It is so hard to say goodbye.
The past few days at Hovde have been filled with emotions, both positive and negative. It is amazing to work with the children. On Thursday the group witnessed the goodbye of one of the boys at the Hovde house. It was sad to see him leave all the other children at the house, but at the same time it was happy to know that he was moving onto his next step in life. That night I felt nervous for the boy. He was returning to his parents- the people who sold him to traffickers. Would he be resold? Would he be happier with his parents? Will he find an occupation despite his academic struggles? Witnessing the goodbye helped me realize how much the children at the Hovde house care about each other. On Friday we heard from one of the workers that he was very happy at home and his parents cannot wait to get their other children back (which are also at the Hovde house).
In addition, on Thursday afternoon I was followed around by the youngest child at the Hovde house. He is a little 5 year old boy who has been at the shelter since April. He barely speaks any English, but he seems to understand it and he is smart. I carried him around for a while, giving him the attention that he deserves. As I carried him, he rested his head on my shoulder and fell asleep. A few times throughout his nap, he would hear a loud noise and awake abruptly as if something were after him. I presume that his inability to sleep soundly was caused by his trafficking. The poor little boy that is small enough to fit into my arms seems so happy, yet he has been through so much.
During our trotro ride home on Thursday I was listening to music and the song “Fix You” by Coldplay came on. I realized that the lyrics fit perfectly of how I feel about these children.
When you try your best but you don’t succeed
When you get what you want but not what you need
When you feel so tired but you can’t sleep
Stuck in reverse
And the tears come streaming down your face
When you lose something you can’t replace
When you love someone but it goes to waste
Could it be worse?
Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you
I cannot help but to be upset with the children’s parents and furious with the traffickers. They broke these children. They took away their childhood. They have scared them for life. Although I only get to work with these children for a total of six days, I am determined to make a difference in their lives. I want them to know that they are loved and that they can succeed.
Today was my first full day serving at the Hovde House. The Hovde House is a temporary rehabilitation home for children who were trafficked. When their stay at Hovde is complete, most children are returned to their parents or other family members. At this point the children become students at Challenging Heights- the school I have been serving at the past 3 weeks.
Almost every child has some evident sign of abuse- but every single one of them is loving and willing to learn. When I look at these children, I forget they are children. I see little adults running around. It is clear that they were all forced to mature way to quick and were not given the opportunity to have carefree childhood days. These children have touched my heart quicker than I ever imagined possible. Their hands and hearts may be rough, but I hope for them to soften over time.
Today, while I sat in a room full of former child slaves, I realized how weak I truly am. I was surrounded by children who have swam for their lives, have been beaten, have seen friends die, have done more physical work than I will probably ever do, have lived without family contact for many years, have had little food for days at a time, have worked through physical and mental exhaustion, yet they are still able to smile. I am amazed at how strong these children truly are.
Working with children at the Hovde House gave me a whole new perspective for the students at Challenging Heights. I now understand how much the students at Challenging Heights have grown and how many things they have struggled through. I have only been away from Challenging Heights for a day, but I miss it already. I get to go back on Monday and Tuesday, but I am beginning to realize how hard it is going to be to say goodbye.
So much has happened the past week and I am just now getting the opportunity to blog about everything. Last Sunday we took a trip to Cape Coast. In just one day we walked on top of the rainforest, saw some monkeys, bartered in the market, and watched African drumming. It was an exhilarating day which really helped me realize how much Ghana truly has to offer.
This past week has been filled with long days of service. As part of my service I am working in a kindergarten classroom that has about 70 students. During my opportunity there have been so many positive and negative things that I have experienced. This week I learned a new game that is used to teach students how to skip count- which I definitely plan on using in the future. I also learned that there is a Ghanaian song and dance that corresponds to my name! (The best part is children have been singing this song to me for the past two weeks but I thought they were just putting my name to song…) It is wonderful to see children’s behaviors calming down in the classroom as I gradually show them love. In addition I feel valuable to Amelia (the teacher I am assisting) when I am able to provide to her my teaching knowledge since she has little understanding of teaching theory or classroom management since teachers in Ghana are not required to go through rigorous teaching education prior to working in the classroom. One of the saddest moments that I have had to experience this past week involves “contribution fees”. Every morning the students arrive to school on time, dressed in uniform ready to learn. Amelia begins teaching until the headmaster’s assistant comes in with a checklist. At this time the assistant reads off the names of students that have not paid their contribution fees and thus have to leave school- this eliminates about 50% of the class- leaving a half empty classroom. It is the saddest thing to see children being kicked out of their learning environment repetitively because of lack of funds.
Yesterday, Katherine and I wore African dresses that were created by Peace’s (another teacher at Challenging Heights) seamstress. This was my first opportunity with wearing traditional African clothing- it was an amazing experience. Who knew that putting on clothes would help me understand the culture in a whole new light? Every Ghanaian was so excited to see us wearing traditional African clothing. Our classes even started clapping and cheering for us as we entered our classrooms for the day. During break time yesterday, a group of teachers, Katherine, and I rushed to see part of the engagement for Mary’s (the Challenging Heights preschool teacher) wedding. During this engagement, many gifts are exchanged and compromises are made for the blessing of the parents to allow this wedding.
Today, a group of us attended Mary’s wedding. It was an awesome experience to attend a Ghanaian wedding. The wedding was very long and so many people were present- we filled the whole church. It was wonderful to see the coming together of so many people to support the love between Mary and Richard.
I am starting to realize how limited our time is here in Africa. We have two more weeks of service, a few days of presentations, a test, and then we have to leave. There is still so much that I want and need to do, but so little time. The past 4 weeks have gone by so fast! Let the adventure continue.
"To whom much is given, MUCH IS EXPECTED!"
I could not agree more with the motto of Challenging heights. I am starting to learn more and more how the teachers and children truly live by this motto. Inspiration.
Almost all of the children I have encountered are so kind, helpful, and welcoming. Those students who do not express these qualities, seem to be acting up out of want for love. Although I have only been working at Challenging Heights a total of 4 days, I have observed that by providing love to many of the behaviorally challenged students, their overall behaviors have been impacted positively.