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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.

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?

 

Art 101 in Akramaman. By Bruce Neumann

Painting palms for caterpillar

Painting palms for caterpillar

Art for reading camp has changed! Last year I did a structured art project each day for the reading camp. This year I am to do some preset items and use my imagination to fill the time. At the 2014 camp, I had some boys who seemed to have a knack for painting, so I gave them leftover tempura paint. I commented to Becki that I would like to bring them each a set of water color paints for 2015.

Bruce's  Art Room Wall

Bruce’s Art Room Wall

Between those donated at the Christ Church VBS, and those we purchased, we packed up over 65 sets to bring with us. I also dreamily suggested that they would also love spin art, but Becki said that it would be too expensive. (Thank you Ollie’s for three $5.00 spin art toys!)

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Monday we did “Be My Friend” crowns, making faces on the crown points and adding “gem stones” to make them sparkle (thanks Oriental Trading Company).

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Tuesday was brown bear lunch bag puppets, with precut facial features and wiggle eyes. This did not take all the time up, so I introduced them to water colors. I was just a basic introduction: dip your brush in water, shake most of it out, brush over a color, and brush over the paper. The kids were fascinated. One group crowded around me, pressing in closer and closer to see what I was doing.

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Wednesday we did Very Hungry Caterpillar palm print paintings. I have four associates (helpers), who made samples before any of the three classes showed up. Agbi and Ebenezer, two of the associates were the two boys I had given the tempura paint to last year. The students wrote their name on a sheet of construction paper and brought up to the tall table. We placed a round sponge in red paint and transferred it to the edge of the paper. Agbi painted the student palm green, and Ebenezer painted their fingers blue. I then pressed the hand to the paper three times to make caterpillar body and legs. When we were done this exercise, I passed out water paint sets. None of the children had ever seen one before my demo on Tuesday, and they did not know what to do. Each student got two pieces of white bristol board and I showed them basic painting. I told them they could paint anything they wanted to, a tree, house, and flag; there was no wrong picture or color combination. Some of the children, just copied brush strokes I made, some made Ghana flags, w/ correct colors. They all made something and were reluctant to leave when class was over, the last class kept working into their lunch. By far the biggest art hit was the water colors!

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We will have to wait for the spin art results….. but I can’t wait to see their faces!!

TO MARKET TO MARKET TO BE HIT BY A FAT PIG, by Debi Frock

ImageI can’t believe that I have been in Ghana almost two weeks and Drew Davidsen has been here over a week.  At times it seems that it was only yesterday that I was packing, weighing and repacking four suitcases but time has flown by as we have done several weeks worth of work in the last week. I was so exhausted yesterday that I fell asleep at 5 pm and slept until 7 this morning.

Anyone who has followed my blogs for the Imagelast few years knows that I love going to  Makola Market in Accra. It is where locals shop for just about anything you need or want. It is a veritable sea of African humanity. Imagine several miles of buildings 4-5 stories high, old and crumbling. Each floor has rows of stalls filled with goods. Now add several rows of stalls surrounding each building. Then there are roads coming and going in all directions. Many of the roads are impassible because people have set up stalls in the middle of the road. Of course this does not stop the taxis, trucks or cars from trying to pass down each road.  Then add 50,000+ Africans to the mix. Now you have a picture.

Of course Drew and I cannot hide our very white complexion in this sea. We listen to “O bruni buy from me”—local for white person, being shouted as we walk by. We smile and wave. They wave back.

ImageOn this journey we have purchased 1,200 boxes of crayons to give out with our Germs and Worms Coloring books health mission. They are small boxes but the two cartons weight 35 pounds each. Our carrier, Fostina, a small girl of about 15 years old, places both cartons on her head and proceeds to cross through the Sea without missing a beat. At times she hardly had room for a piece of paper between her and the person in front of her. I gave her 10 Ghana cedis; the going rate is 2 cedis.

