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.
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.