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THEN A MIRACLE HAPPENED!

By Debi Frock, Founder/Executive Director

My good friends in Ghana

My good friends in Ghana

I just landed in Ghana yesterday. The sights, sounds and smells brought back a flood of beautiful memories as soon as I stepped off the plane into the sunlit sky. Each year when I return it feels like I never left.

The flight was longer than usual; going from Washington, DC, to Dubai, laying over in Dubai for 23 hours than an 8 hour flight to Ghana. I think I am caught up on all of the latest movies and the trip in Dubai was very interesting. Have you ever seen a 7 star hotel?Dubai 3

I arrived around noon and I was tired but I needed to stay awake to acclimate my body to the time change (four hours later than on the east coast of the U.S.) On top of that was the 86 degree temperature with no air conditioning. It was a long day but I made it to midnight when the electricity died, no lights, no fan. But I knew that my next day, Friday, July 8th would be a day to celebrate.children

In 2010 the United Thank Offering of the Episcopal Church, U.S.A., gave Ghanaian Mothers’ Hope $40,000 to build a primary school. Notice the small building with the taxi in front of it. That was serving as their primary and junior secondary school at the time. About 100 children attended school. After opening the preschool/kindergarten more children wanted schooling. Now with the new primary school the old building became the secondary school and over 400 children attend the two schools.

Unfortunately, the government does not provide funding for materials, like text books or science materials or computers. After finishing Junior Secondary School (junior high school), you must pass the government exam to enter high school. The exam is exactly the same for village school as it is for private or more prosperous city schools. No one from Akramaman has been able to pass the exam and the teachers are so frustrated.

Mabel

Mable’s parents encouraged her to attend school in Accra

Several years ago I met Seth Owusu. He is a Ghanaian living in Maryland working for Best Buy and a computer geek. Seth began restoring old computers to take to Ghana and build computer labs in villages though his nonprofit, evcoafrica.org. Seth and I have been planning to add a computer lab to Akramaman for about 5 years. As with most small nonprofits, funding is the major issue. In April Seth made me a deal I couldn’t refuse but I still needed funding.

Seth had his team in Ghana go to St. Paul’s, Akramaman, to check out the proposed lab site. It was perfect. The PTA rounded up funding to help get tables and chairs. Unfortunately, we still did not have funding and Seth was leaving for Ghana. I had applied for a grant but it was too soon for an answer. I told our Ghana directors that it would probably by October, Seth’s next visit, before we could have a computer lab.

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Then a miracle happened! Church of the Redeemer in Sarasota, Florida, approved our grant funding the day before I was leaving for Ghana. I contacted Seth on Facebook to say that we had the funding and on his next trip he could include our 15 computers. To my delight and surprise, Seth informed me that he had already shipped the computers and was ready to install them. I was arriving on the 7th and he was leaving on the 9th. July 8th would be our magic day! At 10 am the fun began!

Evco 1

The children bring in the equipment

Evco 6

Sabina learns her letters by finding the letter on the keyboard so the lizard can eat his leaves.

Evco 4

Seth and his team helping the children

THANK YOU SETH OWUSU, EVCO STAFF, CHURCH OF THE REDEEMER, SARASOTA, AND THE PTA OF ST. PAUL’S ,AKRAMAMAN.  WHO WILL BE THE FIRST STUDENT TO QUALIFY FOR HIGH SCHOOL IN 2017?

 

wish you happy forever

What China’s Orphans Taught Me About Moving Mountains- a book by Jenny Bowen

Book review by Gail Morton

Last year I had the pleasure of attending a lecture in Washington DC and meeting Jenny Bowen. I feel an affinity to Jenny and her efforts because I have traveled to China with cousins that adopted a 2 year old Chinese girl. This smart, talented and beautiful young lady just told me this morning that she will be attending Elon College in September. Having seen the Chinese countryside and the orphanage where she began, and the future she would have had, I can’t help but feel she was one of the lucky ones. A terrible thing to say about being orphaned. Actually she was not really an orphan but left in a basket on a bridge when she was only several days old. She will never know if it was through poverty or cultural prejudices that her birth family abandoned her, but she was one of a lucky few that found her way into a loving happy family in the U.S.

Most Chinese orphans, girls especially, were not so lucky. Raised under austere and backward conditions in Chinese orphanages, they seldom thrived and futures were as bleak as the present. When Jenny Bowen arrived in China to pick up her 3 year-old daughter, she found Maya sickly, unable to respond to love, without natural curiosity or social interactions. She had never even been held. Maya was one of thousands, strapped for hours each day to a potty chair because there wasn’t sufficient staff to diaper, clean or train the typical potty skills of the average three year old. Rooms were utilitarian and bare with no pictures, toys or activities of any kind. No one held or rocked, sang songs, or played with the children. They were left all day every day with no stimulation, nothing to engage or teach them how to connect, learn or even to care.

