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The Results Are In!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

In Search of Clean Water by Debi Frock

DSC_0042I love to take photos, especially photos of water falls. Unfortunately, the most beautiful falls are not easily accessible from a car window. This week Scott, my husband, and I are in the UP- Upper Peninsula of Michigan. This part of the state is on Lake Superior and gets 30 feet of snow a year. It also has 11,000 lakes and many, many water falls. Since I had never visited the UP I wanted to take some good water photos.

Today, I wanted to visit Hungarian Falls in Tamarac City. We were told it was a short 15 minute hike from the road. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find the trail head. A few others were also looking for the trail so we followed them up this really steep trail for more than an hour. We could hear the falls but we couldn’t see them. Finally we found a small stream and stopped for a photo.

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Do not be fooled, this is filtered water, not stream water.

But I still wanted to find the falls. With a little more hunting, Scott and I found another trail. It was also heading up the mountain side and was a much easier trail. Thirty minutes later we were at the top of the 40′ high falls standing next to a stream feeding the falls. I dipped my glass into the stream and looked at the water-Ugh. It was just like the water from the stream in Ghana,West Africa! It was yellow with stuff floating in it. Time to pull out my trusty filter, just like the one we give to women in Ghana.

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Stream water on the left. Filtered water on the right.

1,800 African children die EVERY day due to contaminated water. Diarrhea and dehydration due to contamination cause 85% of deaths of children under the age of 5. Children and mothers hike to streams and lug back 5 gallon jugs of water several times a day. Then mom might boil it for drinking but what about washing vegetables and fruits or bathing the baby or washing your breasts before nursing the baby? Using contaminated water for these tasks is just as dangerous.

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Photograph, Bryan Woolston

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Photograph, Bryan Woolston

This summer I had the privilege of showing 40 mothers how to filter water. The filters will provide them with 25 gallons of clean water EVERY day for 25 years. Through a new partnership with Water With Blessings , we provided 10 filters for the village, Gontay, near Aburi in Ghana. We trained 10 women on the use of the filters, provided them with new buckets and taught them how of care for their filters. In turn, each woman will train 3 other women on the use of the filter and give them new buckets. The group will meet once a month with a mentor to discuss the use of the filter and to learn why it is important to use clean water for every aspect of a child’s life. This program provides enough clean water for the whole village and helps build community.

The women were so attentive and really wanted to know about this miracle. After Sylvia, our local mentor, explained all the reasons to use clean, filtered water, it was time to have the women asemble their buckets for filtering. Once everyone  was comfortable with the filter and how to backwash it after each use, we brought in water from the local stream, similar to my stream this morning. It was brownish yellow and had lots of things floating in it. I noticed a lot of bugs at the stream. So now was the time to see if it really worked. Well it sure looked clean and clear.

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Photograph, Bryan Woolston

So, I took a deep breath. . . . .

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Photograph, Bryan Woolston

Ah, clean, clear beautiful water. The women were ecstatic. Everyone wanted to try their filter. The head master of the school we were using for the training wanted us to provide a filter for the school (that filter will be going to Ghana in October). It is amazing!! $25 gives a family 25 gallons of water EVERY day for 25 years. 

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Photograph, Bryan Woolston

I can’t wait to go back next summer and bring clean, filtered water to 5 more villages. That equals 200 families getting clean water. What a blessing from the Lord! Visit our website www.gmhope.org for more information. In the mean time, my husband caught me in a big nap!

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One Little Mosquito By Debi Frock, Founder

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My favorite time of year is the first week of August when GMHope runs their annual a reading Camp at Akramaman in Ghana,West Africa. Seeing the adorable faces of the excited 65-100 children brings me to tears. Life is not easy in the village.

We constructed two fine schools in Akramaman; St. Paul’s nursery/kindergarten and St. Paul’s Primary. Both were given to Ghana Education Service as public schools. We built a Public Health Clinic. We teach good hygiene to mom’s and children but it only takes a small mosquito to disrupt everything. This week was no exception.

Hand washing at the Preschool

Hand washing at the Preschool

Day 1. Edith, throws up at camp and her fever is high. We send her to the clinic. She has malaria. They give her drugs. I pay 12 cedis –$3.75 for the visit and drugs. She waits til camp is done for the day and takes the grueling 40 minute Tro-Tro ride home (think old 20 passenger bus with broken seats, no shocks and no air conditioning on a very dusty, pot hole filled, dirt road). She does not return until Wednesday.

