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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.
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.
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.
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.
By Deborah Albert
At the start of my second year at university I was determined to do something life-changing, I didn’t know exactly what that would entail but I definitely wanted to challenge myself and the skills set I thought I had already. Little did I know that this trip be so character building and invaluable.
The purpose of my trip was to travel to villages in Ghana as a promoter and educator of health and good sanitation. Upon arriving, I met the Health Team I would be working with for the first time. I arrived in Ghana on the 15th of July and remember feeling so overwhelmed and excited. This had been my first time in Ghana, or any West African country at that, and I was excited to explore the different landmarks, understand the culture, meet new people, try new foods, and of course carry out the mission I had been planning for so many months – all of which I did successfully!
Being a West African, Nigerian, 20 year old myself, I knew it was a long time coming. I was just hoping that my hotel had some form of wifi because as shallow as it may sound, I couldn’t imagine what it’d be like to go two weeks without any form of social media interaction because that was my main form of communication in London. In retrospect, this was a very minor sacrifice and was well worth it!
Before the first team briefing, I was required to help wash 120 buckets needed for the program. I found this to be more enjoyable than it sounded. I remember it being really hot at mid-day so the fact that I was standing with my feet bare foot under the tap when I was washing up made it a bearable task. I found that the most overwhelming part of working at the first Ada village was getting on the small wooden boat as I had a strong fear of water but I somehow managed to conquer it as I kept the mothers who would need my help in mind.
Later in the week the team travelled by bus for nine hours on dirt roads to a northern, mountainous area of the Volta Region. We stayed in that region for two nights. The remote village of Sabram houses 3 communities. Heavy rain occurred throughout the day. There was large attendance by villagers in a very small building with a tin roof. I persevered even when the monsoon like rain pelted the tin roof making it impossible to hear, it was a very challenging yet rewarding experience.
This was definitely a life changing experience and am glad I had the support of the my friends and family. I would definitely recommend everyone embark on a mission to give back to those that most need care!
By Kimberley Langston
It was February and I sat in Sunday services at Christ Church for the first time since probably Christmas. Adding a third child to our already young family, along with my husband’s aggressive travel schedule, had hit me hard and we simply hadn’t made it to church in more than a month. Despite being a “single mom” that weekend with my husband gone again, I felt an urge to load up the kids and get to church, so I did.
We had guest speakers that day – Debi and Mercia – who were speaking about the Ghanaian Mother’s Hope mission, how we could join the mission team, and for those less adventurous, how we make a difference by sponsoring a child. I had heard the sponsorship message before. Our parish was already sponsoring a Ghanaian child and I had added to collection box many times. That seemed like enough.
For some reason that day, my heart was curiously stirred by the message. But still, I did nothing more. I took my kids back to our warm home, fed them healthy food and water abundantly, then sent them to amazing schools and daycares on Monday. But the Lord nudged me saying, ‘That’s not enough. You have more to offer. You have more than enough.’
Still, I did nothing more. But my heart remained curious and unsettled. Finally, in April, at the 11th hour, I joined that year’s GMH mission team. I did no fundraising. I did no research. I didn’t even know where Ghana was on the map until a day or two before I boarded the plane. I simply wrote a check and packed my bags, and I could do that because as God had told me, I had more than enough.
Fast forward and I’m on a rickety bus full of supplies bouncing precariously down a pothole-laden road to a village on the outskirts of Accra, Ghana in West Africa. It’s Saturday and our mission team is heading out to set-up for a 5-day reading camp that we will host the following week.
We have to drive through “town” to reach the school. As soon as our bus appears within site of the first shanty homes, there is a virtual rally call from the local children and they begin to run alongside of our bus, following us all the way to the school. Every home we pass, we gain more and more of them, until there is a throng of dusty faces screaming with excitement. Their enthusiastic welcome brings tears to my eyes (even as I write this, four years later). They’ve come without their parents. They’ve come carrying younger siblings on their back. They lucky ones wear worn out flip-flops; the rest are barefoot. My favorite little boy looks to be maybe 18mos old, the same age as my youngest daughter. He wears a onesie, with the snaps hanging down loose, and no underwear. The mother in me is shaken to the core. Suddenly I want to feed, cloth, and hug them all.
The children stay with us all day, watching us work and playing with us. We begin to notice this trio of girls, total Divas, around 3 years old – the same age as my other daughter. They want to play with my hair, look at the pictures I’ve taken of them on my camera, and especially model my sunglasses while they strut and dance around the playground together. These girls, I learn, are too young to attend the reading camp. They won’t be eligible until they are 5 years old, but they are the age we target for sponsorship.
You see, because the government offers education beginning at age 5, GMH targets preschool aged children for sponsorships because it fosters the importance of schooling early. It creates a habit, an expectation, a foundation that both child and parent can continue once public education is available. It prevents girls from becoming primary caregivers to their siblings and missing out on their chance to go to school at the same pace with their male counterparts. It’s targeted, early intervention and just like early diagnosis of a disease significantly increases the probability of recovery, sponsoring a GMH child into preschool significantly increases his and her chance to continue their education because it’s already begun.
