January 12, 2014

Africa Part 1 – Kwaku

Posted in: Family

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I have decided to break my African adventure post into 4 parts because there is just so much to say and show. Before I start Part 1 I have to say, WOW! Best.Adventure.Ever. Andrew and I have been fortunate enough to have traveled the globe together for the last 13 years and this has been the best journey so far.

This post will be about a little boy named Kwaku who I feel in love with and is the most important part of my story in Ghana because he is the reason why the fate of 8 little lives have changed forever. Going to Ghana I was hoping Andrew and I could somehow make a small difference, maybe teach a child how to brush their teeth properly or maybe show a student how to learn their times tables, in the time we were there. However, the enormity of difference we ended up being able to make is still something that is hard to believe.

I met Kwaku on our 2nd day in Ghana, he ran past our home and said, ‘Hi!’ really loudly, and cracked up laughing. I could hear his gorgeous laugh slowly fade as he ran further and further away from us. ‘That’s Kwaku,’ Reverand Laud said. Rev. Laud is the soul operator of TANF the organisation we were working with (we also lived with him for the duration of our trip). On the 3rd day, I started teaching at the local school, Wisdom Academy. All the children Rev. Laud rescues through sponsorship, go to Wisdom Academy.

As I was walking through the school, someone came up to me, tapped me on the knee and said really loudly, ‘Hi!’ I looked down and saw Kwaku looking straight at me with a huge smile on his face. I said, ‘Hi!’ back and he laughed and ran away. The next morning, while Andrew and I were still asleep a cheeky little monkey came into the house, quietly opened our bedroom door and whispered, ‘Hi!’. From then on, every morning Kwaku would come running down the ‘street’ laughing and into the house, open our bedroom door and run into the room for cuddles. He would take off his school shirt and put on Andrew’s deodorant, which he had been doing ever since he saw Andrew do it. He would touch everything in sight, pick up my camera and take the worst photos, ever. Once all that had been done, we would have breakfast together. He would eat anything we gave him. We’d clear our dishes, pack up the fold out table and walk to school together. After school he would come meet me at home and we would spend the afternoon together, have dinner, and then he would often fall asleep in my arms. His brothers would eventually come pick him up and take him home. He never wanted to go home.

As I was getting to know Kwaku I discovered that he had 3 other brothers, aged 12, 10 and 2. While Kwaku and I were walking to school one day, I saw one brother in his underwear and another wearing just ripped pants walking on the side of the street. That afternoon I asked Rev. Laud why Kwaku’s brothers weren’t going to school. He said, they have never been to school because their mother can’t afford it, they take part in child labour and roam the streets while Kwaku, who has been sponsored, goes to school.

I never really got to know Kwaku’s brothers, they are very different to Kwaku. It bothered me that while Kwaku and I walked to school each day, the boys would be taking part in child labour. All I could think about was how completely opposite these brother’s lives were and how different Kwaku and his brother’s futures would one day be. I wanted his brothers to have the same chances and possibilities that Kwaku was receiving through education. I didn’t want a divide later on in life between Kwaku and his brothers. I didn’t want his brothers to resent Kwaku later on in life for his opportunities because of the education he was getting. I didn’t want his brothers one day to bully him about going to school and Kwaku dropping out. And most importantly I didn’t want his brothers on the streets.

I decided to make a fundraising page to see if anyone could help out. I thought if I could just ask everyone I know to donate $10 and maybe if those people also asked their friends to donate $10, we could raise $3,000 and send Kwaku’s brothers to school (it costs $1,000 for each child’s education). I created a Facebook event and within an hour people were donating $20, $50, $100, $200, and $250! I couldn’t believe it and within 3 days, just like that, we raised $3,000 and we changed the fate of those boys lives. The excitement and energy that was going on in our home that night…that feeling will stay with me forever. I posted on my Facebook event that we had reached our target but the money didn’t stop, it kept coming in. Families, students and teachers from my school back in Australia started to get on board. People were choosing to get loved ones to donate on their behalf instead of getting Christmas presents. Families were pooling their money together to donate. People from all over the place were just caring, caring for people they had never met. It was incredible and so overwhelming.

