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20
Jun

Day Eight: Friday

   Posted by: Dean White   in Ghana


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Note: It is now Tuesday. It has taken me this long to process all that occurred on Friday. After this post I plan on writing one more day as a summary.  Today and yesterday we have been at a new location in Prampram that is on the ocean to recap, recoup and process before we head back to the US. We get to stop in Paris tomorrow for 6 hours …I might even get to go to the Eiffel Tower!  Thank you for those who have followed this blog. Thank you for coming on my journey, forgiving the misspellings and the break in sentence structure. I value your thoughts, friendship and partnership. Your notes, emails, prayers, texts and encouragements were all very vital to me.

Friday

Destinations:

  • Witch Village in Gambaga (Northern Ghana)
  • Staying the night in Tamale

Purpose: To visit the Witch Camp and bring provision & hope

Tomorrow: Traveling back to the Ponderosa & then travel to PramPram for R&R

Highlights from today:

  • Driving to the airport
  • Witch Camp
  • Meeting with Joseph Asara with Radach Inc.

Quote of the Day: “Not taking a risk is the biggest risk of all.” ~ Joseph Asara

William the Driver

We have an amazing driver here.  He weaves in and out of traffic, drives on the opposite direction of traffic, and cuts people off with a sinister giggle. He must stand about 5’4” and drives as if he was driving a Nascar.  I, of course, love it.  I have even sat upfront and video taped him driving through the town, back roads, and dirt roads with hopes I can use the footage and play it back with my VR goggles (virtual reality). Well today we were planning on leaving at 5am to catch a 6:30am flight to the Northern area of Ghana. The van that William drives did not get dropped off to him on time and therefore he was late picking us up. Instead of 5am, he arrived at 6am. It takes 35 mins to get to the airport. William dogged cars, ran lights, moved through traffic as if he was a missile with a gps targeting system. We arrived at 6:25am, ran to the gate and …it was too late, we missed our flight. But man…was it a fun ride for the Ghana Nine to the airport!  We caught an 8:45am flight, thank God, and it all worked out.

 

The Traveling to the Witch Camp

When arriving in Tamale (pronounced Ta Ma Ley, not Ta Ma Lee), Monday Amoak was waiting for us.   Ghanaians often get named after the day they were born. True fact!  Monday is another amazing person. He & his wife works with a non-proft organization that is 90% self-funded and employs over 150 people. They develop micro-enterprises, lend out micro-loans, and train people to start businesses. More on this later. Monday took us to our hotel to drop off our things and then we jumped into a van to head to the witch camp.  In total, there are about 9 witch camps in Northern Ghana. There were more, but Monday works hard on helping train the women to do textiles or another business and ultimately closing the camp.  Tamale had to be 105 degrees that day with 110% humidity. Our van’s a/c spitted blasts of warm air and having a window open was our only relief. Remember, we have 10 people in the van and we are all sweating.  The 2.5 hour drive was intense. In addition, there were many things we saw on the way. 5 hut configurations. Strange beetle shaped homes. Shea trees. Terminate hills. Extremely thin cattle. Crops of yams. Most people in this area are farmers and sell their crops when at the market.  There are many villages of people. Each area of villages has a Chief. The Chief then has Elders that oversee each small village. The Chief holds an important role. For instance, before going to visit the witch camp we had to meet with the Chief and get his permission. We brought him a gift and bowed before him to show him respect.  Whatever the Chief says goes. If the Chief is Muslim than everyone in the villages are Muslim.  Muslim represents 95% of the faith in this area compared to only 5% Christian.  In the Muslim faith, men can have up to 4 wives.  Therefore, many of the huts in the villages are in groups of 5 hut configurations. One big hut for the man, and smaller huts for each of his wives. This ensures many off spring to help with the farming. The woman in the villages take the leaves of the Shea trees and make Shea butter used in many skin nourishing products. Yams, watermelon, papayas, pineapples, mangoes and corn all grow in this region.  There were also strange beetle shaped domes scattered in between the villages. The beetle dome huts are built by the Nomads who are moving cattle from one area to the next to feed on the grass and build this temporary living beetle looking huts. The cattle look so thin.  I have no idea how they eventually get them fat enough to sell. We also saw many kids. Many would be in a mud pond to swim and play seeking relief from the heat. But when they saw our van coming up to the pond, they would jump out of the dirty water and run into the Shea trees or the crops. When the kids see a van they think that these are kidnappers who want to steel them away for sex trafficking.  We even saw a mom carrying things on her head (they all carry things on their heads. Huge things.), with a baby on her back (another common thing here) and two little ones in tow.  When she saw the van from a distance she immediately started walking the opposite way.  The life of a woman here is truly heartbreaking. You are born into deep poverty. You work hard to make butter from the leaves of a tree, get married to a man who has 3 other wives, he dies from disease as well as one of your children, your other child is stolen from you and forced into sex trafficking, then another woman in the village accuses you of being a witch. So then you are forced out of the village and your only skill you have developed now is tainted since no one will buy from you since you are a witch. Who is there to tell these women that they are still valuable? That they are here for a greater purpose. That they are loved.