That week, our trio of Divas were like mascots in the school yard. Too young to officially attend Reading Camp formally, they, along with a gaggle of other children too young to attend, peered into the windows, sang along with our songs, and played with us during recess. At times it was almost too much heartache, seeing how many more children needed us, so desperate that they just wanted to be near.
By Thursday, the Sponsorship Lead for our team had compiled a list of the young children who needed sponsors. Their parents had been informed of the requirements and also of the familial support they would be given (mostly additional food rations) if they allowed their younger children to attend preschool as a sponsored child. They were told who would be supporting them and how they would be monitored.
That night, our team sat at a table after dinner and selected whom we would each sponsor. You see, by that point it wasn’t a matter of IF we wanted to sponsor a child – there was simply no way you could spend a week hugging these children, playing with them, looking into their bright eyes everyday and choose NOT to sponsor one.
That week I had team-taught in one of the classrooms with a high school sophomore, Maggie. She and I decided to co-sponsor one of the Divas, Deborah, because Maggie wanted desperately to be a sponsor but could not afford the full monthly amount as a student. For us, it was a wonderful way for us to continue the bond we had forged that week for two more years.
On Friday afternoon, after dismissal, our little girl sat in our laps, took a photo with us, got two huge bear hugs and a bag full of goodies to take home. And so did every other eligible child we had identified throughout the week. It was magical and I finally understood the life-changing gift we were giving. (Incidentally, I was able to surprise one of the girls from my class with another special gift that I blogged about here [insert like to the blog about the baby doll].)
Two years later, my Deborah graduated from preschool. Debi sent me a picture and I was as proud of her as I had been of my own children. That summer Debi and Becki found me a new little girl to sponsor, Michele, and I hope to hug her this summer. And if I can’t hug her in person, I know the money I send to sponsor her is my virtual hug because God reminds me always that I have more than enough to share. I can’t wait to see her graduate from preschool in a few years too!
Have you ever watch the beacon of a lighthouse shine into the darkness? As it guides ships to safety offering hope to anyone in its path. I feel our donors are like those lighthouses, offering beacons of hope to the children of Ghana.
We received very good news this summer. The District Assembly in Amasaman, the regional government, is building this high school only a quarter of a mile from St. Paul’s Primary and Junior Secondary schools. I was shocked and delighted at the same time. When we opened the preschool in 2007, I never imagined that 9 years later this village would have a Preschool, Kindergarten, Primary, Secondary and now High School! It is truly a miracle.
The new computer lab at the Primary and Middle School (Junior Secondary School) is the other miracle. Thanks to Redeemer Episcopal Church in Sarasota and Every Village Computer Organization, St. Paul’s received 15 computers and a laptop all equipped with educational software suitable for grades K1 to 12. With this addition to the curriculum, St. Paul’s will finally have the tools they need to prepare junior secondary students to pass the high school entrance exam.
Mabel was one of the first three-year olds to attend St. Paul’s Preschool, our first building project. Every time I met her she had a huge smile. Several summers as I would say my last good-bye, she would turn her head to hide the tears rolling down her sweet little face. I would end up running over to give her another big hug and tell her I would see her again soon.
Mabel is now 12 going into the seventh grade. In 2018 she will finish middle school just as the new high school is ready to open but Mabel’s parents cannot afford the $250 – $400 associated fees for school. This situation will be repeated over and over for girls in the village. Many girls will become carriers, carrying heavy loads on their heads at a market. Some will sell water or other goods hoping to earn money for school. Too often, these girls find themselves taken advantage of and pregnant.
The Beacon of Hope Scholarship is being created to give two to four girls the opportunity to attend high school each year. Our goal is $25,000. SAVE THE DATE.
Thanks to the Sarasota Community Foundation’s giving partners: The Patterson Foundation, The Knight Foundation, The Manatee Community Foundation, The William G. and Marie Selby Foundation and The Herald Tribune, YOU CAN BE THE ONE TO OFFER HOPE IN THE DARKNESS.
Donate at www.givingpartnerchallenge.org/npo/ghanaian-mothers-hope-inc on Tuesday, September 20 noon to noon on Wednesday, Sept 21 and the Patterson Foundation will match all donations of $25-100. If you did not donate in this campaign in 2015, your donation will be tripled. Donors from 2015, you donation will be doubled.
Ghanaian Mothers’ Hope needs your help in spreading the word. Please tell your friends about this incredible opportunity to Be The One to change Mabel’s life from school dropout to school teacher! Click Here to see the Trailer.
I can remember my excitement when the Sarasota Community Foundation announced the 2015 Giving Challenge. This was an opportunity for all Ghanaian Mothers’ Hope board members and volunteers to get involved and create a campaign for our newest collaboration to help mothers in Ghana called Water Mamas. Everyone was eager to participate. Our goal was to raise $1,250 which would be doubled with the Patterson Foundation matching program. We would be able to train 25 women as Water Mamas and provide 100 families with 25 gallons of water a day for 25 years.
