Don’t Stop Until You Drop!

Wheelbarrow Play!

They are so creative. Even a wheelbarrow becomes a toy.

Marker Tatoo

Volunteers spend hours putting marker tattoos on the kids. Here is a small sample of her work.DSC_0070

Blodge orchestrated a water balloon fight after their last day of school. Fun was had by all!

A Long Day!

A Long Day!

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Work Hard & Play Hard!

The rooster wakes us as early at 3:30 am. I roll over and pretend like I don’t here it. By 6 am, there’s no more ignoring. The voices of the boys in the shower, the brooms sweeping, the giggles of girls as they wake tell me it’s time to get moving. The fire is started. The volunteers help wash dishes for breakfast, carry buckets of water to the builders to mix the cement and ready the kids for school.

Rain or shine, the routine continues. Yet, as hard as the volunteers and kids work, it is no match for the play they bring. Dancing, mancala, jump rope, cards, UNO, clapping games, football (soccer), using a Frisbee to play catch as well as a steering wheel to play bus, crocheting, coloring, taking long sticks and connecting two thread spools to use as a toy, dancing, tattooing with markers, some more dancing and drumming, and more dancing and drumming. There is no lack of noise, movement, and fun here at the orphanage.

There are endless stories that I want to tell, and I will in time. Because of our lack of internet connection, I will add a few more pictures and give an update on the school. The other stories will have to wait until I get home. I leave Ghana on September 1st. Thank you for your patience.

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Time Moves Differently!

Time seems to move differently here. It feels like we’ve packed a week’s worth of experiences into a 24 hour period. At the same time, the weeks seem to fly by.

Thursday was the last full day of school. Many of the children dressed in their finest clothes, carried baskets full of food prepared especially for the children’s last day of school before break. We gathered them together for a school picture. I was blessed to be the photographer. There were a lot of children to manage, so I began singing songs that my daughter, Molly, my friend Jennifer Wilson and I had taught them years before. They all sang at the top of their voices. A memory I will keep forever. Here are some of the photos.

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After school, when the children returned to the orphanage, they were welcomed with a surprise from the volunteers. They were showered with water balloons. Extra containers of balloons were distributed all around the yard so that the children had access also. It ended up being about 20 minutes of wild, crazy fun. I’m not sure who enjoyed it more Blodge (the instigator), the other volunteers or the kids. I suspect we all enjoyed it equally.

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More Roof Pictures!

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The carpenters have finished building the rafters for the roof. The masons are busy smoothing the cement walls. The big decisions today are choosing the roof color and the wall color for the school. Mr. Sam wants one color and Sarah another. I’m staying out of this one. I told them that they had to come to an agreement.

Mr. Sam, Sarah, Blodge, Amy & I all went to Accra to purchase the roof. Mr. Sam won on the color (only because they didn’t offer the color Sarah wanted). Everyone is working hard to complete the school. We are getting excited as we see it coming closer and closer to being finished. Gratitude is the emotion that my heart is feeling at this moment. 

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Pictures of the School Roof Being Built

Carpenters Building the Roof

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Week Two! The Building Continues.

The school is moving along well. The brickwork for the 2nd floor is complete. The carpenters began building the roof. It seems to be going up quickly.

Yesterday, the volunteers and kids helped to move wood to the second floor for the carpenters. The roofers came today to measure and discuss the cost of a decent roof. I am overwhelmed at times as these builders walk barefoot on bricks at the top of the building with no gear. It’s like watching them walk on a balance beam only they are about 50 feet in the air. Needless to say, my “mama bear” wants to tell them to be careful. They act as though they are walking on the ground. The best plan for me is not to look.

Amy started to work in the library. With the help of 6 other volunteers, they scrubbed and organized the bookshelves and set up an arts and crafts supply room as well. At times it was challenging in that the kids wanted to help (and by help I mean read the books). What a wonderful problem to have. We send our thanks to St. Alphonsus Church for the donation of nearly 700 books. The children run to us and ask us to read to them whenever school is out. They gather around and some read right along with us. It’s a special joy when I hear children read who could not 2 years ago.

While the work continues, there is no absence of play with the kids. The orphanage is up to 40 children now. Last night there were many groups playing clapping games, football (soccer), jumping rope, blowing bubbles, cooking dinner, mending wounds and playing Uno when the electricity went off. The good news…dinner was being cooked over a fire. The good news…it didn’t stop the kids from playing. The good news…Mitch created a dance party with the kids. The good news…we got to hear huge celebrations when the lights returned. Hmmm, not really any bad news. It’s all good news.

