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The Results Are In!

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I can remember my excitement when the Sarasota Community Foundation announced the 2015 Giving Challenge. This was an opportunity for all Ghanaian Mothers’ Hope board members and volunteers to get involved and create a campaign for our newest collaboration to help mothers in Ghana called Water Mamas. Everyone was eager to participate. Our goal was to raise $1,250 which would be doubled with the Patterson Foundation matching program. We would be able to train 25 women as Water Mamas and provide 100 families with 25 gallons of water a day for 25 years.

Adoley and James Proser created a marvelous video highlighting the need that the Water Mama’s program could fill. Thanks to our donors, the campaign raised $5,000 before the match! With the extra $5,000 match from the Patterson Foundation and a $500 win for our video, we more than doubled our Water Mamas training. The extra funding allowed us to reach very remote villages during July 2016.

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The team, Deborah Albert-Water Mama trainer, Ellen Baffour-Arhin, nurse practitioner and diabetes lecturer, Mercia Laryea, GMHope Ghana Director and I traveled for four hours to our first district, Ada, in Greater Accra on the eastern coast of Ghana. In the morning we boarded a boat to the Island of Pediatorkope to train our first 30 Water Mamas. Women from 14 different communities attended the training with their babies and toddlers. Several women came from the other four islands along the river.

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Each woman was given two buckets. One bucket for the dirty water to be filtered and one for the clean water. The clean water bucket contains a tap so water may be accessed easily. Esther, pictured above, was taught to use a Sawyer filter and will teach three other moms in her community of Aabom to use the filter. Many families will bring water to be filtered and share in the clean water. Women will learn that clean water is a gift for everyone to use for drinking, bathing, cooking and any other water contact for themselves and their children.

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Thirty women left with filters and buckets and many others watched closely so they could learn how to use the system. Training occurred at the health center and the public health nurses will continue with follow-up training on the use of clean water.

Our next adventure took the team nine hours by bus on a very bumpy dirt road to the Upper Volta only minutes from the Togo border in the mountains.

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Here, thanks to a woman named Perfection Ofori, the team was able to train another 30 women from three communities in Sabram. Perfect works in Accra, a two-day trip by local transportation, while her five small children live with her mother. Perfect brought the lack of clean water in her village to the attention of our Ghana director, Mercia. Thanks to our many donors at the Giving Challenge, we could travel to Sabram to deliver training, filters, buckets, a good lunch, and even some medical supplies and dresses for little girls.

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It rained so hard and so loud on the tin roof of the community building that we had to suspend the training for one hour. Even with water dripping and deafening noise, the women were delighted to stay and wait.

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The end result is hundreds of families with thousands of children will share clean water for many years because YOU cared! Many thanks to YOU, the Sarasota Community Foundation, and the Patterson Foundation.

Debi Frock, Executive Director, Ghanaian Mothers’ Hope.

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Be sure to check out The Giving Challenge 2016 , September 20 noon to September 21 noon. We hope you will help us reach our goal of $25,000 for girls high school education, breaking the cycle of childhood maternity in villages.

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Akramaman Reading Camp

IMG_2345By Mr. Seth Agyakwa

In Ghana, one problem we normally encounter in the public school is lateness to school. During reading camp, the same pupils and teachers, who normally report to school late, are always very punctual. Even though lessons start at 9:00 am, by 8:00 am all are present. This is not because of the “whites,” but because the organizers and sponsors of the programme have put in all their best.

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Pupils and teachers do not waste time at home for food because food is served during the reading camp. The food given is not like Ghanaian school feeding programme that pupils refuse to eat even though it is prepared by Ghanaians. With this programme, pupils can even go for more if they are not full.

IMG_6379Again, there are sufficient teaching and learning materials which facilitate teaching and learning. Supervision is very strong. Due to this, pupils who refuse to read in our normal schools are eager to read during camp because of the good atmosphere and materials used. Pupils are also encouraged and motivated to read. I can see it is a factor in pupils showing interest in reading.