Adoley and James Proser created a marvelous video highlighting the need that the Water Mama’s program could fill. Thanks to our donors, the campaign raised $5,000 before the match! With the extra $5,000 match from the Patterson Foundation and a $500 win for our video, we more than doubled our Water Mamas training. The extra funding allowed us to reach very remote villages during July 2016.
The team, Deborah Albert-Water Mama trainer, Ellen Baffour-Arhin, nurse practitioner and diabetes lecturer, Mercia Laryea, GMHope Ghana Director and I traveled for four hours to our first district, Ada, in Greater Accra on the eastern coast of Ghana. In the morning we boarded a boat to the Island of Pediatorkope to train our first 30 Water Mamas. Women from 14 different communities attended the training with their babies and toddlers. Several women came from the other four islands along the river.
Each woman was given two buckets. One bucket for the dirty water to be filtered and one for the clean water. The clean water bucket contains a tap so water may be accessed easily. Esther, pictured above, was taught to use a Sawyer filter and will teach three other moms in her community of Aabom to use the filter. Many families will bring water to be filtered and share in the clean water. Women will learn that clean water is a gift for everyone to use for drinking, bathing, cooking and any other water contact for themselves and their children.
Thirty women left with filters and buckets and many others watched closely so they could learn how to use the system. Training occurred at the health center and the public health nurses will continue with follow-up training on the use of clean water.
Our next adventure took the team nine hours by bus on a very bumpy dirt road to the Upper Volta only minutes from the Togo border in the mountains.
Here, thanks to a woman named Perfection Ofori, the team was able to train another 30 women from three communities in Sabram. Perfect works in Accra, a two-day trip by local transportation, while her five small children live with her mother. Perfect brought the lack of clean water in her village to the attention of our Ghana director, Mercia. Thanks to our many donors at the Giving Challenge, we could travel to Sabram to deliver training, filters, buckets, a good lunch, and even some medical supplies and dresses for little girls.
It rained so hard and so loud on the tin roof of the community building that we had to suspend the training for one hour. Even with water dripping and deafening noise, the women were delighted to stay and wait.
The end result is hundreds of families with thousands of children will share clean water for many years because YOU cared! Many thanks to YOU, the Sarasota Community Foundation, and the Patterson Foundation.
Debi Frock, Executive Director, Ghanaian Mothers’ Hope.
Be sure to check out The Giving Challenge 2016 , September 20 noon to September 21 noon. We hope you will help us reach our goal of $25,000 for girls high school education, breaking the cycle of childhood maternity in villages.
Today was a bittersweet sweet day; it was the last day of reading camp. I started the day off thinking today would be long. I have never been one that was good at saying goodbyes, but over the years I have gotten better at it. The team arrived in the morning and we were greeted with children singing and already in their classrooms. As our tro tro would approach the school, the students would start waving and continue their singing. While I was walking into the classroom, they would all stop their singing and exclaim, “Good morning Auntie Janet!’
These children are so kind and happy. I work with students in the United States that come from economical disadvantaged backgrounds. Those kids have lost much happiness because of their realities and what they see on a day-to-day basis. I think of these children, who are younger than those kids with whom I work. When I look at the Ghanaian children all I see is their kind hearts and smiling faces. Life is tough for them. Every day is difficult, but they kick the dirt, quite literally and continue to move forward. They have a thirst to be better and to learn more. This week has taught me that love, generosity and compassion can belong to anyone. God has blessed these children and I pray that he continues to grow them into incredible leaders of Ghana. –Janet Neumann
Does this matter? Can one week really make any difference with these 40 children that we came to serve? There are those who would say our time and efforts and money would be better spent elsewhere but after coming to Ghana 7 times for 7 different reading camps, I can say that yes, what we do makes a difference in the lives of the children. And in us.
Last Sunday the team went to church in Akramaman village. It is the village where we have held reading camp for several years. After church, a little girl named Josephine came over to me and asked, “Please sir, do you remember me?” She has grown so much since I last saw her when she was in my group of non-readers two years ago. “Yes, I know you!” I say as she smiles a smile that would light up the darkest places in the world. We chat some about how she loves to read and how she is going into Class 4 (roughly 4th grade) and how she has loved reading camp and how she missed me last year. She smiled. She giggled. She laughed and she gave me a huge hug. She knows she is loved. And she loves to read because someone that she did not know came to her village from far away to spend time with her, to love her, and to help her. She has been empowered through reading and love.
This week, we tilled and planted seeds in a new village, Twerebo. Our camp had 40 children who greeted us each day practically shouting the song we taught the first day. There were laughs and struggles and many poems and songs repeated throughout the week. And there were hugs and tears as we said goodbye this afternoon. These dear children experienced the love of God in a way that for many of them was new. And the US team who came experienced God’s love in a new way as well through their dedication to learning and their smiles. The children left with books and lessons and the knowledge that they are loved. They saw that they CAN improve and they CAN read. They were given hope and a better shot at a brighter future for themselves, their families, and their country. That is truly powerful. That is empowerment.