Life Observations


I just wanted to share a few updates about how things are going in Ghana and with Project Global Hope.

Recently one of our Ghana sisters delivered a healthy baby boy. He and mom are doing well now, but it was a long journey to a safe delivery. We were notified that she was going into labor, and needed to have a cecearian because her previous delivery was cecearian. She was having other medical complications and was in a severe amount of pain. She was admitted on a Thursday and transferred to a different hospital the next day. 5 days later the baby was finally born. During those days we were told that she would not be taken in for the surgery until a down-payment was made on the costs of the surgery. Some amazing people stepped forward and donated to help make the surgery possible. For those of you wondering about health insurance in Ghana… that’s a story of it’s own. All I can tell you about this situation is that we were told no down payment, no surgery. A huge, huge thanks to everyone who donated to make the surgery possible. The baby has not been named yet, there is a naming ceremony that must take place first.

The Fern House is coming along nicely. Opportunities continue to arise and the program is being blessed. They have a new website up. Visit The Fern House (please view in Chrome or Mozilla, they are working out the IE kinks). There are volunteers headed to Ghana next week. Follow the news feed on their blog to learn more about The Fern House and their exciting adventures while they are in Ghana.

The educational sponsorship program just sent funds over for kids to start the new school term. We are still in need of many sponsors for education.  Here are Children Needing Sponsors, I encourage you to just stop by the page and read a bit about these kids. A big thank you to the donors making it possible for these kids to receive an education. You are providing hope and a future.

From our last trip we started a feeding program at a school in Chorkor. We are still looking for sponsors to help us provide food for the children in that school. We are intermittently offering meals, but we have not been able to establish a regular program. The goal of the program is to enhance the education of the children by ensuring some food is made available to the children. Hungry bellies distract from learning. Visit the PGH website to learn more about the program.

We recently did a Yard Sale Fundraiser, it was cold, windy and rainy… but still a huge success. Thanks to everyone who donated their time and resources. The money is going to go towards our plans to start an internet cafe.

We are currently planning another trip to Ghana the first week in November. If you are interested in joining us or learning more about the work we are doing on that trip, feel free to email me. I’ll be posting more info about it as time allows.

Thanks for all your support and thanks for reading my blog!

Here’s what was going on 3 years ago, in May, as we prepared for our first adoption.

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I am realizing that there is actually a lot more I could be doing beside working on my virtue of patience.

Once we get a referral we are encouraged to send a small package of items to our child. Several items are recommended and should fit inside a one gallon zip lock type bag. It should include a small photo album, one 8×10 photo of the family, a small blanket to act as a transition item that the child can take home. However, it is possible that none of the items will be returned, so they encourage you to buy/make duplicates so that you can have them for the child on the trip home.

I have been doing a little research on the forum of our adoption agency and you would be amazed what some of these women can fit into a one gallon plastic bag, here is the list from one mother:
blanket, rattle, pic, book, bib, onesie, sleeper, toy. Since I am an overachiever I am going to try to get a kitchen sink in my gallon bag. I refuse to be out-done.

Apparently there are also some streamlined packing lists that have been developed as well. Some of these organized travelers have made some of the most detailed packing lists I have ever seen. I am not sure how to top a packing list that includes the number of pair of underwear I need to pack and your above average toiletry list including tampons, but I thought it might be possible until I saw that the list also included Duct tape – is there anything Duct tape cannot do? I decided the list is complete and that I should use it and not attempt to fix something that is clearly not broken.

Travel shots – well this topic lends itself to a story. For those of you who consider yourself a friend or acquaintance there are probably a few basic pieces of information you have about me that are well known:
1. I am full of useless facts and information – and every once in a while some useful facts.
2. I don’t eat blue food.
3. I have an insane fear of needles.

Soooo, Trenton was the first to get an appointment and go to the doctor in preparation for adoption and travel. He came home with 4 band-aids, two on each arm, blue in color. When I saw them I said “WHAT ARE THOSE!!??” He calmly replied to my panic, “What?”… “Band-aid, four band-aids! Why?” I blurted. He explained calmly that we needed to get travel shots (I knew that! not FOUR). I was a mess, my appointment wasn’t for another two weeks – I would be a wreck by then, worrying about the needles!

