Sunday, August 23, 2009
“Visiting the Orphanage” by Tammi; 23 Aug 2009
There is an orphanage in town. When we first came to Donkorkrom our headmaster was going to take us there for introductions. But somewhere between the obligatory district assembly, chief’s palace, police station, administrative offices, etc., etc., that particular stop got missed. So Chris and I decided that we should probably go there on our own some day.
The orphanage was established about 5 years ago with the assistance of the Presbyterian Church. I’m not sure what Donkorkrom would look like without the Presby Church. For one thing, the church itself stands quite prominently on one end of town and its congregation is one of the largest in the area. It is flanked on one side by the Presby grade school, and just around the corner and down the street is the Presby hospital and dental clinic. The church is quite progressive and active in the community. In fact the assistant pastor recently invited me to attend a meeting in a nearby village where the Presby’s are helping to set up an agricultural community for women living with HIV/AIDS. The Presbyterians among you should be quite proud.
At first we weren’t sure if visiting the orphanage was a good idea. I know it’s not the same, but I kept thinking back to the time when Chris and I decided to go “just to look” at the Great Pyrenees puppies and came home with Jazper! But armed with a conviction to our child-free lifestyle and a Ghanaian law that forbids adoption to foreigners, we felt it would be safe for us to go. A warm reception by the house mothers and children made us feel immediately welcome and now we make regular stops there every couple of weeks. Thanks to those of you who have sent books, colors, etc., we are able to arrive with some type of planned activity complete with your donations to leave behind. Despite the fact that other white voluntourists occasionally visit the orphanage, Chris and I have become regular enough that as soon as we start up the driveway we here little voices calling “Kwamie Tenten!, Sister Adwoa!”, which of course motivates us to keep going back.
At present there are 17 children, ranging from infant to primary school in age. All of them are from our Afram Plains area. According to the house mothers the children have come from mother’s who died at childbirth, are mentally unstable, and/or from destitute families who cannot or will not provide for their children. Having never been to another orphanage Chris and I have no basis for comparison. But the facility seems clean enough and loving enough and the children are provided with decent education and health care (which are luxuries that not all children here have). I’m sure it’s not all rosy though. We are beginning to know the individual children well enough to identify those who will likely have greater mental and physical obstacles to overcome. But as they say here in Ghana, “They are trying”.
Instead of helping to propagate our species, I’ve made a vow to try and make this world a little better place for those who are already here. I’m not sure if our visits to the orphanage are helping to achieve this goal. But hopefully providing a little exposure to Dr. Seuss can’t hurt!