Thursday, August 16, 2007

I Love you Forever

I dream about Ghana fairly frequently. Usually, I dream about going back, like last night. Sometimes it's a good
Michael, appx. age 12/13, summer 2006
dream, and sometimes a bad one. Last night, I dreamed about my Michael, but despite that, it was not a good dream.

Like most of the volunteers, I came back calling the kids "my kids." After loving them so much, I couldn't help but feel they were a part of me enough to call them mine. But more than any other, Michael is my Michael. He was only 10 when I was there, and at the time, he didn't live at the orphanage. He lived with his mother and came to school at the orphanage. I never really knew him until the day he began throwing up at school. He asked for a cup of water, which he used to pour over his feverish head, then promptly proceeded to shiver uncontrollably. With help from a local villager named Patrick, I took Michael home. Michael was so ill, Patrick had to carry him on his back most of the way. I swallowed as I ran through the symptoms of malaria in my head.

I had heard stories from others about poverty, and even seen bits of it my self up to this point in Ghana. But Michael lived in poverty; to him, it wasn't a word spoken with disgust on the tongues of those who may or may not understand it. It wasn't poverty for Michael, it was life. I stared mutely around the mud shack, barely as big as my bedroom, glancing up at the sky through the bamboo roof. There was no furniture but a low stool. Patrick to laid Michael down on the concrete floor in the half of the room shielded by hanging clothes: the bedroom. Michael's mother, Grace, didn't speak much English, nor did her brother, who had helped take care of the family since Michael's father had died. Patrick was my translator, as I explained how he had gotten sick and gave them clean water. Then, I took a deep breath and asked if I could pray for Michael.

He was roused to sit on the one stool, looking ready to fall over as soon as he sat. I began to pray as Michael's small family stood over me. As I prayed for Michael to get well, listening to the gently murmured "amens" coming from his mother and uncle, I suddenly felt the greatest outpouring of love I had ever felt for this small boy. It was as though I was feeling God's love for him, and I knew that, whatever happened, everything would be alright.

When I returned to check on him the next day, I saw the first miracle of my life: Michael's beaming face as he peered outside, then ran to give me a hug. From that day, I loved Michael as deeply as though he truly were mine. We played together, read Love you Forever together, and loved each other. I helped his family buy food, and gave them money to start a small business selling banku. But then I had to leave.

Michael (far right) with his mother, uncle, and cousins.

As I stood crying the day at the tro-tro stop on my last day, Michael held my hand and cried too. The tro-tro came, and I knelt to hug my Michael.

"I love you," I whispered.

"Forever," he whispered back.

Since that day, I have had a constant subtle ache in my heart that reminds me to pray for my Michael daily. Not too long ago, I received a letter from him through another volunteer, asking me to help his mother build a house. Having just married and needing to get my husband through school, I had no money to send, and my heart broke trying to explain to Michael through a letter that I could not build a house for his family then.

And so, the source of my dream. In it, I was playing with some of the children when I saw Michael. Bitterly, he upbraided me for forgetting him, for not helping him. In his voice I heard anger, and his sweet face looked full of hate and loss. I woke up and wanted to cry, and have not been able to stop thinking about it all day.

There has to be a way to help my Michael. God made a way for him to be healed. God can make a way for him to soar out of his poverty. And I will find that way, because he is my Michael, and I love him forever.

Me with Michael, May 2005

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Photo Updates on New Life International Orphanage!

As mentioned earlier, some volunteers returned from NLI in July having had great success with several projects! Below are a few pictures from Andrea, who went with a team this summer.

The beginnings of the square foot garden! These gardens bring in more crops in less space with less water.

Volunteers handing out supplies.

Keyboarding! The boys especially loved this one.
Pernel is showing off some of the books made by students in America to add to NLI's library.

More musical stars! Daniel, Belinda, and Frank show off their new recorders.

The beginnings of soap making!

Dorcas proudly displays the finished soap. There is enough to use and to sell, so it's an income possibility too!
Other volunteers have posted some updated pictures on the Yahoo group. To see more, join by clicking the botton to the right!