 

The Witches

We stopped at the main village to meet with the Chief and get his approval. I was expecting a harsh and mean man who was going to look at me cross-eyed and yell something in a language I could not translate but easily understood that he would want us out of there unless we give him money. Thankfully I was completely wrong. We first were greeted by dozens of beautiful smiling children, who loved getting their photos taken and then laughing when we played the photo back and showed them what they looked like.  Everyone …even the adults, wanted a photo.  In the U.S. we are so image conscience; we can’t image living everyday with no idea of what we look like. No mirrors in villages. No cameras either.  Then a messenger came to us saying the Chief is ready to meet.  We walked up to a large hut, took off our shoes, walked up to a matt that was rolled out across the floor and knelt on our knees. We then proceeded to follow protocol of bowed head thanking him to see us. He spoke through an interpreter and then told us we can sit on the benches that were provided for us.  In his hut he had a motorcycle, straw since I think his horse that was outside sometimes comes inside, grain, and a platform where he must sleep. He was sitting on the platform when we spoke to him.  We brought him a gift of towels and candies.  He seemed very pleased and not only welcomed us but also asked that we would not forget about him or the villages. He appreciated that we were going to go visit the widows as well.

We then got back into the van and headed to the witch’s village which was about 10 mins away. Upon arriving the ladies and some children met us at the van. We walked to a meeting area where the ladies were waiting for us and the Elder who oversees this witch camp was there as well to greet us and tell us how much they appreciated our visit.  We brought the ladies eye glasses that a friend donated, soccer balls that were donated from Wendy’s swim team she coaches, beautiful handmade quilts, and Bibles in their language.  We tried to also bring grain but since we missed our morning flight, we ran out of time to stop and buy it.  The ladies were so happy they began to clap and then bursted out in song. One lady stood up and began dancing, then another, then another.  Betty joined in then the rest of us and we were all dancing & clapping our hands. When people sing in Ghana …they put their whole heart in it! The kids (some of them were grand kids) loved the soccer balls and as we passed out misc items we had in ziplock bags, the kids would grab the empty ziplock bag as if it was a silk purse. Pastor Abraham, who came with us said you would have thought it was Christmas.

There are many reasons why these women are here. They have all been falsely accused. Without a husband, a lady can be accused of putting a curse on another woman. All it takes is for a woman to say, “I have had a stomach ache for 2 days, and I saw you look at me strange, you must be a witch.”  The lady probably just has indigestion or lactose intolerance. Or if a lady has had a child die of disease, or she is too old cause only really old people are witches, or maybe her skin started to flake, and the list goes on.  If she has a husband or if the Elder or Chief speaks up for her, she will be ok and the accusations will stop. But if no one stands for her she is excommunicated from the village. Destined to die in the witch camp with a very sad existence. One lady whose husband died, had teenage son who accused her of being a witch. There was nothing she could do. She was banished. Monday Amoak works to help these ladies. To bring dignity back to them. Show them a trade like sewing, buy their products and restore them to their village. He has closed a few witch camps and is working on more. We are here to support his cause, connect him to Pastor Abraham who can bring more volunteers, and plead with the Mayor to see this cause as important enough to either ignore the help or calm any Chiefs that come to complain or allow the help from the US to get to Monday.