My grandmother, bless her heart, was a waitress for 55 years. She received awards of service from The Lord Baltimore and Hilton Hotel’s in Baltimore. She could enter a room with 4 plates on each arm, zigzag between tables and never spill a drop. She like the Africans, had a keen sense of spatial relationship. As people weave in and out of this African Sea they are a hair’s breath from the person in front of them and they never bump into the goods piled 3 feet high on the edges of each stall. I, on the other hand, trip over the uneven stones; my purse snags a large group of pumice stones and sends them everywhere. In the meantime I have to stop to apologize to the stall owner who is scolding me. I have backed up the line of 20 Ghanaians who want to pass me, lost sight of my group since I was bringing up the rear and am nearly decapitated by a large bowl of pig’s feet. I did not inherit grace from my grandmother but nevertheless, I did inherit her perseverance so I will be back in the market in a day or so!Image

True Drew from Ghana

Drew Josh NiiI woke up this morning around 6 am. We were  to leave around 7:30 am to visit 4 schools that serve rural villages. My roommate, Joshua, was already up and getting ready for school. I took my vitamins and got set to workout but was soon greeted by the power going out. Next thing I knew, Joshua, brought me a battery operated  lamp so I could see. The sunlight was just starting to come in but it was still a bit dark. Wow! Rather than grumble about the loss of power he’s serving my needs. He may only be 8 years old but I have the best roommate! They really get what it means to be a family unit in Ghana.  Everyone knows their roles and they work well together daily. This is how Africans survive.

After my workout and a nice cold shower, Debi asks what I would like to eat. We recently got some good bread and cheese so I suggest a cheese sandwich. Next thing I know Mercia is bringing out a breakfast fit for a King. Eggs, fried spam, fried onion, plus a grilled cheese sandwhich…I’m always so grateful for every meal I eat here in a different way then I am back home. Most times I don’t know what or when the next meal will be.

Not long after breakfast a driver arrived in a Road4-wheel-drive pick up truck on loan from the Anglican Diocese of Accra. Many of the roads to the schools we visited today are not paved or even flat. There is the threat of rain so my guitar rides in the front seat with me strattling it between my legs. The roads are very slippery and muddy as the rain falls. Quite a few roads had little streams running across them. Traffic is very slow, about 10 miles per hour. We bounce and bounce across the many bumps and potholes.  Debi told me to stay loose, like jello, as we bounce along to keep from getting sore. My bones rattle along with the truck.

The first school we visited was a little tough to find because of road construction. Finally the driver doubled back and found a way around the construction.  In Ghana it is best to have a driver on a long trip like this one. There are lots of little taxis all around too. Every tro-tro (small vans used as local busses) is packed twice over. I’m glad God provided a 4-wheel-drive vehicle for today’s adventure. Being on the road is always an adventure.

At each school, the kids were excited when we pulled in. Debi is on fire teaching… the children are really getting it too. They are learning the importance of wearing shoes, eating good food, washing hands, etc. The coloring book is a BIG hit. This means they can share the message with all their friends.

Abossey Okai Public SchoolThe word that kept coming to my mind all day today was “resolve.” They are very good at going with the flow here! Two schools we visited had classrooms that are outside. What I mean is they had open walls. So you could be teaching a lesson and all of the sudden hear a goat!  At another, the children were piled onto the veranda. Desks are different over here. Three children share a desk. And I didn’t see them fighting over space for their coloring books either. They helped each other see whatever page Debi was teaching from. There were always children from other classrooms lurking about as well. I mean how often does a blond haired blue-eyed American with Norwegian heritage visit their school flexing his muscles and playing guitar!

The kids did such a great job singing and flexing their muscles. Being StrongWe did some jumping and dancing as well. I have an acoustic guitar so I have to strum very loud to cut through all the excess noises. There was not one school where you had an enclosed classroom cut off from all the noise of other classrooms or street sounds.

At one school a little girl got sick at her desk. Her friends helped to clean her coloring book off. When ever we would leave a school they would keep singing the words “Being Strong” as we pulled out. The children waved and smiled too. Such joy!! We left a few CD’s at every school so the teachers could continue to teach the song I wrote..

When we got home, I was exhausted and took a short nap. I awoke to another amazing meal. This time Debi and Mercia had made some fried potatoes and chicken stew. We had vegetables as well. I am blessed every day to be here.

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We learned that Mecria’s grand baby, Victor—we call him Nii Marty, has malaria. He is only 7 months old. He sleeps in a room with windows and screens. They spray for mosquitos frequently.  This is very dangerous for anyone in the sub-tropics but especially for a baby in Ghana. Mercia is keeping him cool and trying to get him to take the medicine. Joshua is helping. The first 24 hrs are crucial and watching his listless body is heart wrenching.

