I am sometimes asked why I come to Ghana to do a reading camp in a village in the middle of nowhere. Does it make a difference? Do the children who attend really get anything from it? I can say wholeheartedly and unabashedly yes. The children we work with crave love and affection. Poverty robs them of their childhood innocence and carefree being. While we are with them, they know they will be taken care of and fed. They know we will play with them and sing with them and read to them and just be their friend. They know they will be loved. Is that not at the center of every one of us…….to be loved?
Cate was in my class last year. She is around 9 years old and when I first met her, she could identify her letters and read a few simple words. At the start of reading camp, we give a reading assessment to determine which group the children needed to be in. I tested Cate. She came in, sat down, and smiled shyly at me and said “Uncle Zach”. We hugged and began the reading assessment. The growth in her reading ability blew be away. She reads beautifully!!! Such growth from last year, when she struggled with words like “the, bear, down”. Participating in reading camp, even for just a short time, gave her a chance she would never have had. She loves to read and she knows that reading holds the key to her future. Cate can read. Cate has a future. Cate has hope.
Children love to sing, no matter where in the world they live. Our village children are no exception. My first time in Akramaman was in 2008. I sang a few silly songs and made a silly noise with my throat (think club mix beat box). The children loved it and tried to imitate it. Every year since 2008, children have run up to me when I arrive in the village and they do our sound. They remember the songs we share with them. And when they sing, the joy on their faces tells of a deeper joy and love that they know. Someone came to be just with them and to love them. After we are gone, the will have those songs, those books, and those memories to remind them of our love for them. They will remember and know that they are loved and cherished. Likewise, we will remember they giggles, their smilies, their hands seeking ours and it will fuel the flame within us and draw us back to this place.
Reading and love. We teach them to read while loving on them and instill in them a love for reading. We give more than just books and crayons. We give them hope. We strive to give them a chance, an opportunity and a future that they would otherwise not have. Love motivates and moves us. Our love embraces, uplifts, and encourages them. And God’s love empowers us all.