Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The end of the beginning of my journey...

Ok folks, it has been over a week since I have come back from Ghana, and I have been dreading to write this post because that means it is officially over. I can honestly say that I wish I never left. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life, and will stay with me forever. I am a changed person.

My last week in Ghana went by so quickly. I felt a pit in my stomach as the date of my departure became closer and closer, knowing that this dream of mine would end. I still tried to enjoy every second that I had with my kids. I still worked and pretended like nothing was going to happen. I took two people to the hospital and took care of two more children when they were admitted. I watched the boys play futball, walked the little ones to school, teased the older boys more than ever, and each day more and more kids would ask me if it was true that I was leaving. One night, about five days before I left, I broke the news to Patrick that I was going to leave the coming Sunday. Patrick is 13 years old, extremely quiet, shy, and usually gets picked on because he looks a little bit different than everyone else. He takes lots of crap from others in the orphanage, but does it willingly. He reminds me of the Savior. He loves unconditionally and would do anything for anyone. He is often seen carrying the older kids' backpacks home from school. He is a sweetheart. I love him so much. When I told him I was leaving, his eyes got big and he froze. He covered his face and tears streamed down his cheeks. My heart dropped. I have never felt so heart broken and so flattered at the same time. He refused to look at me and kept his face covered. I sat there next to him and waited for him to calm down. I put my arms around him and told him that it would be okay. I told him that I wanted to come back and would try my best to make it happen, but the words that came out of my mouth seemed dry and cliche. I sat there with him for a long time. It was dark and close to bedtime, so we sat on a bench and I pulled him close to me. He backed away at first, and I asked him if he was mad at me for leaving. With tears still streaming, he shook his head "yes." All I could think to say was, "I'm sorry, Patrick." That was one of the moments, I am sure, parents feel sometimes, yet I couldn't help him. I got tears in my eyes and tried to be strong for Patrick. I remember the first time I said "Hi," to him at the orphanage. I had been looking through a book with names and pictures of each child and realized that I had never talked to him, so I decided if I saw him, I would greet him with a smile. And that is what I did. He looked at me in surprise and timidly said "Good afternoon," with a beautiful smile. From then on, whenever I saw him, I would say "Hi," and we would exchange smiles. He was too shy to have a complete conversation with, and so we went on greeting each other. It was a wonderful friendship. I could feel his love and joy every time we smiled at one another. He eventually became more comfortable with me and could poke me, hide, making me find him and then I would give him a big hug. Our hugs became my favorite part of the day.
As we sat there in the dark, I didn't know what to do. He grabbed my hand and held it tight. Never before had he done this, and it made my heart sing. We held hands in the silence. Other children came up to us and would talk to me, but we never let go. He was my little boy for the night, and I will keep him in my heart forever. For the rest of week, we stuck together.
Here he is. The sweetest boy. I miss him so much.

Another fella who was quite upset about my departure was Shadrack. He, being more confident and outspoken, would complain to me every day that I was "troubling his heart" because I was "leaving him alone." What a silly boy. He didn't cry, thank goodness, but wrote me a heartfelt note that makes me smile every time I read it. I was so fortunate to get about five notes from various boys in the orphanage. I felt so loved. The Saturday before I left, I gave out notes and "toffee," their word for candy. I wrote a note to each child in the orphanage; I had to start weeks before to get them done on time. But yes, I did it and passed them out to the kids. Shadrack was so proud of me. He came into the office with a surprised face. It made me feel good to let each kid feel loved. I only pray they did through my letters, but also throughout my stay.

This is Shadrack and I on my last day.

My last day was really emotional. It was a Sunday and so the kids had church at the orphanage. We dressed up and I wore my new dressed that I got made. The kids all looked so nice and were neatly sitting in their chairs while we waited for the service to start. It was a good service with lots of singing, praying and amen's or hallelujah's. I sat there trying hard to not think about what I would face at the end of the day. When the service was over, Mama Jane called me up and gave me a huge thank you by talking about all the hard work that I had done. She told me that I would be blessed for my service. She said that the "angels who were with us today at the service will visit and take care of Caitlin in the future." It was beautiful what she said and it made me feel so good. At the end of her talking about me. She asked everyone to give me a round of applause. The kids all jumped to their feet and clapped and yelled. I was overcome with emotion. I could not help but to cry. It was such a rewarding feeling. I cried because I felt loved, appreciated and I looked at all the kids knowing I would have to leave them that day.

Overall, my experience at the Potter's Village was awe-inspiring, filled with humbling yet incredible and exciting moments. I will forever be grateful that I was able to fulfill my dream of going to Ghana and serving children in need. I know that this experience will stay with me for the rest of my life. I learned so much more than I ever though I could. The children taught me. I know I was supposed to go so that I could grow and have my eyes opened up to more of God's wonderful creations. Never have I missed something more, than my kids back in Ghana. I think about them every day and pray that they are happy. I am planning to go back there hopefully next year so that this journey doesn't have to end. I thank my Heavenly Father for keeping me safe and healthy so that I could do all that I did and be influenced by so many people. Ghana will forever be in my heart. I will cherish the memories that I have made. So there is no "goodbye," just "see you later."

