Mikenna is a wonderful Ghana Make A Difference volunteer who returned from the orphanage this past spring. She took a minute to talk about what she loved about her time in Ghana.
My name is Mikenna and I just returned, rather reluctantly, from a month volunteering in Ghana though Ghana Make a Difference. It’s hard to sum up the experience except to say that I was and continue to be moved by all that took place during the short time I was there.
Aspects of life in Ghana that I have been missing include: Walking to the orphanage in the early morning to be greeted by sleepy faces and big hugs as we helped get the children up and ready for school. I miss the family we lived with and homemade banana pancakes for breakfast. I can’t believe it, but I think I miss the sound of roosters crowing. I miss windy trotro (Ghana’s form of public transportation) rides and buying plantain chips through the window while stopped at a stoplight. I miss serving lunch to the school children and greeting each one as they present their bowl to be filled with rice and stew. I miss fresh pineapple. I miss free time after school, reading to a group of intently listening children or having them read to me. The list goes on.
During my time in Ghana I was humbled and uplifted at the same time. The experience was a demonstration in cultural diversity as well as the truths that tie us all together. I was reduced to uncontrollable laughter as well as tears more than once and I met some incredible people in a place more complex, vibrant, and welcoming than I had imagined. I wouldn’t call the volunteer experience easy, but I know I am richer for it and I hope the children are richer for having me there.
Coleson and I met up with the LDS missionaries in town last night when it was dark… let me give you a image of what town is like… I thought I was going to die! There were people EVERYWHERE! There were stands everywhere selling everything. The ground was uneven and dirty and the streets seem to have no order… the traffic on the streets seem to have to have no order as well, the drivers just do whatever they want and there are people running across the road and dodging cars and selling things in the middle of the street. Women and men walked around with fruit and nuts in huge baskets perfectly balanced on their heads, it was crazy. I was THE ONLY WHITE WOMAN I saw. And the only white men were Coleson and the two missionaries. The four of us were not ignored anywhere we went… all eyes were on us and everyone called out to us to buy things from them. People were yelling at the boys to “give me your sister” and “she your wife?” or to me “be my Valentine” (since yesterday was valentines day). The Elders walked on either side of me and I felt protected but I would not let go of my money in my pocket haha and didn’t make much eye contact with anyone. Not everyone is like that though… most people here love white people, ESPECIALLY the kids… every time kids smile and want to hug us every time they see us. I lost my iPhone 5 charger in Germany (along with my Excedrine, I don’t want to talk about it) so they helped me buy one of those… which was impossible since no one here has heard of the stupid iPhone 5… we bought me a Ghana cell phone for 35 Cedi which is $17.50 US dollars… pretty sweet. So I will be able to make a few phone calls while I’m here and be in contact with the other volunteers. We are in the city of Kasoa and daily the power goes out. When we were in the heart of the market, with people shuffling all around us at 8pm it went black… everything… not light anywhere… I wanted to scream but refrained. Luckily the missionaries were in white shirts and Coleson was in yellow so I could see them and just stood really close…. we tried walking around but it was really no use. A few minutes later some generators kicked in and we had a few lights to get by. We got back to the house via Taxi that was .50 Cidi (25 cents) and in the black Coleson and I found the volunteer house… my heart still has not stopped pounding… oh… it is also 90 degrees while this is all happening and I’m groggy from not having sleep… images were appearing in my head that should not be there… ugh. (I also watched Taken 2 on the plane… not a smart idea)
When we finally got back to the volunteer house the power was still not on and since I have been here there has been no running water.. they say the water will not work for another 4 months… so all our water comes from sandwich size baggies. I had to take my first shower in the dark with no water at 11pm in the heat.. haha, it was fantastic! I was literally laughing. I hung my flashlight on the out of use shower head and filled a bucket with baggies of drinking water… splashed myself with cup after cup of water… no chance on actually feeling clean… but I was able to get the tomato stew off that had cooked on me all day! Coming out of the shower I immediately felt dirty again from the humidity and heat and the power was still off so the fans were not working.. all of the volunteers were together around the table in the dining room dripping sweat and sharing stories… it is great though because no one complains, we just laugh about it… we all know it is worth it because of the work we are doing with the kids. The experiences we are having here are just making great stories to tell for when we get back home.