Day 2. Nora spikes a fever during Reading but does not want to go home. She has malaria but has already been to the clinic and has melds at home. She is finally sent home and returns the next day.

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Joseph

Day 3. Joseph spikes a fever and asks to go home. He has malaria. Joseph has spent many days at the clinic for malaria and worms. He has trouble learning due to repeatedly being infected. He is the dearest and sweetest boy and my heart breaks for him.

Day 4. Another boy, Daniel, is taken to the clinic for malaria. This time the bill is 10 cedis.

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Health Clinic

Day 5, Friday. It was the epic day. Patience got sick, off to the clinic. Malaria! Again! Anna, one of the cooks has de-hydrated from malaria. She needs IV fluids, 61 cedis, I pay the bill. She spends the day at the clinic. As I am visiting the clinic a man comes running from the village carrying a limp child who is foaming at the mouth. The distressed mother is screaming and crying, running barefoot along the dirt path. Bryan Woolston, our photographer drops his equipment to rush to the aid of the man. I run to the mother to offer comfort. The child, A boy age 3, has malaria. His mom did not seek treatment but chose traditional treatment of herbs and sponge bath. The baby’s temperature rose so high he began having convulsions. In the arms of the nurse he is comforted and treated. His life has been spared. One little mosquito causes so much pain, especially to the little one.

According to UNICEF in Ghana

  • 3.5 million people contract malaria every year
  • Approximately, 20,000 children die from malaria every year (25% of the death of children under the age of 5)
  • Even if a child survives, the consequences from malaria such as convulsions or brain dysfunction can hamper long-term development and schooling.
  • The estimated economic burden of malaria is 1-2 percent of the Gross National Product of Ghana.
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Unfinished Nurses Residence

I am so thankful to so many who have faithfully donated as we built the clinic and are now building the nurses residence. The two bedroom apartments are roofed and have fine windows. We are working on the electrical system, then the finishing and a water tank. When we are able to finish this residence two public health nurses will be on call 24/7. Lives are being saved every day but even more will be saved when the nurses are there full time.. What a blessing for more than 15,000 people thanks to all of you who have helped. Donate today and save a life.

Hip, Hip, Hooray!

2015 St. Paul's Akramaman

2015 St. Paul’s Akramaman

In 2007 Pastor Becki Neumann, Bruce Neumann, Judy Chaney, Mercia Laryea, The Mother’s Union and I open St. Paul’s preschool to 87 children and 45 parents who were not sure about this idea of putting children into a classroom. Here we are eight years later with more than 180 children in the school, which now includes a creche and proper preschool for K1 and K2 (In the U.S. we would say K4 and K5). Last Friday 34 children graduated from K2 and will enter Class 1 in September. Many of these children have been in St. Paul’s since the age of 2.

Nora 2009/2015

Nora 2009/2015

John 2009/2015

John 2009/2015

Christiana 2009/2015

Christiana 2009/2015

Christian 2009/2015

Christian 2009/2015

These four precious children have been followed closely because they were the first of our Child Sponsorship program. In 2009 when Ellie Deane saw the photo of Nora she siad “I have to help this little one. What can I do?” and our Child Sponsorship program began. Thanks to Ellie, Bruce and Becki + Neumann and Trinity Episcopal Church, Waterloo, these four children have been in the program since the age on 1 year. They have received free tuition, health insurance, uniforms, vitamins, shoes, books, toys and help for the family when needed. We have about 15-20 children who need sponsorship every year. For $35 per month, you can provide HOPE to leave a life of proverty. Contact me at info@gmhope.org or check out our website.

There were many educational dignitaries at the graduation. St. Paul’s have become a model preschool and a child may not enter St. Paul’s primary until they have graduated from the preschool. Mr. Daniel Budu Asiedu, Municipal Director of Education, stated “Whether we like it or not, these children will be our future leaders so I plead with parents to take an interest in your child’s education.” Mr. Michael Daniel Narh of Obeyie School also stated “I predict in the future we will trace the education of our Nation’s Leaders to this school.” Wow, I feel like a proud Mama! Enjoy the photos.

