Monday, July 11, 2011

Update and Final Thoughts

Update

While in Ghana I was able to meet with a Delta pilot who offered to bring books from the US on his flights into Accra. Before my departure I met with Jay and collected the first set of books. The books were taken to Equafo by a couple of volunteers that I was working with and the library was opened.


Final Thoughts

I just want to thank everyone who made this trip possible for me. It was definitely a life changing experience and I learned more than I could ever imagine. It is an amazing feeling to be able to be able to let go of all thoughts and expectations and step into a new environment. I learned the importance in seeing things from a different perspective and how damaging it can be to make assumptions. My goal was to make a difference but I didn’t realize what an amazing learning opportunity this would be for me. I had the opportunity do things I did not think would be possible and meet amazing people with so much worldly knowledge and experience. My experience has made me think about my life in a new way, and I hope that I will be able to make this a part of my life forever.  

video

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Coming to an end

Painting nails
Today was my last day in Eguafo. I am feeling very sad as well as very happy. We have accomplished a lot while I have been here, but there is so much that I wish I could still do. 3 weeks seemed like such a long time when I planned my trip here, but now that I am here it is WAY too short. I believe that Eguafo was the perfect place for me to be. I visited a few of the other orphanages on my way back to Accra today and the orphanages were beautiful, but they seemed like they were already finished. Even though I had a little worse living conditions I am so happy for the experience. I feel like I really got to live like the people in the village do, and I also feel priveledge to start a new program where I was really needed. I really feel like I have been a part of a great beginning.
New Uniforms!

We were able to pick up the new uniforms for the two boys who did not have them on Tuesday, the boys were so excited to have them, and they looked great in them on Wednesday morning!

We finished painting the library and picked up the bookshelves on Tuesday. We spent most of the day on Wednesday touching up paint on the doors and windows, installing the lock, and putting a finish on the books shelves. Tomorrow will be the first day that the books go on the shelves and the library can be used.

The website was also finished yesterday. We have worked really hard with David in order to get all of his plans and ideas displayed on the website, so hopefully it will be up on the site and ready to view very soon. We have done our best to show exactly what Sankofa is now and what it can be in the future. 

I am truly going to miss this place and especially these children. I honestly feel like I just began to feel comfortable and really start to know the people here. I plan to stay in touch with David and hopefully continue to be involved with Sankofa in the future. I would love to be able to return one day to see the children and the progress that has been made.

*I will post pictures of the completed library when I receive them from the other volunteers as well as the web address for the new website.  

Thursday, May 26, 2011

New Projects


Thanks to a significant amount of donations I have been able to start a project that I am very excited about. There is a room in the school that has been locked and has not been used by the school. I have asked that we turn the room into a library and I was given permission to use it. In Cape Coast on Wednesday I had the carpenter start building 3 book shelves. We attempted to find books in Cape Coast, but we had no luck. I bought 2 mats for the floors and a light yellow paint for the walls. While 2 volunteers were cleaning out an office they came across a trunk with many books. The director explained that the books are not his and that the woman that they belong to intends to come back and get them. I am determined not to let these books leave Eguafo. It is so hard to get books here that I cannot let these books go unused. We have been trying to contact the woman to get permission to keep the books. The main challenge for this project is getting enough books to Eguafo, but I am confident that it will be possible. My goal for the library is that it will be a place where volunteers can take the students who are struggling out of the classrooms and work with them one on one.
Another project that I have been working on is a website for Sankofa Mbofra Fie. David, the director, had started to build it but he needs a lot of help finishing and putting it all together. He has so many ideas and so many projects that he is working on, but he needs a lot of financial support. One of the projects for example is building a permanent cement school and orphanage on some land down the road from the village that he has purchased. The orphanage and school are now in buildings that are being rented. He has started the foundation for the new school and he took me and a few volunteers to the property to show us his plans. He has cost and blueprints for a 3-story, 21 room building that will hopefully eventually be a very nice school and orphanage. Other projects that he has planned and had professionals lay out costs for include a farm, fish farm, sustainable food production, and a restaurant that would double as an internet cafĂ©.  We are hoping to have the website established by the 1st of June in order to aid in his fundraising for these projects. He has given me the details including business plans and costs that I will use to write about these projects on the website.

