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.

IMG_6255

Compare this photo with the baby below.
 IMG_5314
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.
IMG_6259
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.
IMG_6257
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.
IMG_6256
Very graphic pictures on a huge billboard just down the road from our house.
Advertisements

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.
IMG_6203
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.
IMG_5998
IMG_6204
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.
IMG_6181
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!!!!
IMG_5982
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.

Celebrating 25 Year of Marriage in Ghana

Tuesday the 5 of September was our twenty fifth wedding anniversary.  Three years ago in my wildest dreams  I would never have imagined spending it in Ghana, West Africa.  We had arranged to take the Andoh family to the Accra Temple for the parents to be married and sealed to their twin daughters as a family for ever.  It was a beautiful place to celebrate our wedding anniversary.  Sister Gifty Andoh is legally blind and I loved being able to help her in the Temple.

img_5731

After attending  the temple we went to our favourite restaurant in Accra, well a restaurant we know how to get to without getting hopelessly lost!   It is called Lord of the Wings.
For excitement for the night on the way back to our hotel we were stopped by another corrupt, but very likeable policeman on a tiny bike.  He said we had gone through a red light, which we considered to be untrue.  Then he said if we gave him 500 cedis he would let us go or else we would have to go to the police station. That is their big threat. I shouted and said no way.  Rick told him to follow us to the US Embassy and we would ask the American Consulate if we should give him bribe money.  He wouldn’t know we are not Americans!!!!   He said it’s okay and declined that invitation. After much discussion and haggling Rick said I will give you all the money I have in my wallet.  He had all of six NZ dollars which is equivalent to eighteen Ghana Cedis. It was all in one and two Cedi notes so looked like a lot.  The guy grabbed it smiled, waved and drove off.  He would have been very disappointed when he looked at his hard earned bribe money but we were both fed up with the arguing/negotiating and Rick decided it was easy to give him something.  The smiling thug that he was.
IMG_5714
IMG_5660
We have undertaken and done somethings we never imagined we would be doing on our mission.  This is one of them. A branch president asked Rick what could be done to help this mother and daughter find a tiny building to cook food in so they could sell it.  I think he was talking about an open carport type structure or a lean to. They had worked cooking for a few years and the owners closed the business. They had no income to support themselves and three younger boys. Above is the shed he built for them. In Ghana this is like the Taj Mahal of sheds!  Below the mother Vida and her daughter Sandra preparing food in their new cookhouse.
IMG_5652
 Below is Eric Ayalas mother Lucy.  When Eric was hit by the car and made a paraplegic Lucy was also hit.  She suffered severe head injuries and a very badly broken leg which was never set properly.  She has constant pain from the leg, which is deformed,  and still has terrible headaches. Lucy is out with her cutlass, we call it a slasher, cutting down the weeds. She is an example of many such Ghanaian women who accept their hard lot in life and carry on never complaining.
IMG_5766
IMG_5667
Above are two missionaries on their PDay, (preparation day) doing their weekly washing.

Africa and Self Reliance

Below is a sight we have seen many times.  Women and men carrying hand operated sewing machines on their heads.
IMG_5580
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints encourages its members to be self-reliant.  This is one of the tenets of our faith. Self-Reliance is the ability, commitment, and effort to provide the spiritual and temporal necessities for one self and family.  When we become self-reliant we can in turn  help and give service to others.
Since Elder Wood and I have been in Ghana we have facilitated several twelve week self-reliances classes.  My Job Search, Education for Better Employment, and  Starting and Growing your own business were three of the classes that we ran. These classes were well attended and most people who enrolled were able to obtain a certificate at the end of the course.  There was extensive homework and assignments to complete. The students helped each other in the courses.
The article below written by Cindy Aden is a very short but very true commentary on how to help Africa from an African.  Since we live in Africa we can say here-here to what has been written.
The article was written by Cindy Adem who lives in Nairobi, Kenya.  
WHAT CAN THE WORLD DO TO END EXTREME POVERTY IN AFRCA.  
First step.

Stop looking at us like victims. Like people who need to be ‘saved’ and rescued from ourselves. Like charity cases who add nothing to the world except take, take, take. Because the truth of the matter is, we have consistently been taken from. Been robbed, overtly and covertly. Seductively or brutally. And that is the truth.

