Stop what you’re doing. Get up and get all the old books your kids don’t read anymore. Put them on the kitchen table, your desk, the floor, or where ever you’re reading this blog from. Go ahead. I’ll wait.
Got ‘em? Great.
The night I got into Accra, the very first news story I was confronted with (because news in Ghana is not brought to you – you’re confronted with it) was a story that was broken by Ghana’s premier investigative reporter, Annas Aremu Annas, on the plight of the orphans at Osu Children’s Home. He secretly shot footage of the squalid conditions and the cruel treatment that most of the children endure. In a country that touts itself as ‘the land of a thousand smiles’, they were horrific images to behold and no one was smiling. Crippled children were being drug across concrete floors before being bathed with damp dirty rags that had been sitting out all morning. Infants were left to wail for hours with no one to tend to them. Bereft of love, some of them have turned to sodomy to find some sort of comfort, and this has of course evolved into older children sexually abusing younger ones. It’s a national tragedy, and sadly, I’m certain is not unique.
When I lived in Labone (a suburb of Accra) OSH was literally a stone’s throw away from my house. It’s been years since I lived in the area, but as a kid I recall being struck that I never saw any children playing outside on the compound.
“An orphanage should have swings or something,” I thought in passing. Inside I imagined a world of singing orphans, somersaulting over banisters and dodging the spiteful punishments of a proverbial Mrs. Hanigan. Eventually, OSH faded from my psyche, although I passed it daily. The truth is, these orphans have probably been abused and ignored for decades and until Annas’ shocking revelatory report, very few people gave them a second thought.
To the country’s credit, the public outcry in Ghana has been swift and condemning. A few small groups have even gotten together to sort out what they can do to help the orphanage. There is only one dinosaur of a politician (whose name I will not mention on my blog) who has blasted Annas for his report saying “he should have asked his permission before broadcasting the footage” and that Annas has “disgraced Ghana” by revealing this cruelty. As though our media is censored and the shame not lies with the perpetrators of these evil acts. For my part, I’ve been haunted by then image of a lanky little boy being tossed about by a stone faced male worker while his legs dangled lifelessly behind him. How long has he been treated like this, I wonder? What thoughts flood that little boys head? Has he been ill treated so long that his heart has become as stony as the face of that uncompassionate man who is charged with his care? What could I even do about it?
The financial needs of OSH are monolithic. Greater than that, they not only need more staff, but a staff that has the temperament to care for several hundred children. Childcare is not an easy job. I have 4 small kids myself and take no joy in the 30 minutes it takes to clean their squirmy little bodies. I can’t imagine having to bathe 60 kids, particularly if I didn’t like my job, or worse, the kids themselves. And this is where many of the wardens at the orphanage find themselves. Overworked, understaffed, and ill suited to this work to begin with.
So again, what could I do to change all this? Nothing. Nothing at all. But what I can do is be a small part of the change that I am certain is coming to the home. I don’t have plenty of money, but what I do have during these 2 months I’ll be in Ghana is plenty of time.
Last night, my two girls begged their grandfather to read them a book. As he stumbled over the words through his bifocals, they sat in rapt attention, offering to turn the pages to find out what happens next. All kids love to be read to. So, I’ll go read to the orphans. Sounds simple enough right? Wrong. There are two problems:
1) I only brought two books from the states, and one of those is The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis (hardly literary fodder for little kids)
2) This is Ghana. Nothing is ever simple in Ghana. I’m sure there will be some bureaucratic BS I’ll have to swim through just to spend an hour a week reading to a few desperate kids…Because this is GHANA.
So, reader, would you do me a favor? While I go get on my hip boots and prepare to go beg the OSH administration to allow me to show their charges some kindness, would you get up, go get some kids books (even if the pages are missing and the covers are torn), put them in the mail and send them to:
(Mailing info removed because this is now moot, 2013)
Please? You will?
Awww! You’re so sweet. Thank you!