We are anxiously awaiting the arrival of our friends Susie and Monica. They are in Amsterdam working on getting their visas. Our arms are open and ready for you two.

That’s it for this blog. Stories about the kids are coming.

 

 

 

 

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The Travelers!

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Amy, JoDee, Robbie & Mitch at the Accra Airport.

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Blodge already got a phone number from a customs agent. He thinks they should marry.

 

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Welcome Back to Ghana!

Our journey began on July 26th. Amy Clark and her two sons, Robbie & Mitch and Blodge from the Yukon all met in New York to start our adventure to Ghana.

As we drove up the driveway, we were welcomed by 100 or so children, teachers, village people, Mr. Sam and Sarah all screaming and jumping up and down and yelling, “Mama J! Mama J!! We missed you!” They hugged the new friends they were meeting for the first time and welcomed them. Then the drums started and everyone danced and marched into the orphanage area. The music and dancing went on for more than an hour. Amy, Mama Sarah & I were all crying. My heart cracked wide open. And so it begins…

The next day, tents were set up. All the school children came marching over to the orphanage where they had also set up chairs for the kids, teachers and any parents that wanted to attend. It lasted 2 – 3 hours. The kids read poems, sang songs, danced and played games. Mama Sarah and one of the teachers gave a speech. He talked about how most of the children lived in poverty before the school was built. He talked about how these children come to school now and have hope for a future. I have no words to express how I was feeling. Mostly I was feeling grateful for everyone who has donated money, books, love, ideas and prayers. I can’t believe that I am blessed to be able to be here to make this happen. I can only do this work because of your love and support. I’m feeling truly grateful.

Aside from when the kids are in school, there are very few moments when we are not surrounded by children. We are teaching each other games, songs, and dances. Lots of time is spent mending wounds, going to the clinic and putting on band-aids. Coloring is one of the favorite things for the little ones.

I LOVE LOVE LOVE being back with the kids. Watching Robbie and Wofa (read blogs from earlier to meet Wofa) has been incredible. Even though there is only a 1 year age difference, Robbie is about a foot and a half taller. He has taken Wofa under his wing. They have been inseparable. They walk hand in hand wherever they go. Robbie reads to Wofa and helps him study. They play constantly. It’s very sweet. Robbie is great with the other kids too. The little girls have crushes on him and the boys have been great about including him in things.

Mitch dances with the kids a lot. They love that. Kwame Acquah (again, read earlier blogs to know Kwame Acquah) has become his shadow. If Mitch is out, Kwame is right with him. They walk hand in hand and Kwame is there to help in any way he can. Mitch has also been helping with construction. Yesterday he was up to his knees mixing cement and loading it into head pans for the workers to carry to the second floor.

Amy fits right in. She is such a “mama” also. She is able to see things that need to be done and jumps right in. During school time and in the evenings when the children go to sleep, Amy has been getting the library inventory done. My sister Betsy did a Buck$ and Books Blitz at her parish in Indianapolis, St. Alphonsos. They sent 7 suitcases full of books (close to 800 books). THANK YOU SO MUCH! The kids love to read books and those who cannot read, sit with us and read every day. Today, Amy and many of the volunteers are going to clean the library and organize all the books by grade level. Can’t wait! School is soon to go on break. When they return, there will be a whole new library.

Blodge, my friend from the Yukon is great. Blodge is “on” all the time, loving the kids. As I speak of Blodge, There has been an acceptance by the boys because of Blodge’s great soccer skills. They have invited Blodge to join them for their practices and they respect the coaching given. That is AMAZING because girls don’t play soccer here. They have accepted Blodge as one of the guys. It’s great to see. If Blodge is around, there is always joking and being ridiculously silly and everyone loves it. When we were in town, Blodge was getting people laughing everywhere – giving hugs and acting crazy. They loved it.

Thank you to the many people who have written sending love and concern about ebola. At this point, there have been no cases of ebola here. There are two rumors circulating. Both were proven to be untrue.

Ghana is a country that is surrounded by Togo, Cote D’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) and Burkina Faso. There have been very few outbreaks in isolated cases on the Ivory Coast. These few cases were contained and thusly not full blown outbreaks. There have been no reports of ebola in Ghana, Togo or Burkina Faso.

