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Posts tagged ‘mothers’

This says it all by Debi Frock

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Fourteen years ago I prayed that I could help to empower a few girls in small villages, like Akramaman, to go to school. At that time, only 40% of girls finished third grade. 2015 statistics show that 95% of girls finished 6th grade. What a difference. This shirt is now the Junior High School Uniform for girls in Ga West, the area of Akramaman.

As Mercia drove us to St. Paul’s Preschool for their Graduation ceremony on the incredibly bumpy, dusty road, I wondered if I would still be welcomed by the children. My visits are only once per year and now that I work in other villages, Akramaman children only see me three or four days each summer.

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As we drove through the village women and girls began to wave at our car and shout with affection “Naa Aku”, part of my name as a Queen Mother in this village. Holding back the tears, I smiled and waved to them, not quite like Queen Elizabeth’s slight side to side wave but rather a full arm out the window hand wave.

The school grounds were filled with children, all of whom came rushing towards the car. The teachers had to hold them back so we could drive into the compound. My smile increased as the intensity of the crowd escalated, all waiting for me to step from the car.

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Many of preschooler had never met me, but they were eager to touch my hand and offer a smile. My heart raced as I saw so many of the former students who had already graduated to the primary school. They are growing up so quickly and they are all in school.

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Christiana

Not only are they in school but they are, for the most part, healthy. Christiana is a twin and has always been the smaller of the two. She is bright eyed, meaning less malaria, and her English has improved 200%.

There are now over 550 children enrolled in the Akramaman school system going from nursery to middle school, which has three years. There is a new Headmaster and a new male Kindergarten teacher. The classrooms are filled with posters and artwork.

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This is a big deal. Recently there have been articles in the Ghana news about the ineffectiveness of preschools, but the system at Akramaman is thriving. Many other school system teachers were at the Graduation to see just what are they doing at this school to make it so successful.

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During the festivities, the little ones sang songs and the older ones recited poems and bible verses. There were two fabulous skits. The first one involved Mama Africa and the regions of Ghana. Each child represented one of the ten regions in costume and dance. The second skit was two reports at the Anglican Television Station reporting on the success of the school with a local reporter giving the audience a look at the festivities. Pretty innovative for a village preschool.

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Forty-five children put on their caps and gowns and walked across the platform to receive a certificate, new school bag, new uniform for primary school, and new socks and shoes. Most were smiling. One threw up and I cried, but all of them will go to school in the fall. 

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As I left, I thought about the last eleven years since we first handed over the keys to the school for public education. There have been many challenges in finding ways to “empower” the school, the teachers, and eventually the girls, but today, I can walk away knowing they are moving forward.

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And someday, she may even be The President of Ghana.

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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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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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