Saturday Hannah, the kids and I got a special treat -- our coordinator, Uncle P, took us to the foster home where our kids had been staying until 6 weeks ago when we arrived. However, the treat wasn't just getting to see and love on all those sweet faces (I so want to post some of them!!!), but we got to see the new home that the children moved into courtesy of Life's Vision International. All I can say is WOW!
This is where the children were living when we last saw them five weeks ago, one week after we arrived in Ghana:
The house was very, very small and yet the foster mother and father were raising 27 children! Outside there was no place for the kids to play -- piles of refuse took up most of the yard, and there was also sewage running through. There was no loo/washroom. The family and children all used either an outhouse or chamber pots. In fact, the first image of the foster home that I remember is seeing a small one sitting on the chamber pot next to the outhouse as we pulled up to the house. During our second visit I was led inside by several of the children and got to see where they all slept -- a room the size of my living room with peeling laminate floor. All the children had mats that they spread on the floor at night to sleep, and during the day they just sat on the floor which was as clean as they could keep it, but not great by American standards. There was constant noise and smell and just sensory overload. On top of the housing situation, the children didn't have enough food to eat -- typically one meal a day -- or water. They were dirty, scabbed, and heart-breaking to see. Most of the children had a haunted look of sadness about them, and I can't tell you the number of "Please, madam, may I have water?" whenever I took a drink from the water bottle I brought with us.
Both visits to the foster home were such a visceral experience that Chris, Hannah, Stephen and I all vowed to commit ourselves to either working with an existing nonprofit organization in the country to help the kids, or to start one ourselves. Uncle P told us there was a new house available for the foster family and children, but it still needed to have the electric wires brought to the house (a $900 fee) and then at least $150 a month to pay for the electricity bill. He was hopeful that they would be able to find the money for the electricity, and the four of us decided we needed to find a way to help.
So imagine my and Hannah's excitement when, after a month plus of discussing different ways we could help, projects to implement that would provide much needed funding but also allow them to follow Ghanaian traditions not western ideals, Uncle P told us he was taking us to the new home!!! They still do not have electricity or much furniture, but they have moved in and the difference in the children was palpable! Hannah and I also decided that we needed to deliver some much needed items to the home that they could use immediately instead of leaving another cash donation. Yet, the best part of the day was seeing how truly thankful and proud the children were to have their new home, to receive the gifts we brought, and to play with our children again.
Our gifts -- rice (50 Ghana cedis for this bag!), juice boxes to give much needed vitamin C to the children, biscuits as snacks, toilet paper, soap, and the remaining cedi was used to buy everyone new slippers (flip-flops)
Obama Biscuits -- this country is absolutely mad about Obama. These biscuits (crackers) are the children's favorite treat/snack. Now I understand why my daughter would yell "Obama! Obama!" every time I offered her a biscuit :)
Think the children were excited about the rice? This one wouldn't stay away from it, and I have another picture of 3 boys sitting on the bag with the biggest grins on their faces. While I am thankful they were so happy about a big bag of rice, it still hurts my heart to know that this is the main staple of their diet and yet this bag will only last them a few days.
Everything we brought to the foster home was purchased at a road side market/store. In many ways the meat store reminded me of the meat market we had in my town when I was growing up. This box of frozen chicken was used to make soup for the children's lunch on Saturday, used again for lunch today, and the rest was frozen so they can eat it next weekend. Having any kind of protein is a real treat for these children and yet is something else we take for granted in the States where protein is often the largest portion on our plates.
The front of the new home! The courtyard is completely walled-in with a large gate that the family has to open to allow others to enter. This gives the children someplace safe to play football (soccer) and just be kids.
The porch -- covered and cool. The last home also had a porch for visiting, but it was about half the size and didn't provide the respite from the heat and the sun that this one does. Most of our time there a group of boys played on the porch trying to out-shoot each other with rubber bands.
The side of the house. Both sides of the compound have this much space between the house and the wall. Again, good playing space that they didn't have before. Plus, the main sitting/living room is the length of the alley and about double the main living area as before.
Hannah and HC looking into the backyard from the living room. They have screens on some windows which helps with the mosquitoes. Not every window has them yet so the parasites mosquitoes carry still pose a threat until we can help them fund screens, mosquito nets, and medications.
The backyard -- serves as the laundry, kitchen, and general work area
While there is a room inside to serve as the kitchen, most of the food preparation and cooking is still done outside (especially since there is still no electricity). Here is Sister Sheila making omo tuo(sticky rice balls) with some help:
Food storage in the inside kitchen area:
A very kind woman named Becky stopped by while we were visiting. Her son stays at the home, but I'm not sure if that is for while she is working or if he is being referred into the system. Becky brought lots of great vegetables and let me take some pictures. In this basket were yams (those giant tubers on the right side), cassava, ginger, onions, cabbage, poms (? the small red items on the left side), and another vegetable I didn't recognize and couldn't understand the pronunciation of. Regardless of how you say it, ALL the veggies looked delicious, especially considering I have learned in the past month how expensive they are to grow, and thus are not served with most meals.
A boxful of tomatoes!
Watermelon, and that vegetable that I didn't learn the name of -- help anyone???
Most laundry in Ghana seems to be washed by hand. First, there is the lack of electricity and the unreliability of power if you have access. Second, is the cost of a washing machine. So I have learned to wash my clothes in the tub and dread doing the chore every day. Yet, this is the pile of ONE DAY's LAUNDRY for the foster home. It's all a matter of perspective.
Laundry line in the backyard
The boys' bedroom (notice the 3 fellas that had to show of their new digs?)
The girls' room: (note the number of beds. Many children still have to lay their mats on the floor to sleep, but here about have have cots to sleep on)
The loo and shower!
Enjoying a soup with omo tuo and chicken in the living room.
After lunch it was time for us to be on our way. Hannah was feeling itchy and concerned about the spices used in the soup, and our three kids were ready for a rest. It felt so good to get out of the hotel and spend some time thinking about someone other than myself and the lack of my children's passports. Most of the children at this home still have not been matched with a family. So many of their faces haunt my dreams and daydreams. I have a feeling if I could post their pictures you wouldn't be able to stop thinking about them either. Thinking about the medical care so many of them need, the vitamins, the soap, the clothes, the school supplies (there were 3 coloring books for all the children to share), the food, etc., etc., etc. that is needed to help them thrive despite the curves life has thrown at them in their early lives.
I'm just very thankful that Momma's was the last face I saw as we pulled out of the gate and will pray that those sweet children will be watched over while the adults figure out how to help them best!