Monday, August 6, 2007

Education for a Former Teacher

NOTE: The orphanage directors have asked me to make note that this is not a sponsorship in the name of the orphanage. It was posted here because Nana formerly taught there, and a former NLI volunteer is helping. However, this is a private sponsorship, and is not connected with NLI itself.

Over the last little while at New Life International orphanage, a young man named Nana has been helping teach the children. Now, in return for his help in educating the little ones, one volunteer is helping him achieve his own education. Please read the letter from Emily below, and if you feel inclined to help, feel free to email her for more information.

"Dear all,
I volunteered at New Life last year and then went back again for a week just before Christmas - to take presents for the children.
Do you all remember Nana - the guy working at New Life? Great guy. Well I am kind of writing to you on his behalf. My parents are paying him to go to university from September this year, which is fantastic news as I am sure you will all agree. He is so so happy and grateful and it is just fantastic knowing that his life will be completely changed and he will now have so many prospects now. Anyway, for his studies, he needs a digital camera and a laptop computer, apparently. He has found prices for these although it seems quite extortionate, especially by Ghanaian standards. If any of you think you can help out in any way, please do get in touch with me and I can either put you in touch with Nana (who will be more than happy to give you his bank details) or I can try to sort something.

Hope to hear from some of you soon.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Updates from New Life International!

Hi all! It's been a while since I catches up sometimes. However, last month a group of volunteers returned from Ghana, and they had some great info about the kids! I'm going to quote Andrea, who's been there three times now, on what went down last month!

"Last year we ended by having all the kids write a wish list. The three things that the majority of kids wrote were: food, soap and book bags. We hope we helped to accomplished all three this year. We taught the orphans and the staff about Square Foot Gardening. This is an easier and more efficient way to produce healthier crops. Our further goal is to have them grow enough veggies not only for themselves, but enough to sell. (We also taught the professors at Cape Coast University, they plan on going into the villages and teaching others about SFG. This is a 3 year project, funded by the LDS church. The University will check on New Life to make sure they are maintaining the SFG and to assist them in anyway.) Next, we taught them how to make soap. We bought them the supplies needed to turn this into a business. They will be able to make enough soap for themselves and still be able to sell enough to balance out the cost of the supplies. New Life has already bought the supplies to build a shop!!! We then bought them a sewing machine. Madame Jackie has many years of sewing experience so she plans of teaching the kids how to sew. With the sewing machine, we left material, needles and thread, so they can immediately begin to sew. We also gave all the kids book bags with our theme "CTR". Every year we give them something that has "Choose the Right" on it.

We went this year with 5 other volunteers, 4 of us are teachers. We each brought over a suitcase of teaching supplies. We were able to bring leveled books, pencils, markers, crayons, colored papers, crafts, recorders, chimes, keyboard, Cd's, sheet music (for all the instruments). and much more. I think the keyboard was the biggest hit, especially for the older boys. We also brought containers to organize all their supplies and books. We put it in the cabinets the other volunteers brought.

One fun thing we do every year, along with the CTR theme, we bring published books that our students write from America. We thought this was a good way to unit the kids in America and the kids in Ghana. This year we decided to have New Life write books. I will send them to the publisher in April so they will be ready by May. I am so excited and so are the kids to see their work get PUBLISHED!!!!

Next, we donated money that our schools raised to New Life. This money will go towards their Birth Certificates and Health Insurance. We hope to raise money each year to help pay for their Health Insurance.

Finally, we are saving money to go towards their High School or Vocational education. Our goal is to have enough money to allow the kids to go to best school they can. I am still trying to figure out how they can also have ownership in it. If any of you have ideas, let me know. Also, if you would like to help raise money for their education, that would be wonderful :). New Life now has a "Master" who is trying to get the right books and curriculum so the kids will be prepared to take the test!!!!"

So many wonderful happenings! We're so glad for that the children we love are more comfortable and happy than ever. Let's keep it going ya'll!

Here's last summer's pick of CTR headbands!
(photo and updates courtesy of Andrea; find more on our Yahoo Group!)