What is Poverty?
Before coming to Ghana I always thought I understood the definition of poverty. I have been to quite a few major cities in America and seen many poor neighborhoods. But nothing compares to the poverty I see here.
I was in country for only 2 days when I went with Richard, the director of the home, to the next town over called Buduburam, also referred to as “Liberia Camp”. From the moment I stepped out of the trotro (van) and entered the market, I was instantly overcome with an intense case of culture shock. The living conditions that these people endure are none like any other.
After my visit to the Liberia Camp I had a completely new understanding of what it meant to be in poverty. All I wanted to do was help every single person I saw that day. This has motivated me to do everything I can to help people. It is experiences like this that keep me going with the work I’m doing here at Ghana Make A Difference.
Want to make a difference? Donate at www.ghanamakeadifference.org
My name is Aidan, and I am a volunteer here for Ghana Make a Difference. I plan to be here for a total of 5 months. During my stay, I will help maintain the blog to let you guys know about the incredible things happening here in the home!
Why Africa? Why Ghana Make a Difference?
I had Just recently moved back home to Las Vegas, after living in Boise for a while, when I came to realize something rather important. I have no clue what I want to do in life. After quite a bit of thought about things I have always enjoyed doing, I narrowed it down to a one thing. Serving others, I grew up a member of the LDS church and because of this I was always participating in youth service projects in the community. I am also an Eagle Scout with the Boy Scouts of America. Because of this I have always been serving others in one form or another. Whether it be mowing the lawn of an elderly woman or repairing and giving out bicycles to children on Christmas, I have always loved seeing the smiles and joy that service brings to people in need.
Not long after, my mother came to me about an organization here in Ghana. This immediately caught my attention. After she explained some things about it, I rushed to my laptop to look up the website and began reading everything I could about the incredible things Ghana Make a Difference does for children in need. After speaking with the President of the organization, Cory Hofman, on the phone for a while I knew it was something I needed to be a part of. I sold my car that same week, bought a plane ticket and left for Ghana a month later. I have been here in Ghana for about a month now and I am absolutely in love with the country, the kids, and the service. Keep a lookout for some updates about the great things happening at the home. Thank you!
Want to make a difference? Donate at ghanamakeadifference.org
In December 2014, many of you donated generously to our self-reliance chicken program. And in January 2015, Ebenezer (our facilities manager) attended "farmers training" at The University of Ghana, we improved our chicken coop and we bought 200 chickens. Now, each day we collect 150 eggs, the children get a lot more protein, and Ebenezer sells the extra eggs and is unable to keep up with the demand. Given the success of our poultry operations, between now and February we expect to expand our coop once again and acquire 800 more chickens. Visit www.ghanamakeadifference.org to support this and other GMAD projects. Thank you!
This past June, the Hofmans met the Williams in California. It turns out that the Hofmans help run a non-profit (GMAD) and the Williams run a non-profit (Look At Us). The Williams' explained how Look At Us helps kids get hearing aids. The lights went on and Stacey told them about a 9-year-old girl who lives across the street from our children's home in Ghana and who is deaf. Look At Us found an audiologist in Ghana, and this week I had the amazing privilege of taking Esther to see Dr. Offei at the University of Education in Winneba Ghana. It made my day. What a sweet girl and a sweet experience. Thank you Look At Us for making this possible.
Esther's audiology exam.
"Successful families are established and maintained on principles love and wholesome recreational activities." Thanks to the time, money and awesome work of our volunteers, the GMAD home in Dabanyin has undergone a nice transformation. Our children have an increasingly safe and happy place to live and play.
The plans are put to paper and then translated into a grid around the land.
Boards labeled with letters and numbers are laid around the eventual outside walls of the building to create a grid. The grid is used to lay the foundation walls and the supporting columns in the appropriate places.
A local stone quarry is donating half of all the rocks we need, so our cement costs have been reduced accordingly.
And by making our own bricks, we are building a good home within a good budget. Please help us finish the project by making a donation at www.ghanamakeadifference.org.
In Bali, Hindus have used banana leaves as the containers for floral offerings to spirits and deities. I’m in Ghana, not Bali. And I’m a Mormon, not a Hindu. Nevertheless, I think my three children holding this banana leaf would please any deity. We took this photo on our hike to the Wli Waterfalls in the Volta Region of Ghana.
I’m not offering my children, but please join me in making a financial offering to Ghana Make A Difference (www.ghanamakeadifference.org)
Ghana Make A Difference is building a new orphanage home for children in Dabanyin, Ghana.