I arrived at the doctor, she knows me, they all know me, we all worked together for the past year. Going to the doctor for me is like a visit with old friends – except the part where friends feed you dessert and these people stab me with needles – OK it’s more like some strange kind of torture, but I like them all until the needles come out. Anyway, I explained to the doctor again, that I don’t like needles and that I would be happy to provide documentation to avoid any “just-to-make-sure” injections. I talked her down to only two! I was soooo proud of myself. So the medical assistant comes in, I warn her that I do not like needles. And she says it will be OK because she normally works with pediatric patients and she is fast and good, then she added that she was military trained, “in case you need to throw a punch.”

I thought I was all set, I’ve been poked before, I have something like a 50% success rate of staying upright throughout the process. The odds were against me today! She poked me once, she poked me twice… the needles were out. Ahhh, but the worst was NOT over. Moments later I requested permission to lay on the floor – denied. I immediately followed with another request to lay on the floor – I was redirected to the exam table. The next time I followed with a statement, “OK, I am going to lay on the floor now.” So I did. Picture it, like a crime scene, I am sprawled out on the floor face down with my hot sweaty face pressed against the cold tile floor of the exam room.

Moments later I am surrounded by a couple more of my “friends” who are wondering if a “code” is in order. “NO, IT IS NOT!!”. I am thinking, “Do not call a code, everyone in this building knows me and they do not need to see me laying here on the floor over a dumb little needle.” The story goes as you might expect, I have to stay to be observed, they give me water and a lecture about letting people know I “pass-out” from needles. Apparently the average health care professional hears the words “I don’t like needles” several times each work day. I was told that those words must be followed up with “… and I pass out.” The medical assistant put a formal note in my chart. It’s official, I pass out from needles.

Back to the point of this blog, I need one more shot, for Yellow Fever. This blog is long enough. To be continued…

The Fern House is a pregnancy resource center is a collaboration of efforts of several people and the vision of two amazing women. Again, I’ll avoid posting names here in the blog, but you can find out more about this program on the website. To be very clear up and front, The Fern House does not support, endorse, recommend or otherwise promote anything other than the choice of life for an unborn child.

I am going to admit I don’t know much about crisis pregnancy. I am learning. Some of it seems obvious now, but it was one of those things where I attached a name and concept, but no real image or emotion. I had only the most American perspective on these things. It made sense to have a crisis pregnancy center in Ghana. It seemed obvious… pregnant lady has no emotional or financial support, seeks counseling. She may even need protection from an unsafe environment. This in itself is a great mission. I was happy that these folks wanted to partner with us at PGH. A pregnancy resource center – just such a nice thing to offer. Everyone loves babies; surely we could get donations to welcome these beautiful new souls into the world. Such a happy ending… (the sound of breaks coming to a screeching halt) WRONG. I was totally wrong. Pretty much wrong about everything. Crisis Pregnancy. A Crisis. Not an “inconvenience pregnancy”, not an “oops I sure wasn’t expecting this pregnancy”. No. these are “HELP ME I AM AT THE END OF MY ROPE, I HAVE NOWHERE TO GO AND NO ONE TO HELP E, I AM GIVING BIRTH TO A CHILD WHO WILL DIE BECAUSE I HAVE NOTHING, AND I MAY ALSO DIE IN THE PROCESS” pregnancies.

A quick reminder my blog is called my Point Of View, because it’s just that, if it was called “Find the facts here” you could say how far off base I am with my understanding of the things to follow. But I don’t know the facts, I don’t have all the research. What I have is eye witness accounts. What I have is conversations with women young and old, in Ghana, who have told me of their struggles in pregnancy. I have heard stories of survival, and death, and pain. The lack of justice angers me.

I don’t know where to start, but a little foundation on the issue – from my point of view. These are poor women. Poor. They can’t take birth control because they don’t have the money for it. In any culture you will find promiscuity, but you will also find situations of force, demand, and outright attack. For a moment let’s talk about the women who didn’t have any choice or say in the matter. They just found themselves torn and broken… and then… pregnant. Let’s talk about these women and girls. (If you need additional shock factors Google these words without the dots and extra spaces “s. e. x. c. u. r. e. s H. I. V.”).

