Saturday, December 20, 2008

Meet Michael of Sankofa

As I tumbled out of a taxi onto the street of Eguafo, Ghana for a day of teaching at Sankofa, I felt tired. Maybe part of it was that the whole cram-six-people-into-Kojo's-taxi-for-an-hour stint was getting a little old; I love my husband, but sitting half on his lap and half on the metal wire sticking out of the taxi seat was not my idea of quality couple time. Glancing back at the other volunteers extracting themselves from the car, I could tell they were a little sick of it too.

After paying Kojo, we all began to troup down the street toward the trail that would lead us into the village and thence to school. While kicking up orange dust and shouldering my backpack, I was hissed at by a man nearby. Don't worry; hissing is simply a way of getting attention in Ghana. I once saw a Ghanaian man do it at the New York airport. He got pretty frustrated when the airline attendant didn't seem to pay any attention to his obvious efforts to get help.

But I digress. I turned my head to the hissing man, who held the hand of a tiny, chubby-faced child. He spoke to me in Fante, then tried to pass the child's hand to me. I looked at him blankly until he managed to say, "School. You take."

I smiled and nodded, reaching for the little fingers. They were yanked away and I was given a glower all the more impressive considering the giver was maybe three years old. I tried to comfort him by saying, "Bra. Yeko skool." (Come on, let's go to school.) Giving a half-angry, half-fearful squawk, he shrank against his guardian's legs. When I squatted down and held out my hand again, the little man bravely stepped forward, waved a hand at me, and declared loudly, "Ko!"

I began to laugh. He was telling me in no uncertain terms to go away and I couldn't help but admire his tenacity. His guardian shrugged and grinned, taking the little hand again and following us to school.
That wasn't the last time I saw Michael, as I learned he was called. His cheerful, determined little demeanor was very endearing and he became my favorite of the younger children. My husband also came to enjoy the little one. Here he is playing with Michael, in the red and white, before the PTA meeting.

It seems I am destined to love little boys named Michael. I have a little one at each orphanage now, though New Life's Michael is grown to a young man of 14 and doing well in junior high school. Sankofa's little Michael still has many years ahead of him. Please donate to save Sankofa today, and help Michael to be a young man who goes on to get a good education.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Donate to Save Sankofa School!

The future for the children at Sankofa has become uncertain, and we need your help!

Unless Sankofa can build an actual school building, school board officials will shut down the school and the children of Eguafo will have few chances for lifting themselves out of poverty.
Currently, classes at Sankofa are held under rudimentary bamboo roofs that offer little protection from the elements. However, the children are out of the streets and gaining knowledge, the only thing that promises to give them a future. Without Sankofa, most of these children cannot afford to go to the government school nearby, and they will return to spending their days on the streets or working a farm.

Several volunteers are working with an organization called Children’s Helpers Worldwide to raise money to save Sankofa. If you can help me by donating, you can help preserve the future for these children I have come to love. Our goal is to raise $5,000 for the building and materials as soon as we can! Even if you can only part with a few dollars, it can help! If you find you cannot, please help me by letting as many of your friends and contacts know as you can and encouraging them to donate.

To donate using a credit or debit card through PayPal, please go to and click Donate. Please indicate that it is for Sankofa. PayPal donations can be securely made even if you don’t have a PayPal account. Information on paying by check is there as well.

If you are an American and wish to donate by check, please send an email to familiesforchildren[at]gmail[dot]com for more information. Because Children’s Helpers Worldwide is a British organization, checks cannot be sent there from the U.S. Unfortunately, this means tax deductions in the U.S. are also unavailable. For more information about Sankofa, please visit, or view our video and other posts below. Please email any questions to the address above.

Please donate soon to help save Sankofa and provide a future for the children of Eguafo!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Impressions of Ghana #2: The African Family

Just a few from the family, Efutu village, 2005
In the Western world, our families tend to be small and focused on the nuclear family. In Ghana, families are larger, and extended family members are close. In fact, cousins are often referred to as brothers or sisters, which can cause confusion for us obrunis. Large families often live together in one compound, with adults from several generations in one household. Here is Michael (far right, back) from New Life. His mother Grace is next to him, and her brother is next to her. Grace is a widow, and her brother helps care for the family. The other children here were introduced to me as Michael's "brothers."
Best Friends and Brothers, 2005
Here is Michael again, on the left, with his brother Amos. They are actual biological brothers. Amos lives at the orphanage, while Michael lives at home with his mother. A sad fact of Ghanaian life is that not all parents can afford to feed and care for all of their children. Many times, some of the children of a family are sent to live with better-off relatives, or to live at orphanages.
Hard Workin' Mamas, 2005
It is not uncommon to see women working with their babies on their backs. Babysitters are an unheardof concept in Ghana, and mothers can't afford not to work. Often, if the family is very poor, the children must stay out of school to work the farms, or hawk things in the street to help the family survive.

Playtime for Mother and Daughter, 2005
Here, my host mother Mama Vic plays a hand-clap game with her daughter Nana Esi. Whether gripped by poverty or not, families still find time to play together in Ghana. This can be through simple games, songs, or stories.

Brothers by Love, 2005
Here, Frank and Abraham show their brotherly love at New Life International Orphanage. They are not biologically related at all, but the bonds forged through love are often as strong as those made by blood. The children in the orphanages may be there because they have no families, but they often find a family in each other.