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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.

BE THE ONE!

Lighthouse searchlight beam through marine air at night.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

 

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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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?

 

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