The several days of reading camp were so busy and full of activity, but there were two times when things slowed down and some great conversations developed that I wanted to share.
The first happened out at the school while the kids were playing after lunch. There are a little over 60 kids registered in the reading camp, but anywhere from 10 to 40 children from the local village come hang out on the school grounds during the course of the day wishing they could be included in the camp. One of our teen volunteers, Adrianna was here last year and it was such an impactful experience that she returned for Reading Camp this year. All week Raegan, Maggie and Adrianna (our teen team) have been fabulous about spending their “down time” out playing with the camp kids and the village kids. One day Adrianna was sitting on the play yard wall, snuggling with one of her favorite kids, Christiana. With Christiana on her hip, she came over and asked Debi “what does it take to sponsor a child here and what do they get?”. It was such an innocent question with such pure intentions that I was immediately moved by her huge heart and glued to the conversation so I could hear the answers.
GMH identifies children typically age 2-5 years old from the villages served by the preschool for sponsorship. Sponsors are asked to commit to that child until he/she can enter public school at the 1st grade age (typically 5/6). So a 2 year old child needs a 4 year sponsor, a 3 year old child needs a 3 year sponsor, and so on. The commitment it turns out is $35/month which provides the child some health care, attendence at the preschool, uniforms, shoes, vitamins and other essentials . Fortunately Christiana is already sponsored, which broke Adrianna’s heart at first. Then on Friday afternoon after camp had been dismissed, the sponsored and sponsor eligible children were invited back up to the school to receive a bag full of goodies. In many cases, these 2, 3, and 4 year olds went home and changed into their best clothes before reporting to the library for their special gifts!
I’ve seen plenty of pictures on TV or even at my own church service of kids needing sponsors to help them get a better start in life, but nothing moved me to action more than Adrianna’s innocent question and the bonds we built in that play yard this week. Maggie and I decided to sponsor our play ground diva, Deborah. Adrianna picked a darling girl named Emmanuela, and our 12 person team sponsored around 10 kids total. I know you cannot touch and hug and play with these kids the way we did, but someone in our team probably did this week and any of us would be happy to tell you it was wonderful.
For more information about the children available for sponsorship, contact Debi Frock—firstname.lastname@example.org.
The second innocent question was this: “Why go to Ghana or sponsor a Ghanaian child when there are plenty of children right here at home that are needy?” I agree and it’s a good question so I’ll just share my own reasons and observations with one trip nearly under my belt. I feel the same way – there are kids all over our own country going hungry, who are in abusive homes, who need our help in hundreds of ways. And 350 days out of the year I pray for them and look for ways to help them. Our domestic family is certainly first in my heart and my giving of my time and treasure. But taking two weeks out of the year to travel across the world and help kids in the developing world has a place too.
By living here , working here, travelling here in Ghana, it reminds me of just how GOOD we have it in the developed world. At home we joke about our “first world” problems, but here you live it for a short time and the reality sets in more deeply. Even the neediest children in the U.S. have some basic needs met like clean public restrooms, mostly paved roads, electricity that extends throughout the majority of our country, access and expectation of schooling – things that are the exception rather than the rule in Africa. Not to say that there are not children in dire circumstances well below our poverty line in the U.S., but the number of children in what we consider dire circumstances is astounding here in Ghana. There is a real difference between the first world we live in and the third world they live in.
That said, coming here is really not about me or the other Americans with me – it’s about giving the kids exposure to something they would never otherwise be able to experience. In their village, school is not the norm; if they go to school they are required to learn in English (a second language to them) but they have no native speakers to teach them; the teachers they do have reprimand them with canes for wrong answers instead of encouraging their learning and celebrating their accomplishments; adults do not shower them with hugs and physical affection – but we do. We do all of that while teaching them songs, making then laugh non stop, letting them play with our different colored skin and silky hair. We demonstrate just by being here that there is more in the world than their small village and that education is the path to finding it. The experience we give them in this one week can be life changing for them – is rare for the majority of African village kids – and truly carries them through an entire year. Hopefully we are planting seeds that we will be back to check on them and make sure they are still learning next year.