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Created to Read

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Preparations – by Debra Gustin

We all had breakfast out on the patio and watchedKids at school while Accra bustled around us. The bus came to pick us up and we finally headed to the school.  The bus was packed to the roof with suitcases and supplies for camp.  It took us just over 1 ½ hours to get to the school.  Most of the roads were now paved, although we heard that was not true when the school was first built.  We turned on the road to the school and the first thing we saw was the playground.  As we pulled into the yard the director, Anastasia, and all of her teachers poured out of the doors and ran to the bus to greet us.  Each person was hugged and greeted as they got off the bus, what a wonderful welcome!  The first order of business was to empty the bus, unpack all of the supplies and then start sorting everything.

            The bus seemed to be a bit of a pied piper.  As soon as we drove through the local villages, people knew that we would be at the school and children started arriving.  At first they were very shy and curious but curiosity won out in the end and they came closer and closer.  Kimberly was a natural with her infectious laugh and they came to sit next to her and then sit on her lap.  The three teen girls were on the playground pushing children on the swings.  Adriana, Zach and Elizabeth were surrounded by children who they met last year and now were admiring how much they had grown. Unpacking

We were called back to work.  One group of people assembled supply bags for each child so they would have everything they needed for the week.  I headed to the library to level the books that were there and all of the books that we brought with us so that all of the books that were out were camp level.  When I emerged from the library people were scattered all over the place.  Bruce & Scott were working on the playground, Maggie got a soccer game going, Raegan, Elizabeth, and Adriana were on the playground and Debi & Kimberly were singing and playing with children on the porch and there were children everywhere.  If there was any doubt why we were all here in Ghana, here was the reason:  all of those beautiful, hopeful faces.Debra

After a delicious lunch, we gathered as an entire group to go over the curriculum for the all of reading camp so everyone would know what to do.  Each teacher had a Ghanaian counterpart and one of our teenagers to support them in the classroom.  We learned new songs (will the “Beaver song” ever leave my head?!) and poems and finally decided we were ready for the week to come!  Everyone is now anxious for Monday to arrive.

Day One-Reading Camp- By Janet Mall

Today marked the beginning of our reading camp.  We have been preparing for a few days and execution went rather smoothly. As soon as we arrived in our bus, we were greeted by all of the village kids.  The playground and the porch were full of smiling faces and bright beautiful eyes that lit up when they saw that we were here to spend time with them.  Janet 1

After assessing the reading skill of the children, they were sorted into one of three classrooms.  I went to collect my kiddos.  They came in with very serious faces and were surprised to see the way the classroom was set up.  They were instantly excited to see the groups of fours that the tables made.

We distributed their book bags, which were filled with school supplies and they opened those bags, as if it was Christmas. Their class day began with reading a poem together. They enjoyed reading it together and then individually.  When they read, it was in unison and there was almost a song-like quality to the sound of their voices.  I couldn’t help but smile widely while listening to their voices, with me occasionally chiming in to reassure them that they were on the right track.Janet 2

Before we knew it, reading time was over and it was time to head to the library. We formed two lines and we headed to the library.  When the children entered the library, they caught a glimpse of the books and I could instantly hear soft-spoken chatter.  There were about 70 books in this library that’s hardly a library in the United States, that’s actually a book display at a Barnes & Noble.  The children saw the books and were astonished to realize that they could touch and read the books.  Every child got a book and comfortably stretched onto the floor and began looking at the books.

I sat down on the floor and before I knew it, I had a crowd Janet 3of students sitting near me.  One of my students, Caroline sat down with me and pulled out a book about the food pyramid.  She looked at me and said, “Madame, can I read to you.” When a little girl as adorable as her asks you such a question, there is no response except a very definite yes.  We began and I glanced over the first page and thought to myself, this book is beyond her level.  She struggled with the first page and then she paused. I thought to myself, she is probably not going to finish this book.  She flipped forward to the end of the page and then softly said, “Twenty one pages.” I work with middle schoolers in the United States and many times when something demands a little extra work, students give up.  I was touched to see her willingness to work hard and her desire to learn more, to be better.  We finished that book and I was so proud of her.  I thought to myself, this is why I came to Ghana. I came to help and to lift spirits.  People always overestimate how much is necessary to make a child smile.  They just want someone who listens, who cares, and who loves them.  Needless, to say it was a great first day. Now on to the next one. J

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