On Christmas Day my fundraiser ended, we made $8,375, and we were able to rescue 8 children off the streets and give them hope, a chance to break the cycle of poverty through education. Do you know how good that felt? I can’t describe it. The way everyone worked together, it just proved that if everyone does just a little bit and then you put all those little bits together, it can overwhelm the world.

To every single person who donated, you were a part of changing the course of a little person’s life and Andrew and I are so grateful to those people who allowed us to make a difference. And all because of that little boy who had me at ‘Hi!’

p.s There are many people who followed our journey to Africa through Facebook and Instagram that kept commenting, ‘How are you ever going to say goodbye to that beautuful boy, Kwaku?’ Well, this is how it went down. Our plane was leaving on Saturday night so we planned on doing a bit of shopping during the day, come home and pack and then have our favourite meal, Talapia with our favourite person, Kwaku one last time for dinner before the dreaded goodbyes began. Saturday morning came and we were feeling somber. Kwaku had come over in the morning and we had breakfast together one last time and I squeezed him a little too hard, too many times before we sent him back home so we could do a last minute spot of shopping. We arrived back home just after lunch and I waited for Kwaku to come running down to our home, which he always does when he hears us come home. After an hour he hadn’t come by. At 3 o’clock I went over to his house to see if he was there. I was lurking around the house calling his name, his mother and grandmother weren’t asleep out the front of the house, which is where they usually are during the day, and I found that a bit odd. I went back home and started packing hoping that Kwaku’s laughter would soon fill up the silence of the village. At 5 o’clock I walked around the village to see if I could find his brothers, I found two of them and asked where Kwaku was. They looked at me and didn’t say anything, one of them smiled and ran away. Kwaku’s brothers, because they are street kids, don’t know how to speak English nor do they understand much. This causes them to become incredibly shy and they freeze up and just stare at you or run away when spoken to. At this point I was getting not only upset but also incredibly frustrated. This whole time, not once had Kwaku ever been away at any point in time, he was always at our place except when he had to go to school and go to bed. It was approaching 7 0’clock and we had to leave, I went over to his place one last time and called out his name. All the lights were off and it was clear no one was home. And that’s it. That was my goodbye, nothing. When we landed in South Africa, I messaged Rev. Laud to see if Kwaku was back home and he said, yes. He didn’t know where he had been the day before. Andrew says it’s better this way since I hate goodbyes and it would have been too painful, but I don’t know. Kwaku was such a huge part of this journey, he will remain in my heart forever and I didn’t get to say goodbye.

^ At the beginning, Kwaku would always cover his eyes when I asked him a question.

^ Kwaku became our alarm clock, running into our bedroom each morning before school and waking us with his cuddles. This is him in his school uniform, how gorgeous is he!

^ After school naps at our place. This is how he sleeps at home, there are no beds or even mattresses at his house.

Ghana56^ Most of the time his after school naps happened in my arms, one of the many favourite times of the day.

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^All our washing was done by hand and Kwaku was always there ready to give us a hand.

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kwakuwordpress2^What ever we did, Kwaku would do. Here he has our sun screen which he would cover his face in.

kwakuwordpress3^ Checking himself out on Instagram

Ghana59^ Kwaku outside his home getting ready to bath himself.

Ghana310^ When it rained we quickly put all our buckets out to catch water for our showers. When it rained, Kwaku also got extremely excited.

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wordpresskwaku2^ Practicing his pencil grip

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wordpresskwaku3^ Kwaku (on top of his brother’s shoulders) and his 3 brothers. Two of them will be going to school for the very first time next week and Gabe who is 2 will start next year.

wordpresskwaku4^ Kwaku taking his brother home.

Ghana80^ Another one of my favourite parts of the day, being greeted by Kwaku after school.

Ghana508^ This is Amelia, she has also been rescued by TANF and goes to school with Kwaku, these two cutie pies are best friends.

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Ghana92^ Our walks to school.

Ghana201^Kwaku watching his first movie, WALL-E, he was so engaged.

TANF^ This is us, in our office/kitchen, when we reached $3,000 in 3 days. We were screaming, high fiving, and OMGing for a very long time (L-R, Rev. Laud, Me, Andrew and the other volunteers).

^ Kwaku’s brothers who are about to enter a new world, filled with hope and possibilities.