Last night I went to a school for the deaf. There were about thirty kids who live too far to go home every night, so only go on the weekends. We were in a large court yard for our activities. It had a gazebo type shelter with wooden tables and chairs. The kids know American Sign Language. I learned to sign a few words. We read a story, “I’m Going on a Lion Hunt” and helped them make lion masks. Two crew kids and their mom were with us. Our boys played soccer with them. The school kids were very excited about having them there. We played games and communicated as best we could.
This morning I went with two Mercy Ships men from Lome to a detention center for teens. The police/guards were not in uniform. A couple of them were playing Scrabble in French in the front room.
There were 14 boys and two girls in the common room which was locked when we arrived. No guards were in the room. There were 14 additional teens in their rooms (four or five to a room). All rooms had a window which in most cases faced another wall with a small passage in between buildings. The rooms had two cement platforms for sitting and sleeping. They were covered with a mat which looked like a rug. Some kids had a few clothes on the floor in the corner. Nothing else was in the room, no fans or other items. They are required to stay there for two weeks after arrival before they can go in the common room during the day.
The common room had wooden benches and chairs and a television. There were bars over the windows and two fans on the ceiling. Two YMCA posters were on the walls. No one was wearing shoes but there were blue flip flops near the door. I read “The Good Shepherd” story (someone translated) while our leader had the teens act it out. Then they colored a picture of a sheep, and added cotton balls. This was done to help them remember the story. Some teens asked me if they did a good job (wanting approval) and hung their pictures using glue sticks to the walls in the common room. We sang some praise songs and danced around the room.
Then we had them play “opposite” using a soccer ball. It is an elimination game. The word catch
means to hit with your head. The word head
means to catch with your hands. For the second elimination game, there were two parallel lines drawn with chalk on the cement about fifteen inches apart. Kids stood in a line facing the lines. If the leader said “below the water”, they jumped below the water. If he said “in the water” or “over the water”, they jumped to those places. And those locations were called out in a random sequence until someone made a mistake and was eliminated. The last one standing won.
The teens seemed to have fun. They were very respectful. We brought some donations: clothes, Pringles, Vanilla Wafers, etc. which we left for the psychologist to distribute. We gave them each a Pop tart before we left. I am sure they appreciated the tarts, but to me they taste like cardboard! We stopped by each room and handed one to the other teens through windows bars. I did notice that no one started eating in our presence.
There are three female social workers who try to find organizations to help the teens. Some of them live on the street. Others may have families, but sometimes the parents don’t come to the center. The parents are responsible for paying for anything that was stolen or destroyed by the teens. Most of these kids acts like any other teens, but are stuck in bad situations.
On the way to these places, noticed that the streets are clean of trash. I saw people with brooms sweeping the streets. The side streets appear to be sandy dirt. The main streets and some sidewalks are made with cement bricks. There are large gullies on the side of some main roads for water to flow through during heavy rains.
Every place I have gone so far has stands or little stores on the sides of the streets. Everything from house hold items, bikes, clothes, and hardware are sold this way.
The main transportation appears to be by motor bike. They are more plentiful than cars. One can take a bike taxi. Some of the bikes may be carrying two adults, two kids and/ or large packages for the market. Not too many wear helmets. Red lights are sometimes obeyed, and sometimes not. There are many turn abouts. The right-of-way is always to vehicles entering the traffic circle, not to those already in it!
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