 Beautiful Abena
 Beauty and I waiting for her bus
 Godwyn...such a little stud
 Kwamana Asare
 Ema and I watching futball
 Abena, Theo and I on my last day at the service
 This is Chase. He came two days before I left and was super awesome.
 Bismark: one of my bestest friends
 yes, I am strong
 Courage and I (one of my favorite pictures)
 look how cute these boys are!
 We had a church come and donate lots of things, so we put on a program for them. The girls did African dancing and looked wonderful.
 this is one of the cutest pictures that day
 Yvonne, Abigail and George
 love them all!
 kids singing praises
 George and I being silly
 Bismark, Me, and Ema
 Me and my boys
 me and my girls!
 my little brother: Shadrack
 love them so
 futball action!
 talented yes?

This is my last day when I was about to leave and get in the cab. I got swarmed with hugs and kisses. Yes, I cried the whole way to the airport sitting next to some random Ghanaian man driving the cab. Good times. 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Winding Down

Hello!! I am overwhelmed. Time has flown by! It is unreal that I only have a week and a half left. I have such mixed feelings. I am seriously so excited to see my family, but am so heartbroken to leave these wonderful kids. I am constantly thinking about it every day. Am I ready to leave them? How can I? Can I really adapt back into the real world? Ah. It is so hard.

Currently we have 11 volunteers in the house. One lovely girl from Ireland, three people from England, and the rest from the states. It is a little tricky because every two weeks we have new volunteers coming in and others leaving. So, while you have to worry about leaving children, you have to deal with volunteers saying goodbye as well!! Life is like that I guess, meeting amazing people and then saying goodbye. Each relationship we create is meant to happen. Ghana has changed my life. I will never be the same, and will never stop thinking about and missing these kids. They are beautiful. The experiences that I am having inspire me everyday and teach me something new.

Now, you may be wondering about my health. It is ok! I am alive and breathing. I have had some digestive problems do to all the carbs we eat here. I have had diarrhea once, and been pretty constipated the rest of the time. There were two days where I had major stomach issues and threw up twice. I am pretty sure it was because I ate my dinner after it had been sitting out for awhile. Other than that, I am healthy! The Lord has blessed me to be safe. Even though I have spent hours on the toilet, I smile because I do not have malaria, HIV, sores all over, chest infections, or eating diseases. The health here is horrendous.

I have formed a pretty good relationship with a lot of the children. Yes, I have my favorites, but I try really hard to be good friends with everyone. There are so many that I don't want to leave.

This is my baby girl Irene. Her smile is to die for. She is four years old and loves to snuggle.
Hannah and Godwin: so photogenic! Godwin loves to make faces in the camera. 
This is us eating mez. It is cooked corn that becomes hard and tastes like popcorn.

This is part of our fence that the boys built around our house. It is all made of bamboo, and they used their worn our shoes for the hinges. The people here know how to make everything! They are so domestic.
This is George. He is the oldest boy. He is 19 and now lives with Mama Jane, but he comes and visits. We love him.
This wonderful guy is Bismark. We call him Kofi. He is the sweetest guy. He is 19 as well. He takes care of Godwin and is going to be such a good father. He is one of my best brothers.
 The ladies here usually tie scarves on their heads, the girls tried to make me look the same, but as you can see, it just doesn't look as good.
 This is another wonderful boy, Courage. He makes me so happy. He has the biggest heart, and his laugh can make your heart sing. LOVE HIM!!
Here are the kids playing a game outside.
 This little angel is Beauty-ok not so much an angel...going through the terrible 2's. But when she is in a good mood, oh buddy, it is a joy.
 We recently have received about 15 new children bringing the number of kids to almost 100. I know its crazy. The space they live in is so small and does not provide well, but at least they have a place to stay. These two cuties are new. The little one on the left is Bebe (2 years), and the one on the right is Doe (4 years).
 Shadrack and Kwamana Asare: amazing people love them so much
 This is little baby Ema. He is the son of one of the house mothers. He is a little snot but his energy is incredible.
 Every night, either the older boys, or the older girls come to me and say, "you are invited," which means they want me to come eat with them. They are so good at sharing and always give their things to others. Here it is a custom to always share your food and have all sorts of people eat out of the same bowl. They erge me to try everything. On this particular night, they wanted me to try Gyre-aba. It is a dough mixture with some soup . I actually loved it. I am the only one who tries the food here and I think the kids really appreciate it, but the food is not always good...this is Hannah and on the right little baby Benedict. He can sit up now!
 This is Theo. They don't pronounce the "th" sound so it is pronounced like Tio. He is so cute.
 One morning while helping serve porridge, I burned my hand. They serve the porridge out of a plastic storage bin and it is bowling hot. They don't let the porridge cool before serving it and a lot of the time, the children get burned as well. I was burned and the whole side of my finger was a huge blister. It was very painful. Then, because of my stupidity, I hit my hand on a ceiling fan when I jumped off my bed and took off the blister and some extra skin, so it was a battle wound in the making.
 Mercy. One of my little children. If I could, I would take her home. Her laugh is by far the best. She is so happy and sweet all the time.

 This is Lucky. He is special needs and has the sweetest smile. I love him with all my heart. I can relate to him really well.
 Victoria, me, and Lucky.
 My best brother Shadrack and I. We are inseparable. I will miss his so much. I hope to see him again.
 The older girls called for me one day and we played dress up in their room. I tried on their dresses that they have received from donations and they told me they wanted me to print this picture out so they can keep it.
 Mawuli and Ishmael. AAH! the list of children that I love never ends. These boys are so good. They are so obedient and kind to others.
Here are more: Ishmael, Foster, Patrick and Mawuli. They stole my camera and took these pictures themselves. I love them so much.

I can't express how much I love all these kids. They are and will forever be a part of me. I think my biggest and most difficult trial about Ghana has yet to come. It will be leaving these angels. They are my heart. They are joy.