Let’s look at solutions though:

  1. We need trade, not aid. Come establish your businesses here, employ the local population.
  2. Partner with us in our attempts to find solution to our own problems, do NOT pretend/assume you know what we need.
  3. Manufacture/assemble your products here. I’m talking about phones, vehicles, etc… the labor is available and affordable. And capable.
  4. Allow us better terms in international trade agreements (this has been happening so, let’s keep it that way if not better).
  5. If you feel you need to donate, go through local small businesses; those are the ones growing the economy. The government steals from the people and most non profits are addicted to international dollars.

Most importantly:

Please….. For all that is good and heavenly, refuse to steal from usDo not buy our gold and send the money to a personal account in the Caymans. Refuse to accept stolen money to be hidden in your borders. Stop giving ridiculous bribes for projects you otherwise do not deserve.

In short, just don’t be shitty human beings. If you know you’d riot if what you’re doing to us was done in your own country, refuse to be a part of that.

But, if you forget anything else, remember this:

We are on our own journey, allow us to go through it, the best way we know how to. Democracy may mean a different thing to us than it does to you, so let us be (aka leave Kagame alone and never ever topple another president, we are stuck with a failed Libya). We still pay for and accept dowry, so please deal with it. We don’t all do FGM, it’s a problem we are working on solving. Some of our communities still live with lions and elephants, we will ALWAYS choose a human being over an elephant. Unless they are poachers.

We do have a role to play in the development of our own continent; 99% of it is on us. But if you feel inclined to help, do it well. Make it count.

Sites and sounds

unnamed

Above is a Road King motorbike.   Basically it is a three wheel, single cylinder motorcycle with a trailer on the back.

IMG_5094

Meat being transported on a Road King.  We have seen Road Kings carrying live stock, goats and Brahma cattle, timber, yams with people sitting on top of the load, crates of tomatoes, furniture, water tanks, and coffins with the deceased in them.  If you can think of something that can be moved a Road King operator will probably try to do it.
Below is a Road King with a few people on the back of it. (They have the orange tee shirts on). It is not unusual on a the Road King to have the driver and two people riding up the front with him.
I took this photo in Main Street of Techiman.
IMG_5215
IMG_4207
There are literally hundreds of thousands of churches of all denominations in Ghana.  Some are very elaborate and others are tiny halls.  This one is on a main road between Techiman and Kumasi in the small town of Akumadan.
IMG_3792
This is a mosque in a small town.  About twenty percent of the population in Ghana are from the Muslim community.  There are about six mosques in Techiman.
IMG_5213
I think this missionary’s face has been taken off the internet and used on the sign of a tiny little takeaway bar in  Techiman.  The look on his face doesn’t suggest at all he is enjoying the food!!!!

Eric Ayala. VALIANT SURVIVOR EXTRAORDINAIRE

The photo below was taken on his twenty first birthday here in Techiman. I am still amazed how he survived to live to twenty one.  Eric was hit by a car when he was a small boy. He was diagnosed as dead but was later found miraculously still breathing.  He has spent years in and out of hospitals and the accident left him with multiple injuries and a paraplegic.  He has had numerous surgeries and been in multiple hospitals in Ghana. Eric has been deprived of food and water for many days. His body has been ravaged with a serious infection, (chronic osteomyelitis) for years, and has had massive weeping, open abscesses on his body. He has had frequent severe pain from the infection. He has lived in squalor and attempted suicide. In spite all of this he has survived. Eric would be one of the bravest, most grateful, determined, funny, young man I have ever known.  Eric has a firm testimony of Gods existence and love for him. He is bright and has learned to speak English, (albeit with a Kiwi accent), and to read and write in less then a year.