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IMG_2336IMG_2332God bless you all for your support towards the reading camp. We pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, just as it is well with your soul. Amen

Seth is a teacher at St. Paul’s Junior Secondary School. He has been volunteering at our summer reading camp since 2011. He is married with three children. Last weekend the team attending his newborn’s “Outdooring”, the baby naming ceremony. It was fun to welcome baby Perez into the family. Seth’s hospitality to the team was heartfelt.

Thank you notes are on the way.

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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.

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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!

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The children bring in the equipment

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

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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?

 

In Search of Clean Water by Debi Frock

DSC_0042I love to take photos, especially photos of water falls. Unfortunately, the most beautiful falls are not easily accessible from a car window. This week Scott, my husband, and I are in the UP- Upper Peninsula of Michigan. This part of the state is on Lake Superior and gets 30 feet of snow a year. It also has 11,000 lakes and many, many water falls. Since I had never visited the UP I wanted to take some good water photos.

Today, I wanted to visit Hungarian Falls in Tamarac City. We were told it was a short 15 minute hike from the road. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find the trail head. A few others were also looking for the trail so we followed them up this really steep trail for more than an hour. We could hear the falls but we couldn’t see them. Finally we found a small stream and stopped for a photo.

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Do not be fooled, this is filtered water, not stream water.

But I still wanted to find the falls. With a little more hunting, Scott and I found another trail. It was also heading up the mountain side and was a much easier trail. Thirty minutes later we were at the top of the 40′ high falls standing next to a stream feeding the falls. I dipped my glass into the stream and looked at the water-Ugh. It was just like the water from the stream in Ghana,West Africa! It was yellow with stuff floating in it. Time to pull out my trusty filter, just like the one we give to women in Ghana.

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Stream water on the left. Filtered water on the right.

1,800 African children die EVERY day due to contaminated water. Diarrhea and dehydration due to contamination cause 85% of deaths of children under the age of 5. Children and mothers hike to streams and lug back 5 gallon jugs of water several times a day. Then mom might boil it for drinking but what about washing vegetables and fruits or bathing the baby or washing your breasts before nursing the baby? Using contaminated water for these tasks is just as dangerous.

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Photograph, Bryan Woolston

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Photograph, Bryan Woolston

This summer I had the privilege of showing 40 mothers how to filter water. The filters will provide them with 25 gallons of clean water EVERY day for 25 years. Through a new partnership with Water With Blessings , we provided 10 filters for the village, Gontay, near Aburi in Ghana. We trained 10 women on the use of the filters, provided them with new buckets and taught them how of care for their filters. In turn, each woman will train 3 other women on the use of the filter and give them new buckets. The group will meet once a month with a mentor to discuss the use of the filter and to learn why it is important to use clean water for every aspect of a child’s life. This program provides enough clean water for the whole village and helps build community.

The women were so attentive and really wanted to know about this miracle. After Sylvia, our local mentor, explained all the reasons to use clean, filtered water, it was time to have the women asemble their buckets for filtering. Once everyone  was comfortable with the filter and how to backwash it after each use, we brought in water from the local stream, similar to my stream this morning. It was brownish yellow and had lots of things floating in it. I noticed a lot of bugs at the stream. So now was the time to see if it really worked. Well it sure looked clean and clear.

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Photograph, Bryan Woolston

So, I took a deep breath. . . . .

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Photograph, Bryan Woolston

Ah, clean, clear beautiful water. The women were ecstatic. Everyone wanted to try their filter. The head master of the school we were using for the training wanted us to provide a filter for the school (that filter will be going to Ghana in October). It is amazing!! $25 gives a family 25 gallons of water EVERY day for 25 years. 

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Photograph, Bryan Woolston

I can’t wait to go back next summer and bring clean, filtered water to 5 more villages. That equals 200 families getting clean water. What a blessing from the Lord! Visit our website www.gmhope.org for more information. In the mean time, my husband caught me in a big nap!

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One Little Mosquito By Debi Frock, Founder

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My favorite time of year is the first week of August when GMHope runs their annual a reading Camp at Akramaman in Ghana,West Africa. Seeing the adorable faces of the excited 65-100 children brings me to tears. Life is not easy in the village.

We constructed two fine schools in Akramaman; St. Paul’s nursery/kindergarten and St. Paul’s Primary. Both were given to Ghana Education Service as public schools. We built a Public Health Clinic. We teach good hygiene to mom’s and children but it only takes a small mosquito to disrupt everything. This week was no exception.

