Musings on Ghana

In April 2016 Rick and I boarded a plane for Ghana. We had done some research when we received our mission call about the country we were going to.  Rick told me very authoritatively that all people in Ghana spoke English.  I had read that it was very close to the equator and expected it to be hot which it is. I also had read that it was a relatively safe country and that it was one of the richer countries in West Africa. Compared  to New Zealand Ghana is extremely poor. Many people have no food for days on end, are ill and receive no medical help unless they pay first, and live in squalor.  The median strip in the middle of the road in Techiman has beggars daily with their hands outstretched looking for a donation.  Some are blind, others are crippled and some people are ill.  In Techiman possibly only half of the population speak some English and many nothing at all.
Ghana is historically famous for its gold.  Previously it was called the Gold Coast.  Now crude petroleum,  cocoa, cocoa paste, cocoa butter, cashew and Brazil nuts, gold and wood products are in the top ten export earners for Ghana.  Who gets the money and why can’t children go to school free here,  get medical help, have food daily and be safe?  Corruption is a major issue.  Both Transparency International and World Bank rank Ghana higher in the corruption index compared to other developing countries.
We have learnt much about Ghana and its people while living in the hinterlands and are truly grateful for the experience.  We return to New Zealand in mid February.   We both feel privileged to be citizens of such a wonderful country and are excited to be coming home.
Below Cocoa beans I picked off the very neglected tree in our yard.
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We drove to Ghana Make a Difference and brought Eric back with us to spend Christmas here in Techiman.  He spent most days visiting his family which I think was restorative and healing for him.  The shirt he has on was a Christmas present I had made for him at my favourite tailor.  Emanuel Eric’s two year old brother who adores him is pushing him!
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It seems bizarre but Santa even has a presence here in Ghana.  Rick and I at Santas grotto in Kumasi on the 29th of December.  Santa stays longer in Ghana!   Christmas seems to go on for at least three weeks after the twenty fifth with many people asking for “their present.”  Police, people in stores, children you have never meet before, and even the cleaning girl in a public toilet had her box with a slot in it asking for money.
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Below Eric with a famous Ghanaian actress song writer, Nana Ama McBrown.  Eric saw her drive into a car park we were in when we were taking him back to the shelter.  He was extremely excited and waved shyly at her. She stopped her vehicle and came over to Eric who was seated in the truck. Nana posed with Eric while I took for several photos.  Eric was so very happy. I must say she was a very lovely person.
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Below:     Two missionaries walking down a very typical road in Ghana.

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Giant craniums carrying stuff!!!!!!!

In Ghana huge loads are carried very skilfully on the head. Researchers have found that people can carry loads of up to twenty percent of their own body weight without expending any extra energy beyond what they’d use by walking around unencumbered.  I have seen very young children carrying items on their heads.  One day I wittnessed a lady trip and drop her sewing machine on the ground, and I have often seen water dripping from over filled bowls, but mostly items appear to be carried effortlessly and without mishap.
This  morning I took this photograph of the wee girl who comes to the Lodge next door with her mother who does the cleaning there.
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Heads are used to carry anything and children start very young.  These children are carrying chairs up two flights of stairs and were happily doing so.
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I’m not sure if this urn was pottery but it looked very heavy to me.  This lady was carrying it with and such grace and style.
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We attended the passing over ceremony at a village well water project with LDS charities in May.  This lady was one of the first to collect the water with her bowl.
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In case you have thought it is just females who carry items on their heads it isn’t so.  Often I see boys and men transporting items on their heads.  Firewood is being transported by this young boy.
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This is one of my favourites. My husband immersing himself in the culture.   Elder Wood carrying a bag of thirty water sachets…. and no it is not a giant jelly fish as someone suggested!

