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.
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!
Fabiana sent an email to some special friends and family, asking for donations for their trip with Ghana Make a Difference. Jake, who is 13, read the email, made flyers, passed them around to his neighbors and collected THIS! What an amazing effort!!
He was looking for a service project to do. He collected needed toys, towels and sheets for the sweet children in Ghana. Thank you to all of you who helped Jake in his project by donating!
Jake said to his mom, “Just think, in a couple weeks some little kids in Africa will be kicking around a soccer ball I helped collect for them!” Jake’s mom is ‘so grateful for sweet moments like this’. Ghana Make a Difference is grateful for Jake! He is a perfect example of the impact of one person in the lives of the children of the West African Children Foundation.
The power is out again, so as I’m writing this I’m sitting on the concrete next to a window in the volunteer house, trying desperately to catch a breeze.
On Friday, Patrick and I worked on making a door to the bathroom at the orphanage. I actually felt like I was a big help, which is shocking because we were… building a door… and Patrick still, days later, calls me a good carpenter. I think it’s because I solved one problem (too hard to explain, I tried and it didn’t work so I will spare you all), but as soon as I did that I guess I gained his respect and anything he builds now he includes me in. He even handed me the saw and hammer a couple times so you gotta know I’m in the carpenter’s club.
Yesterday at dinner time, Camryn (another volunteer) brought magazines and scissors to the kids… you would have thought we gave them iPods! Then LOVED it and fought over the scissors to cut out pictures. They held those picture so close… pictures of random things! like a little sketch of shoes! They cut out so carefully and held so close… it was adorable how much they cared. Some would point to a picture and ask me what it is… “Fruit Loops… a kind of cereal” “Snow… it’s really cold and falls from the sky” (I don’t think they believed me) they are so interested in everything.
I am never alone when I’m at the orphanage. It is the most wonderful feeling, each time you walk in the kids RUN and JUMP into your arms without fail. Yesterday, Gifty, one of the triplets, was constantly by my side. We hung out in the shade and watched as the older boys played football (soccer) with a tiny tennis ball. I want to go buy them a real soccer ball.. I think they have one somewhere but it isn’t pumped up so thank you Stacey for the pump! I will find it and blow up the deflated balls there. David, thank you for the actual American football, they love it!
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….
This is a perfect example of Christmas giving.
Start a legacy of holiday gifting this year!
It’s just a small, white envelope stuck among the branches of our Christmas tree. No name, no identification, no inscription. It has peeked through the branches of our tree for the past ten years or so.
It all began because my husband Mike hated Christmas. Oh, not the true meaning of Christmas, but the commercial aspects of it: overspending, the frantic running around at the last minute to get a tie for Uncle Harry and the dusting powder for Grandma, the gifts given in desperation because you couldn’t think of anything else.
Knowing he felt this way, I decided one year to bypass the usual shirts, sweaters, ties and so forth. I reached for something special just for Mike.
The inspiration came in an unusual way.
Our son Kevin, who was 12 that year, was wrestling at the junior level at the school he attended, and shortly before Christmas, there was a non-league match against a team sponsored by an inner-city church. These youngsters, dressed in sneakers so ragged that shoestrings seemed to be the only thing holding them together, presented a sharp contrast to our boys in their spiffy blue and gold uniforms and sparkling new wrestling shoes. As the match began, I was alarmed to see that the other team was wrestling without headgear. It was a luxury the ragtag team obviously could not afford.
Well, we ended up walloping them. We took every weight class. And as each of their boys got up from the mat, he swaggered around in his tatters with false bravado, a kind of street pride that couldn’t acknowledge defeat.
Mike, seated beside me, shook his head sadly, “I wish just one of them could have won,” he said. “They have a lot of potential, but losing like this could take the heart right out of them.”
Mike loved kids, all kids, and he knew them, having coached little league football, baseball and lacrosse. That’s when the idea for his present came. That afternoon, I went to a local sporting goods store and bought an assortment of wrestling headgear and shoes and sent them anonymously to the inner-city church. On Christmas Eve, I placed the envelope on the tree, the note inside telling Mike what I had done and that this was his gift from me. His smile was the brightest thing about Christmas that year and in succeeding years. For each Christmas, I followed the tradition: one year sending a group of mentally handicapped youngsters to a hockey game, another year a check to a pair of elderly brothers whose home had burned to the ground the week before Christmas, and on and on.
The envelope became the highlight of our Christmas. It was always the last thing opened on Christmas morning and our children, ignoring their new toys, would stand with wide-eyed anticipation as their dad lifted the envelope from the tree to reveal its contents.
As the children grew, the toys gave way to more practical presents, but the envelope never lost its allure. The story doesn’t end there.
You see, we lost Mike last year to cancer. When Christmas rolled around, I was still so wrapped in grief that I barely got the tree up. But Christmas Eve found me placing an envelope on the tree, and in the morning, it was joined by three more.
Each of our children, unbeknownst to the others, had placed an envelope on the tree for their dad. The tradition has grown and someday will expand even further with our grandchildren standing to take down the envelope.
Mike’s spirit, like the Christmas spirit, will always be with us.
Have you ever wondered what Christmas gift to give to the person who has everything?
Give them the gift of providing food and shelter for an orphan in Ghana this year.
Wouldn’t you feel honored if someone gave a gift like this to you?
Ghana Make a Difference has made your gift giving easy and meaningful this year. This gift will warm the heart of anyone receiving it.
All that you need to do is make your donation at our website and send an email to let us know who you would like the gift sent to. (admin@ghanamakeadifference). We can take care of the rest.
If you would prefer, we can mail you the cards, and you can personalize your gift.
This beautiful note from Patrick sums up their gratitude for efforts to help the children and the orphanage.
Great, great difference you are making in our lives,
putting smiles in our faces, reviving our spirits,
making us feeling we really belong to this human race.
Thanks to everyone who donated in supporting us.
Along with his note, he sent pictures of the children – many in their new dresses, shorts and shoes provided by donations from the Eagle Idaho Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. You can tell by looking at their faces the excitement they feel about receiving these items from loving hearts far away.