Saturday, January 31, 2009

Titan and Imma

Our work here sort of took a different turn starting Christmas, last year. One of the girls (Imma) at the children's home at the Buduburam refugee camp was pregnant, and I got the idea that she, being alone, 15, and with no money or support, she wouldn't be able to take care of the child. So, I talked to her to find out what she thought about adoption. She liked the idea a lot because she knew that she couldn't take care of the baby and wanted to be able to go back to school. Keeping the baby would only keep her in the cycle of poverty. I told her I had a cousin that has been trying to adopt for some time, and I thought she might be interested. I told my cousin about it all, and her and her husband decided that they would be interested in adopting the baby. So, for the past month, we've been trying to figure things out. We decided the best thing for the baby would be for us to keep it in our care, to avoid having it sent to some horrible orphanage here or something. So, we had to move to a new house because the family we lived with didn't want us to have a new baby there. We bought all manner of baby supplies and started talking to a lawyer and social welfare so we would know what route we needed to take. And then we waited. She was due on the 12th of January. We didn't get a call that they were taking her to the clinic on the camp until late Saturday night, the 17th. Jana and I left and got to the camp at 1:30 Sunday morning. We were there all that night, all the next day and all Sunday night. It was pretty crazy...Imma was in labor for so long and there was no real improvement. Jana and I tried to get some small sleep here and there on hard, skinny wooden benches. Around 4am Monday morning, they decided that she needed to be transferred to a larger hospital. So Jana and I rode with her in the ambulance to a hospital about 20 minutes farther west. By 10 they decided she needed to have a c-section.

Luckily she and the baby came out of that completely fine. She had a 8.9lb baby. No wonder she had so much trouble with him...she's tiny! We left them in the hospital and a few days later we went and picked them up. She stayed with us for about a week so she could recover and eat well before going back to the camp. And Jana and I have been learning a lot trying to be moms to a newborn baby and still be productive with our other work/projects. I think we both still want to have kids, so I guess that says things aren't going too bad :) No...Titan is awesome and we love having him here. Hopefully the adoption won't take longer than 4 months, so, we'll have him until then.


Ahmed is the man who works at the Esiape house. That's where we used to live (we recently moved). He is from the Northern region of Ghana. He does the ironing, fixes things, washes the cars, waters the lawn, etc. He's 26, I believe. For the 60 plus hours a week he works, he gets about $80 a month. He's extremely smart and speaks and understands english really well. He also loves to read. We talk to him a lot about things and what he wants for his future. He also wants to get more education. He knows that this job he has is just a temporary thing and that he is capable of so much more. He recently began looking into computer courses and found one he really wanted to take. He has some money saved, but we also wanted to contribute a little so he'd still have some saved and be able to take the class he most wanted to take. So, we dontated 100 Ghana cedis to the cause (about $82). He should be getting registered soon and will be able to start as soon after that as he wants. Thanks again to all who have donated and made things like this possible!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Christmas in Buduburam

For Christmas last month, we got a special invite from all our friends at our children's home at the Liberian Refugee camp. They wanted to have a big party and we had no other plans, so we gladly accepted. We received some donations from people who wanted it to go to books, so we had fun looking around for some good ones. We were able to get quite a few quality books for a good price, so we were excited about that.

Christmas Eve we braided our hair so we could spice it up a little. At least try to make it feel more like a holiday. It looked and felt like any old day in August, so, we had to get a little creative.

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We left early Christmas morning with our friend Ahmed. We stopped where our Nigerien Tuarag friends sit during the days and gave them some oranges and biscuits and then continued on our long and hot journey out to the camp. They were just about ready to party by the time we got there. There were women cooking chicken and rice and they started peeling the oranges we brought. Once everyone was ready, they started the program. That included some introductions, speeches, songs, scripture reciting, thank you's and then presents!

Each of the orphans got a small sack of used clothes and then we gave out all the used books. They were all very excited about all of that! Then came the feast of chicken and rice and soda's and oranges and biscuits. After we cleaned up and rested a bit, the dancing started. That was fun! Man, Africans sure know how to move! It was pretty amazing to watch and pretty funny when 10 year old Jackie was teaching me how to dance.

