Not all of my expectations of what this trip would be, have been realised thus far, but what has eventuated has exceeded expectations.
Eddie got to meet Elvis on Tuesday; he's the guy who founded & runs the orphanage and he opened up a bit more regarding his story. Elvis was orphaned at age 6 and describes the years leading into his mid teens as "lived". I'd love to know what that truly means. Anyway, he started the orphanage at 16 yrs of age and he's now 27 and doing so many amazing things! 27!!!!! I'm 27 & what do I have to show for myself?! He puts us all to shame and he is such a humble guy to top things off. One of the things he has on the go at the moment is building a new home for the orphans. The building they are in is an old post office which the community allows him to use, however they want it back. The new orphanage is being built, literally, bag of cement by bag of cement- as they cannot afford to spare the $11 that a bag costs. Things are tight to say the least but Elvis is extremely resourceful and will get there.
Elvis was extremely proud to find out this week that one of his orphans, Isaac, was accepted into the best university in Ghana, but sadly had to tell him that they couldn't afford the upfront tuition and board fee. Aimee and I were shattered by this, not to mention Isaac! To get into Uni here & into agriculture is a big deal! I can see great worth in agriculture as it is one of Ghana's biggest industries & it could mean bringing sustainable skills and food source back into Asebu, the orphanage especially!!! Knowing Isaac couldn't go to uni tore my heart out (once again) so Aimee and I went about brain storming how we could get the money together by the end of the week. By that evening I was so thrilled to be able to call Elvis with the news that with the help of some volunteers and family, the orphanage (& potentially the entire Asebu village) will witness someone go to university for the first time! Elvis was beside himself! He was shouting with joy and couldn't stop thanking me. He couldn't believe it and said he would be able to sleep again tonight. The value of education here is priceless as it is rare that a decent one is obtained. By Aussie standards it's not that expensive (but here it is extremely expensive) so I couldn't see this opportunity go to waste, not to mention the amazing role model Isaac will be for the other kids having gotten into Uni and gone. Thank you very much to everyone who helped.
I really pray this will have a long-term and sustainable benefit. Quick fixes don't work around here and to be honest, I think they cause idleness- people come to expect hand outs, not Elvis though!!! He didn't once ask for this- Aimee just happened to pop in when Isaac received his acceptance letter. Long term solutions is what I'm keeping my eye out for and I'd decided the day before hearing about Isaac, that I'd like to save for a plot of land over the next year or two so that the orphanage could grow their own veggies and have some live stock. A plot costs about AU$350 so I thought this was very doable, then to hear Isaac got into agriculture... I thought this is meant to be. We gave Isaac the money on Thursday and he was thrilled, extremely shy but grateful and took it strait to deposit it, to insure his entrance!
Tro highlight of the week: A chicken joined us on our journey home from Asebu comfortably tucked in a plastic shopping bag.
Home highlight of the week: the French volunteer getting yelled at by our host grandmother when she reported to her that the heap of crap of a toaster that we have is broken (again). "YOU SPOILED IT!" Laura's reply on returning to the living room, "what's spoiled mean?", "it means broken", "great so I don't get toast and I get blamed for braking the toaster". Then I got a talking to later for not turning it off at the power point-that's why it's broken apparently... No, the fact that I have to hold the lever down to make it work makes it look like there's a mechanical problem. Try describing that to someone who doesn't really speak English and is swearing black and blue that it's brand new (Fred Flintstone's toaster would be better than ours) and it's normal to have to hold the lever down??? OMG the joys of Ghana!
Eds has been bringing his guitar or a drum to the orphanage everyday this week and he's discovered a very talented musician! Emmanuel is fantastic! Great rhythm. I have some great videos, but unfortunately I can't post them on here or Facebook-not yet, not to mention the couple hundred photos I took!
I took Power AFL balls into the orphanage and I wasn't too sure how they would go down, considering how big soccer is, but they went down a treat and I managed to get the girls up for a kick. Sport isn't really for girls here. Gender roles and hierarchy are going strong! The boys were watching me kick the ball round like it was the most foreign thing ever....
So, experiencing what it's like to be a minority is a new / interesting / at times intimidating experience. To be so obviously different by appearance (my skin colour obviously) and the assumption that we are rich, can be very uncomfortable at times. Like when kids are begging or old men tell you on the tro that you are paying for their ride... Ummm no sorry sir, I am here volunteering looking after 18 small children, I will not be paying for you. Or being told to "give me your shoes", "give me your watch"... My response, no sorry but I worked really hard for these and I need them. My social work degree has drummed into us that people need to want to change and need to do it themselves-you're simply a support & facilitator. Ghana has made me realize this more than ever. To effect long term change here, people really need to put in hard work to achieve their goals, it's not going to be just hand to them-if it is, it will only be a short term solution. 'Give a man a fish and he'll eat for a day, teach a man to fish and he'll eat for a life time' (so I believe the bible goes). This is so true, you can't expect others to bail you out all of the time and the reliance on divine intervention here I find disturbing. The Christian faith here is very strong, don't get me wrong I have nothing against religion, I just don't believe in extremes of anything-I don't think it's healthy. Let me explain; in the volunteers area of our house there is a poster with a Manson on it and a caption saying, "God will provide, maintain your dreams". Hang on one sec? My family doesn't work? Where does hard work come into this equation? I think that there is a very false sense of security in many people here as there is avid brief in miracles (not to mention witches, wizards & fetish priest). I am supportive of faith, but it doesn't act as an excuse from partaking in responsibilities. I'm not sure that god's love will nourish your 6 children's empty bellies or cure Serefina's malaria. The bible does not preach idleness! People truly seem to believe that divine intervention will cure all and provide all! Where in the bible does it say to wait for everything to be handed to you on a silver platter?
But back to the topic at hand, my favorite racially prejudice moment would have to be something my two English friends endured. Amy and Verity were being flat out exploited at the school they were at, as they were meant to be there as teacher aids, instead they were teaching an 8 hour day and helping with the feeding and tidying up after the kids. While they were doing this the paid teachers either slept, read a magazine or left! After doing this for 3 weeks they asked to be moved to an orphanage which is actually in need, as their school was wealthy, and where they wouldn't be exploited any more. When the teachers heard they were leaving the insults came flying, "our grandfathers blood is on your grandfathers hands!". This stems from British colonization and the slave trade in Ghana, however I'm not sure the statement was really necessary...
Some people are sceptical of us being here, I really don't want to be viewed as the white outsider who comes here thinking they know best, because I certainly don't. I think we as a western culture can learn a lot from these people and vice versa. I am very cautious that I'm not imposing my western values on my kids but trying help them to open their minds to other possibilities. For example, when I asked one of my orphans what she wanted to be when she grew up she told me, that god would give her a sign when the time was right! I then asked her what her favourite subject at school was & she said maths. I posed to her that god gave her this skill which meant he wanted her to use it, maybe she could be become a banker or accountant her response, "no, god will show me my path".
Overall we are generally well received. Most People are so lovely- the minute you say something in Fante and show interest in their culture... "OHH my sister!!!!!" high fives, handshakes, smiles, hugs! You're in!
As for Elvis in Asebu, he has an understanding that it's not easy for us to get to Ghana & he REALLY appreciates our time and energy. His motto for us whilst in the presence of his kids is "always learning" which we have all taken on board.