The girl finds herself pregnant, she has nowhere to turn. No one. And what family she might have has disowned her for her shameful behavior resulting in pregnancy (remember she didn’t have a choice, but no one is listening). What should she do? The odds aren’t hopeful, there is a chance neither she nor the baby will survive the birth. What little food she can access, is wasted on morning sickness. She is losing strength and any hope she did have. Her options are bad and worse. She can live this nightmare or end it. For about $13 USD she can access a pill to stop this process. Really that’s all she knows about the medication, it will make this stop. The reality, as explained to me, is that she is going to take this pill way too late in her pregnancy, and it won’t work so she will do it again, and if money permits she will do it again. Yet she will give birth to this child, who has now been exposed to a series of harmful chemicals. Or if she does take it “early enough” then she will go home and experience pain nearly as excruciating as birth pains for many hours, only to look down at some point and see something shocking. No one told her that what she would find would like a baby. No one told her she would have to figure out how to “dispose” of something that would come out of her. All she knew was that the pill would create an end. And what it did was create a beginning to her trauma. There was no doctor involved, no parents, no support, only a pharmacist behind the counter and a small box of medication. If someone would have told her something, anything. If there was anyone there to support her, maybe she would have come out with minimal bruising, but rather she is torn apart physically and emotionally because of the experience.

And what about the young girl who carries her baby to term and then attempts to deliver? Somehow she does find herself in a hospital. And for a moment she is relieved that finally someone will help her. But the doctor doesn’t help. The doctor watches her small body tear apart as she gives birth. It is clear this kind of damage will prevent her from having any more children. The other outcomes include pain, scaring, inability to control her bladder… embarrassment and less hope than ever. Learn more about the condition called “fistula” at Wikipedia ) or learn more about it here Video: A Walk to Beautiful, the video is 54 minutes long, but you’ll be moved in less than 2.

Then after all this, there is still a child. If the mother died, no one in the culture wants to accept the baby. They are fearful of the disease she might carry that caused the mother to die in birth. There is an unfounded fear that she has something contagious, and caring for the baby will spread the disease. The child is left in the hospital. Maybe she will survive (click here to see a real survivor), but the chance are against her.

And if all the stars line up and somehow this mother and baby make it out on the other side of the birth together. Still no food, no skills for working, no education… no hope. I talked with this girl. This young woman who made it out on the other side but still had nothing. She held her baby and told me her story. She told me how she was afraid and her parents would not help her and her father would become drunk and frighten her. She wasn’t educated on how to care for a baby. She was lost. All hope was lost. And she told me after all of this, still she wanted her baby to be placed for adoption. There was no hope for a future for either one of them. She looked at me and asked me if I could find someone to adopt her baby. But for this mother and daughter hope did arrive. Hope in the form of two women with a vision and a place called The Fern House. So I told her she has hope now. And she doesn’t need to place her baby for adoption. I told her there is opportunity and she should take the opportunities that she is being blessed with. If you think I am crazy to have made these statements to her, let me confess that I stole those words. I listened to a 21 year old Ghanaian college student tell a 13 year old 2nd grader (yes 2nd grade) that she has opportunity now. Someone is sponsoring her to go to school. She doesn’t need worry about going to America or being adopted. She just needs education and she will find opportunity.

There will be more about this mother’s story to come… if you would like to be part of the hope for this mom and baby visit the website and contact us for more information. My description – The Fern House pregnancy resource center: A place for mom’s, babies, and families to turn to for help for those who made a painful decision to end a pregnancy, or the painful decision to carry on, or for whom the choice was not an option. A place for women to learn to care for babies. A resource of education about options in a crisis pregnancy. A place for women to see that they are loved no matter what choice they make.

The home needs more help. Advanced rent is required in Ghana. In case of the Fern House two years upfront. Generous donors helped to make the home possible. But there are many other ongoing needs – there are about 3 women living in the home with a growing number of women using the resources and counseling offered at the house. The house is in need of sponsors for these women and babies for food. We need water and electricity for the house. We need transportation to get women to doctor appointments; we need clothing, and baby supplies. And we need a way to educate the mothers to move into the workforce, through, education, tools, and trades. No one is being paid to do this work. Those working in Ghana are making huge sacrifices with their time and energy to bring hope. If you would like to learn more about The Fern House, or you would like to help with the needs or sponsoring a mother or child, please let us know. Most importantly keep this work in your prayers.

As always, thanks for reading my blog and stop by the Project Global Hope website.

Chorkor Part 2

If you haven’t read Part 1 of this post, please do. Our work in Chorkor could happen anywhere. Helping a school, providing food in a community, looking for ways to overcome poverty. Anyone could do it anywhere. But we aren’t doing it anywhere. We are doing it in Chorkor.

Prior to this trip a team of people helped raise money for a project called, Food for Thought. The goal is to have a feeding program at this school in Chorkor. Since we know the children will learn better if they are fed, it’s part of the goal of improving the education being offered at this school. The school is a “community school”. The primary reason for the existence of this place is for safety from the dangers in the area (see Part 1), mostly related to obvious dangers of a nearby ocean. There is no tuition fee to attend the school, there is a cost for uniforms, but some children come without uniforms.

