Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Be a Funnel Today

I have the funniest relationship with the workers at the Volta Region post offices. As a yevu I'm already easyily recognizeable, but they primarily remember me as the girl who hoots and dances when she gets a package. The customs officer in Ho still remembers me months later, and I'm on friendly terms with the entire staff of the Aflao post office. They all abandon their work and run over when I have a box, to see the latest oddities I've received and chuckle over my "bizarre" reactions. No matter how many times I explain that the contents are for my babies at the orphanage, they always seem puzzled why I'm hopping up and down over YET ANOTHER box of diapers. They tolerate it because I'm good entertainment though. As for me, I usually do everything I can to avoid drawing attention to myself, but something about receiving a new batch of donations kills my inhibitions. Boxes mean Prince, Princess and Philip will have diapers for another week, and Ashili, Constance, Aguh, Gracious and Fali will have real toothbrushes. They mean another month that Good Shepherd won't have to use a considerable chunk of their tight budget to buy sanitary supplies for the girls, and basic household objects for Rose, Kafi and Abla. Real people with real needs.

My trip to Ghana has always been about service.
Yes, I have been fascinated by Africa for my entire life. I want to explore every corner of our big, beautiful, interesting planet. I wanted to challenge my independence and self-sufficience.
But the heart of my trip has always been my desire to serve. Nothing less could have pushed me to cross an ocean and move to a town I had never heard of. And nothing less than my passion for the people I have the privilege of working with in Ghana could sustain me throughout these nine months.
I'm not alone in my passion either.
Since the day I first announced my plan, I have been nothing short of overwhelmed by the supportive and compassionate responses of everyone from my parents to virtual strangers. Monetarily, spiritually, emotionally and otherwise, more people than I ever expected have stepped forward to support me- and, more importantly, the people that I came to help.
Both public and private, from both individuals and organizations, donations towards my trip have raised a jaw-dropping nearly $10,000, not including the value of the objects that have also been donated. More people are still joining the list too- the Ford Motor Company being the latest addition. What touches me most deeply is that regardless of my sponsors' relationship to me, all of them are strangers to the residents of Aflao. Yet that has not stopped them from pouring forth an astonishing amount of resources with no expectation except that I put them to the best use. I have the rare and humbling opportunity to be the "funnel" for these resources. How I use them, who they benefit, is virtually entirely at my own discretion.

It's a responsibility I take extremely seriously.

I have never once forgotten that these are not my gifts, my donations, my dollars at work. Rather they are the result of literally hundreds and hundreds of generous, caring individuals' effort merely working through me. I'm just the funnel.
I'm both grateful for and uncomfortable with my role. It doesn't feel right that I should get the credit for others' generosity. I also struggle enormously with my guilt that, no matter how many boxes arrive, there will never be enough to go around. The need is simply too great. For every person who shows up on my doorstep in tears of gratitude, an equal number come asking for things I no longer have to give. How do you choose who to help when there are 5 baby blankets, 7 mothers who need them, and you love them all?
However the joy of being able to help far overshadows the occasional difficulties. I may feel self-conscious carrying over a basket of goodies to hand out to my neighbors, but when they're smiling and shaking my hand and babbling, "Auntie, God bless you!" I know that it doesn't matter how or where or who it comes from- the bottom line is that these beautiful women have gotten some of the things they so depserately need.

I wish all of my sponsors could be here to personally see the difference they are making in so many dozens of lives. Since that's not possible, I'll do my best to show you!

I had the honor of personally meeting Mama Tammy Brooks and her close friend Dr. Marty Hatala last month. They were both warm, caring, genuine women whose obvious love for the children renewed my own dedication as a volunteer. Mama Tammy is the founder and head of the Jesse Brooks Foundation, the organization that runs the Good Shepherd Happy Children's Home, among others.

L to R: Dr. Marty, Tammy and me with the Good Shepherd kids
As promised, every penny of donation money not used to cover my basic living expenses will go to the children at the end of my stay. I will be writing the check to the Jesse Brooks Foundation, specifially designating it for the kids at Good Shepherd. Tammy assured me that she personally handles all donations and will direct it appropriately. Even more importantly, she told me that the Foundation has ZERO overhead. That's right- 100 cents of every dollar goes to the kids.
Many organizations give a breakdown of how far donation money can go. "X dollars feeds a child for a month. X pays for their schooling for a year." I don't have concrete figures to give you, but I can tell you that I have never believed so strongly in the power of a dollar. Remember how I said the orphanage has to spend a considerable amount every month just on sanitary supplies? Esther said they spend 15 cedis, or approximately 10 USD. Crazy, isn't it? That $10 can keep about a dozen girls clean and comfortable for another month. It's a delicate subject, I know, but one I'm not doing them any favors by avoiding. $5 can buy a new pair of shoes. About $60 gives all the children at Good Shepherd a piece of meat every day for 3 days. Esther has been working tirelessly for the last 6 months to improve the diet at the orphanage because insufficient nutrition, particularly protein and calcium deficiency, is noticeably stunting many of the kids' growth. I could go on and on.
I'm not trying to get preachy or fish for donations (ok, maybe I am a little bit, but can you blame me?) I'm simply trying to illustrate that so little goes such a long way.

So I have a challenge for you: Give away a dollar today.
Drop it in the charity box by the cash register at the store. Hand it to the scruffy guy on the corner. Add it to the tip for the frazzled-looking waitress at lunch.

Be a funnel today.


  1. BEAUTIFUL!! I'm in tears. Well done, Ladybug.

  2. I know I'm stupid (despite reading all your posts), but were I wanting to send money to help you, where would I send it?