Hand washing at the Preschool

Hand washing at the Preschool

Day 1. Edith, throws up at camp and her fever is high. We send her to the clinic. She has malaria. They give her drugs. I pay 12 cedis –$3.75 for the visit and drugs. She waits til camp is done for the day and takes the grueling 40 minute Tro-Tro ride home (think old 20 passenger bus with broken seats, no shocks and no air conditioning on a very dusty, pot hole filled, dirt road). She does not return until Wednesday.

Day 2. Nora spikes a fever during Reading but does not want to go home. She has malaria but has already been to the clinic and has melds at home. She is finally sent home and returns the next day.

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Joseph

Day 3. Joseph spikes a fever and asks to go home. He has malaria. Joseph has spent many days at the clinic for malaria and worms. He has trouble learning due to repeatedly being infected. He is the dearest and sweetest boy and my heart breaks for him.

Day 4. Another boy, Daniel, is taken to the clinic for malaria. This time the bill is 10 cedis.

Health clinic

Health Clinic

Day 5, Friday. It was the epic day. Patience got sick, off to the clinic. Malaria! Again! Anna, one of the cooks has de-hydrated from malaria. She needs IV fluids, 61 cedis, I pay the bill. She spends the day at the clinic. As I am visiting the clinic a man comes running from the village carrying a limp child who is foaming at the mouth. The distressed mother is screaming and crying, running barefoot along the dirt path. Bryan Woolston, our photographer drops his equipment to rush to the aid of the man. I run to the mother to offer comfort. The child, A boy age 3, has malaria. His mom did not seek treatment but chose traditional treatment of herbs and sponge bath. The baby’s temperature rose so high he began having convulsions. In the arms of the nurse he is comforted and treated. His life has been spared. One little mosquito causes so much pain, especially to the little one.

According to UNICEF in Ghana

  • 3.5 million people contract malaria every year
  • Approximately, 20,000 children die from malaria every year (25% of the death of children under the age of 5)
  • Even if a child survives, the consequences from malaria such as convulsions or brain dysfunction can hamper long-term development and schooling.
  • The estimated economic burden of malaria is 1-2 percent of the Gross National Product of Ghana.
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Unfinished Nurses Residence

I am so thankful to so many who have faithfully donated as we built the clinic and are now building the nurses residence. The two bedroom apartments are roofed and have fine windows. We are working on the electrical system, then the finishing and a water tank. When we are able to finish this residence two public health nurses will be on call 24/7. Lives are being saved every day but even more will be saved when the nurses are there full time.. What a blessing for more than 15,000 people thanks to all of you who have helped. Donate today and save a life.

Hip, Hip, Hooray!

2015 St. Paul's Akramaman

2015 St. Paul’s Akramaman

In 2007 Pastor Becki Neumann, Bruce Neumann, Judy Chaney, Mercia Laryea, The Mother’s Union and I open St. Paul’s preschool to 87 children and 45 parents who were not sure about this idea of putting children into a classroom. Here we are eight years later with more than 180 children in the school, which now includes a creche and proper preschool for K1 and K2 (In the U.S. we would say K4 and K5). Last Friday 34 children graduated from K2 and will enter Class 1 in September. Many of these children have been in St. Paul’s since the age of 2.

Nora 2009/2015

Nora 2009/2015

John 2009/2015

John 2009/2015

Christiana 2009/2015

Christiana 2009/2015

Christian 2009/2015

Christian 2009/2015

These four precious children have been followed closely because they were the first of our Child Sponsorship program. In 2009 when Ellie Deane saw the photo of Nora she siad “I have to help this little one. What can I do?” and our Child Sponsorship program began. Thanks to Ellie, Bruce and Becki + Neumann and Trinity Episcopal Church, Waterloo, these four children have been in the program since the age on 1 year. They have received free tuition, health insurance, uniforms, vitamins, shoes, books, toys and help for the family when needed. We have about 15-20 children who need sponsorship every year. For $35 per month, you can provide HOPE to leave a life of proverty. Contact me at info@gmhope.org or check out our website.