The children, ages three to seven, walk to school, some a long way. I think it is fair to say that all of them are underfed, but for some there is the added complexity of being hungry and walking a long way. Or being hungry and ill. Having energy to learn is a barrier when they walk through the door. We hope providing food will improve their ability to learn.

The school is called Deliverance. The building doubles as a church on Sundays. The building has very little stability to the overall structure. There are large gaping holes and missing boards in the walls. The roof doesn’t stand a chance in the rain. A rainy day equals no school. It is hot. Only an intermittent breeze from the ocean offers relief from the heat inside of this building holding up to 120 children. My camera and I found a small vertical break in the wall where we stood to reverse the effects of overheating, though the fix was very temporary for both of us.

So there we were. In Chorkor. In Deliverance School. Bringing supplies to start a kitchen. Plates, forks, spoons, cups, large pots and large serving spoons, a gas tank, a burner… The items were presented to the school. The school did a dance presentation for us. It was amazing to see the people gathering to see what we were up to. Then our Ghanaian lead stepped forward to say a few words. I listened carefully, but I wasn’t hearing words. I was just feeling. I was feeling what he was saying. And what I felt was that he was placing these children’s needs in the hands of God. He spoke in a way that gave them hope. Hope for food, hope for learning, hope for a future. I felt small. I wondered how I ended up here. Who am I? How did I get here. Really, was I going to be a tool to help these kids have hope? Indeed I am only a tool. Anyone who thinks I have the strength, resources, energy or time to do this work is sadly mistaken. I have no time, I have no energy, I have no resources that I call my own. And strength… leave me to my own vices and I would nap all day, but those who hope in the Lord shall renew their strength. So that’s all I have, hope. Hope. Hope in the Lord. Without it I have nothing. So I hope in the Lord every moment to have the strength, energy, time and resources to do this work, His work. Please don’t ask me, “How do you do it?” I don’t do it. I just have hope. It took me several hours, if not an entire day to think through how shocked I am that God trusts me to do any of this. The next day the children actually got to eat a meal. I wasn’t there to witness it, but they brought me pictures. I was totally moved looking at the pictures of the kiddos sitting in front of those plates. It wasn’t about being happy for them to have food, though I was happy about that, but it was about hope.

We have plans to continue to work with this community as a whole. This school is a small part of what we believe will happen there.

As I mentioned, my children are from Chorkor. So visiting Chorkor is an opportunity to learn about our children and the life they lived before God allowed us to care for them. I don’t know that I feel comfortable writing a lot about that -partly because it’s pretty emotional for me, partly because I am not prepared to explain it to my children if they read this, and partly because I don’t yet know what I am to learn from this community, but I know it’s something big. This is a fishing community. Someone taught these men to fish. You know… give a man a fish feed him for a day, teach a man to fish feed him for a lifetime… there is something to be learned about that, and for me it’s not as obvious as it looks. I’ll wait for a while. When I “get it”, then I will talk about it. Until then I am just a student.

We do visit many homes in the community in Chorkor. We take rice, oil and toilet paper. Yes, toilet paper. Again, I don’t have words to add to that, however, think of the dignity of these people. I sigh. What else can I say. Think of it for a moment, just think of it. We bring the items we bring because it is what is suggested to us by those who know the community best. I don’t really know more about why we bring toilet paper, but I certainly didn’t feel in any position to say that we shouldn’t take it. Imagine, if you had three wishes and one was to have toilet paper. I am not sure if this sounds funny in some way. Like 3rd graders find humor in potty talk. But frankly it’s disturbing to me. For those of you who are reading these blogs to learn a bit about the culture I have another tip here. Often people ask me what to take, and then call and ask if a pink dress is okay, or brown shoes, or used shoes, or an item they have never used. Take what makes sense. Don’t worry about colors and shininess, just think about practicality. Durable clothing, durable shoes (used or not), functional items, and a little bit of fun. If you wonder if you are bringing the right thing, ask yourself if it’s as useful as a roll of toilet paper, ask yourself if it maintains dignity, if it provides hope. In general I doubt the color has much to do with the functionality or need for the item. Maybe that’s not a helpful tip, maybe it is.

Chorkor is a place where hope is waiting to get in. There is something about this place that moves my heart. I hope to have more to share about this place in the future. More to say about the work to be done and hopefully testimonies about the work being done. Please contact Project Global Hope if you would like to be a glimmer of hope in this community.

We plan to return to Ghana in October or November of 2011. Part of our work will be here in Chorkor. Please consider joining us on a trip to Ghana.