Children have been endowed by their creator with the right to food and protection. And while by divine design it is parents who are responsible to provide these necessities of life to their children, for children who cannot be reintegrated with their biological home or cannot be placed in an adopted home, it is our aim to replicate the love and protection that was divinely expected.
The new home will house 48 children, 7 full-time caregivers and 14 volunteers.
Please consider adding some bricks to the cause by making a donation at www.ghanamakeadifference.org.
Land in Ghana is controlled by tribal chiefs. While there are some exceptions, for the most part, you don’t buy land. Instead, you enter into long-term leases with local chiefs to use land and property; the duration of a long-term lease is typically 99 years.
We worked hard during our first 10 weeks here in Ghana to launch the building of a new home for parentless children. Step one in the process…find land. We looked at different parcels near Kasoa ranging in size from 2 to 5 acres and ranging in cost from $20,000 to $40,000. We got especially excited about a particular piece of land about 6 miles west of Kasoa (where we are staying).
The land was beautiful and it was near a junior high school, but it was off the main road quite a ways and it did not have any electricity. Nevertheless we tried to make it work. I met with the electric company to see what it would take to pull electricity to the area. I met with the prince (the son of the village chief) to discuss payment and our building plans. We almost had ourselves talked into buying the land when several people helped us realize that some chiefs will donate land to use for a children’s home. So we hit the brakes and began networking.
The official language of Ghana is English, but the truth is, English is a second language here. There are 9 native languages “sponsored” by the government, with the main one being Akan. Akan has two major dialects: Twi and Fante. These two dialects are so widely spoken that they are often given the status of separate languages.
Francis and Francisca speak Fante; they also speak English. If you gave birth to a 9 year-old child that right out of the womb could speak some English, spoken phrases like “You’re a liar!” or “Give me bread!” or “Take my shoes!” or “No!” may all bring feelings of proud delight, like “Goo goo” and “Ga ga”. I remind myself of this daily and try to patiently correct and teach proper English phrases and good manners.
It is fun watching our children help care for parentless children here in Ghana. Please join us in the effort. Visit www.ghanamakeadifference.org to learn how you can help.
Some of the happiest times in my life have been during periods of materialistic simplicity. Absolutely. For a number of years after Halle was born in 2000, our family would spend 3-6 months at a time in Chicago for her medical care. During these times our 6-member family resided on the 21st floor in a one-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment that served as our home, our school, and my office. The kids had a bucket, not a room or a closet. Every morning we rolled up our beds, and every night we laid them down again. During the day, the one permanent bed in the bedroom doubled as a table/desk upon which I would spread out voluminous work papers to review and analyze. With the simplicity we were able to spend much more time on things that really mattered, and they were happy times.
As the photo above indicates, our arrangements here in Ghana are not very different from what they were in Chicago 13 years ago. Instead of buckets, Halle, Ryan and Francisca have cubbies and a backpack. Once again, the simplicity allows us to spend much more time on things that really matter, and they are happy times. I recommend it, I really do.
This little field of dirt is a blessing. Life can get a bit confined in a walled hotel. So once in a while we make our way to this field down the road. Ryan enjoys baseball. He’s never played before and he doesn’t know the rules, but we are having fun getting up to speed.
This is the same small field that is home to soccer and other activities of the 45 orphan children. It is way too small for 20 kids let alone 45, and it isn’t public ground so we don’t know how long the neighbor will continue to smile at our presence there. Help us raise the money to build a home where parentless children have some room to play. Donate now at www.ghanamakeadifference.org.
If your 18 year-old child knew how to work as hard as our 9 year-old Ryan (fka Francis) and Francisca and our 13 year-old Halle, you would be proud, really. It is impressive. Living in a hotel, we don’t have an abundance of work opportunities, so maybe the evidence is insufficient to reach such a strong conclusion, but what work we do have gets done well: preparing our meals, washing our dishes, sweeping the kitchen, sweeping our bedrooms, cleaning up bedding, hanging laundry, carrying groceries. And thanks to the WACF orphanage, painting shelves.
Come work with us. www.ghanamakeadifference.org
If your newborn child could tell you that they had to go “pee” or to the “toilet” you may be very excited. I remind myself of this every 30 minutes or so when we are out in public, where there are virtually no public restrooms, and when every 30 minutes or so Francisca says “I want to pee”. We try to strike a balance between (#1) training these kids for American life and (#2) accepting the fact that Ghana is not America. When pushing training effort #1, we hunt down a restroom, no matter how crude of a facility it may be and no matter how near the child is to wetting his or her pants. In accepting fact #2, we tell the kids to urinate right here behind this bush, in this ditch, or at the roadside.