Fortunately Mercia has experience with this and living in the city Nii Marty’s parents could get to a doctor fairly quickly.  This is a big contrast to the the rural villages where we work. Mothers walk miles and miles with their baby strapped to their back to find a clinic. Many babies die on the way to the clinic. Seeing Nii Marty sick like this really brings this health message close to home. Malaria is very real and very serious! I’m praying right now…

As I sit  on the couch, I am thankful to God for another day of life. Soon it will be time for bed. Tomorrow we will visit more schools and I’m sure I will be treated to much more Ghanaian resolve.

Thanks to everyone for your support and a special thanks to Owen Levine, the 8 year old boy in Lake Worth, Florida, who gave up his birthday to provide Being Strong Coloring Books and crayons along with 85 Malaria Nets that will be given out next week.

DREW

PS. So far we have taught 700+ children the “Secret” and given out over 600 coloring books. Many thanks to JAMSBooks and Jean MacKay Vinson for this great health care tool.

“Mom, can me and my friends send bug spray to kids in Africa?”

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How would you respond to that question?  You can just imagine the surprise on Gwendalyn Levine’s face when her 7-year-old asked this question.

Owen is about to celebrate his 8th birthday and like most children he has been planning his birthday party since the day after his last birthday. For the last year he has been trying to figure a way to give his birthday to children in need. He thought it would be a good idea to have everybody bring presents and he would send the presents to children in Africa. Well, he that might be hard to do.

owen 2Then the idea came to him while riding in the car listening to Way FM, 88.1.Lake Worth, Fl. The station was promoting “World Malaria Day”, April 25, 2013. Even though malaria mortality rates have reduced by 25% over the last 10 years, malaria kills a child every 45 seconds.  Hearing these statistics, Owen was energized. He could ask his friends and family – sometimes as many as 60 people come to his party. Each could bring a can of bug spray. He could send bug spray to children in Africa.  

As adults bug spray sounds like such a silly idea but coming from a 7-year-old child who is willing to give up his birthday presents to save children on the other side of the world, it is far from a silly.  It is amazing!  Owen’s mom, Gwen, did not want to discourage this selfless act so she asked Owen to pray about it.  Gwen then went to their church, Common Ground in Lake Worth, Florida, for a suggestion. Kelly Olive, the pastor’s wife had a solution. “Call Debi Frock of Ghanaian Mothers’ Hope. She works in Ghana, West Africa and I am sure she knows a way to encourage Owen.”

This is where I come in. After Gwen told me the story, s1I had to meet Owen. He is everything you expect in a 7-year-old; full of energy and ideas. He loves Lego’s and reading about things. He had already gone to our website and then began to research malaria.  I brought him a malaria net from Ghana and some coloring books. His parents will hang the net at the party. I told Owen about the problems children have with malaria and worms. He had seen the video “The Secret to Being Strong” on our YouTube channel and wanted to provide shoes for children. His friends will learn about germs and worms through our Coloring Book Project. His party invitation will ask people to donate malaria nets and coloring books through our website. I will personally deliver malaria nets and coloring books to one of our new villages then share photos with Owen and his friends. I also hope to set up Skype while at reading camp so Owen and some of his friends can talk with children in Ghana.

You know that I love touching the hearts of the children in Ghana and now my heart has been touched and inspired by Owen, a little boy who knows the value of giving back at such a young age. Time to grab a few tissues.

Many blessings, Debi

 Here’s a link to Owen’s birthday Event

Owen’s enthusiasm is so infectious that his little brother Caleb had to get in on the fun.

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Just how far would you walk to save your baby? Writings from a non-runner who just ran a ½ marathon.

Debi dancingWe have all been influenced in our adult lives by things we did as a child. I loved going to Sunday School because it was fun, exciting and my teacher, Ella Deane, was so encouraging. That made me want to teach Sunday School—and I did for 30+ years. My piano teacher, Jack Hasslinger, made me enjoy piano so for several years I taught piano so others could enjoy it. My Dulaney High School music teacher encouraged me to become a soloist at my church. 20 years later when I switched to a church near his home, he was so excited every time I sang and would tell everyone around him—“She was my student”.  These are just a few of the very positive experiences that I had growing up that have shaped who I am today.

But there is that one experience from 5th and 6th grades at Hampton Elementary School in Lutherville, Maryland, that definitely made me hate the idea of running. Field Daythe words still strike fear in my heart. Each year several local elementary schools would come together to compete in small track and field events as well as kick ball and a few other sports.