We have read that the outbreaks are mostly in Liberia, Sierra Leon and Guinea. My prayers go out to the many people that I met in Liberia in 2012. We pray that we will soon find the answer for how to contain, prevent and heal this disease.

A great source of updated information for any disease concerns afflicting traveler is the World Health Organization (WHO) at http://www.who.int/en/. Their ebola information is very accurate and up to date.

To put it into perspective, check out the ebola map on WHO’s website. The long and short of it is that we are in an isolated village. We are practicing safe and healthy living.
We will continue to visit WHO to see what’s happening.

Well, that’s it for now. This was a bit long, but I wanted to catch you up. Pictures and stories about the kids are coming soon.

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I’m Home!!!

This has been quite an adventure and I’ve learned so much and been blessed beyond words. I hope to spend the next week getting reacquainted with Bruce and my surroundings. And then I’ll post some of my favorite “behind the scenes” memories. But for today, I’m simply feeling grateful. Grateful for all of you who have followed on this adventure. Grateful to my Ghanaian family for showing me what unconditional love really looks like. Grateful to my family and friends who have sent support all along the way. Thank you to God for choosing me to have this experience.

When I left Ghana on Thursday, the school building was close to being complete. The library was finished (except for painting). The outside of the building was 3/4 of the way painted. They guys were still finishing up cementing the hallway, entryway and the last couple of classrooms. Here is what it looks like from the outside.

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This is what the library and the other classrooms will look like (only painted).

ImageImageThere is an amazing group of volunteers who are there who will be completing the painting. We’ve met several times and volunteers have agreed to take shifts overseeing the library. That will include teaching the teachers how to teach the kids to handle books. They will make sure the “Norms” (some people call them rules) for the library are followed. They ensure the computers are being used to teach the kids computer skills. They will teach the younger kids different learning games with some of the toys provided. It’s a big job and I know these folks will rise to the occasion. Feeling huge gratitude for them.

I could easily spend the rest of the day sharing stories, but instead I’m going to go enjoy a nice fire, some music and sweet conversation with Bruce. Thank you all again for being on this journey with me. More later.

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Only Three More Days!

The first floor of the building is up. For the past week, everyone has
been busy trying to complete the school before I leave. The carpenters
removed the wood that held up the cement ceiling. The masons have been
busy smoothing the classroom walls, ceilings and floors. I suspect it
will be another 10 days to finish that. The electrician is running the
wires for the outlets, fans & lights. The volunteers and the kids have
been transporting the wood to the old classrooms for storage. We, the
volunteers have been waiting patiently for the “go ahead” to begin
painting the outside. We finally received that this morning.

So, today we painted the top of the wall, which is a light green. We
were able to get two coats on. Saturday, they will begin to paint the
bottom of the school, which is black and when all is done, the kids
will put their hand prints on the black paint. They are all excited.

They are working like crazy to finish the library/computer room today
so that I can help get it organized before I leave. Again, we will
see.

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With all that’s going on with the school, there’s still plenty of time to eat, play, dance, help the kids with chores and homework. Two nights

ago, the children put on their native Ghanaian clothes and danced for
us. In between each dance while they were waiting for the dancers to
change their clothes, they put on modern Ghanaian music and we ALL
danced and danced and danced. It was great fun!

A few weeks ago, I purchased material for each of the kids to have a
Ghanian shirt or a dress made. They arrived Saturday night. I woke up
early ironed all the clothes for them to wear to church. They were so
excited. Here is a group photo with everyone in it. They are standing
in front of the new school.

Yesterday, we spent hours drawing pictures, writing letters and
creating stories as we laughed and shared memories. That was followed
by face painting which I did with a golden marker, only to find out
today that it doesn’t wash off. Ooops! The kids are going to school
looking like cats and with tattoos that say “Mama J loves me!” In
truth, it does come off with a little elbow grease, but the kids don’t
want to remove it. Very sweet.

I shared tears with Mama Sarah yesterday. We already know that
Thursday will come too soon. She and Aggie have decided to take me to
the airport. Once again, treasured sister time.

Many of the other children have been glued to me and we’ve also cried
together. I’m grateful that I’m comfortable with tears and that the
reason for the tears is because there is sooo much love.

Well, I’m off to paint. Soon I will be back in the states and I look
forward to hugs, conversations and hearing what’s been happening in
your lives.

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