The Road Ahead

July 10, 2009

5213_542929013978_23710730_32200487_22826_nEngineers Without Borders’ determination to improve the standard of living for the orphans at Drifting Angels Orphanage has been a successful, but it is not complete. Twenty children are still sleeping on the cement floor of a single room. The money that should be going towards the children’s health and education is instead forced to go towards the rent of the complex. The only way to solve these problems is to build a new orphanage on Mama Elize’s farm. The design and engineers are ready. The only thing missing is the finances. $30,000 is needed to build the orphanage. I’m going to start putting aside some money for the project. If you, like me, were touched by these children and want to help visit EWB’s website at http://www.ewb-lv.org/. A hundred percent of the donations go to build the new orphanage. Every little bit helps towards a better living environment for these children.

I will start a list of all the families and companies that donate toward the orphanage on this blog. This way we can all support and encourage each other. It doesn’t take much to impact the world.

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Last Day at Orphanage

July 4, 2009


Today was the last day with the Drifting Angels. EWB pumped the remaining rain water out of the latrine pits, and sealed them so the latrine could be opened. We all buried the old latrine with vengeance that we all enjoyed probably too much.

wilford and Sabion showing off their green hands

wilford and Sabion showing off their green hands


The teachers had the brilliant idea of putting the children’s hand prints as leaves on the tree they painted on the wall of the latrine. The littlest ones lined up with their hands out, ready to be painted. Courtney directed tiny hands onto the painted tree. The children were delighted, all of them except Francisca. Francisca was excited until they brushed the paint onto her hand. I don’t know if she thought her hand was permanently green or she just didn’t like the oily paint feel, but her expression quickly changed to a mix of disgust and panic. Soon the tree was peppered green, red, yellow and black hand prints. The crew could not resist, and we all made our mark on the well-deserved latrine.

The EWB talked with Mama Elize and Kafui, while the teachers and I helped DIVOG mix cement and form the seals for the latrine. EWB talked over the design for the orphanage to make sure Mama gets everything she needs. I talked to Mama and Kafui and they are very happy with what the engineers have come up with. I also talked to them about adoption. It is about a six-month period to adopt a Ghana child. The government is very cautious with adoptions because in the past other countries adopted as another form of slavery to make the children work. Another part of the process is to find the relatives of the children in order get permission, which Kafui says is not a problem. These little ones need a good loving home. The Orphanage takes good care of them, but the conditions are not great and there is nothing like the love of family. Ghana is hard enough to grow up in with a family let alone without. The schools are poor and opportunities are slim to none. Most people spend every day struggling for their next meal. In America, parents worry about germs. Here the children sleep in the dirt and eat off the floor. Bodies are not washed and moisturized. No one is here to read them a story and tuck them in at night. These kids are amazing. I just want them to have the childhood I was blessed with, affection, opportunity, resources and love.

Final Farewell

Final Farewell

Leaving the children today was heartbreaking. I’m going to miss being escorted by hand every where I go, little hands held high as they ask, “Picture, picture!”, tugs on my shirt with big eyes begging to be held, the kindergartner class with singing, dancing and giggling, and watching the older children help the younger. The only thing I won’t miss is digging trenches.

It is hard to put into words what the experience in this Ghana orphanage has taught me. I’ve learned how blessed we are in the states, and with as happy as Ghanaians are with so little, we never have reason to be depressed over trivial matters. From volunteers like EWB, DIVOG and the teachers, I felt the power of selflessness, compassion and a readiness for action. From Mama Elize and Kafui, I saw the endurance of devotion and faithfulness. And from the orphans, I experienced unconditional love and happiness. Am I walking away from the Ghana Experience a better person? – No doubt in my mind.

Clean Hands!

July 2, 2009

Today the children washed their hands in the new sink! We finished the last touches on the trench, latrine and sink. I am so happy to be done with that trench. While waiting for permission to take the children out of school for a quick lesson in hand washing, we sat in on the kindergarten class. We definitely were more of a disturbance to the class than a help. Francis, Francisca, David, Daniel, Bless, Kevin Jennifer and Wilford put on a show, singing loudly and acting out their educational songs. Francisca, who was on my lap as usually, was the giggle queen. Our crew joined the orphans in reciting “some four letter words” as it said on the board, trying hard to keep a straight face. We each had a little one hanging on our arm. Daniel continues to warm up. During class, he wrapped sparkly plastic beads around my wrist as a bracelet. Mark and David teased that he couldn’t decide whether to eat the beads or give them to me because he had them in his mouth at some point. I, however, love my gift and am still wearing it this moment. The children are so full of energy and giggles. I want to take some of them home.

