This blog post comes to us courtesy of intern Alan Propp.
What a whirlwind of a week it’s been so far. After around a month, we said a sad farewell to Tony’s Lodge and Sunyani, and greeted the bustling city of Kumasi, in the heart of the Asante Region. The change has been relatively dramatic, as we left a quiet portion in the cleanest city in Ghana for the promisingly named “The End Hotel” in the midst of a yam market in a busy city. The noise is constant (punctuated by the mosque’s call to prayers across the street), but the busyness is actually wonderful. We can’t walk anywhere without people calling out to us, asking where we were from, teaching us how to dance, and chatting us up about soccer football. It is a more immersive experience than our relative isolation in Sunyani, and we love it.
We began with two orphanages in Kumasi this week, and the differences become apparent in the hours that we stay there. The documentation is much worse than we saw in Brong-Ahafo – for some children, there is almost nothing, or just an ID card or a picture. The kids speak far less English, as well, making communicating very difficult. The children’s back-stories are also very different; at these two orphanages, we saw more often than not children who had families or even parents very much alive and well. Our meetings every night are very helpful, as Samuel and Pat (two of the social workers with us right now) help us dissect the meanings and undertones of the orphanage we do on any given day. Often it is difficult to discern when children are being abused, but more and more we have found that this abuse reveals itself in subtle ways: extreme aggression, or extreme timidity, often tells of a child’s hardship.
The more we learn, the more I believe in Kaeme’s mission. These children are far more than statistics; they are curious, intelligent, and promising children who face more limits than opportunities. I have spent hours in the sun just this week, talking to kids about everything from the president of Ghana to religious beliefs, to explanations that my freckles are not in fact marks of skin disease, and it amazes me how much they know about the world with so little exposure to it. To reunite these children with their families and reintroduce them to the outside world would be a blessing both to them and to Ghana, because they have so much to offer. This belief is what makes me excited for work every morning, but also what makes that work so hard. Every step we take is a step in the right direction for these children, but each step becomes increasingly more difficult, both logistically and emotionally.
Finally, the past week has opened me up to the beautiful openness of Ghanaians. As I mentioned, they are unafraid to strike up a friendly conversation in any scenario. From the taxi driver who told us about his life in the Ivory Coast, to the cacao farmer who introduced some of us to her family at Lake Bosomtwe, to the Ghanaian men in the barbershop where Nick and I got haircuts who put on a personal dance performance, we have been welcomed with open arms and given a taste of the kindness of the people here. It is something I will dearly miss upon my return home.