Thursday, July 31, 2008

Good News for Sankofa-- and Lucky Hill!

Great news for Sankofa Mbofra Fie-- there's now a website! Go here to see the initial stages! Many thanks go to Sarah for her great work on this! We're very excited that they now have an internet presence!

We'd also like to announce a revised website and a new Yahoo group for Lucky Hill! Many parents are now starting to adopt from Lucky Hill. We're happy for them as well!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Impressions of Ghana #1: Sons and Daughters of Africa

I will be posting more updates from our trip througout the coming weeks; however, today's post is the beginning of a new series: Impressions of Ghana. These are pictures from my 2005 and 2008 trips that I have collected into photo essays. Enjoy!

Sons of Drumming
Music, especially drumming, is an important part of Ghanaian culture. Djembe drums (as you see on the left) are one popular type of drum. The children at New Life have learned this part of their culture well. 2005.

Son of Football
Proudly sporting a Fifa World Cup 2006 baseball cap, Agekow is hard at work. Football is not just a popular sport in Ghana. Since their participation in the 2006 World Cup and the hosting of the 2008 Cup of African Nations in Ghana, football has become a great unifier for people all around the country. New Life International Orphanage, 2005.

Son of Poverty

I have no words for this picture; it speaks on its own. Larabanga, 2005.

Son of Hawkers

This young man is emblematic of the throngs of people hawking their goods on the streets of Ghana. They are at the tro tro stations; the toll booths; the bus stops; they are everywhere they can possibly make a profit. Some are mere children, desperate to take home a few pesewas (pennies) for school fees, clothing, and food. Cape Coast, 2005.

Son of Weavers

Kente cloth is the beautiful, hand-woven fabric made throughout Ghana. Traditionally worn by chiefs, the fabric is woven in scarf-like strips that are then sewn together to make clothing. The weaving of the cloth is an intricate and complicated process. 2005.

Sons of the Sea

Along the coast of Ghana, fishing is an enormous part of the economy. Everyday, fisherman go out in their small boats, often using only sails, oars, and teamwork to cast their nets. These young men are hauling in a net full of fish. If only the still image could capture the harmony of the rhythmic chanting that helps them stay in sync. Cape Coast 2005

Daughter of Dance

Traditional dance is yet another important part of Ghanaian heritage. Belinda at New Life is only one of the many children taught this beautiful part of their culture. 2005.

Daughter of Education

For many in Ghana, an education is something of which they can only dream. Madam Grace, former caregiver and headmistress of New Life, gave every part of herself to teach and care for the children there. 2005.

Daughters of the Market

The markets in Ghana are throbbing centers of commerce. It is primarily women who work here, selling everything from fish to snails to fabric. These women work hard to provide for themselves and their families. Kejetia Market, Kumasi, 2005.

Daughters of Royalty

In Ghana, villages and cities are still headed in part by chiefs. However, the chief has a counterpart in Ghana that many don't know about-- the Queen Mother. She is not always the chief's mother, or even a relative, but she is there to help provide council and direction along with the chief. These women are dressed as a Queen Mother would be at a festival or celebration. Shama 2005.

Daughter of God

Religion is an incredible force in Ghana. Whether Christian, Muslim, Traditionalist, or other, Ghanaians are devout in their faith. At Christian schools, such as Sankofa, the children say the Lord's Prayer each morning and afternoon. Eguafo 2008.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

The Return to New Life International Orphanage

New Life International Orphanage is where I spent my first four months in Ghana. In early 2005, it consisted of one and a half buildings-- a half-finished school and one building containing one classroom, two bedrooms (one for girls, one for boys), two rooms for the caretakers, and a storage area. Almost 50 children were housed there, and 5 school classes. My own nursery classroom was held on the veranda. There was no place to eat, they cooked outside, and there were no toilets.
New Life in 2005. The brown building to the left is the unfinished school.

Three years, later, I was astounded as I walked down the hill to see the changes that had taken place. I had seen pictures since I left, but nothing can change your own mental image of a place except seeing it again in person. The school building is now complete, meaning there's more sleeping room in the home, there are mosquito nets for all the children, a store to earn money, an enormous farm, a playground, a dining area, a kitchen, toilets, and a new home being built so the children have more room to live and play. The buildings were painted pink and brown, and flowers housed in pots made of tires decorated the land in front of the home.
View from the playground-- the school building. To the right is the dining area and home.

Of course, it was the children I really wanted to see. Danny and I had come late into the afternoon, and for a moment it seemed no one was around. Then Emmanuel came out of the house. My throat tightened as I hugged him for the first time in three years, and we both laughed. He told me all the older ones were working on the farm, behind the new house, and he would take me there. Then Ophelia came dashing out, her beautiful face glowing with a smile I remembered well. More laughing, hugging, crying, talking. She was taller.

The little ones came around as we headed to the farm, swarming me. With a start, I recognized one of the taller, chatty boys. "Benjie!" I cried. He grinned up at me, but I knew he didn't remember me. Though I taught him for four months, he had been only two and a half at the time. I hugged him anyway. There were many clustered around him that I didn't recognize-- new faces since three years ago. One girl, seven years old and small for her age, like they all were, giggled as the little ones started chanting my name: "Shallee, Shallee..." They pronounced it "Shelly," like always, and I had to smile as they dragged her over. "Shallee, Shallee!" they cried, pointing at her. Her name was Shallee, or "Shelly" too. Still giggly, but shy, she pulled away to the back of the crowd.

As we walked, I picked up little Domenic, also named for a previous volunteer, and carried him Ghana-style on my back. More faces that I knew, more joyful hugs: Frank, Angelina, Comfort, Dorcas, Mary...some shy, some not, some that probably didn't remember me well. I talked with them out in the field, and they sang me a song they remembered that I taught them: La Bamba. They still pronounced the Spanish words perfectly.
Drumming Time!

That day remains now in my memory as very sweet-- yet also a little bitter. For three years, I had held these children in my heart and called them mine. I held fiercely to the idea that they were my children. Coming back, I realized the truth. I love them, as many volunteers since my time have loved them. They have grown, and changed, and though I still love them and some of them still remember and perhaps love me, they are not mine. They belong not to me, but to each other and to their full-time caregivers. That is their family. That is their life. I came for a short time only, and though I have shared my heart and my hands, that did not make them as wholly mine as I had so long thought. My heart had to break a little that day in order to open up and let "my children" go. That was the bitterness. The sweetness was feeling the love I still hold for them, and being able to physically hold them in my arms again.