It sure didn't look like the white Christmases we are used to, but inside, it felt like the perfect Christmas! It was awesome to get to know the kids better and to see them having fun and relaxing and not having to worry about how they were going to eat for the day. They seemed to have a very merry Christmas themselves! Thanks to everyone who helped to make that possible for them!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Tuareg Families

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It's kind of a long story how we got involved with working with these Tuareg families from Niger. I guess we have facebook to ultimately thank for it. A couple weeks before Christmas I was able to get in touch with a couple girls from the states who were studying for a semester at the University here. They became interested in these families who they saw begging on the streets and wanted to find out more about why they were here and a little bit about their lives. That's where I came into the picture. The Tuareg tribe actually speaks Tamashek, but becuase of trading and such in markets in Niger, most of them speak Hausa as well, which is what I learned while living in Niger. So, I was able to go with Carly and her friend McKenzie to where the Tuareg's were all staying and help translate questions and answers about their lives and situation. Apparantly, some years back there was a bad drought across Niger and Mali, and practically all the animals in those countries died. The Tuareg's main livelihood is herding animals and then selling them in markets. Since the animals died, they have been wandering around different countries, begging for money to be able to eat and save to eventually make it back to their country. It's a sad situation for them, because they are even considered outsiders in their own country. Their skin is much lighter and they are very Arab looking. Absoulutely beautiful people.
Because they look so different, they are treated very badly here. They are often insulted and told to go back to their own country, where, like I said, they don't get much support either. It was interesting to learn that they really are ashamed of the way they are trying to survive and they aren't happy doing it...but they have no choice. It's just a means to an end. Carly and her friend left for America a couple days after that evening, but Jana and I have seen and been able to talk with the Tuaregs on several occasions to try and discuss what we could do to help them.
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The monday before Christmas, we were able to take Hada, the one we spoke with the most, to the eye clinic. His eyes had been really bothering him for a long time, mostly due to sun and wind and dirt, which is their lives in the dessert. I think he had been washing them with soap as well, which aggravated the whole situation. But they were red and watery and itched him very badly. The doctor gave us some drops and ointment and pills to help with all that and just said to tell him not to wash with soap, but to rinse them occasionally, and he should be fine. That was an extremely long day; we were there 5 hours; but it was neat to be able to help him and to translate a lot at the clinic, and he was so extremely grateful and that made it all worth it. He told us he wanted do us like this (with outstretched arms...aka to hug us both) many many times. It sounded a lot cooler in Hausa and with his arm motions. Ina son in yi muku haka, sau dayiwa dayiwa!! Na gode sosai sosai! What an awesome man!
We knew that Hada and Mohommed were planning on making their way back to Niger pretty soon, and so we talked to them seriously about what we could do to help. We ended up purchasing two foot-pedal sewing machines for Hada and Mohommed so they would have some way to earn money to start their lives again. We also gave the other 4 men in their group a small sum of money. They will stay in Ghana for a little longer before they start heading home. It was really great to take all of that to them. They were so grateful and their kids were so happy to see us. We had a nice visit with them and got directions to their home in Niger, so if we're ever in the neighborhood...
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Sunday, November 16, 2008


This week we had the priveledge of traveling to the Northern Region, and visiting Tamale. Two years ago I taught school in the village of Chanshegu. We wanted to return to the village in order to begin our agriculture and nutrition projects. I was nervous to return. When I was there years before, I would walk down the road and the people would all come out of their mud huts chanting "Madam Jana, Madam Jana." I thought they would not remember me. As we entered the village a young girl on a bike stopped, and said "Madam Jana."

My heart was filled with joy, and the whole village came out to greet me. They had smiles on their dirt stained faces, and they hugged me as they saw me. I was invited to speak with the chief,

who expressed gratitude for my coming. He said when I left two years earlier, everyone cried, and that it was a sad day, but now he is happy, because all of the children have left their mothers to be with me. The village is happy again. He told me our coming was a blessing from God, and that our organization could do anything in the village that I thought was needed. I can't express the feelings I had while there. Joy filled my soul, and I am excited to be able to help these people progress. The chief has called me his joint friend, and has expressed a desire for me to teach him English, and how to read and write.