IMG_5147

On the seventh of July Eric flew to the US for life saving, and we pray life changing surgery.  Through the generosity of Dr Kimball Crofts  who heads HART Africa, and his assembled team of specialists, (other surgeons and specialists who donated their skills and expertise), and Intermountain Health Care,  Utah Valley Hospital in Provo, all Eric’s surgery and medical needs were covered pro bono.  Eric was admitted to the Utah Valley Hospital on Monday the 10th of July. The next day he had surgery headed by Dr Crofts which was a two and a half hour procedure.  He has since had a further procedure which was six hours of surgery.  This was flap surgery to cover the open wounds that he has had on his body for many years.  These wounds leaked putrid fluid in large amounts and he was constantly wet from them. Eric is in great spirits and recovering well. Hopefully next week he will be moved to a post acute care rehabilitation centre. None of this would have been possible if it wasn’t for Dr Crofts and all those incredible people who have given of their time, their skills and support for Eric. We sincerely thank Intermountain Health Care for their very generous gift of free hospital services for Eric.   Utah Valley Hospital where Eric is staying he  described as a hotel when we wheeled him in.  He also said it doesn’t smell and there are no cockroaches.  We are eternally grateful to all the medical staff that have given this gift to Eric.

IMG_5148

Left Katie Crofts in the Ghanaian print apron, Dr Kimball Crofts MD Plastic Surgeon and Becky Berry.  These three people met Eric when they came to Ghana with HART Africa, a humanitarian medical team in August last year. Dr Crofts operate on Eric and tried to rid his body of the osteomyelitis.  He said that when he returned to the US he would endeavour to help Eric, and he is a man of his word.

 

Life as a missionary in Ghana.

Missionary work in West Africa can be extremely rewarding, also very trying and challenging. I believe we have learnt and grown personally. It is enriching and has helped change my views of the world.  It has been a lifetime event that I would now never have missed.  Some aspects of it I have found very hard.  The poverty and harshness of so many lives.  Horrific health issues that many people who can’t afford medical help endure and die from.  The eye for an eye mentality, the cruelty, and the corruption of so many government departments is very hard to cope with.
We have been blessed to have a Mission President, Michael Cosgrave and his amazing wife Sister Cindy Cosgrave. They have made our lives so much easier by their love, positiveness, thoughtfulness, encouragement and support of our efforts here in Ghana.
Last week we spent three days at the Mission Home in Kumasi being instructed, learning, sharing life insights, eating wonderful food and relaxing somewhat from our day to day life in Techiman.  We were joined by three other “senior couples” who also serve in the Kumasi mission.  They are all from the US and we are the only Kiwis.  We loved teasing them about how tiny New Zealand with a population of only four and a half million beat the mighty USA and took the America Cup in the boat race. 👍🏾
It was a lovely three days spent doing many varied and some ODD things. We had a challenge race with another team to find a corn field, swimming pool, a school, taxi cab, a mother with a baby on her back and several other wacky things.  We had to wear a mask which was supplied, and take selfies with all of us, (four people) in the photos.  The Ghanaian people were staring at the four crazy old Obruni people running around trying to do all of the challenges.  It was much fun and I was grateful we weren’t arrested for being completely balmy. We were teamed up with Elder and Sister Schow who are the Office missionary couple.  They are great sports and we all laughed a lot.
IMG_5088
IMG_5083
Swimming pool at a hotel.
IMG_5085
Outside a school
IMG_5082
Mother with a baby on her back carrying a parcel on her head.  Two other random people jumped into the photo as it was being taken.
IMG_5093
Another great,  and not so balmy activity, was having a pedicure with all of the sisters at a new state of the art mall which had opened recently in Kumasi. In the chair beside me is Sister Renfroe who kept giggling as the chair was vibrating and the beautician was tickling her feet.
IMG_5080
We all went to the cultural centre for retail therapy. Left in the picture is Sister Dearing the mission nurse. Sister Cosgrave is centre, on her left is Sister Renfroe, my head, and then Sister Schow is on the far right.  The Ghanaian girl behind Sister Cosgraves lives in Utah.  She has just completed an MA. in voice and performance and was organising a choir to sing the Messiah at Christmas time in Kumasi. We meet her at one of the stalls.  The man on the left was a doctor at a huge hospital in Kumasi and was in the choir that was being formed as were the two other Ghanaian men.
IMG_5022
The senior couples in the Kumasi, Ghana Mission.
Back row from the left.  Elder and Sister Dearing, Sister and Elder Schow. President and Sister Cosgrave.
Front left. Elder and Sister Wood.  Sister and Elder Renfroe.