June 29, 2009

Today was the first day of hard labor. We dug a trench from the latrine from the housing structure so pipe can be laid and water can reach the sinks where the children wash their hands. The trench was a little longer than the length of a basketball court. I will explain the intensity of working the African-way in a second, but first I need to address the more pressing matter of the orphanage.

After working and playing with the children, I got started speaking with Kafui, Mama Elize’s husband, which lead to an hour-long conversation with the couple. Kafui helps run the place, but he says the orphanage is under her vision and supports her. Kafui often traveled to Europe for business. His English vocabulary is larger than Mama Elize, who is fluent in French, so I was able to understand the situation better. They support 80 children, but can only house 50. The rest are housed by surrounding families, whom Mama Elize helps financially. Most of the children are either abandoned or both parents have died. Six-year-old David was sick, and I sat rubbing his back. David and his twin were found wandering the streets of Ho before someone picked them up and brought them to the orphanage. No one knows how long they lived on the streets or what happened to their parents. Many orphans have similar stories. Drifting Angels Orphanage receives no aid from their government. A small farm Mama owns on the edge of town is the sole source of income for the orphanage. She is actually renting the current building complex for 350 cedis a month, plus another 400 cedis for bills (cedis are close in exchange rate to dollars). This does not include paying the teachers and the workers or the food and supplies for the children. Mama Elize wants a new orphanage built on the farm property more than anything. Right now twenty boys are living in a 15-by-12 feet room. She told me this is not the environment she wants her children to grow up in. She feels the children deserve a better standard of living. Plus, the orphanage on her farm would eliminate the problem of rent and bills from the city. All 80 would have beds, so she does not have to pay other families to house them. EWB said they would build it for free and have the design ready. The issue is it would still cost $30,000 to built. Mama Elize and Kafui have dedicated their entire life and savings into raising these orphans who had no other place to turn, and now they need help.

At lunch the crew discussed ideas on how to raise the money. The teachers said that their classes did a walk and raised $4,000 dollars. This gave me the idea that maybe we could hold a completion among Las Vegas schools on which class can raise the most money for Drifting Angels. Each class can come up with their own ideas like car washes, bake sales or writing letters to find sponsors for a big walk for Africa. I could organize the winning class getting a party thrown for them by some of the top UNLV basketball, soccer, football, baseball, softball and volleyball players. I know it is a tough time in the states finically, but it will be a good opportunity to our children to learn of other cultures and they are worse off then we will every be. The orphanage will not survive without help.

If anyone has any ideas on how to raise the money for the orphanage, please leave a comment. I’m hoping at very least to set up a fund.

Now about the day of hard labor. “Hard” is not an accurate word for this kind of labor. I’m thinking “third level of hell” is a better description, but I am happy to report that I held my own and the Ghanaians were pleased with my working habits. When we first arrived at the orphanage, the orphans swarmed us with hugs and showed me their new puppy, Jack. Then we went to work. The African sun blazed above us, and the dirt was compacted with roots and rocks. There were three tools available: a shovel, a pick-ax and a machete to cute the high grass. They marked the trench with ropes were we dug between. I wanted to prove to myself that I could handle the pick-ax (even though I have never used one before) so I picked one up. After William (one of the Ghanaian workers) watched me beat the ground uselessly for 10 minutes, he came over to show me the correct way to do it. Feet outside the ropes, William swiftly swung the ax down with force, a small piece on the left and then right. The trick was to chip away at it piece by piece. I worked through the grass with the Ghanaian workers, while EWB and the teachers worked on the other end. I can’t tell you how long we worked, only that by the end I was drenched head to toe with sweat and caked with mud. It made double days seem like a stroll in the park. Definitely, going to be sore tomorrow.

Between classes I was able to play with the children again. They grabbed my hands and led me out to where some gathered to play a singing game. They taught Katie, Lindsey, Courtney and I “Walk-around”, and it wasn’t long before I was in the middle of the circle, grooving around the circle. Then it was back off to school for the children. Cannot wait to see what tomorrow brings.


One Response to “Work”

  1. BB said

    My wife’s cousin is an ex-BYU basketball player (Travis Hansen). He played a year in the NBA (Hawks), but has been in Europe the past 5-6 years. While in Russia, he and his wife had a similar experience with the orphanages in Russia. They decided to do something about it and started the “Little Heroes Foundation” ( that help orphanges around the world….Its possible that they could help this orphanage. I don’t mind trying to put you in touch with them personally, but I also think if you went through their website, direct them to your blog and the story, it might be just as effective.

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