There were many educational dignitaries at the graduation. St. Paul’s have become a model preschool and a child may not enter St. Paul’s primary until they have graduated from the preschool. Mr. Daniel Budu Asiedu, Municipal Director of Education, stated “Whether we like it or not, these children will be our future leaders so I plead with parents to take an interest in your child’s education.” Mr. Michael Daniel Narh of Obeyie School also stated “I predict in the future we will trace the education of our Nation’s Leaders to this school.” Wow, I feel like a proud Mama! Enjoy the photos.

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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

Created to Read

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Preparations – by Debra Gustin

We all had breakfast out on the patio and watchedKids at school while Accra bustled around us. The bus came to pick us up and we finally headed to the school.  The bus was packed to the roof with suitcases and supplies for camp.  It took us just over 1 ½ hours to get to the school.  Most of the roads were now paved, although we heard that was not true when the school was first built.  We turned on the road to the school and the first thing we saw was the playground.  As we pulled into the yard the director, Anastasia, and all of her teachers poured out of the doors and ran to the bus to greet us.  Each person was hugged and greeted as they got off the bus, what a wonderful welcome!  The first order of business was to empty the bus, unpack all of the supplies and then start sorting everything.

            The bus seemed to be a bit of a pied piper.  As soon as we drove through the local villages, people knew that we would be at the school and children started arriving.  At first they were very shy and curious but curiosity won out in the end and they came closer and closer.  Kimberly was a natural with her infectious laugh and they came to sit next to her and then sit on her lap.  The three teen girls were on the playground pushing children on the swings.  Adriana, Zach and Elizabeth were surrounded by children who they met last year and now were admiring how much they had grown. Unpacking

We were called back to work.  One group of people assembled supply bags for each child so they would have everything they needed for the week.  I headed to the library to level the books that were there and all of the books that we brought with us so that all of the books that were out were camp level.  When I emerged from the library people were scattered all over the place.  Bruce & Scott were working on the playground, Maggie got a soccer game going, Raegan, Elizabeth, and Adriana were on the playground and Debi & Kimberly were singing and playing with children on the porch and there were children everywhere.  If there was any doubt why we were all here in Ghana, here was the reason:  all of those beautiful, hopeful faces.Debra

After a delicious lunch, we gathered as an entire group to go over the curriculum for the all of reading camp so everyone would know what to do.  Each teacher had a Ghanaian counterpart and one of our teenagers to support them in the classroom.  We learned new songs (will the “Beaver song” ever leave my head?!) and poems and finally decided we were ready for the week to come!  Everyone is now anxious for Monday to arrive.

Day One-Reading Camp- By Janet Mall

Today marked the beginning of our reading camp.  We have been preparing for a few days and execution went rather smoothly. As soon as we arrived in our bus, we were greeted by all of the village kids.  The playground and the porch were full of smiling faces and bright beautiful eyes that lit up when they saw that we were here to spend time with them.  Janet 1

After assessing the reading skill of the children, they were sorted into one of three classrooms.  I went to collect my kiddos.  They came in with very serious faces and were surprised to see the way the classroom was set up.  They were instantly excited to see the groups of fours that the tables made.

We distributed their book bags, which were filled with school supplies and they opened those bags, as if it was Christmas. Their class day began with reading a poem together. They enjoyed reading it together and then individually.  When they read, it was in unison and there was almost a song-like quality to the sound of their voices.  I couldn’t help but smile widely while listening to their voices, with me occasionally chiming in to reassure them that they were on the right track.Janet 2

Before we knew it, reading time was over and it was time to head to the library. We formed two lines and we headed to the library.  When the children entered the library, they caught a glimpse of the books and I could instantly hear soft-spoken chatter.  There were about 70 books in this library that’s hardly a library in the United States, that’s actually a book display at a Barnes & Noble.  The children saw the books and were astonished to realize that they could touch and read the books.  Every child got a book and comfortably stretched onto the floor and began looking at the books.