New Beds

Sunday we traveled to the beach after church. The 10 volunteers and all 16 children piled into one tro-tro (small bus) and traveled about 30 minutes to KO-SA. KO-SA was absolutely beautiful and the children had such a good time. Most of them were too scared to go in the water past their waists, but a few were daring and we taught them how to swim and float on their backs. After swimming we gave the children Kenkey for lunch and played some beach volleyball. The children had such a great time. When we got back after dark that evening they played some music and we got to watch the kids dance.
Old bunks

On Tuesday we had the children’s fans installed and gave them their mattresses and pillows. For most of the kids it was their first time having their own beds. They used to have very worn down cushions for the beds and they would sleep two people to a bed. I can’t imagine how hot it must have been. We decided to write each of their names on their mattress and pillow so that they understood that they belonged to them and they would take good care of it. The smiles from the children were priceless. They were so happy and thankful.

                                                                New Bunks



Wednesday was Africa Day and the children had the day off from school. A few of us traveled to Cape Coast with the two children that do not have school uniforms in order to have them measured for uniforms. The 2 boys were so excited to be able to go to Cape Coast for the day and we ended up going to the homes where each of the boys grew up. It was heartwarming to hear the people start to call their names as they got close to their neighborhoods. The boys were happy to show us where they came from and it was wonderful to see how much better they are doing now that they live at Sankofa Mbofra Fie. The people close to the boys could not thank us enough for what we have done for the children.



Monday, May 23, 2011

Progress

I have started teaching at the school part-time while I am not at the orphanage. The kids at the orphanage are pretty independent so it’s is really most important to spend time with them after school and before bed. Hanging out with them before bed is my favorite. A couple of us usually head to the orphanage at about 7, after they have eaten and bathed. We help with homework and my favorite thing is to read with them. They LOVE the books, but unfortunately we only have 4 so we have been reading the same ones over and over.
From our experience, we have found that the school needs the most help. There were 4 decent sized rooms and two tiny rooms when we arrived. They have since built a couple more rooms that are now being used as the nursery and kindergarten. The quality of the teaching is very poor. For example many of the kids can write the alphabet but when you tell them to write the letter “E” they can’t do it. On Wednesday I taught class 4 long division, but many of the students don’t know their times tables, so it was very difficult for them. The headmaster wants us to work with students individually on reading, but the children have no books. 

They love my sunglasses

Friday I traveled with the director of our organization, David, and the two volunteers from France, and one from Germany to Cape Coast in order to buy mattresses, pillows, underwear, bath sponges, and things that the children really need. It was an extremely long day, because here in Ghana 1 hours means 3, and every place you go you wait for, as they say, 1 hour and the hours add. We were able to buy a mattresses and pillows for all the children that are good quality. We also attempted to get school uniforms for the 3 children who do not have them, but we will have to return next
Canopy walk
week. We picked up the tables and chairs for the kitchen as well so they will not have to sit on the dirty floor with flies swarming them.

When we were finished in the late afternoon I met 4 of the other volunteers and we traveled to Kakum National Park for the night. We stayed in a hotel (with a shower!) inside the park and in the morning we did the canopy walk and went to a monkey sanctuary before heading back to Cape Coast. Tomorrow we plan to take the children to the beach!








Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Eguafo



On the way to Eguafo
On Sunday me and 9 other volunteers, from the US, France, and Canada, moved to Eguafo which is a small village near Cape Coast. What was supposed to be a 3 hour drive was actually 6 from Accra. We arrived after dark and the children helped us carry our things to the compound where we would be staying. The orphanage we are working at is very new and it is a completely new program for IVHQ to work with so that night we had a lot to do. We still did not have windows fans or toilets in our compound. It was a little scary at first. Huge bugs swarmed our table while we ate and cockroaches crawled all over the toilet (hole in the ground) and dropped from the ceiling. I had to wait 4 days to shower and by shower I mean wash with a bucket of water. It was a little overwhelming, ok very overwhelming, but I knew I would get used to it eventually. 
Our compound