Jenny Bowen

Heartbroken for the lost lives she saw before her, Jenny Bowen took on the challenge of thousands of neglected children in state run Chinese orphanages and through time, effort, sensitivity and determination, changed the mindset of the Chinese government. Today, a large majority of the orphanages throughout the vast Chinese county have come under the guidance and partnership of Jenny’s Half the Sky Foundation. Thousands of children have been saved from physical, emotional and intellectual neglect. They move through the orphanage system in facilities filled with light, color, teaching, stimulation, both physical and educational, but mostly having experienced the healing of being loved and mentored.

Jenny Bowen tells her story in the book wish you happy forever, What China’s Orphans Taught Me About Moving Mountains. And as Ghanian Mothers Hope has found out, those mountains can be as vast as the Himalaya’s, but there is a slow and steady path to the other side. If you have ever said “What can I do, what can one person do?” please read Jenny’s story. She is not typical but only in that she didn’t stop with the question. She was like you and me to begin with. Overwhelmed, set back by road blocks, stymied by government refusals, war, impossible transportation, poor infrastructure and bad weather. The difference is she accepted each of these trials, maximized what she was able to do in the restricted setting and then went back to work seeking the way through by some other means.

I can’t describe in a paragraph how Jenny and Half the Sky transformed a child welfare system that wasted lives into one that now produces vital, productive, happy lives and futures for thousands of orphaned Chinese children. I suggest you hear it from Jenny herself at www.halfthesky.org.

No dream of doing God’s work is impossible. If we can’t do it alone, then we team it. We are not all Jenny Bowen’s, but each of us has a strength. Some can dream, some strategize, some focus, others arrange, implement and achieve. Some give knowledge, some time and some money. Every one of us can contribute in our own way and know that we really do make a difference. I look at my young cousin. She was in the system before Half the Sky was operational. She was one of the lucky few at that time. Now thousands have the benefits she could only find here in the U.S.

Children with hand made quilts from Southern Maryland

Children with hand made quilts from Southern Maryland

I see the same impact on children’s lives and futures in the work accomplished by Ghanaian Mothers Hope. Where ever your passion lies, China or Ghana or the streets of America; children or mothers, young men or the elderly, you can make a difference and if you doubt me, read wish you happy forever.   It’s a fascinating true tale about hope and success.

Gail Morton is a passionate supporter of Ghanaian Mothers’ Hope. Gail, an avid reader, shares book reviews with us a few times a year. Many thank to Gail for keeping us all informed.

Seat or Feet?

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All across America people sit in churches week by week, singing and listening and learning what it means to follow God, to follow Jesus who leads us into the heart of God. And for many, the journey to God ends there, in the pew, or in the chair; but for some, the pew or the chair is not the end of the journey toward God, but the beginning.

When my family prepares for any journey we readDSC_0116 everything we can about our destination, we try to learn about the exciting things in store. Following Jesus leads us into the heart of God. What is it like there? What does God say about religion? God, through James, says this, “[23] For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. [24] For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like… [27] Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world (James 1:23-27 ESV, emphasis mine).

The heart of God is filled with His love for the world, the whole world; and, I am convinced it also holds sadness that so many who have so much are so clueless about real need, true joy, and faith that has feet and not just a seat.

DSC_0929For 50+ years my faith had a seat, but no feet. I was convicted of being a fan, but not a follower. And then Ghanaian Mother’s Hope happened. Through the quiet wooing of the Holy Spirit I found myself on a plane bound for Ghana, and my faith, and my life have never been the same.

Is your faith “true religion?” Does your faith have feet? Have you been hearing… and ignoring the still small voice of God? Notice James doesn’t say, “send money.” He says, “visit orphans and widows in their affliction.” V.I.S.I.T.

Visit. Your life will never be the same. Your faith will never be the same. Your understanding of God will never be the same. Visit. And, you will have stepped more deeply into the heart of God.

 

 

Becki Neumann+, Board Member,  Rector, Christ Church

Guess who’s going to Ghana?

Baltimore SOG Stars

Michael and Elizabeth Winn, Kyle and Evan Trouland, Cheryl Vecera

For the last 5 summers the core team of Becki Neumann+, Bruce Neumann and Zach Neumann have been traveling to Ghana with adult and teen volunteers to run a Reading Camp. The camp targets children who are struggling to learn to read in English–not their native language. Not only is learning English a struggle but learning to read without books is also a struggle. Ghanaian Mothers’ Hope provides books, learning materials, lots of love, and encouragement. We work with Ghanaian teachers to be sure that the children understand and get the most out of the program.

