The Ghana Diaries #4

Wednesday, 24 November 2010 at 01:04

There never seems to be enough time to do what I want to do online, but I think that's because days are arranged differently here, and when I do get time, the Internet is toooo slow to catch cold! This week I started a new routine. Now I try to get to the Orphanage early-ish in the mornings, but then come home between 11 and 12 in order to avoid being out during the hottest part of the day, (unless of course we are going somewhere), then I go back to the Orphanage between 4 and 5 pm – spend some time with the kids and have 'supper'. It is often after nine when we get home, (our choice), and we are usually exhausted and ready for bed, due as much to the heat as anything else!

That 1st day at the Orphanage the kids came running to meet us as we arrived. Way back at the start of the year when I was getting to know Imoro on FB and we used to chat on Skype, he video called me at Christmas and some of the kids introduced themselves, then they all sang 'we wish you a merry Christmas' to me and almost reduced me to tears! It was wonderful to finally meet them face to face.

The little ones always establish themselves with new volunteers very quickly, and you frequently have 3 or 4 children trying to sit on your knee at once, cuddles are a universal language! The older ones take a little longer to get to know us, but only because of the language barrier, they are just as eager to make friends. Whenever we help in any way, or we bring anything for them, they come and say thank you so enthusiastically that it positively melts the strongest of hearts, and they are so happy and willing to join in anything you want to do. They will take you to the market, find the stall that sells what you want, run to get you a chair or water . . . and so on. Today I went with them to the Well in the Village. It is easily a ten minute walk, and this was their second trip today! The bucket has to be lowered and pulled up, the containers filled and then they carry them back and it's not an easy walk, you really are out in the bush! I heard one of them calling from behind, “Rosa wait for me” . . . I stopped wondering what was wrong, but then . . “Let them carry the water” (indicating two children who were empty handed), ”they are playing”. I didn't, I have a reasonable amount of muscle power and I had no problem drawing the water or carrying it in the containers with lids and handles – but carry a full bucket on my head?! It would have been empty when I got back! I know they are taught to do this from an early age, but this is HARD work for such young children. Yet for them this is life.

Fetching water is only one of their many tasks. They also sweep the area in front of the house every day, they do at least some of the laundry, they wash dishes after meals. They carry chairs, benches and tables outside for meals and inside when the meal is over. But unless they are sick, they are always smiling and laughing, always playing when they have the time, always ready for a fun fight, a water fight or a game of football! I rarely see them squabble and fight the way for example my own kids used to, and the older kids take care of the little ones automatically. They don't need to be told. Basically they are one big happy family and a pleasure to be around, and when I think of the hurdles they've crossed and are still facing . . I watch them in amazement. But they are loved, by Imoro and Layla . . and each other . . and the staff . . and neighbours and friends. And every volunteer (to my knowledge) who visits – falls in love with them all completely and unconditionally. In fact I think before you realize it, you subconsciously make a lifetime commitment to them because once you've met them, you know you'll never be able to just walk away. Having survived thus far and been lucky enough to land at Mum's Love, they deserve every bit of help you can add to the efforts Imoro and Layla have already made. You know that somehow, whatever it takes, you have to help them make it happen. These beautiful children deserve the very best life has to offer – it is their RIGHT! We did it to the best of our ability for our own kids and I've never been impressed by the 'culture of denial' – the reasons people give for not helping, even less so now if that's possible. I know that in the Western world there are thousands of causes to give to – most of them equally in need, and I know we can't all give to them all, we all have to make choices. But I defy anyone to spend a week here – or anywhere like it - and NOT make a self-promise to try to change at least one life.

Of course the problem looming huge for everyone concerned right now is accommodation! The house they currently rent is maybe 24' by 12' single storey. Inside is a room for the boys, a room for the girls, a room for Imoro and Layla, (divided by a curtain to give them and their son a separate living and sleeping area), a 'food' room, shower room and an office. So as you can imagine, the rooms aren't very big! Yet 25 or so children, (a few stay in the village out of necessity since Social Services recently came and complained about overcrowding, and heartbreakingly, almost half of the 59 kids they had at that time had to be sent to other places!), live there. A veranda runs along the front of the house and this is the only communal area. When it rains – and OMG when it rains it rains – everyone has to use this. Meals will be taken here, and some of the cooking will be done, on the floor, on a charcoal stove between wooden benches where all sit waiting for their meals. There is a wooden shack outside that houses the water barrels and where a second stove is lit and food prepared when necessary. In dry weather, the cooking of meals and eating them, laundry and dish washing will all be done outside. At these times, food is often cooked on an open fire . . no stove . . no oven, so the variety of meals they make is amazing.

But as if this wasn't enough, they've already had an extension on their lease, there is no more time. Somehow we HAVE to get this new house ready to move into by 10th December!! No if's, but's or excuses, we simply, somehow – need to get them all in there.

Three days after I arrived, Imoro's wife also arrived. She told me later, when we got to know each other a little more, 'I was visiting my family', (7 hour bus ride away), 'and they told me you come – so I say – I will go and see her' and we've got along like a house on fire ever since. What an amazing woman! Her energy, her determination, the way she lifts the whole atmosphere has to be seen to be believed!! There is lots of land surrounding the new house, so while they were waiting for the funds to build it . . they got cracking with cultivating it! She planted two acres of Yam single handedly. She has everything growing she can get her hands on – even though they have lost best part of their crop two years running due to bush fire!

You think that made them give up . . not a bit! Imoro tells me that when he gets things up and running he wants a Radio Station, because he can use it to raise awareness and the advertising revenue will help sustain the Orphanage – and Layla – well she wants a School and a Church on this land – I think we're agreed it will be called 'Adam's Town'. I think even the staunchest, most stubborn and determined people I know in the UK, having had this many obstacles put in their way, would have salvaged what they could and run off to the Costa Del Sol or the Caribbean – depending on the scale of things? NOT these two. Layla is now pregnant with their second child, but on Sunday, she took some of the kids with her and spent most of the day harvesting the Maize. And Imoro – when he's not running around gathering/buying building materials or seeing to the business of the Orphanage he is . . oh did I forget to mention . . he's almost finished his Social Work Degree! Layla says that when he's finished studying she will go to College. This young couple welcome you with open arms and manage to keep going in the face of all adversity! I love them both, they are my friends, and an inspiration to us all!

Next time, I'll tell you about our local markets and my meetings with two distinguished Healers . . .

To be continued . .

Copyright Rosa Montague