"Tears, Smiles and Tears"
Today we are scheduled to go to the Hohoe Christian Children’s Home. Before we leave Kpando we have become aware of another acute public health problem. We drive a very short distance behind the health center and we are in a small village. We depart from our Tro Tro (which appears to be held together by not much more than duct tape and rust). We are visiting a watering hole. We trek into the woods about ¼ mile along a rutted path and we meet many people, mostly children, coming out of the woods with various water containers on their heads. It is amazing that these people have to walk such lengths to get their water.
Our true shock comes when we come upon the watering hole. There are actually 3 holes. The first one can only be described in one word. DISGUSTING. It is a large hole in the ground filled with putrid green water. We do not see people collecting water from this hole but we are told that people do use it if the other holes are low. We come to the second hole. I have to tell you that the next part is pretty gross. If any of you have the seen the movie The Ring you will recall that there was a deep well that a little girl was drowned in. Well this “hole” is exactly like that movie and the saddest part of all is that over the last year six children have fallen in and drowned and only one body was recovered. The other 5 bodies have sunken to the bottom of that well and supposedly not retrieved. These families have to continue to draw their water from this well. Part of me doubts this story but if it is true I can only imagine the anguish a mother must feel as she has to draw water for the rest of her children from the very well that took the life of her other child. The third hole is quite active today and surrounded by about 20 people who are drawing up the water using buckets and ropes. You can see how a small child could fall into these wells and if no one was around there is no way to climb out. It is a pure vertical cylinder of old stone. The village has been trying to get some funds to dig a bore hole but the government is not listening to their request. They have asked for our help in this project. We are unsure what we can do to help them but we will be visiting them on Saturday for a demonstration about boiling the water that they are pulling out of the holes before consumption. We will see what the costs are for a bore hole. This is a perfect project for our engineering students at UML and I hope to bring this to their attention.
After our walk out of the woods we load back into the Tro Tro. We are like little sardines squeezed into a small tin can. Hohoe is about a 30 minute drive down bumpy roads. We arrive at the orphanage to be greeted by the loving arms and hugs of 30+ children. They are all so happy and affectionate and give freely of their hugs. One of the Community Projects is implemented today with the orphans.
The UML students are presenting a dental health program today. They have donated samples of toothbrushes and paste and have developed a whole program that is flawlessly implemented for the attentive audience of children ages 3-15. It is interesting to note that even the older children are interested in the coloring pages that are given out. They do not consider them to be juvenile and my impression is that they are sweetly naïve to all the usual American teenage angst. I am joined at the hip by my new “son” Francis. He has stayed with me all day today and at our previous visit. The founder, Nicholas is married to an Australian woman who is back in her country for a Christmas visit. She is a white woman and I think the children are missing their white mother. I am missing my own children so it is a nice way for me to give and receive affection.
There is a cute little three year old girl named Lee and she has a very obvious bald spot on one side of her head that appears to be a healed burn. We ask for her story and it is the most tragic story I have heard yet. She is from the region of Tamale and has only been in the orphanage for about a month. She used to live in a village that was very superstitious. Her parents died, of causes unknown to me, but her grandparents believed that this little girl is a witch and she is to blame for her parent’s death. They chained her and starved her and burned her head with some type of hot metal to get rid of the witch. She was found by a census worker who rescued the child and gave her to a Peace Corp volunteer who in turn brought her to the orphanage. You can see the fragile bones of this dear child who appears to be thriving in this caring environment but one wonders about post traumatic stress disorder and what type of psychological issues will arise for her in the future. She is affectionate and loves the clothes and underwear that we have brought with us. This horrific story has me near tears.
The young boys seem to gravitate to Maura and me probably because we are mothers. They want to tell us about themselves and share their colored pages with us. My buddy, Francis is staying close to me and insists on carrying one of my bags. We take multiple pictures and I cannot wait to load them onto the BLOG site. Our Tro Tro arrives and the children hover around us. Francis is holding tight to me and crying into my shirt. It breaks my heart to leave him but I am not in a position to take him with me. I would like to continue to communicate with the director and hopefully Francis will write to me as he has promised he would. There are so many children here who need a home.
My day ends on a bright note. I have been able to use my own laptop in the internet café and the access seems a bit quicker. I have been feeling a bit lost without communication from friends and family and I hope it will improve a bit. It is now about 11:30 pm and tomorrow will start early so I will go to bed now.