At first we questioned the choice to take 14 year olds with us to Ghana but during the last five year we have seen amazing transformations not only in Ghana but in our teens when they return. Most of the teen have been recruited from the Virginia Beach area thanks to Zach Neumann and Lark Spur Middle school. These young students go on to high school and make a difference in the world. Last summer two of the teens took it upon themselves to sponsor preschoolers in St. Paul’s Preschool, giving a gift that will live on forever.

In an effort to know them better before traveling all the way to Ghana, I ask each teen to answer the following three questions:

  •  Why are you going to Ghana?
  •  What do you hope to learn from your work in Ghana?
  •  Tell me about your family.
  •  What do you do for fun?
  •  What school will you attend in Sept. or what is your profession?

Meet Three of our teens for 2014

Jasmyn

JASMYN ALLEN–Virginia Beach, VA

Jasmyn is traveling with her mother, Althea, to work in the Reading Camp.

  • I am going to Ghana on a missions trip to help children at a reading camp.  I’ll be able to help kids in more ways than one…Plus, I’ve never been out of the country.
  • I hope to be more appreciative of what I have.
  • I have an older brother who will be going to college this fall, a younger sister and two parents.
  • For fun I like to read books, play video games, talk and hang out with my friends and watch You Tube videos.
  •  I will attend Salem High School Visual Arts Academy in Virginia Beach with a concentration in Theater.

Evan

EVAN TROULAND — Bel Air, MD

Evan is my nephew who has listened to my stories for the last 10 years. Last fall when he turned 14, Evan decided it was to time to go to Ghana.

  • I am going to Ghana because I’ve always wanted to go and help kids strive to learn.
  • I want to learn to be thankful for what I have and how to speak a new language.
  • I love my family. I have a sister named Avery. My mom is named Lara and I can’t live without her. I have a dad named Kyle that I love very much. I look up to him and appreciate all the things he does for his business and for our family.  I also have a pet dog named CC and my cat Bayley I love her so much even though she is not with me any more.
  • I play four sports: ice hockey, basketball, soccer and baseball.
  • I will attend The Highlands School in September 2014.

Jackie

JACKIE COATES–South Riding, VA

Jackie is one of our two returning teens. She traveled with us in 2011 and has decided to go back.

  • It’s easy to stay in a place where you’re used to, but by doing that you don’t gain a worldly perspective. Going to Ghana challenges me to see an experience that I don’t see often.
  • Since this is my 2nd time going I want to see the progress that has been made in the villages and catch up on some people.
  • My parents got married right out of college in their very early 20s. I am the first of five kids and  I’ll tell you it’s never boring. My four younger brothers have very different personalities, but all come together for the passion of video games. My parents have been married for 18 years and hope to have many more to come.
  • For fun I mainly write and think about the world around me.
  • I will be attending Freedom High in September and wish to get a technical engineering degree.

These are just 3 of the 7 teens traveling with us. What a priviledge for me and the other adults traveling to Ghana. We will watch 7 teens mature and change right before our eyes. Be sure to read the blogs and watch them with us.

I will be in Ghana on Tuesday next week.

Blessings, Debi

 

 

If I had grown up in Akramaman Village – by Rev. Rebekah Neumann

Becki-graduationIf I had grown up in Akramaman Village where we run reading camp, at my preschool graduation I would have stood on the open air stage and in my biggest big girl voice and announced to the world, “MY NAME IS REBEKAH AND I AM 5 YEARS OLD!” My family would be in the audience and would be so very proud. Here I am, a little village girl, at graduation. It may be the only graduation I ever attend.

Growing up in a village where my parents must eek out a living, there is little time or energy for channeling an inquisitive mind. Books are almost non-existent. I will go on to primary school, and if I do well and do not get discouraged, I may even go on to junior secondary school. This year only four students graduated from class eight at Akramaman Junior Secondary School, junior high. No one passed the entrance exam for high school. It is very hard to pass the exam on technology when our only instruction has been done with a drawing the teacher made on the black board. Sciences are difficult, too, as we have only the teacher’s book and no student books, no test tubes, no beakers, no supplies of any kind.

In the face of such desperate poverty and need, what good does it do for a team of American teens and adults to sweep in for five days of reading camp? What fruit is produced in the 60+ children who participate, and for those who can only watch from the outside and wish?Becki-team

We come not to bring reading skills so much as a mind set that says, “You have a future and a hope; you are precious and we love you; you matter to God so you matter to us.” We come to love and laugh and share the joy that God has placed within us. We come to elicit shy smiles and giggles, waving hands and cheers, to cultivate a love for learning, and yes, success in reading. We come because Christ calls us to live outside ourselves, to be his light in the darker, sadder, harder places of the world. And we do succeed. We see it in the eyes of the children, and in their smiles. We see it when their faces light up at success, and as they experience the joy of learning and creating and just being children who, for the moment, can trust that their needs will be met.

