Tamale Children's Home (part 1)
I’ve been meaning to post more about my Ghana trip, but I’ve been lazy, so I’m gonna try to sum up some of the experiences because I like having them on here to look back on.
We spent the first week of the trip in Tamale, which is in the North part of the country. The engineers in our group were doing their senior project, which involved installing grease traps to filter water for the home as well as a few other small projects. Since I’m not an engineer, and I’m too weak to be much help with manual labor, I ended up spending a lot of time with the kids at the home.
The kids at the home are not necessarily orphans. The kids parents may be alive but unable to care for them, so they drop their child off at the home and sometimes come back to get them if there comes a time when they can care for the kid again. Gordon, our teacher’s Ghanaian friend who owned the travel company we were with, told us that Ghanaians usually don’t give their kids up for adoption, they just give them up temporarily if they can’t take care of them. But of course some of the kids end up living at the home until they are old enough to get a job and move out on their own.
Tamale is the capital of the Northern region of Ghana, which is less developed than other parts of the country, so the quality of life for kids in the home is not at all representative of how everyone in the country lives. I just want to make that clear because I think a lot of Americans sometimes tend to think of Africa as a big orphanage that needs us to swoop in and save it or something, but from what I witnessed Ghanaians are hardy, hard-working people who are highly capable of helping themselves. Sorry, that’s a rant for another post.
Anyway, the first day we went to survey the site at the children’s home a group of the kids came out to greet us. They grabbed our sunglasses and water bottles, posing for pictures and getting excited when we showed them. This ended up being the case every time we were around kids during the whole trip. They were all very cute. They didn’t seem to know much English besides “Allo!” and “snap me!” (meaning they wanted you to take their picture).
The second day in Tamale (our first full day at the site), a few of the honors girls ventured into the nursery. It was stuffy and smelly in the tile hallways, and many of the babies were just lying around on the floor. They all seemed like they wanted to be held and we were happy to oblige.
In the afternoon we played some games on the playground with the older kids. They taught us a sort of version of duck duck goose, which involved yelling “Ra ra there’s fire on the mountain!” and slapping the “goose” on the back with a flip flop. Almost all of the kids were barefoot. Some of the younger kids had left their pants inside and were half naked, but didn’t seem phased by sitting in the dirt or sliding down the slide pants-less. There was a lot of hitting and roughhousing going on, but no one seemed to be getting hurt, and even those getting sat on and kicked were even laughing.
We found some pieces of broken glass in the dirt on the playground, so it made me nervous to see all the kids running around barefoot. Since the home is rather understaffed, the kids were usually unsupervised. The older kids took care of the younger ones sometimes, but often the little ones just toddled around on their own. They seemed fine, despite the dangers I spotted, like the time I found a little girl chewing on a battery. It shook up my overprotective American view that children should be watched at all times. They seemed pretty content to just run around and play their games, and were a lot less demanding and spoiled than many of the American kids I have babysat. Even the engineer’s tape measure was a source of delight.