Surgery and Papaya

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Nineteen year old Grace Frimpong whose  leg was seriously injured two years ago in a motorbike accident.   She has been having it dressed daily at a shonky hospital and has had three skin grafts that are very ugly.  Her leg is bandaged from her upper thigh to her ankle.  HART Africa, the medical humanitarian team from Utah headed by Dr Kimball Croft,  came to Ghana for seven days.  Dr Croft was the plastic surgeon who provided a miracle and arranged for Eric Ayala to go to the US and performed the surgery on Eric in Salt Lake City in July.
The HART team were based at two hospitals in tiny remote towns about four hours from Techiman.  The plastic surgeons did two surgeries on her leg but unfortunately the infection hadn’t cleared sufficiently to have grafts done. 
Grace is a very brave girl. There is a substantial ulcer on the back of her leg behind her knee where the muscle can be seen. She was excited as some members of the team gave her a few clothes and others gave her beads to make up.  For a girl who has had virtually nothing, she was extremely appreciative and happy.
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A Pawpaw or Papaya tree inside our front yard. The fruit is ripening now and we both love it.  The tree is about twenty feet tall.  Last year we could easily get the fruit off it.  The tree would have doubled in height since last year.  It is way to high now to get the pawpaws down.
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A small taxi arrived with two huge tractor tyres on the roof. There was no roof rack on the car.   The tyres were  just sitting on the roof with ties around them.  It took three men to lift each one off in absolutely torrential rain.  These cars transport the biggest loads.  If the vehicle will move under the load  it goes in it.
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Eric in Utah about two weeks before he returned to Ghana.  It was getting very cold there but he loved it.  He told me one day he went outside and it felt “like air conditioning on outside.”
He complained the day he arrived back about the heat and how hot it was.  I think he is acclimatising now.
Eric is now living in a wonderful shelter called Ghana Make a Difference in Central Region.  He will receive a high school education and hopefully will be able to get a job afterwards.  A GO FUND ME page has been set up by Mike Madsen in Utah for Eric Ayala.  All of  the money 💰 raised will go to Ghana Make a Difference for Eric’s education.

Eric Ayala and bits and bobs

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It is getting very cold in Utah now.  Eric told me after he had been in hospital for three months and went outside for the first time,  that the air conditioner was on outside.  Eric is no longer having to live with ugly open wounds on his body.  He is free from the osteomyelitis which has ravaged his body and he is well for the first time in many years. This is all thanks to the skill and goodness of Dr Kimball Crofts who arranged for Eric’s treatment in the US.  Also for all the other medical staff that gave their skills and expertise to help Eric.
On 18th of November after four months in the US Eric returns to Ghana and is incredibly sad to leave.  Since  his release from hospital he has been staying with a wonderful family the Crossleys.   They have a son serving a mission in the Kumasi Mission and have loved and cared for Eric like their own. He has experienced what it is like to live in the luxury that we in first world countries take for granted.
Eric as he has had his every need met physically, emotionally and spiritually at the highest level. Hundreds of people have showered him with love, their time, gifts and given him a taste of life in a first world country.  He has been fishing and caught fish and ridden on a horse, which he found scary.  He has been up mountains and experienced snow and ridden on a sled towed by six dogs. Eric went to a BYU football game last week and met the players and coaches.  They even asked him to rap for them in Twi and cheered him afterwards.  He has had a rap professionally recorded. While he was in hospital Alex Boye came and spent time with him.  For the first time in his life he has felt safe and well.
Returning here to the unknown wirh harsh memories he doesn’t want to recall, must be very unsettling to him.
Eric is going into a shelter called Ghana Make a Difference.  It is about seven hours from Techiman and his family. He will be there for possibly six years while he completes his high school education.  No one washing his clothes, driving him wherever he wants to go, no hot water, no free internet, or people meeting his every need, never having to think or do for himself will be a hard reality check for him.
My heart has ached when he has repeatedly told me how he doesn’t want to come back to Ghana but understands there is no choice.
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Rick says this is how you should pack your car when you are going on holiday.! The vehicle is a taxi. They load so much into them often the mufflers are scrapping on the road. The men that you can glimpse on the left hand side of the car are standing on the back of a ute. Below. A Trotro full to overflowing with people, produce and luggage and  a goat being transported on the roof.  This is a common sight in Ghana.
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People dry their clothes everywhere.
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Oh the things you see

Absolutely illegal in New Zealand and possibly all western countries but a common every day sight here. People riding on the roofs of trucks, on the deck of trucks, on trailers like this unprotected. The photo was taken from our truck at an intersection in Techiman.  The truck had been loaded with cement and the men sitting and standing on the truck were covered in it.

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This is where Morris “our tailor” works. He is very good and has made pants of very bright Ghanaian fabric for all our grandchildren.
Actually I had him make  pajamas but three have chosen to wear them as pants in public!
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An Emperor Scorpion arachnid.   The number ten boot is Rick’s.  It was on a country road and he saw it as we were driving.   I grabbed my iPad and got this photograph.  I didn’t want to get any closer as it had its tail with the venomous stinger ready to attack.  Since we have been here we have seen three snakes crossing roads, thousands of lizards, a few spiders, and snails the length of an adult number five shoe and I have been bitten many times by red ants which I really dislike.