My body was never quite the sports spectacular type.Debi 1960 I definitely was more the arts and music model. Getting a “C” in PE was a good grade for me.  In our house you needed to be on your death bed to get a day home from school so faking illness wasn’t an option.  Signing up for the sport of your choice was also not an option. The teachers wanted to look good so they were going to choose the best in each sport. So what do you do with a kid who is the not best in any sport? Cross Country Running.

Yep, I was that Cross Country Runner who placed last in both 5th and 6th grade. I know the course was not that long but to me it was a marathon. At the end I was so out of breath and beat red in the face that I wanted to die of embarasement. I came in way, way behind everyone else—I’m not even sure anyone was left at the finish line to see me cross it. This experience made me hide under the table if any one even mentioned the word running.

Fast forward 50+ years. I am invited to travel with my daughter, Kathy, and a few of her high school friends to Myrtle Beach, SC, where they will participate in a DIVA ½ marathon and 5K race.  It sounds like fun and a chance to spend a little mother-daughter time. I can hang around and encourage them as they run.  But after checking it out, I realize this race is all about women. It actually sounds like there are more activities than the race but you must participate in at least one race. Okay,  a 5K is just a little over 3 miles. I’ve been walking about 3 miles every other week. I rationalize that can do 5K and decide to sign up. Unfortunately the 5K is sold out. Not wanting to miss out on the fun, I sign up for the ½ marathon—truly I did not realize that we were talking 13.1 miles. I had 7 weeks till the race. I called my daughter.

When she came to after fainting, she asked how was I going to train. Good question—no answer from me. Collecting herself, she suggested I do a little google research on training for a ½ marathon. Now was as good a time as any to begin so I announced to my husband that we would walk 6 miles that night. He made it through 3. And my training schedule began. Walk 3 miles, then 5 miles, then 9 miles. I averaged 18-25 miles per week- walking.

IMG_1413During my training I realized how little I walk. I drive to the store, the doctor, the bank, the movies. But the women in villages in Ghana walk for everything, especially for the health of their children. What is it like to walk 10 miles or more with a baby on your back? I decided to try it. Not wanting to risk the life of a child, I felt a cabbage patch doll might be a better fit for me—after all I am a non-walker/runner. I might stumble and fall and hurt a real baby.

I trained for a week with my new “baby”, Teresa. She traveled to Ft. Lauderdale with me, hopped a plane for Myrtle Beach and prepared for her debut on Sunday, April 28. She was pretty calm. As for me, I was that little 5th grade girl preparing to fail. I was so afraid that I did not tell many people that I would running a race. Those I did tell thought I had lost my mind.  As the day loomed closer, I made the decision that I could not fail at this. The women of Africa were depending on me and I could not let fear hold me back from finishing for them.  So I wrote to the press to tell them that I was running.  Once I announced to the world what I was doing, I could not back out.

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3,608 people signed up for the ½ marathon and another 2,000 for the 5K race so just picking up my number was frightening. Being last in a field of 20 is not quite the same as being last in a field of 3,600. I have to say that Kathy and her friends were very encouraging to me all weekend but when I took my place near the back of the field of runners, tears were flowing. Quickly other women began to talk with me and encourage me. Jolo, Michele and Jill added me to their group. The race was on. Baby Teresa was firmly positioned on my back. The day was overcast and not too hot. I wanted to stop but the baby kept me going.  In the real world of Africa, if I stopped she might die.  Adreneline kicked in about mile 6 and kicked back out about mile 11. Then I met Sally, who is close to my age and going to be ordained a deacon in January.  She and I walked/ran together. NEWS 13 called at mile 12 to tell me they were at the finish line waiting to hear my story. I had a renewed purpose and I was unstoppable. Once I rounded the curve and saw the finish line my legs got into gear and I found the strength to actually do a full run to the finish. I got my tiara, my pink boa and my medal. Mostly I got back my dignity and I learned what it takes  for my African moms to carry a child a long distance to receive medical care.248143_10201042461641390_1617258861_n

Will I do it again? I am searching the internet for race opportunities as you read this.

Debi Frock/Founder and Executive Director417861_10201042460881371_2058455340_n

PS. I finished 3,494 in a field of 3,653, one minute and 6 seconds behind my target goal.—It was the bathroom break that cause me the extra time. Check out the news video at http://www.wbtw.com/video?clipId=8820512&autostart=true  Find the link on our Facebook Page

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