As this year’s reading camp team left camp on the last day, many eyes were shining; some glistening with tears, some with unshed tears, some with the hope that we will return, all with the knowledge that this has been a blessed time when heaven came down and touched the earth, where hearts and hands were joined in a bridge that spans oceans and continents.Becki-Elizabeth

“Oh Jesus friend of sinners, Open our eyes to a world at the end of our pointing fingers.
Let our hearts be led by mercy. Help us reach with open hearts and open doors. Oh Jesus friend of sinners break our hearts for what breaks yours.” (Casting Crowns)

Jesus has broken my heart for these beautiful children. I pray that he breaks yours for them as well. The Rev. Becki Neumann+ Rector, South Riding Church, Anglican

Becki and Bruce with John, the child they sponsor

Becki and Bruce with John, the child they sponsor

Reading and love – by Zach Neumann

ZachToday is the final day of reading camp. This was my fifth reading camp in Ghana and each year, the final day brings a swath of thoughts and emotions as we say goodbye to our children in our village.

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 Cateand 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.Star

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.Camp

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.

P.S.  At the end of the Reading Camp Ghanaian Mothers’ Hope and all the volunteers were presented with this plaque from the teachers at St. Paul’s Preschool/Kindergarten.  Congratulations

What happens in Ghana – by Scott Lyons and Bruce Neumann

Scott LyonsMen 7 I am on a mission trip to Ghana with Ghanaian Mothers’ Hope and my job is to replace dangerously cracked plastic beams of a playground set. My teammate, Bruce Neumann and I are using a heavy, dense wood for the replacement. We are also painting St. Paul’s preschool in Akramaman. Bruce painted it in 2007 but the wear and tear along with the African sun has taken it’s toll. Day 1 Challenge: All screws on the jungle gym require a square drive crew driver. No square screw driver available. No Ace Hardware, no Walmart! Solution: make your own square driver by filing a screw driver to fit the hole.Men 4
Day 2 Challenge: Buying paint and painting supplies. There are paint stores in a not too far village. Paint, check, paint brushes, check, rollers, check, roller pans—ahh, not in Ghana. Solution: A cardboard box with a plastic bag. We are having our friend, Carpe—the carpenter, make us two roller pans out of wood. Another carpenter cut down 2 pieces of bamboo to make us extension poles.Men 1
Day 3 Challenge: Keeping the children off the playground equipment while it is being repaired. Solution: Constantly telling the children to get down.
Another huge challenge was finding paint to match the color of the school. We were not successful so we improvised. Then we realized we needed to get the bosses approval—there are 3 bosses-Debi, Mercia and Francesca (the new Head Mistress). They have yet to agree on the color—colour—British spelling.

Not again –Bruce NeumannMen 5

At the end of our 2012 mission trip, the playground at Akramaman was nearly restored. When preparing for GM Hope’s summer, 2013 mission trip, Debi reminded me that there would be a little work needed to complete the repair to the slide unit, but it turned out to be a major deal. When Scott and I looked at it, of the two posts we put in two years ago, one had cracked just like the original with the BAD mix of plastic, and the other one was split top to bottom. The cross braces under the deck were broken and the number roller supports had cracked away. While we where there Monday the cracked one broke off at deck level so we remove it. Of course the screws were 1/8″ square drive, with no tools locally available. We were able to fabricate a driver to take some of it apart.We had the village carpenter order wood for this year’s repair project and it arrived late Monday.Men 2

While waiting for the wood, we filled cracks in the the school walls in preparation for painting it. When we went paint shopping, they did not have a gray colour paint, so we were instructed to get something cream and some blue to tint it some. In the bucket it looked bright yellow; and when we mixed the blue in it was a terrible shade of green! Luckily, it dried to a much more mellow-yellow with a twinge of green, so we said lets not waste it and painted the Library porch with it. The colour turned out very nice. The debate as to what colour to paint the exterior walls was opened. Someone said blue with white tint, another said the yellow with green, another suggestion was white with blue tint, the last heard was just the plain yellow. The jury is still out.Men 3

Tuesday the carpenter cut the wood to sizes we needed, and Scott and I planned how to begin fixing the slide. On Wednesday, we figured we would lower the slide platform and remove the cross pieces, and install new wood braces, and then do the posts on Thursday. The wood, being green, required prefitting and predrilling all the screw and lag holes with a hand (not powered) drill. All went well during this process, even chasing children off the slide unit while we were working on it. Tomorrow, we start on the posts. We have arranged a pick axe to dig out the out old concrete, a bag of cement to be delivered, sand, course and fine aggregate and sand for new concrete bases.Men 6 1

The children love the playground so it is worth the time and trouble to maintain it. The frustration is due to having bought a brand name with a life time guarantee, and having the product fail not once, but twice within a few short years.

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