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This wee girl was about seven.  She has bunches of plantain on her head which she was selling.  She was very shy so I gave her a tiny packet of biscuits and then she smiled. She is clutching them in her hand. I didn’t like the slogan on her tee shirt but as she only spoke Twi she wouldn’t have known what it said.
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The government have been talking about passing laws to stop child marriage but who knows when and if that will happen. I was surprised to see this billboard sponsored by Fortune rice on the side of a busy road.
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Lisa took this photo when she was here.  I love it as you can see the storm clouds rolling in.  We were at Ghana Make a Difference,  the shelter where Eric will go when he returns in two weeks time. This employee was frantically getting the washing off the line.

Harsh Life for Some in West Africa

This tiny wee boy was born in March 2017.  His name is Benjamin.  Nine days ago he was admitted into hospital suffering from severe malnutrition.  He didn’t cry, wasn’t moving, or showing any emotion. He was  just laying perfectly still.  He had no strength to do anything.   He is being feed under supervision in the hospital. Only eight days ago he was too weak to sit up. He is being raised by his grandmother in a tiny village in abject poverty.   I took this photo on Sunday. Lisa our daughter when she was here went into this hospital and described it as a war zone.

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Compare this photo with the baby below.
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This photo I took on the sixth of August.  This bonnie boy is also called Benjamin and is also being raised by his grandmother who is able to  breast feed him.  These little boys were born two weeks apart and Benjamin above was only five months old when this photo was taken.  I spoke with a dietitian today and he said sadly in Ghana many mothers are no longer breast feeding their babies.  He said they are trying to feed tiny babies on a maize porridge which their systems can’t absorb and there is little to no nutrition in it.  Hence the serious malnutrition problem in babies.
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This gorgeous girl is just four years old and from a privileged home.  She is in her school uniform and is a confident happy little girl.  I have seen her a few times in a pharmacy we use and I thought she was super cute in her uniform.
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Obviously there is no OHS here in Ghana.  Look at the scaffolding as the plasterer works on this house.  The man has a deformed leg and I wondered if he had an accident working in insane conditions like this. The planks he is standing on were wobbling like crazy.  It was a heart racing scene to watch.
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Very graphic pictures on a huge billboard just down the road from our house.

We have now been eighteen months in Ghana.

Mother Teresa who lived for a big part of her life amongst some of the poorest of the poor in Calcutta, India was a controversial figure during her life and after her death.  She was admired by many for her charitable work. She was once asked why she did what she did when it was only a drop in the ocean.  Her response was ” we ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean, but the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.” I have become encouraged since reading this small statement and have had to remind myself when there are days here when it feels like what we are doing is not nearly enough that the drop we add can and does make a difference.
Below is Frieda with her Aunty.  Frieda who I have blogged about previously, has congenital Ricketts.  Today we took her for a three month appointment with a paediatrician here in Techiman, and to everyone’s delight Frieda has gained 2.7 kilos and grown a small amount. The vitamins, potassium and phosphate that she is taking daily has made a huge difference to her little body. Her mother says that she now sleeps better, eats more, is happier and has much more energy.
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We were so very privileged to have our daughters Lara and Lisa here with us for just ten days. The time passed in a whirlwind of travelling, missionary experiences, some sightseeing and just being together.  We are very grateful and blessed to have such inherently good, kind, compassionate,  thoughtful daughters.  It was very quiet and sad when they left. Lara to return to Australia and Lisa to New Zealand.  We are both so grateful for them traveling so far and leaving their families to spend time with us.  Below our beautiful daughters meeting Eric Ayalas family.  Lisa who loved all the Ghanaian babies kept saying she wanted to take one home, is holding Benjamin who is nine months old.
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Diane with Lara and Lisa at Buabeng Fiema Monkey Village.  I thought the daughters were very brave indeed especially as one jumped straight onto Lisa’s head within minutes of us arriving at the sanctuary. She did shriek a little but both her and Lara conquered their fears and fed them and did the tour of the village.  I’m glad it hasn’t happened to me as I would not get out of the truck if it did.
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We were driving along this street and saw this lady stumble and the sewing machine, which would be her life blood, fell on the ground. We hurried back to help her and she was in tears. Little buttons and cottons were all over the ground and the machine wasn’t looking good at all.  My wonderful husband put it back together again as her and I picked up all her sewing notions.  I was kind of disappointed at the number of people who walked or drove past and never stopped to help.  A couple of young guys on a motorbike did call out God bless you as they went speeding by!!!!
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Something completely different.  A back yard petrol station.  There are many in the Brong Ahafo area where we live.  Because of the numbers of them we figure they are not illegal as a lot of them are on main roads.  This man was very happy to have his photo taken with this equipment.