Today was a bittersweet sweet day; it was the last day of reading camp. I started the day off thinking today would be long. I have never been one that was good at saying goodbyes, but over the years I have gotten better at it. The team arrived in the morning and we were greeted with children singing and already in their classrooms. As our tro tro would approach the school, the students would start waving and continue their singing. While I was walking into the classroom, they would all stop their singing and exclaim, “Good morning Auntie Janet!’
These children are so kind and happy. I work with students in the United States that come from economical disadvantaged backgrounds. Those kids have lost much happiness because of their realities and what they see on a day-to-day basis. I think of these children, who are younger than those kids with whom I work. When I look at the Ghanaian children all I see is their kind hearts and smiling faces. Life is tough for them. Every day is difficult, but they kick the dirt, quite literally and continue to move forward. They have a thirst to be better and to learn more. This week has taught me that love, generosity and compassion can belong to anyone. God has blessed these children and I pray that he continues to grow them into incredible leaders of Ghana. –Janet Neumann
Does this matter? Can one week really make any difference with these 40 children that we came to serve? There are those who would say our time and efforts and money would be better spent elsewhere but after coming to Ghana 7 times for 7 different reading camps, I can say that yes, what we do makes a difference in the lives of the children. And in us.
Last Sunday the team went to church in Akramaman village. It is the village where we have held reading camp for several years. After church, a little girl named Josephine came over to me and asked, “Please sir, do you remember me?” She has grown so much since I last saw her when she was in my group of non-readers two years ago. “Yes, I know you!” I say as she smiles a smile that would light up the darkest places in the world. We chat some about how she loves to read and how she is going into Class 4 (roughly 4th grade) and how she has loved reading camp and how she missed me last year. She smiled. She giggled. She laughed and she gave me a huge hug. She knows she is loved. And she loves to read because someone that she did not know came to her village from far away to spend time with her, to love her, and to help her. She has been empowered through reading and love.
This week, we tilled and planted seeds in a new village, Twerebo. Our camp had 40 children who greeted us each day practically shouting the song we taught the first day. There were laughs and struggles and many poems and songs repeated throughout the week. And there were hugs and tears as we said goodbye this afternoon. These dear children experienced the love of God in a way that for many of them was new. And the US team who came experienced God’s love in a new way as well through their dedication to learning and their smiles. The children left with books and lessons and the knowledge that they are loved. They saw that they CAN improve and they CAN read. They were given hope and a better shot at a brighter future for themselves, their families, and their country. That is truly powerful. That is empowerment.