I sat down on the floor and before I knew it, I had a crowd Janet 3of students sitting near me.  One of my students, Caroline sat down with me and pulled out a book about the food pyramid.  She looked at me and said, “Madame, can I read to you.” When a little girl as adorable as her asks you such a question, there is no response except a very definite yes.  We began and I glanced over the first page and thought to myself, this book is beyond her level.  She struggled with the first page and then she paused. I thought to myself, she is probably not going to finish this book.  She flipped forward to the end of the page and then softly said, “Twenty one pages.” I work with middle schoolers in the United States and many times when something demands a little extra work, students give up.  I was touched to see her willingness to work hard and her desire to learn more, to be better.  We finished that book and I was so proud of her.  I thought to myself, this is why I came to Ghana. I came to help and to lift spirits.  People always overestimate how much is necessary to make a child smile.  They just want someone who listens, who cares, and who loves them.  Needless, to say it was a great first day. Now on to the next one. J

True Drew from Ghana

Drew Josh NiiI woke up this morning around 6 am. We were  to leave around 7:30 am to visit 4 schools that serve rural villages. My roommate, Joshua, was already up and getting ready for school. I took my vitamins and got set to workout but was soon greeted by the power going out. Next thing I knew, Joshua, brought me a battery operated  lamp so I could see. The sunlight was just starting to come in but it was still a bit dark. Wow! Rather than grumble about the loss of power he’s serving my needs. He may only be 8 years old but I have the best roommate! They really get what it means to be a family unit in Ghana.  Everyone knows their roles and they work well together daily. This is how Africans survive.

After my workout and a nice cold shower, Debi asks what I would like to eat. We recently got some good bread and cheese so I suggest a cheese sandwich. Next thing I know Mercia is bringing out a breakfast fit for a King. Eggs, fried spam, fried onion, plus a grilled cheese sandwhich…I’m always so grateful for every meal I eat here in a different way then I am back home. Most times I don’t know what or when the next meal will be.

Not long after breakfast a driver arrived in a Road4-wheel-drive pick up truck on loan from the Anglican Diocese of Accra. Many of the roads to the schools we visited today are not paved or even flat. There is the threat of rain so my guitar rides in the front seat with me strattling it between my legs. The roads are very slippery and muddy as the rain falls. Quite a few roads had little streams running across them. Traffic is very slow, about 10 miles per hour. We bounce and bounce across the many bumps and potholes.  Debi told me to stay loose, like jello, as we bounce along to keep from getting sore. My bones rattle along with the truck.

The first school we visited was a little tough to find because of road construction. Finally the driver doubled back and found a way around the construction.  In Ghana it is best to have a driver on a long trip like this one. There are lots of little taxis all around too. Every tro-tro (small vans used as local busses) is packed twice over. I’m glad God provided a 4-wheel-drive vehicle for today’s adventure. Being on the road is always an adventure.

At each school, the kids were excited when we pulled in. Debi is on fire teaching… the children are really getting it too. They are learning the importance of wearing shoes, eating good food, washing hands, etc. The coloring book is a BIG hit. This means they can share the message with all their friends.

Abossey Okai Public SchoolThe word that kept coming to my mind all day today was “resolve.” They are very good at going with the flow here! Two schools we visited had classrooms that are outside. What I mean is they had open walls. So you could be teaching a lesson and all of the sudden hear a goat!  At another, the children were piled onto the veranda. Desks are different over here. Three children share a desk. And I didn’t see them fighting over space for their coloring books either. They helped each other see whatever page Debi was teaching from. There were always children from other classrooms lurking about as well. I mean how often does a blond haired blue-eyed American with Norwegian heritage visit their school flexing his muscles and playing guitar!

The kids did such a great job singing and flexing their muscles. Being StrongWe did some jumping and dancing as well. I have an acoustic guitar so I have to strum very loud to cut through all the excess noises. There was not one school where you had an enclosed classroom cut off from all the noise of other classrooms or street sounds.

At one school a little girl got sick at her desk. Her friends helped to clean her coloring book off. When ever we would leave a school they would keep singing the words “Being Strong” as we pulled out. The children waved and smiled too. Such joy!! We left a few CD’s at every school so the teachers could continue to teach the song I wrote..

When we got home, I was exhausted and took a short nap. I awoke to another amazing meal. This time Debi and Mercia had made some fried potatoes and chicken stew. We had vegetables as well. I am blessed every day to be here.

