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.
En route to Ghana, we took a two-day pit stop in NYC so I could meet with a few of my clients. Let me explain the irony.
In the summer of 1982 at age 15, I discovered I didn’t need much sleep. After staying up very late (even all night) several nights in a row, I was pleasantly surprised that I still had plenty of energy to work long days on the family farm of my good friend Mike Armstrong.
And for the next 30 years, literally, I frequently used this “gift” to do more than a 24-hour day should allow. I worked a lot, played a lot, actively participated at church, helped raise five children, and was successful in my work. Because I have needed such a little amount of sleep, I feel like I have been able to have my cake and eat it too. No longer.
As we got closer and closer to adopting, my ability to function on minimal sleep was decreasing, dramatically. I saw the pattern, and I told Stacey that there was no way I was going to adopt unless I significantly slowed down my work life. So after returning home from Ghana a year ago with the decisions to adopt and to help start Ghana Make A Difference, I have been working hard to change things at GEC (my business) so that I will be able to step away from work and participate fully in our adoption and help with the efforts of Ghana Make A Difference.
So after working at a furious pace for 20 years to build my business, represented well by my niche of work in NYC, I am choosing (now that I have to choose) to leave much of it behind so that I can help Ghana Make A Difference build a home for parentless children in Ghana, and so that I can extend my tenure as a father.
In the past we have traveled to many places trying to do a little good as we go, and our expectations for this trip were similar. But this turned out to be an extraordinary trip.
In preparing for this trip, we made arrangements to visit and work at four different orphanages. First, we visited the orphanage Arianne lived and volunteered at for three months earlier this year; we had a great time meeting many of the children and caregivers we had heard about. We also visited two orphanages in Accra, where we were able to play with and visit with many children, and spend some significant time with the orphanage leaders. Both the children and the adults made us feel welcomed as they were very excited and happy to have us as guests. Our visits to these three orphanages were great experiences, and our time spent with their leaders was inspiring. But it was our visit to the fourth orphanage that we’d really like to talk about.
The West African Children Foundation is a school and an orphanage located in Kasoa, Ghana (just west of Accra). It was founded one year ago and is run by Patrick and Pat Nwodobeh, husband and wife. Arianne introduced us to this home. She had visited the orphanage several times during her stay in Ghana, and she was impressed with the love and devotion that existed there. We were similarly impressed.
Patrick and Pat are devoting their life and their limited resources to this cause, working tirelessly in the process. They have three children of their own, and they often put the needs of their own children on hold in order to feed the orphans in their home. They are humble people, God-fearing and full of faith. As we were leaving for a long day at the market to buy food for the children, one of Patrick’s flip flops broke, so he returned home to change his shoes. When he caught back up with us we noticed that he was now wearing flip flops about 3 sizes too small. With no complaint, and in fact with a very grateful heart, he walked around the large outdoor market all day with his feet hanging over the back of his sandals. These people don’t have much, but they are grateful for what they do have, and they are using what they have to bless the lives of many others. They operate on faith. Pat told us more than once that she cries and prays to God when there is no food for the children, and just as many times she also told us that God sends angels to answer her prayers.
Given the young age of the home and their lack of funds, they are doing all they can to simply feed and clothe the children, and give them the most basic education. The building is used as a school during the day and as sleeping quarters at night. The children sleep on the concrete floor with nothing but a thin straw mat. Often the food is insufficient or even non existent. There is absolutely no supply of food. Existence is day to day and meal to meal. One breakfast while we were there was a bowl of tea and milk with a piece of bread. Needless to say, the children literally ran to their spots on wood benches when the dinner bell rang and licked their bowls perfectly clean. These children know real hunger. Seeing these things first hand and sitting among these children who lack so many basic necessities of life, we were drawn to these children and this home. Instead of hearing about starving children in some distant land and wondering how we could possibly help, we were sitting among them, and we knew exactly how to help.
This trip ranks as one of the most spiritual experiences of our lives, and we know that God has called us to action. We have truly enjoyed traveling to various places and serving in a variety of ways, but with this trip we honestly feel we have landed. We believe God led us to take this trip to Ghana, that He introduced us to the people we were able to meet, and that He now wants us to take action and help His children in this corner of His vineyard.
The school and the orphanage of The West African Children Foundation has MANY needs, including: food, clothes, running water, toilets, educational supplies, cleaning supplies, mattresses, medical insurance, dental care, and transportation. We realize this is a big list, that meeting these needs won’t take place overnight, and that we can’t do this on our own, but nevertheless we intend to do all that we can to make these things a reality for these children. And we invite you and others to join us in our efforts.
We know you are all busy and that you are doing wonderful and generous things for others. And we know this service opportunity will not be a fit for all of you. Nevertheless, we extend this invitation to all of you, and we invite you to extend this invitation to others you think may be interested, for the needs are great and the service opportunities demand a diverse set of skills. For example, individuals or families could travel to Ghana and help with teaching, plumbing, construction, dental and medical care, haircuts or other hygienic work, organizing, shopping, cleaning, designing space, procuring and setting up computers, improving operations, and most importantly spending time with and giving love to the children. In addition to serving in Ghana, many things can be done here at home, such as designing websites, coordinating supplies to take to Kasoa, and coordinating service to take place in Ghana. And of course anyone can do any imaginable activity almost anytime to raise money to support improvements in Kasao, Ghana. In fact, we have already launched our first fundraising event with the purchase of 400 yards of beautiful African fabric to make quilts that we will sell; anyone with an interest in this project is invited.
We invite you to share your money, your time, your talents, or whatever you have to offer. We hope to hear from any and/or all of you with your ideas and your interests in being a part of this effort. Also, let us know if you have interest in receiving occasional email updates.
We wish we could share in detail all of the experiences we had on this trip where God’s hand was visible. Time after time we found ourselves to be in the right place at the right time in direct answer to others’ prayers and to meet people that will be invaluable in accomplishing this mission going forward.
As we have seen and experienced these things over the past 10 days, we have found this phrase running through our heads. “Let it change you. Let it change you.” It is our hope and prayer that we will have the strength and endurance to truly let this trip change us.
Cory and Stacey Hofman
P.S. As many of you know, we may adopt a set of twins from Ghana. We think it is important to be clear that the children we may adopt are not part of the orphanage in Kasoa and that our intended service as described above has nothing to do with our efforts to adopt.
Here it is one year later and we are on our way back to Ghana in the morning to build a home for parentless children in Ghana! Thanks to so many of you we have been able to make significant progress in the lives of Ghanian children this past year, including improving diets, helping to provide clean water, educational supplies and clothing among other things.
I decided to post the original letter we sent out, because it gives a little history of where we started last year when we first visited an orphanage we’ve been helping. A lot has happened this past year including the creation of a 501(c)(3) charitable organization called Ghana Make A Difference. Check it out at www.ghanamakeadifference.org.
We would never have made it this far without your support and hope it will continue as we build these kids a home. There are many ways to offer support including a donation of your time, talents or money. We had a young girl recently raise $200 from a bake sale she did for Ghana Make A Difference! We are aware of lemonade stands and garage sales happening this summer and would again like to invite any and all of you to be a part of this effort and make a difference for these parentless children, that they may have even their most basic needs met.
We’ll keep you posted on our progress!