I can’t wait to go back to the orphanage today!!! Those sweet little faces seriously do make it all worth it.
Camryn has been in Ghana since the end of January. We appreciate her and all of the love, work and attention she is giving to the children at the West African Children Foundation. We asked her to share her thoughts prior to going to Ghana, and this is what she said-
My name is Camryn, and I call Pocatello, ID my home. My favorite things to do are to make jewelry(metal and beaded), I love spending time with my dogs, and I really like to running/hiking and yoga. Uncle Cory and Aunt Stacey Hofman got me involved. Coleson Hofman called me at midnight a while back and the first thing he said is “Want to go to Ghana?” So I said “Heck YEAH!” I want to give the children love and attention, and I would like to learn new things from the different way of life in Ghana. I leave at the end of January 2013, and will be there till about the middle/end of May. I think the best part of being over there will be helping the children and living a different country. I am excited to play/teach/love the children who will be there. I’m not nervous about much right now, but I am sure once it gets closer I might start getting nervous. I am just stoked to get out there and start working!
Camryn – thanks for supporting Ghana Make a Difference and the West African Children Foundation. We appreciate all you are doing!
I had my first full day yesterday and it was great! My sleep schedule is all messed up, so I was a little loopy… that mixed with the head made for an interesting mood and mind-set… but I remember being happy when I got to the orphanage! The second I walked through the huge iron gates there was a little girl named Deborah (pictured above) who JUMPED into my arms and exclaimed “What’s your name madam?!” All the kids asked me the same questions and proceeded to call me Madam Jean the rest of the day. There was not a moment when I had a free hand as they were always wanting to hold it and talk to me. I immediately fell in love with each and every one of them. They thought my skin was the coolest thing… poking it so it turned super white for a few seconds… they just giggled and giggled. It was hilarious.
In the morning we bathed and clothed them… then we served them breakfast. I was in charge of the bread… I had 38 sets of little hands reaching for bread… worst part is, I was two pieces short and had to look into the eyes of two children and tell them I didn’t have any more… kill me now. Then they went to school… the school is a part of the orphanage, it is all in a compound together and neighboring kids come to school there too so it’s not just the 38 kids… it’s more like 115… so many! When we were serving lunch there were only 2 volunteers, me and Coleson, and it was a mad house. We tried to get it out as soon as possible but the kids were so hungry and crowded us. We had rice, tomato paste stew and each got ONE NOODLE! (can you imagine these kids at Hometown Buffet, cause I can… it would be the best day ever for them!) As I was putting the stew on it was spilling everywhere and it was scolding hot! I spilled it on my toe and felt like i was going to die but i had a line of kids so I couldn’t focus on it. Needless to say I had tomato stew all over me by the time I was done. Finally all the kids had their food and Coleson and I looked at each other like we had just survived a war. Haha. Over dinner they took the kids to a show in town… they didn’t tell us the kids were going so we showed up to an empty orphanage, one of the other volunteers talked to Patrick about it to which he responded “Oh, you wanted to go too?” Haha, we are working on communication.
Jean is a Ghana Make a Difference volunteer who arrived at the orphanage about two weeks ago. She has already made her mark on the orphanage – she loves them, and they love her.
Jean has done an amazing job of sharing her experiences with us. We have gotten her permission to share some of her observations and experiences in Ghana. We are a little behind, but will keep updating the blog as we receive news from her.
Thank you Jean for allowing us to catch a glimpse of what life is like at the West African Children Foundation. We appreciate you sharing with us!
More to come….