Being exhausted from the early morning, the frustration of missing the flight, head ache of the long ride on the really bumpy dirt roads, the blistering heat, puddle dripping sweat, & putting our fears aside were all worth the end result of seeing the smiles on these ladies faces.  You could see in their eyes the pain and cavernous hearts they bear. They need soap, they need clothes, many were barefooted and could use simple sandals or flip flops …but more than anything, they need to be loved. To be told, you are accepted. To be told, you are invited.

 

Monday Amoak & Rev. Asara

Raddach is a company that employs over 150 people here in Tamale. Rev. Joseph Asara leads this non-profit. Monday, his wife and an Oklahoma guy named Donny (we were so shocked to see a white guy with a red haired pony tail on the top of his head with a southern draw, open our van door and say welcome!), work with Joseph Asara to train, create businesses and build infrastructure for the less fortunate in Tamale. Asara’s non-profit makes 90% of the needed income for the business; only 10% comes from donations. Muslim business people will hire the Raddach group to train their employees and develop interns. Asara then takes that money and promotes Christianity to the villages and empowers woman by training them to run their own business. Monday said, “Empower the woman …empowers the family.”  They hold a yearly conference that attracts 400 people each year and also run programs for kids and teenagers. Asara and Pastor Abraham shook hands and committed to work together for those in this area.

 

Thought for the Day

Walt Disney is famously quoted, “It’s fun to do the Impossible.”  As I reflect on the past days, I feel as if we accomplished the impossible.  Find a person of influence that is selfless and truly wants to help Ghana …Pastor Abraham. Train him and his team of crusaders, then pull in his community and have them discover the main problems. Have those people meet in groups to discover the root of the problems, the fruit those problems produce and reach how can those problems get fixed within this community. Then connect Abraham with a mission that is beyond his own community  …the witch camps. Connect him to key people who are already running with the cause but could use help ….Asara & Monday.  And have a meeting with the one person who could stamp this all for approval or put a road block in the way …the Mayor.  He will allow the U.S. to provide the know-how, just as we have helped Rwanda and their president with the PEACE plan.  We work with Pastor Abraham and he gets to be the hero to this community (not the U.S). And all this done with a group of nine volunteers.  All I can say is Thank you God!  Miracles happen every day.  It requires taking risks. It requires striving to do the impossible. It requires empowering others and taking one’s own ego out of the way. I am honored to have been part of this team. I have my cynical side that worries it will all be in vain. But EVERYTHING has come together. And perfectly. I am proud of the Ghana Nine, Wilson who introduced us to Pastor Abraham, Pastor Abraham & his team, Monday, Donny, Asara, the Mayor, and Saddleback to give us the PEACE plan. This journey has stretched my heart and gave me hope for mankind. And …it was fun!  Disney is right, it is fun to do the impossible.

 

A work in progress

Witch camp no more

Today I get to leave

I was banished to live here

And in my anguish, grieve

 

You see, I was falsely accused

On my behalf, no one spoke

Thrown into a prison of my sorrows

Doomed to live under this shameful cloak

 

Then one day came a person

With a loving embrace & a helping hand

Told me I was made for a purpose

And for me they’d take a stand

 

With tears of joy

And a trembling hand

I grabbed ahold and

Walked out of this forgotten land

 

 

 

This entry was posted on Tuesday, June 20th, 2017 at 8:59 am and is filed under Ghana. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

One comment


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Connie
 1 

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Emotional over the hauntingly, beautiful poem of a brave woman falsely accused & shamefully exiled, but receives the gift of HOPE & LOVE.

June 21st, 2017 at 12:10 am

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