Likewise, if your newborn child was potty trained, and could use the toilet by themselves, you would be pleased. And so am I, and I have to smile when there is used toilet paper in, or almost in, the trashcan in the bathroom. I had to coerce and use the scientific method to convince Francis and Francisca that the toilets in our hotel could actually flush the used toilet paper away with the waste.
At one particular orphanage here in Ghana, the children share two toilets with no lids, no water, and no lights. The small kids go in little buckets or on the ground in the overcrowded yard. We can make a difference. Help us train, educate and provide adequate facilities for parentless children in Ghana. Donate your time and/or your money by visiting www.ghanamakeadifference.org. 100% of your donation will get to the children.
How are you GHANA MAKE A DIFFERENCE? Help us build a new home for parentless children in Ghana. Visit www.ghanamakeadifference.org to make a donation now.
I should answer the obvious question: Why is Ghana Make A Difference helping parentless children in Ghana, and why do these children need a new home? When Stacey and I first visited Ghana in 2012, we saw orphanage homes where there was:
I’m in Ghana for 3-5 months working with Ghana Make A Difference to raise money and build an orphanage home. Go to www.ghanamakeadifference.org to make a tax-deductible donation.
So now you know why I’m all of the sudden making personal posts and sharing what I’d normally say is way too much personal information. I’d much rather stay quiet and do my own thing in my own little world; it is just who I am. But I need your help. So in an effort to get your help, I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone and I’m sharing more about what I’m doing than I normally would. I hope you’ll forgive my overly personal posts. I hope you’ll catch the spirit of what we are doing here in Ghana. And I hope you will do what you can to help us out.
Normally we fly from Boise, but because we were flying from NYC to Ghana, an entire new set of travel results appeared on the radar when we did our online search for airline tickets. At the top of the result list, with a price far lower than any other, was Arik Air, a Nigerian airline, with passage to Ghana via Lagos, Nigeria. On June 8, we left JFK Airport in New York and flew to Lagos. The flight was fine. Consistent with some reviews we had read, there were enough blankets for about half of the passengers and the inflight entertainment system did not work, but we arrived safely in Nigeria. Five hours later, I was typing this post as we flew from Lagos to Accra, but not before a little excitement during the layover.
We landed in Lagos and proceeded to immigration with the other passengers. Very quickly but somewhat casually, all non-Nigerian travelers not staying in Nigeria but who were simply transferring to a different flight to another country were herded together. They took our passports and told us to sit down on chairs, pretty much in the middle of the immigration area. Luggage was arriving on the belt behind us, so we tried to watch for our luggage in the distance as we sat and waited for whatever was going to happen with our passports in the other half of the hall in front of us.
Eventually a lady, in no particular uniformed attire, was assigned to the group of us, which included African Americans, one Ghanaian, one lady from the Congo who didn’t speak English, and us (Stacey, Halle and me). The lady told us that our luggage would be checked through to our ultimate destination, and that because we don’t have Nigerian visas, and because our flight check-in time was still a few hours away, we had to remain in her custody, if you will, and she would have to keep our passports while we waited in a “comfortable lounge”. Sounds pleasant enough, but the entire process was extremely odd and far from comfortable.
The twelve of us followed her past the luggage belt, out the hall, around the corner, down an elevator (half of the group at a time because the elevator was too small), past people sleeping on the floor, through a dormant-now-active security checkpoint operated by two of the previous sleeping-on-the-floor people, down the hall, up a wooden spiral staircase, and into the “comfortable” lounge. After sitting in this room for an hour or so, the lady told us to leave our things (i.e., our carryon luggage, which was essentially the most valuable items the twelve of us were traveling with) in the room and follow her to get our boarding tickets for our next flight. The majority of us made a protest and/or expressed a concern about leaving our goods in the unlocked and unmanned room. Whereupon we were essentially berated and told via near shouts that our things would be fine. It was all so odd that we all strangely cowered and obeyed, regretting our decision a mere 1-2 minutes later with amazement.
Ultimately our passports were returned to us, with boarding passes, and we made it to Ghana safely. And in fairness to Arik Air and the Lagos Airport personnel, after the experience was behind us, we found ourselves trying to convince ourselves that everything had been fine. But we don’t intend to travel home via Lagos.