By Joanna Flagler, Marketing Communications Director
This is a story from someone very close to us. Lee White is a former employee of CCI Greenheart, serving as a Regional Director for the High School Academic Year Program (AYP) for 16 years. As a Regional Director, her
love of cultures, languages, and travel merged as she worked to find dedicated and qualified American host families for international exchange students from all over the world. Being a part of the AYP department for as long as she had, Lee’s retirement this past spring was bittersweet, but her cultural adventures and nurturing nature didn’t stop when she left us. Recently, Lee volunteered for one month at an orphanage for abandoned children in Ghana. When our President & Founder, Emanuel Kuntzelman, and CEO, Laura Rose, learned that Lee would be making this incredible journey that also supports our mission, they offered a financial contribution to help offset her expenses. Lee also used the funds to provide books and art supplies for the orphanage, and food items such as peanut butter (a good source of protein for the children). She recounts her experience here.
I met Sister Stan a couple of years ago when she spoke at my parish to raise awareness about her orphanage. She is a Catholic Nun who cares for approximately thirty children in an orphanage in the North of Ghana. While some of the children are perfectly normal, many have health issues that range from mild (improperly formed hand) to the more serious (fluid in the brain, heart defect, seizures, inability to walk, developmental delays, hearing/speech problems, intellectual challenges). These are the children who have been rejected by their parents and by their villages. These “Spirit Children” as they are known in Ghana, are considered “evil omens” that must be removed so bad luck does not fall on the entire village. But in reality, they are not evil, but simply children born with disabilities.
Parents who no longer want to care for their children, find the nearest Catholic priest, deliver the child to the priest, and together they take the child to the orphanage (information spreads by word-of-mouth and parents know that Sister Stan is a nun and that the priest will know how to find her.) Upon delivery to Nazareth Home for God’s Children, Sister Stan interviews the parents, asks them to sign or fingerprint paperwork, and then says: “Give me the child. I will take him/her.” Parents leave and Sister never again hears from them.
While I was there, I was able to witness two children being brought to the orphanage. Fourteen-year-old John was rejected by his parents because he has had seizures since birth. Until seizures are under control, the local public school will not accept John. An 8-month old girl we named Augusta, arrived with her parents and the priest. Augusta has fluid on the brain and will require surgery.
There are over thirty children in the home and it is at capacity. Yet, another child was brought after I left: one more with fluid on the brain will now equal four children requiring surgery.
While I was at the home, I had babies and toddlers sitting in my lap or tugging at my skirt for attention. We sang songs, did art activities, and read stories; but, this was not “real teaching.” These lessons were under the shade tree because it is cooler. There are six older children who are very bright but behind academically because the public school is not good. I had” classes” with these students each evening in a little room and mainly worked on reading, writing, vocabulary, and some very basic computer skills. In addition, I spent the night with two boys who were hospitalized for surgery as they are so young and needed someone to be there with them. The hospital stay was a learning experience for me!
Sister Stan has great plans for the future to include a new and more spacious facility, a school, and a medical clinic. She receives no money from the Ghanaian government or from the local Catholic Diocese. The home operates completely on the generosity of those who wish to help the children. Sister is happy to receive people from all faiths, traditions, and races who wish to participate in her mission. With so many children with special needs, volunteers such as teachers, doctors, nurses, physical therapists, speech / hearing professionals, dentists, loving moms and dads would support Sister in the programs she is hoping to provide the children. I volunteered in the home for one month and I can honestly say that I received far more than I gave.
Okay, I fell in love with Ghana: the people in general and the children, in particular.
Lee has already started planning her next visit to Ghana. Since her time at the orphanage, they have started construction on a new facility. If you’d like more information about the orphanage, or how you can help, please contact Lee at leeinsang[at]yahoo[dot]com.