Finally the moment of hand washing arrived! We attempted to walk only five children out there at the same time, which of course did not end up happening. Some children would not stop washing her hands. Francisca did it three times until one of the workers made her leave. Katie made them go through a step-by-step process to wash their hands. They had to:
1. wet hands
2. rub hands on soap
3. rub hands together, spreading their fingers to get soap in between
5. and rinse.
Once they completed the process, they were rewarded with a hand cleaning certificate barring their name. They were so proud to earn a certificate, showing them off to all the crew and singing and dancing their way back to class.

Mark and Anna with the kids

Mark and Anna with the kids

The best part of the day had to be the last. David brought with him a flashy pair of sunglasses for each orphan. Now that is excitement. Cheering, singing and waving their arms, five of the girls ran all the way to the latrine to show us. Anna let the older boys borrow her camera. Once she got it back, there were a series of photos where the boys were posed Calvin Kevin style with the sunglasses. The crew has become such a fixture at the orphanage. It will be so sad tomorrow, our last day on the orphanage.

Our Lil Helpers

July 1, 2009

Francisca pretending to paint Courtney's leg

Francisca pretending to paint Courtney's leg

Today is Ghana Republic Day, the day Ghana was completely free from British rule. All the orphans had the day off from school so they hung out with us all day. We divided the work today. Maylinn, Eric, Mark and I started to fill the trench. Katie, Courtney and Lindsey began painting latrine, and David and Anna tackled the sink. The children did anything they could to help, starting by carrying all of our tools out to the latrine.

I was excited to see David and Daniel in high spirits. Right out of the van they greeted us. David in one hand and Daniel in the other, they escorted me to the work site. The twins spent the entire day next to one of us. Anna lent them her camera, and for the next hour they ran around taking pictures of anything in their path. Then they painted with Katie, Courtney and Lindsey, practicing their colors. It was a huge weight off my shoulders to see the once secluded and melancholy twins, laughing and interacting. Little Francisca is a worker bee. The four-year-old was in the mix the entire day. She painted the edges of the latrine with her brush and slid on over-sized work gloves to shovel dirt.

Sabion and Francisca listening to my iPod

Sabion and Francisca listening to my iPod

One of my favorite parts of today started when Francisca came to hangout with me while I was shoveling, and I let her listen to my iPod. A giant smile immediately spread across her beautiful face. Sabion, who is a couple years older, was passing by and wanted in on the fun. I showed him how to change the songs and turn the volume up. With one headphone in Francisca’s ear and the other in Sabion’s, the pair went and sat in the shade of the nearby shelter, and listened to music, giggled and bobbed their heads for about an hour while I dug. Bless, a boy of about 5, joined the pair and they gladly shared. The Giffty, Bethy and Deborah, older girls of about 13, came around, delighted in the new gadget, they took it down near the latrine. There they discovered Anna also had and iPod. An instantaneous iPod party occurred right then and there with eight children. It was adorable. We ended the day with a painted latrine, almost filled trench and the sink set up and almost working.

Katie showing me how to work the loom

Katie showing me how to work the loom

After we got all washed up, we visited Kanta Village, famous for their beautifully woven kanta cloths. We entered what looked like a large warehouse with ten 50-foot-long Kanta weaving looms. The majority of the length was made up of brilliant colored yarn. Hanging on the walls were various sizes, colors and patterns of these cloths that are traditional Ghanaian garb. An American peace corp worker showed us on his loom how to weave. Katie, Anna and I tried it out. They use their feet, hands and tools to weave, but they do it at super human speed. Most of us ended up with some form of kanta cloth.

I’m sitting here I’m loading the blog at the DIVOG office, which is a side of Richard and Robert’s home (the two Ghanaians that have been taking care of us). All of a sudden I hear African drums and a trumpet. Before I know it the building is surrounded by 50 singing and dancing Ghanaians. One of Richard’s closest friends has passed away and they are celebrating his spirit that will never die. Richard brought me out into the action, where he showed a slid show. He proudly explained each photo of his friend. Then he handed me a drum and tried to teach me how to play. These people are incredibly kind and happy, while they have so little resources and so many hardships. What gives us very blessed Americans, to get so depressed so easily?