The first day we spent checking out the orphanage and the school that the children attend. 4 of the volunteers I am with will be working there and the other 6 of us at the orphanage. On our first day we realized that this orphanage and the school are going to need a lot more help than we expected. The children at the orphanage have beds made but very few mattresses and they sleep two in a small bed or on the floor. The boys room is painted and has most mattresses, but the girls have nothing. It is their culture here to give to the boys first and the girls last. The room where they eat has no tables and is very dirty. Hundreds of flies swarm around the floor constantly and the smell is very bad. They do not have any sort of sewage system here so there is trash and feces everywhere. Green, very bad smelling liquid runs throughout the village from the waste and sewage. The school they attend has about 450 students and is very small and very underdeveloped. Kids squeeze 4 people into a tiny bench that should fit 2 if they have benches at all. They have very little supplies and very lenient curriculum. The headmaster has been trying to convince me to come to the school instead of the orphanage. He says I “will get bored and come to the school soon.”

Part of the Village in Eguafo

We sat down yesterday to plan the most important things for us to buy and do while we are here. We decided that mattresses, paint, tables, and fans were most important, but our prospective changed today as we learned more. After taking the children to school this morning we washed their clothes. The clothes have not been washed in a very long time and washing is not easy. We spent a couple of hours working this morning and our knuckles are cut and we are still not finished. The children only have one set of clothes and some have school uniforms. The clothing is in very bad condition. Most of the clothing is ripped (especially in the crouch) and have stains all over them, so they are in desperate need for new clothing. Luckily one of the volunteer has brought a lot of clothing because many of the other orphanages do not need them. Many of the volunteers have brought toys and treats for the children, but we have decided not to give them anything for a little while, and when we give to them we will only give a little at a time. The experienced volunteers have said that when volunteers give and give the children become spoiled and wasteful very easily. We want them to appreciate what we give them and take good care of it.
Many of the village people are not shy to ask for things. They believe that we are all rich, and they will even ask me if I am rich as I walk by before even asking my name.  They will stop and ask us for shoes and money and to do their chores and we have to say no.  
The children are very good and very helpful. They are eager to learn and very well behaved in the school. They need so many things and yet they are so content with their lives. I am so excited to be here to help but we had to make it clear that we are not staying forever and that they cannot be sad when we go. I cannot wait to start our projects and give the kids the things they really need here. 
The saddest part about this is how many volunteers come to help and how often the directors of the orphanages take advantage of them. I heard a story about a couple who traveled here through IVHQ and raised $8,000 and gave it to the director of the orphanage and the children never saw a dime. IVHQ has ended relationships with a lot of orphanages for this reason, and warns all volunteers that they must do what they can with their donations and not give it to directors. We are confident in the director of the orphanage we are working with but there is no guarantee. That is why it is so important for the volunteers to come here to help.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Arriving in Ghana




First of all I just want to thank everyone who contributed to helping to make this trip a reality. I am so thrilled to have the opportunity to be here and it wouldn't have been possible without the generous support from those who contributed.

So I arrived in Ghana at 7:30 this morning after about 20 hours of traveling. I was immediately immersed in the culture and generously welcomed by the people. Everyone was so interested and where I was from and what I was doing here.

Tumb of Kwame Nkrumah

I spent the day driving around the city. We went to the mall that they have in Accra, then to the museum of the first president of Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah, and then to the market. The driving is scary and something I would never attempt here. People drive in the wrong lane or make their own lanes and just turn right in front of each other making the on coming traffic stop. On our way to the market there was a huge dust storm so we moved into one of the small shops on the side of the road and we helped move all of their items inside and they people were so thankful and repeated "God Bless You" over and over. I love how friendly and loving everyone is! I also learned that my Ghanian name is Naniyaa (I am assuming that is how you spell it) based on the day of the week I was born on. Today I realized why it was so respectful to wash peoples feet in the bible... I would give anything to have my feet washed right now!

Tonight I am staying in a volunteer house with 12 other volunteers in Madina - Accra, and tomorrow I am going to the small village I will be working in. I am so excited to meet the other volunteers I will be working with and especially the children.



Goodnight!