Laura’s third week in Ghana
Monday 26th February – My first day spent at Brightlingsea Free School! Greeted by a bundle from all the 106 school pupils, head teacher Ben then led a whole school assembly outside. The children were able to sing their ‘Brightlingsea School song’ and I made a short speech to introduce myself to pupils and teachers, which amazingly they stayed quiet for. It was truly amazing to see over 100 children attending school because of Porridge and Pens.
I spent the remainder of the morning orientating myself to the different classrooms, class levels and getting to know some of the lovely pupils and teachers. Being able to see the children eat the breakfast and lunch food that is cooked on-site was great and I even got to sample some myself – of course eating with my hands!
The afternoon I spent in the nursery classroom where there is around 30 pupils singing, playing, learning and napping.
Since there had been a massive downpour of rain on the Sunday night, I took the opportunity to walk halfway home with 13 of our pupils, these children walking to and from school alone everyday (for 30-60 minutes). The rain had led to some very slippy, muddy ground and this was treacherous as the children crossed a makeshift bridge to get past the water and to get back to their homes. I needed a hand myself so you can imagine how difficult it is for those as young as three years old!
Tuesday 27th February – Second day at Brightlingsea Free School. After arriving a little late, because my Tro Tro broke down along the way, I spent the morning checking items that had been shipped from the UK – a big thanks to the Chelmsford Phoenix Rotary Club (stationary items and backpacks) and to Braintree Lions Club (for the slide and swing for the new playground).
I was then able to get photos of all current staff at Brightlingsea Free School, for the updated website so that people are able to put faces to the names! I was able to learn a little more about some of the most vulnerable pupils attending school, including Emmanuel Boateng who is just five years old. He told us that his mother was not home when he woke up and he had to get himself ready for school with no food or drink at home. Thankfully Brightlingsea Free School providing free breakfast and lunch means that Emmanuel doesn’t have to go hungry. I am planning to visit Emmanuel at home to see his home environment and to meet his family, I am told that he has four other siblings with one also attending Brightlingsea Free School.
During the afternoon I spent time assembling the slide for the playground, which took a little while as my DIY skills are not the best! Luckily I had head teacher Ben to assist me.
Wednesday 28th February – I was lucky enough to meet Dr Hussein and spend a few hours with him at Kumasi’s largest hospital.
Arriving in the Accident and Emergency department was something else bringing chaos and desperation for so many. I took this opportunity as I wanted to see first-hand what happens to children whose families cannot afford treatment and to see the prevalence of preventable cases of malaria. Something that effects all of the children supported by Porridge and Pens.
I met one 14 year old girl who was in the higher dependency ward in A&E, she has sickle cell disease which flared up to the point of crisis following a case of malaria and she was very unwell. Treatment in hospital is free for 24 hours and after that, no money, no treatment.
Later I overheard the doctors talking about this young girl, saying that her family do not have a dime for her treatment. In fact the doctors were rushing around all of the emergency wards to find left over medication, which sadly only happens when patients pass away before finishing their purchased medication. I asked Dr Hussein what if there is no left over medication? He told me that often doctors will pay for this out of their own pockets, otherwise the patient will die.
I’m hoping that by making this link I may be able to get some durable mosquito nets donated and to create a short leaflet with basic preventative measures against malaria. This way every time a child is discharged with a case of malaria, complicated or uncomplicated, we would be able to provide a mosquito net (to those who do not have) and to follow this up at intervals throughout the year. It’s food for thought at the moment but certainly something that would stay within the lines of education!
Thursday 01 March – At Brightlingsea Free School we had a workman arrive to level the ground for the playground site and to assemble the swing. The children also practised their march for Ghana’s Independence Day which they will perform on 6th March, very exciting!
I was able to use this afternoon to update some amazing voluntary groups who have held independent fundraisers in establishing funds for launching ‘Girl Power’.
Certainly no snow here, I’m lucky if it reaches under 35C!
Friday 2 March – This morning I again completed some emails and correspondence back to the UK to keep p-to-date the many groups who have previously fundraised or continue to fundraise for Porridge and Pens. A lot more time consuming when the internet is so intermittent!
Today I have also confirmed to take Ibrahim (one of the pupils at Brightlingsea Free School) to hospital next week. He has Hepatitis B and is in desperate need of a medical review, as his family cannot afford to take him this is well overdue. Sadly, Ibrahim only lives with his grandmother who is visually impaired – so I will have a teacher accompany me in anticipation of any language barriers!
Saturday 03rd March – Today marked our third week of our orphanage Fruit Drop project!
We arrived with our fruit for the children. A young mother was there giving up her twin boys to the orphanage. She told the founder that her husband is physically abusive and she could no longer shelter her children from him, despite reporting him to the police. She was hoping to move away, get a better job and come back for her boys in the future. This was heart breaking for a mother and her boys, yet her last resort in keeping them safe.
We also got a chance to speak to a young group of orphans (between 9 and 14 years old). We asked what their favourite thing about living there was. They warmly told us that their favourite part is when they have visitors like us. Not only are we providing fruit for a balanced and more nutritional diet, we are also providing them with social stimulation and integration with others outside of their home.
We met with the coordinator of the orphanage home. He told us that due to many confidential regulations, they are able to tell us little about the circumstances leading these children here. He did, however, tell us that the circumstances they see are most commonly due to abandonment (many abandoned on the street), child trafficking and loss of parents. It was a heart breaking yet amazing day getting to know these children who have been through so much already.
Sunday 04th March – Rest day!