I remember teaching this song to from Junior Choir at Epiphany Episcopal Church, Timonium, MD, in the 1980’s. Of course the secret is the Love of Jesus. How true that song has been for Drew Davidsen and me during the last two weeks as we have been sharing “The Secret to Being Strong” with close to 1,000 children and teachers in Ghana.
For those of you who are new to our Coloring Book project, Ghanaian Mothers’ Hope has collaborated with Jean MacKay Vinson and JAMS Books, to recreate one of Jean’s health care stories to reflect African culture. GMH has been given the opportunity to share this coloring book in Ghana. Most children suffer from repeated incidences of worms. They can destroy a child’s health and mind. It is hard to lean in school when you are suffering. Ghana Public Health deworms entire schools on a regular basis but the children need to learn why they get sick and how to stop the cycle. “The Secret to Being Strong” gives them the tools they need.
Drew has written a catchy tune for the project. Africans love song and dance and the guitar is a big hit. Last summer we gave out more than 1,800 books. This summer we could afford to do another 1,000.
Armed with books, crayons, CD’s of the song and our voices we set off. Sometimes we traveled by pick-up across the very bumpy, dusty, pothole filled dirt roads. Several times we borrowed a car from my host family. The cars are very old. With no air- conditioning; often no working windows—I thought I would pass out in the back seat. There are no shock absorbers and most of the roads, yes even in Accra, are rocky, hilly, unpaved, dirt roads.
The schools were very different. We taught “The Secret” to class one and class two. Some classes understood English very well and our discussions were great. In other schools I needed an interpreter. The children were hesitant to give me the answers but soon we were all laughing. The number one secret is, “Wear your shoes, all the time”. I would ask the kids to show me their shoes. That always produced a good laugh as they put their feet in the air.
One school is in a very poor area. Mercia’s friend, Ruth, started the school because she saw so many children staying home. We visited this school in 2007. It had dirt floors and no uniforms. Now she has found a church that uses the school on Sundays. In return they have given her money for uniforms and flooring. The children were so well educated and polite. Ruth has done a wonderful work.
At Ruth’s school we told the children about Owen’s Birthday project. Owen raised enough funds to buy the coloring books and crayons for Ruth’s school. The children were shocked! To think that a little boy in the U.S. would give up his birthday presents to help them. They were so thankful. Next week we will distribute 85 malaria nets in Owen’s honor at a village.
Obstacles for teaching are so unique. At one school the children had desks crowded onto the veranda. I barely had room to move. Plus there was the noise and distraction of all the people going by. Half of the school stood on the sidelines. Though we only had enough books for class one, we ended up teaching about 200 children.
Most of the schools are so dark. There is no lighting and they have a block patterning filling in half of the window space or shutters that keep banging shut. At our last school it began to rain. I am talking down pour. The noise on the tin roof was deafening. We had to stop teaching and just sit and sit and sit. I asked the teacher, “What do you do when it rains?” She replied, “We cannot teach so we just tell them to be quiet at their desks.” The rain lasted almost an hour!
Now about my partner, Drew, he has worked very hard in the last year to make himself healthy and strong. The children loved his muscles and wanted to be strong like Drew. They also loved the music. Many would play their air guitars as soon as we walked into a room. His energy was addictive. The children would clap and show their muscles. Near the end of each song Drew would get them jumping. It was rewarding to see the children so happy and engaged. We are having a contest for each school that we have taught at—21 all together. If they can teach the song to the whole school—after all they are supposed to share this secret—and can sing it for us next year, we will award the school a cash prize.