A Guardian Angel

When I was a little kid, my grandpa and I formed a secret bond. I was his favorite and we both knew it. Sure he liked the other grandkids just fine, but I was the first one, the first baby he ever held. His military job didn’t allow him to attend the births of his three children so when I came into this world thanks to his middle child, I was impossibly small and completely his.

My Grandpa Jack and my mother back in the day.
My Grandpa Jack and my mother back in the day.

We played chase the stuffed monkey, we did ballet in train stations, we laughed at Mr Bean episodes until we cried. Well, my grandpa laughed at Mr Bean episodes until he cried and I laughed at him laughing. His face got so red and sweaty he was like a cartoon character. I loved it and I loved him. Grandpa Jack passed away from ALS but soon took the role as my lead guardian angel. Some people talk to God. I talk to Grandpa Jack.

Two weeks ago, a little girl named Essie lay on a mat outside of the orphanage fevered and sluggish. Previous clinic attempts to diagnose the illness proved unsuccessful and I decided to take her to a local hospital to figure out what was wrong. Dripping with sweat and fever hovering around 104, Essie and I took a Vespa to a taxi to the hospital. We waited in a long queue at the hospital, my English a hindrance as most spoke the local language and I struggled to keep up. Lines led to more lines and as we waited, Essie whimpered in my arms. I was so focused on trying to remove her pain with my mind, I missed our name getting called by the nurse. Someone behind me tapped my shoulder “Obroni go” and I brought Essie into a room with a doctor. They took her vitals, did a quick test and showed late stage malaria, something the local Senya clinic must’ve missed in their labs. Essie was quickly moved to a hospital bed that dwarfed her tiny body as nurses surrounded her trying to find veins to put a needle in.

Essie surrounded by nurses. Notice how small she looks compared to the table she is on.
Tiny Essie surrounded by nurses. 

I felt helpless as I sat next to her small, tired body getting pumped with fluids. I couldn’t get straight answers from any of the nurses as most were there getting trained and not actually on duty. About three hours later a doctor came over and told me she would need to stay overnight and I panicked. I couldn’t stay at the hospital overnight, as safe as Ghana is, I still did not feel comfortable staying out alone in the dark (a friend had been mugged the previous week and the experience shook me). I knew I would need to get Essie supplies and make sure she was put in the correct area before I left to come back at dawn. I moved as quick as possible, the sinking sun a ticking time bomb.

I ran to a small shop and bought her new clothing, diapers (as she had been wetting the bed) a bucket to wash her in the morning, dinner, toothbrush and anything I could think of. I was terrified of leaving her and felt so guilty as we moved her sleeping body to the children’s ward where she would stay the night.

Essie in the Children's Ward.
Essie in the Children’s Ward.

Even though it was a hospital, it was still a hospital in Ghana and many of the procedures admittedly made me uncomfortable. (For example, I was repeatedly asked my personal (not Essie’s) religious preferences by doctors and nurses alike and when I stated none I was subjected to reasons as to why I should let Jesus in my life and one nurse even took my phone number from the records and told me she wanted to call me so we could take photos together. And she did. She called me three days in a row before I blocked her.) In the children’s ward I gave the nurses strict instructions on where her food and belongings were and told Essie I would be back at sunrise to get her. I was shattered and broken. It had been a long confusing day and I questioned leaving this little girl in a hospital alone overnight. As I waited for my taxi I stood in the now almost empty lobby of the emergency ward trying to keep it together. I leaned against a wall and wondered whether I made the right decision. At that moment I heard a laugh track and looked to the left of the room. To my absolute wonderment, in the middle of Winneba, Ghana, an episode of Mr Bean played on the small television screen. Mr Bean. Of all shows. With the permission I needed granted, I finally let myself cry. While I still felt helpless, I knew it would be okay. After all, my grandpa was there letting me know it would be.

Epilogue:
After another long and embattled next day (worthy of another blogpost perhaps another time), I took home an exhausted but healthy Essie to her family of 40 brothers and sisters.

Essie on the right with her best friend Mary goofing off a couple days later
Essie on the right with her best friend Mary goofing off a couple days later

Sharing is Caring

Justice. The boy that stole my heart.
Justice. The boy that stole my heart.

This little nugget.

The other day the children got two lollipops in a bag with fresh clothing for when they move into their new home. Justice was showing me his adorable red jacket that has two whole pockets and zips all the way up. As he was showing me his new pockets, he pulls out one of his two lollipops and in his quiet, childlike voice says, “lolly for you!”

I said “thank you but that candy is for you!” And he goes “Nope. Lolly for you” and proceeds to unwrap it and stick it into my mouth. I asked if I could share it and he shook his head no. He was so pleased with himself he patiently sat and waited for me to finish, smiling from ear to ear as I (rather guiltily) ate the candy.

This kid has barely anything to his name and yet when he gets two candies he gives one of them away. His actions honestly moved me to tears.

All the feels.

Photo Journal of Senya- Beraku

Walking into town
Walking into my local village, Senya Beraku. North of the capital city Accra and right on the beach. 
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The Internet cafe where I am typing right now.
One of many shops up and down the street
One of many shops up. There’s no set hours, you just have to hope someone is there.
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Many of the shops have biblical references for names. Ghana is statistically the most religious country in the world.
Goats around every corner
Goats around every corner
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This is where I picked up some phone credit.
Casual chicken stroll.
Casual chicken stroll and possibly my next meal.
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Goats engaging in a battle royal. Who needs animal planet when you can watch the real thing.
Carrying goods on heads is an art form.
Carrying goods on heads is basically an art form. An art form I don’t have.

