schooling. Now with the new primary school the old building became the secondary school and over 400 children attend the two schools.

Unfortunately, the government does not provide funding for materials, like text books or science materials or computers. After finishing Junior Secondary School (junior high school), you must pass the government exam to enter high school. The exam is exactly the same for village school as it is for private or more prosperous city schools. No one from Akramaman has been able to pass the exam and the teachers are so frustrated.

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Mable’s parents encouraged her to attend school in Accra

Several years ago I met Seth Owusu. He is a Ghanaian living in Maryland working for Best Buy and a computer geek. Seth began restoring old computers to take to Ghana and build computer labs in villages though his nonprofit, evcoafrica.org. Seth and I have been planning to add a computer lab to Akramaman for about 5 years. As with most small nonprofits, funding is the major issue. In April Seth made me a deal I couldn’t refuse but I still needed funding.

Seth had his team in Ghana go to St. Paul’s, Akramaman, to check out the proposed lab site. It was perfect. The PTA rounded up funding to help get tables and chairs. Unfortunately, we still did not have funding and Seth was leaving for Ghana. I had applied for a grant but it was too soon for an answer. I told our Ghana directors that it would probably by October, Seth’s next visit, before we could have a computer lab.

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Then a miracle happened! Church of the Redeemer in Sarasota, Florida, approved our grant funding the day before I was leaving for Ghana. I contacted Seth on Facebook to say that we had the funding and on his next trip he could include our 15 computers. To my delight and surprise, Seth informed me that he had already shipped the computers and was ready to install them. I was arriving on the 7th and he was leaving on the 9th. July 8th would be our magic day! At 10 am the fun began!

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The children bring in the equipment

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Sabina learns her letters by finding the letter on the keyboard so the lizard can eat his leaves.

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Seth and his team helping the children

THANK YOU SETH OWUSU, EVCO STAFF, CHURCH OF THE REDEEMER, SARASOTA, AND THE PTA OF ST. PAUL’S ,AKRAMAMAN.  WHO WILL BE THE FIRST STUDENT TO QUALIFY FOR HIGH SCHOOL IN 2017?

 

wish you happy forever

What China’s Orphans Taught Me About Moving Mountains- a book by Jenny Bowen

Book review by Gail Morton

Last year I had the pleasure of attending a lecture in Washington DC and meeting Jenny Bowen. I feel an affinity to Jenny and her efforts because I have traveled to China with cousins that adopted a 2 year old Chinese girl. This smart, talented and beautiful young lady just told me this morning that she will be attending Elon College in September. Having seen the Chinese countryside and the orphanage where she began, and the future she would have had, I can’t help but feel she was one of the lucky ones. A terrible thing to say about being orphaned. Actually she was not really an orphan but left in a basket on a bridge when she was only several days old. She will never know if it was through poverty or cultural prejudices that her birth family abandoned her, but she was one of a lucky few that found her way into a loving happy family in the U.S.

Most Chinese orphans, girls especially, were not so lucky. Raised under austere and backward conditions in Chinese orphanages, they seldom thrived and futures were as bleak as the present. When Jenny Bowen arrived in China to pick up her 3 year-old daughter, she found Maya sickly, unable to respond to love, without natural curiosity or social interactions. She had never even been held. Maya was one of thousands, strapped for hours each day to a potty chair because there wasn’t sufficient staff to diaper, clean or train the typical potty skills of the average three year old. Rooms were utilitarian and bare with no pictures, toys or activities of any kind. No one held or rocked, sang songs, or played with the children. They were left all day every day with no stimulation, nothing to engage or teach them how to connect, learn or even to care.

Jenny Bowen

Heartbroken for the lost lives she saw before her, Jenny Bowen took on the challenge of thousands of neglected children in state run Chinese orphanages and through time, effort, sensitivity and determination, changed the mindset of the Chinese government. Today, a large majority of the orphanages throughout the vast Chinese county have come under the guidance and partnership of Jenny’s Half the Sky Foundation. Thousands of children have been saved from physical, emotional and intellectual neglect. They move through the orphanage system in facilities filled with light, color, teaching, stimulation, both physical and educational, but mostly having experienced the healing of being loved and mentored.

Jenny Bowen tells her story in the book wish you happy forever, What China’s Orphans Taught Me About Moving Mountains. And as Ghanian Mothers Hope has found out, those mountains can be as vast as the Himalaya’s, but there is a slow and steady path to the other side. If you have ever said “What can I do, what can one person do?” please read Jenny’s story. She is not typical but only in that she didn’t stop with the question. She was like you and me to begin with. Overwhelmed, set back by road blocks, stymied by government refusals, war, impossible transportation, poor infrastructure and bad weather. The difference is she accepted each of these trials, maximized what she was able to do in the restricted setting and then went back to work seeking the way through by some other means.

I can’t describe in a paragraph how Jenny and Half the Sky transformed a child welfare system that wasted lives into one that now produces vital, productive, happy lives and futures for thousands of orphaned Chinese children. I suggest you hear it from Jenny herself at www.halfthesky.org.

No dream of doing God’s work is impossible. If we can’t do it alone, then we team it. We are not all Jenny Bowen’s, but each of us has a strength. Some can dream, some strategize, some focus, others arrange, implement and achieve. Some give knowledge, some time and some money. Every one of us can contribute in our own way and know that we really do make a difference. I look at my young cousin. She was in the system before Half the Sky was operational. She was one of the lucky few at that time. Now thousands have the benefits she could only find here in the U.S.

Children with hand made quilts from Southern Maryland

Children with hand made quilts from Southern Maryland

I see the same impact on children’s lives and futures in the work accomplished by Ghanaian Mothers Hope. Where ever your passion lies, China or Ghana or the streets of America; children or mothers, young men or the elderly, you can make a difference and if you doubt me, read wish you happy forever.   It’s a fascinating true tale about hope and success.

Gail Morton is a passionate supporter of Ghanaian Mothers’ Hope. Gail, an avid reader, shares book reviews with us a few times a year. Many thank to Gail for keeping us all informed.

Seat or Feet?

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All across America people sit in churches week by week, singing and listening and learning what it means to follow God, to follow Jesus who leads us into the heart of God. And for many, the journey to God ends there, in the pew, or in the chair; but for some, the pew or the chair is not the end of the journey toward God, but the beginning.

When my family prepares for any journey we readDSC_0116 everything we can about our destination, we try to learn about the exciting things in store. Following Jesus leads us into the heart of God. What is it like there? What does God say about religion? God, through James, says this, “[23] For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. [24] For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like… [27] Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world (James 1:23-27 ESV, emphasis mine).

The heart of God is filled with His love for the world, the whole world; and, I am convinced it also holds sadness that so many who have so much are so clueless about real need, true joy, and faith that has feet and not just a seat.

DSC_0929For 50+ years my faith had a seat, but no feet. I was convicted of being a fan, but not a follower. And then Ghanaian Mother’s Hope happened. Through the quiet wooing of the Holy Spirit I found myself on a plane bound for Ghana, and my faith, and my life have never been the same.

Is your faith “true religion?” Does your faith have feet? Have you been hearing… and ignoring the still small voice of God? Notice James doesn’t say, “send money.” He says, “visit orphans and widows in their affliction.” V.I.S.I.T.

Visit. Your life will never be the same. Your faith will never be the same. Your understanding of God will never be the same. Visit. And, you will have stepped more deeply into the heart of God.

 

 

Becki Neumann+, Board Member,  Rector, Christ Church

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