Accra Ghana Temple

Accra Ghana Temple
Accra Ghana Temple

Sunday, April 29, 2012

An Eye Opener - Life in West Africa

I'd like to share with you some episodes from the life story of a 17 year old Ghanaian young man.  His life has really opened our eyes.

When he was 3-4 years old, his father died.  As so often happens here, his mother deserted him to pursue a new life and he was taken to the father's village to live with his grandmother.  His grandmother couldn't support him and took him to his uncle's home and begged that the uncle take him in.  He remembers her begging and crying before the uncle finally said yes.  He and his sister were treated subservient to the family.  They were only fed once a day in the evening and he ate out of a calabash (dried gourd).  He developed smallpox and was not allowed in the house. He remembers the white pustules weeping.  His mother's sister stopped by to see him and brought some soap for his sister to bathe him.  Eventually the sores healed.

When he was 5 he began following the boys who tend cattle and was given permission to live with them.  They would leave very early in the morning and came home late at night.  They only carried with them a bag of water and a bag of porridge or groundnut soup.  Many times they were beaten by the rainstorms in the forest.  On one occasion he fell out of a tree; the arm never healed right and his lower arm and hand are crooked.  He feels blessed that he can still use the hand and arm.  

One day a cousin came and the owner of the cattle told him how industrious and intelligent this boy was.  So at age 10 he began kindergarten.  But, when he was in 3rd grade he was taken back to the village without any explanation.  His great desire was to continue school, so he began finding firewood in the forest to sell.  He did this for a year trying to get enough money to pay the fees for school; school is not free in Ghana.

Then one day, word came to him that he had an older sister in Accra, who sent for him. She worked as "house help" and didn't have extra money.  So, he continued to search for firewood to sell to pay for school fees.  Then he got a job setting up the tables and chairs for a food vendor early in the morning and taking them down at the end of the day.  Eventually, he found a man who let him sleep in a vacant room for the last several years (with no kitchen and no bathroom).  

An expat friend of ours met him while volunteering at a school.  When she returned to the US in 2011, she said to me, "I hope it is OK but I gave your phone number to this young man in case he needs something.  He has no one."  She also left some money with us for him.  We have met with him almost monthly this last year.  Most of the time he makes enough to continue school, but not quite enough to buy food.  He has just completed 8th grade and taken his exams.  He is very hopeful to continue on to high school, maybe up in the North of Ghana - Bolgatanga where his family came from. 

I believe he will succeed ... against all odds.