The humility and genuine love and purity that these people contain is why we are here in Africa. I truly respect them.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Beacon House Orphanage

One thing that we've been doing, but haven't made much mention of, is volunteering at a few orphanages. We spend most of our time at one in East Legon, called the Beacon House. There are about 30 kids there, ranging in ages from 6 months to 14 years. We've been going every Tuesday and Thursday to help teach and to build relationships of trust for some of the adoptions we hope to help with. There is a broad range of ages of children, so it is hard for the one teacher they have to be effective with all of the students. We've been busy singing with them,which is a program called the solfeg, helping them learn how to read, and taking turns working with the smaller kids so they have a little more attention. It's crazy at times and we are both learning a lot about patience :) On Tuesday when we were there,the children really wanted to play "barbies." Two of the children had birthdays that week, so I promised them that we could play on Thursday when we came. These pictures are from that day. Barbies turned out to be dress-up, and it was pretty entertaining! One of the little boys named Gabriel dressed up in a long blond hair wig and high heels and came runnig outside. Unfortunately we didn't get to capture that one with the camera, but it was hillarious. They are all so sweet, and we hope to add to their vibrant personalities the light of knowledge.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


We were able to go out to the Liberian refugee camp with Andy twice last week. Two Sunday’s ago we met with the LDS church leaders again and discussed some options. About 15 of the boys Andy has been targeting were there and we got the chance to talk with them and ask them a little bit about their lives and experiences on the camp. They showed us where they slept…either on a soccer field, in a bus left at the parking lot, or under some random roofs near the street. The project as a whole (all 30+ children having a place to stay, three meals a day, and all being enrolled in school) turned out to be a lot more expensive than Andy was expecting. He explained this to the children, and then asked them if they had to prioritize between food, shelter and education, which they would choose. Each child individually voiced their poinion that school and education was their first choice. It was pretty amazing to see how passionate they were about wanting to be educated, but for them it is necessity to rise from the life they have been forced, thus far, to lead. After a few hours of talking and walking around the camp with them, Andy wanted to be able to leave them with something, though he didn't have the funds to enroll the children in school. With the small amount of funds he had, he secured two large apartment bedrooms for one year. Wednesday morning we met Andy and Isaac (a Ghanaian who works with Andy here), and started the shopping and bargaining process. We were on a hunt for a few more things the children could immediately bennefit from, and that Andy had the funds for. When all was said and done, we had 40 mattresses, one polytank (a big water storage tank that they could use for their own personal water and also to sell water to other people to earn a little extra money to keep the building in good shape), 20 large chests for the kids to share and put their belongings in, a propane stove and a gas tank. These items were a good beginning, but these children still have no food, and have to fight everyday for a mouthful. They also have no change of clothes, and many more things that they are lacking. They do have a roof, and a mat and a box for their things, but are still in dire need.

When we pulled up to the camp, with all of the afore mentioned items, everyone was so excited! We got everything unloaded and put into the rooms and then had a meeting with them. Andy gave a touching motivational speech about how we believed in them and cared about them and really wanted to help them, and how the Lord loved them above all. He explained our desire to be able to put them in school, but that they would have to be patient as we accrued the funds for their educations. Not too many people, besides the church (who has been trying to get something going for them for a few years) have really shown any hope or concern for these boy’s futures. They expressed how many people would come and take their pictures, but none ever returned to help. For us, to be able to watch Andy give these children things they've dreamed of, wasexciting, liberating, but above all, very humbling. The children themselves had established some group leaders, for the girls and the boys, and they read us the rules they had come up with for those of them that would be living in the apartments, and those who would also be involved in the programs.

Then Andy left the church leaders with some money to get locks for their trunks, and some cooking utensils and other misc. items. We were, in our desire to contribute with little means, able to find several great used textbooks at the market yesterday that we’ll take to them. We hope they will be able to draw from the books well of knowledge for a time, until we can get more books, and get the children in school. Andy has since returned to the States, so we’ll be going to the camp a few times a month to check up on the children and the leaders, and make sure things are going well. We’re pretty excited about being a part of this project.