This is a two part post. Part 1 to give you the setting, Part 2 will talk about the work we did in Chorkor on this trip.

Tuesday we went to Chorkor. I have been to Chorkor several times, it is the location of my children’s first home. It’s not an easy place to live or visit. In all honesty, I’d prefer to stick to the photos that show you the school children and the people smiling when we give them food. I have great respect for this place, the birthplace of my children. And I do not wish to strip her or her people of any dignity in writing this blog. But, you need context to understand this place. The reality is that no picture, video, or written description can really describe Chorkor. This is an over-populated fishing community. The local beaches are used for dumping sewage (up to 100 tankers per day) into the ocean. A heavy odor of smoked fish, sewage/waste and lack of airflow through the over populated area, is like nothing I’ve ever experienced. I am sharing this to raise awareness and hopefully educate on the needs in this area. If you are inspired to help please visit Project Global Hope for more information on how to help.

I’ll let someone else give you a written overview of Chorkor (below), but first a brief video. Again I apologize for the quality of the video. We were attempting to cross contaminated  standing waters (this is not a lake/pond) and my focus was on my step, not the camera screen. All in all, I think you will get the idea.

Here is an article I found some time ago… try to imagine it. Imagine raising your children here. Imagine having poor health, lack of nutrition and trying to survive in this environment.

Chorkor A Suffering Community

Chorkor is a community in the Greater Accra Region surrounded by suburbs such as Dansoman, Mamprobi, and the Atlantic Ocean, with the fishing and fish mongering as the main occupation of the people.  

Chorkor is a densely populated area and lacks basic social amenities such as toilets, bath houses, drains, and schools.

A painstaking tour by the Accra File revealed that teenage pregnancy was on the increase, which had resulted in number of children of school going age roaming in the community.

The tour also revealed that the unplanned nature of the town/ community has exposed the inhabitants to communicable diseases and unhygienic practices-related diseases.

Owning to the unavailability of proper sewage systems and drains, waste water from homes runs through other homes, and children below the age 10, were spotted defecating along these drains.

While frantic efforts are being made to restore the beaches of the city, the Chorkor beach is now a free range for defecating, and a refuse site for both the old and young.

The beach, despite its filthiness, is a safe haven for wee and cocaine smokers, without regard of its effects to the human body, and the country as the whole.

The unavailability of social amenities like a football field and general play ground in the community, the children in Chorkor seek solace by playing in the beach sand, which exposes them to the dangers of the sea, and other diseases brought about by the filthy environment, since they spend most of the time hanging out there.

A closer study of the area also revealed that a nursery school was being run close to the beach, upon questioning some residents about the poor location of the nursery school, The File gathered that due to the unavailability of public toilets in the area, the children use the beache should the need arise.

Emmanuel Lartey Lumba, a fisherman, told the Accra File that the presence of the refuse was hampering fishing, which is their only source of income, adding that the sea was full of plastic waste and other garbage elements.

He said, a community like Chorkor had no designated site for refuse containers, and most households dump their refuse into the sea.

Lartey Lumba said people from as far as Mamprobi, Sukra, and other neighbouring communities, have been dumping refuse and solid waste into the Chemu Lagoon, which in turn carries them into the sea.

The fisherman noted that the situation was more devastating during the rainy season, when man-made pools of water stare at one in the face, and the washing away of more garbage into the sea, making the fisher-folks catch waste material in their nets, instead of fish, most times.

He said to this end, most of the fishermen in the area had abandoned the occupation, due to the constant picking of refuse instead of fish.

“Poverty in the area is very high, making most both and old patronizing indecent trades like the sale of drugs openly,” Lartey Lumba noted.

A place like Lanteman, is a very crowded area, with the roads un tarred, and there are no drains, so most residents pour their waste water in the middle of the road, thereby creating pools of stagnant water which become a breeding place for mosquitoes and other flying insects.

A question baffling the mind of the Accra File was whether the Sub-metro Public Health Directorate is doing its mandated work of ensuring that wholesome food is sold to the public, but in the case of Chorkor, the situation is very different, since foods are displayed close to filthy, stinking and choked gutters.

We sleep in a bit on Day 2. The guest house we stay at doesn’t have air conditioning or hot water. It makes getting out of bed less than desirable. Holding really still underneath a ceiling fan is like heaven when you are in Ghana. So sleeping in is a win/win.

Today we visit the foster home called Assurance of Hope (AOH), we have a lot of emotional ties there. Read about this miracle when we visited the home last year.

(more…)

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