Nii Marty

We learned that Mecria’s grand baby, Victor—we call him Nii Marty, has malaria. He is only 7 months old. He sleeps in a room with windows and screens. They spray for mosquitos frequently.  This is very dangerous for anyone in the sub-tropics but especially for a baby in Ghana. Mercia is keeping him cool and trying to get him to take the medicine. Joshua is helping. The first 24 hrs are crucial and watching his listless body is heart wrenching.

Fortunately Mercia has experience with this and living in the city Nii Marty’s parents could get to a doctor fairly quickly.  This is a big contrast to the the rural villages where we work. Mothers walk miles and miles with their baby strapped to their back to find a clinic. Many babies die on the way to the clinic. Seeing Nii Marty sick like this really brings this health message close to home. Malaria is very real and very serious! I’m praying right now…

As I sit  on the couch, I am thankful to God for another day of life. Soon it will be time for bed. Tomorrow we will visit more schools and I’m sure I will be treated to much more Ghanaian resolve.

Thanks to everyone for your support and a special thanks to Owen Levine, the 8 year old boy in Lake Worth, Florida, who gave up his birthday to provide Being Strong Coloring Books and crayons along with 85 Malaria Nets that will be given out next week.

DREW

PS. So far we have taught 700+ children the “Secret” and given out over 600 coloring books. Many thanks to JAMSBooks and Jean MacKay Vinson for this great health care tool.

Thoughts about the village

Akramaman Village street

By Jason Wheeler,

On Friday morning we leave the hotel and drive to the village of Akramaman where we will be running the Reading Camp next week.  We enter the small village after driving down a long dirt road filled with potholes the size of a Volkswagen Beetle, and apparently the road has been greatly improved from last year.  Visually, the village is exactly what I imagined.  Emotionally, it is something entirely different.  I was told about the road conditions (poor) and the living conditions (poorer still), but until you see it, walk it, breathe it, and just absorb the moment of it; you really can’t anticipate the emotions that come with it until your feet are on the ground kicking up the red, red dirt.

When we step off the bus at the new

Our greeters at the preschool

preschool built, by the Grace of God, through the hard work of Ghanaian Mother’s Hope, a few children appear out of nowhere glancing nervously and curiously at our small group of strangers.  A few waves and “hellos” elicit big teethy smiles.  The brave ones step up and want to touch your hand or tell you their name, while others keep a little bit of distance.  More and more children keep appearing.  They seem to double in numbers every 10 minutes –  children of all ages ranging from about 14 down to the littlest 1-year-old toddlers.

We go to work unpacking supplies, setting up classrooms and coordinating lesson plans.  Bruce and I survey the playground and take stock of the tools and materials we will need to rebuild the swings.  The materials will have to be located among the small shops lining the streets of Amasaman.  The tools will be a mixture of well worn hand tools sent over from the States, combined with whatever we find laying around the village (and Bruce’s gift of ingenuity).

When our preparations at the school conclude, Debi takes us on a walk into the village.  The children come along, some racing ahead, others following behind, and still others grabbing us by the hand to walk side-by-side.  As we reach the middle of the village, we have become a small parade.  We weave among the huts and hovels of the village and are greeted with some smiles.  More children join the “parade”.  Sometimes, a laughing mother pushes their shy one towards us or asks us to shake their children’s hands.  I’m sure we are quite a sight, especially to the smallest villagers who rarely, if ever have seen an American.

Jason, in the white shirt, with team and new friends

Our parade takes us past a funeral at a respectful distance.  We proceed to the house of the village chief.  He is very pleasant and cheerful, but the experience of the moment doesn’t even sink in until later that I actually just met and shook hands with a real African chief.

We then continue our walk and reach the edge of the village.  We bid the children goodbye so we can walk down the dirt road towards the other school site to look at the new primary and secondary school.

Debi provides us with the history of how GMHope came to this village and Mercia talks about all the great things that have happened since, including the building of a new health center with nurses’ quarters, and the fact that these new facilities encouraged the city to bring electricity to the village.

We board the bus for the drive home, but are excited and ready to return for the start of camp on Monday…which suddenly feels like such a long way off.

Walking the dusty road

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