One Man’s Trash

There are limited supplies here to entertain the children.

Card Games
Card Games

Because of this, the kids are incredibly creative in using the materials found around their home to make games. Plastic bags filled with garbage are now soccer balls. Plastic bottles and caps are currencies to trade for other plastics and random things found on the ground. Broken strings are jump ropes. A weathered stack of cards is played for hours.

Balloon Party
Balloon Party

Balloons? Well those bring the house down.

The long stretches of dirt road are the foundation for “Red Light-Green Light,” racing and basically anything I can think up. Thanks to my years at summer camp, silly active games have flooded my memory banks and the kids are happy as clams to learn. Sure the rules get lost in the shuffle, but the core idea is somewhere imbedded in there. I think…

Playing Red Light- Green Light
Playing Red Light- Green Light

Sometimes, the only supply the kids need is the volunteers. The kids love to be picked up and swung around. I sometimes feel like a tree with branches covered in little animals.

Since I only eat potatoes and rice here, my bloated body has begged for exercise. Luckily I have found it in the form of “baby-gym,” the all inclusive way of entertaining kids and getting my exercise on. I squat, lunge, lift these little nuggets until my body is sore and tired and the kids are happy and giggling. WIN WIN WIN.

Constant Chaos
Baby Gym in Action

One of the most popular “games” we play is picking flowers. With two children wrapped in my arms, and four scurrying around my feet, we go on the hunt to find the most beautiful blooms in the bushes. The popularity of this game makes it rather challenging as supplies run low within the 10 meter circumference of Beckys. When a flower is found, a child delicately places the blossom in my hair. If my hair is fully covered, my pockets, socks and hands will also be stuffed with flowers. This game never gets old and now we could be mistaken for a pack of flower nymphs.

My flower nymphs

My flower nymphs

The lack of supplies never tarnishes their enjoyment. It really is true that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. I have found renewed joy in playing with the simpler things in life, even when that simple thing is a trash bag filled with who knows what.

Getting Around Ghana

In terms of public transport, there’s not a ton of ways to get around Ghana. Other than Taxis, the most popular ways to travel is with a “tro-tro.” Tros are massive vans that fit about 15-20

The interior of a tro
The interior of a tro

people. The doors are often broken from being opened and closed so much. To pick up one of these rides, you shout your destination to the gentlemen working the door and if the tro is headed in that direction, you pile into an often crowded vehicle. These rides are a guaranteed adventure since there is no guarantee you will end up where you intended to go.

One of the best features of a tro is when vendors come up to the windows with their goods. Sometimes you’re buying an ice cream during a brief stop at a toll booth and the seller runs next to you to complete the transaction. Often times you just throw the Ghanian Cedi (their currency) out the window and hope it gets to the right person.

Random things you can buy on a tro:

-Live lobsters
-Gas Nozzles
– Ties
– Mouthwash
– Matches
– Buckets
– Coloring Books
– Squid on a stick
– Velvet animal print shorts
– Loaves of uncut bread
– Whole fried fish
– Bird seed

Sometimes the tro will stop and everyone gets off so it can be cleaned. Sometimes it stops and everyone gets off because the police start questioning the driver. Sometimes it stops for no reason and you still have to get off and get on another one. It’s the mostly organized chaos. Until it’s just chaos.

Thank You

I want to take a moment and thank everyone who has donated* books, time, money and kind sentiments to Becky’s Home in Ghana. While material goods are not everything, it has been a tremendous help to get certain projects off the ground.

Your money has gone to a large new van to transport the children around the village. The new home is a little far away and they will need aid in bringing the kids to school, the medical clinic etc.

Your money has gone to plumbing for the new home. The children will benefit from running water for drinking and bathing. Something I know I personally took for granted back in the States.

Your money has gone to medical supplies. Many of the kids suffer from malaria, sinus infections, ringworm, infected wounds and typhoid. The daily trips to the clinic and  medicine to make them feel better costs money. Thanks to your donations, the children are healthier and happier.

Your money has gone to supplies. Disinfectant wipes to wash down the urine soaked pads they sleep on. Needles and thread to mend holes large enough to expose 8 inches of flesh. Chalk to practice their spelling on cement walkways. Stickers and bubbles for a chance to let kids enjoy being kids.

Your books have gone to highly motivated and excited students. Children like Fafa and Alice (age 12) excitedly read books by African authors to an audience of captivated younger children.

Beautiful things have happened because of your generosity. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

*To donate to Becky’s Home, please visit my GoFundMe page.

Meet Seth: The Owner

Becky’s Home is always ranked as one of the best places a volunteer can be placed within IVHQ. After meeting with Seth, the owner of Becky’s Home, I can see why.

Seth on the left, Berta on the right
Seth on the left, Berta on the right

Seth is an incredible human being. Since it’s creation in 2013, Becky’s home has housed over 80+ local children. Orphans, abandoned children, children whose parents can no longer afford them. Seth is inspired by the grace of God and know he has found his life’s mission. The children are his everything and he spends most waking moments thinking of ways to improve their lives. Much of his time has been devoted to the new orphanage. A remarkable new space that will have beds for all of the children, running water and electricity. He relies on the volunteers to do the day to day at the current space so he can supervise and organize the new home. The plan is to move everyone in around September however funds are still needed to complete the final touches.

When Seth speaks, a whole room goes still. He has a soft, melodious voice that captivates all who listen. With a warm smile, Seth verbalizes love and gratitude like a beloved preacher. I always feel rejuvenated and inspired after hearing him speak and I can’t help but feel the world is a better place because Seth is in it.