Published: July 31st 2006July 31st 2006 We have been in Ghana for a week now and still feel as if we have entered a different world.
Terry and some of the children
Yammie, Monica, Mary-Ann, Mary and Joseph
A bit of history about the place we are staying:
A few miles away there is a hospital which used to be specifically for leprosy patients. Just after WW2, some of the patients on long term treatment started squatting in the nearby disused army camp, (Ankaful camp) partly to save the journey to and from their villages as they came from all over west Africa, and partly because the stigma of leprosy meant that they were not welcome back in their homes and villages. The abandoned army camp provided little more than basic shelter and therefore the people lived in very poor conditions. This prompted a visiting American monk, Brother Vincent, to try to build a camp with better facilities.
The government at the time refused to let him build on Ankaful camp, or on any other government land. Their policy was to try to force the leprosy patients to be accepted back into their own villages rather than concentrating them in “leper colonies” Although a good idea in theory, in reality most villages just refused to allow anyone
Black buggy Kwame (back) Rose -
Red buggy Onya (back) Nelly
who had suffered with leprosy to return, therefore for the following 30 odd years they were left with nowhere but the poor conditions of Ankaful camp.
In 1982, the chief of Atonkwa village allowed Brother Vincent to build on his land (about 3-4 miles from Ankaful) with the help of Sisters Pat and Monica, Ahotokurom “Place of Serenity” was built. The monks eventually pulled out, and although they continue to have some financial input, it is the Sisters who continue to live here and keep Ahotokurom alive.
We are hugely privileged to be staying at Ahotokurom, it is a beautiful and welcoming place. To see Sr. Pat again has been lovely, probably a little strange for her as she remembers me as a 10 year old little girl! The other Sisters are Nelly who is from Uganda, Rose who is a local Ghanaian and Monica who is from Dublin and always has us in stitches.
Within Ahotokurom itself there is
- St Clare’s, a care home for mainly older people living with the effects of leprosy,
- The school which consists of 2 “kinder” classes one with 40 odd 4-5 yr olds and one with 40 odd 6-7 yr olds, 3 or 4 special need classes for children from 5-16 and a special needs training centre.
- The child care centre is a full time home, currently housing 27 children; they are either orphaned of from very poor families who cannot cope.
Outside of Ahotokurom they also take care of about 75 families at Ankaful camp, which was rebuilt with brick houses in the 1990’s by the sisters. Each family is given a monthly allowance which allows them to buy some basics.
Also it seems that they are also helping where they can with many local people, giving money for a child to attend secondary school or university, trying to help people in financial crisis or with medical problems. At the market the other day there was a mother on a fruit stall with an obviously unwell 2 year old, (looking at him as a nurse I thought he was close to dying) Sister Monica thinks he had malaria and went to the chemist and bought the medicine he needed.
There is a set of 6 month old Quads living in child care with their Mum. She is only fairly young and already has 3 young
daughters and her home is 1 room where she lives with her mother, her sister and the three girls. After the quads were born she came to stay here with them, while her mother and sister take care of the others (apparently it is normal for older children not to be cared for by their mothers) the plan is they will be her for 4 years in which time the centre aim to build a house where the whole family can live.
Everyone in Ghana has several different names, so it is difficult to remember who everyone is and confusing to work out who they are referring to! You are given firstly a name for the day you are born on (different for boys and girls) so I am Ama (Saturday) and Tel is Kweku (Wednesday) it seems there is no end to the number of names a baby may be given and different people will call them by different names. Confusing huh?! For instance, the quads, they each have 6 names, Ama
(the girls) Kwame (the boy) Day name Atta
(all of them) meaning twin, there is no Fanti word for quads Paan
(means first, the others are
obviously second third and forth!) Rose, Nelly, Kenneth
A given name (usually chosen by godparents) Hope
(all of them have this one)
And lastly their family name (I can’t remember what it is tho!)
Oh and when they start school they will probably be given a school name!
We are currently in an internet cafe at a beach resort in Elmina, a few miles down the road where we are staying for 2 nights, tomorrow we head back to Ahotokurom.
Although we were shocked by how little the people at Ahotokurom have, we are actually very sheltered here from the reality of Ghana in general. It can seem a place of complete opposites, you can sit on the beach under the palm trees looking down a never ending strip of white sand and you would never dream of what it is like on the road a few yards away.
There are more photos below