By the time the day is done I have no idea where to begin with my blog. Since yesterday I talk about little things around Ghana… today I will tell you about the orphanges we visited. (Just so you know, no pictures were allowed at the orphanages except at the first one, I could take pictures of the grounds…)
1. This was a large compound in a very rural area with a view of the ocean. It was very peaceful and run very well. When we were there the children were all at school, which is on the grounds. We could see them walking around and some doing chores. This was a beautiful place. They had a large staff, teachers, maitenence, etc. The beds had netting, the children all had their own closet space. The set up was very nice. They had a lot of space, a huge playgound and a garden where they grow peppers and maize. But it is still an orphanage.
2. This was a smaller compound nearer the city. It had a brick wall around it and a dirt yard. The children were all in “school” which consisted of a about 8 open air rooms either brick or wood with kids crammed onto benches and all of them in precious uniforms reciting to the teacher. I can not imagine teaching or learning in this environment, but the school has a great reputation and lets community children go for free. There about 200 children attending this school which is about 1,000 square feet. Their were two other buildings where the children lived and one of them was being used for a classroom. We were not allowed to take pictures nor were we allowed in ANY of the builings. A while ago a group of people came through with hidden cameras and posted a video and article about how bad this place was. It was heart breaking for the founder as she puts her heart and soul into it. She has not been able to pay her teachers for a month. Many teachers leave because the pay is so sporatic and the children do not get consistency. We saw women cooking on outdoor fires, office staff sharing a cramped room with 1 desk that also kept all the files as well as the medications, and other misc. supplies. Based on our few minutes there and not really seeing anything, it is hard to say… I want to say she is doing her best with what she has. The children seemed to be cooperating in school and were playful. It is still so sad.
3. This orphanage was the most heart renching. It was also outside the city in a small village. We walked in to see children roaming everywhere. Nanny’s sitting on the steps cooking and lots of dirt and 1 story brick buildings. We met the director and talked with her for a while. She was so kind and clearly full of love. She reminded me of the women in the book “There Is No Me Without You”. If you have not read it, YOU MUST! It is about a woman who takes in her grandchild and then takes in a very sick and malnurished child and then the police start bringing her more children and she can not say no because there is no other place for them. Soon she has hundreds of children and just builds on to her home as she can and hires people as she can. Her heart is amazing, but the resources are poor. What do you do? How do you say no to a child who with otherwise die on the street?
There was a premie there who was born at 7 months and is now 3 months old and tiny, but doing very well. She had her own method of an incubator is to wrap the baby up in blankets put him outside in the sun and rotate him like a hotdog on a fire. It is 10 million degrees out here! There was another child who was 18 months who also came in as a premie and was the chubbiest little thing you ever saw!
12 year old Solomon was asked to give us the tour. As we started, children started running to us. Attaching themselves to us. I was immediatly holding the hand of 4 year old Fredrick and 2 year old Koffe and joined quickly by 3 year old Edwin. They wanted to be held, they pushed each other away from me. Jill was being loved on by 7 year old Eva who was acting like a baby to get her attention. She was begging Jill to hold her and if Jill put her down she would hang all over Jill until she was finally picked up. Jill ended up giving her a piggy back ride and Eva fell asleep on Jill’s back. As we toured the compound, which was HUGE, more kids started to tag along. We met up with a disabled girl who was pulling herself along in the dirt. She gave us a beautiful and genuine smile. (and all I do is complain about cold showers and bad coffee!) Then the older children started to follow and talk our ears off. I was talking to 10 year old Collins who was such a neat boy. It was clear he would thrive in any environment and is positive about all situtions. I kept thinking about the opportunities and unconditional love. He kept saying my name and did not want me to stop talking to him. I kept asking him questions about school and hobbies and anything I could to give him attention. After a while he went off to play and 10 year old Emmanuel jumped right in (remember I am dealing with 3 toddlers as well) Emmanual held my hand and the other boys teased him, but he did not care. He held on tight and kept talking to me. He NEEDED love and attention. He NEEDS family! He is lost in this place.
All this was going on while poor Solomon was trying to give us a tour. Honestly, I was so consumed with children I do not remember anything, where they slept, went to school, bathed… I remember one room that was the “Entertainment/game” room and it had a shelve of books and that is it. Not a chair, not a cushion, nothing. What was really impressive about this place was the farm. They had turkeys, guinea hens, a tilapia pond, pigs (and when I say pigs, boy do I mean pigs).
It was like a farm on hilly land surround by forests. Lots of “buildings”, “barns”. There was no way to supervise the grounds in any way. I do not understand how children do not get lost. I do not understand this place. I do not understand how this can happen.
One thing we talked about though is that this ophanage mimicks a Ghanian village. The children are allowed to wander and play. Older children “parent” younger children even if they have parents. It is just exaggerated. I was feeling better for a while, but one day later I can not stop thinking about Collins and Edwin and Koffee, and Eva and Emmanual and the children who I never learned there names, the children I never saw.
People. This is a problem. This is a huge problem. What if your child was there? What if your child was crawling in the dirt or walking around with no underwear or no anything…they sleep with other children. Who puts them to bed? Who soothes their nighmares, their owies? Even the “best orphanage” with money and resources. Do children belong there? Do you want your child there? No.You.Don’t.
Next time I blog though, I will tell you a few happily ever afters that will give you an idea what needs to happen with orphans and vulnerable children…