Cape Town – 10/02/12

Update: Today we nicknamed Chris “Grandpa” and he gladly accepted, he can be so serious sometimes!

As it turns out, Cape Town must have some intense sleep effect on women, because Prof. Wofford and Nicole both missed their alarms Wednesday morning. Chris, naturally, was on time and ready to go by 8:30am. He waited almost a half hour in the lobby, (while some extremely large guy shouted at the hotel clerk about the hot water at the hotel) before waking up Prof. Wofford. He then woke up Nicole fifteen minutes later, and when she answered the door he just said, “Put yourself together.” – Gee thanks Chris.

After Nicole took a super speedy shower, the trio went to a breakfast joint on the waterfront. IT WAS EXCELLENT, by far the best food of the trip. They had homemade bread and fantastic caffeinated beverages (for Prof. Wofford, naturally) and it was at this time that Prof. Wofford began her love affair with Red Lattes.

When we all finally quit complementing and having our own individual love affairs with our breakfast food, we went to the double-decker red bus tour and purchased our tickets for the day. The really fun part about the bus tour was that we could get on and off at different stops and just catch a later bus when we were ready. They also provided us with headphones through which we could listen to all of the interesting facts about Cape Town’s history (for some reason Chris didn’t put his in for forever, so Nicole took liberties of reporting all of the fun facts whether or not he cared to hear☺).

The first stop we made was at the Greenmarket Square, which is an open-air market in downtown Cape Town. It was here that strangers continued their love affair with Chris and would just zone in on him. Obviously he’s good at making new friends, even if he doesn’t mean to! Chris’ new friends always wanted to sell him something, although they were clearly targeting the wrong person because Nicole and Prof. Wofford clearly shopped more as evidenced by their collection of bags. One of Chris’ new friends even asked him if he and Prof. Wofford were brother-sister, which of course made Prof. Wofford’s day! Once we could ditch Chris’ new friends, we all enjoyed driving hard bargains with the vendors, and came away with quite a few jewels for everyone back home. (Not literally folks, figuratively.) One of Chris’ new friends tried to follow him into the post office and we thought we were going to see Chris loose his temper a little if this friend continued touching him… luckily the stranger left and all was well.

We then rode the bus around town and listened through our cute red headphones about District Six, which was the first racially integrated area of town that was literally leveled by bulldozers during the Apartheid. While the history is very tragic, it was good to see the transformation and rebuilding that has taken place in District Six since that time. Next we went up Table Mountain, which is a massive mountain that is surrounded by Cape Town and the surrounding towns (Google it, you’ll see where it gets its name). Unfortunately the cable car that goes down the mountain was not operating because it was so foggy and rainy, but we did get some awesome pictures of the stunning view from the top, while looking down on the city and the cape. The final stop we made was in Camps Bay, which is on the other side of the mountain. Nicole talked everyone into walking down to the ocean, despite Chris’ objections that he’s been to the Atlantic plenty of times. Yet again, Chris found more friends here, we’ve decided he has a sign posted on his forehead that says please follow me and try to hustle me. At this point in time, it became quite amusing that the strangers would only target Chris, and never even spoke to Prof. Wofford or Nicole. While in Camps Bay we ate at a nice restaurant with a view and sat by the fire because it was chilly outside. Prof. Wofford continued her love affair with Red Lattes while Chris and Nicole enjoyed a spicy chicken sandwich (the most adventurous meal Chris had all trip). We finished the tour after another brief encounter with another of Chris’ new friends at the bus stop. This friend was particularly amusing because he claimed to have personally painted canvases that were each signed by a different artist’s name!

After the tour, we dropped off bags and Chris worked on his homework while Prof. Wofford and Nicole finished some last minute souvenir shopping. On the way back to the shops, they managed to get lost and almost walked onto a loading dock (Chris’ sense of direction was severely missed!) After finally locating the shop and browsing the zebra couches and other eclectic South African antiques they made their purchases and headed back to the hotel. Shopping is naturally followed by beer so they allowed themselves to be side tracked by their favorite restaurant/pub from the night before. The rest was history.


USA to Cape Town 10/01/12

We boarded the plane at 6:00am, the first 6:00am flight of three that we have this week. After we all acknowledged that no one is normal at 6:00am (Nicole throwing away perfectly good cheese, Chris refusing to eat, and Prof. Wofford intently engaged with her first of many caffeinated beverages of the day), we boarded the only flight of our departure trip that ended up being on time. And yes, there were four flights to get from Charlotte to Cape Town.

Flight 2 was delayed due to an oxygen leak in the pilots’ supply in DC (awesome and scary), flight 3 from JFK was delayed after the luggage train ran into the side of the plane and scratched it, and the delay for flight 4 was our fault… literally… although the guy driving the luggage train at JFK should take most of the blame for making flight 3 late.

Let us embellish: we arrived in Johannesburg an hour late into an already tight 1:45 layover, which left us with under 50 minutes to wait on baggage claim, clear customs, re-check bags, clear security (for the third time that day) and then take a bus to the plane. Everything was going well until the lady at the baggage check told us that we might make our flight — which was departing in 5 minutes — if we ran. So we ran. We were those people at the airport who drop bags that spill open in the middle of the walkway (Prof. Wofford), those people who ram their carry-on luggage into innocent bystanders (Nicole) and then the one in the group of crazy who never, ever loses his cool and just watches his hot-mess partners in crime from afar (Chris). We arrived at the gate five minutes after our flight began taxiing, and then the attendants did the unthinkable, and stopped the plane for us. So ten minutes later we had the privilege of doing the walk of shame in front of hundreds of impatient passengers who were not happy that their flight to Cape Town was being delayed to wait for passengers who clearly couldn’t run fast enough.

Then to top it all off, we arrive at Cape Town only to find that we did actually run faster than the baggage boys… who neglected to load our bags onto the flight. Apparently, this is the umpteenth time that Prof. Wofford has had her bags lost, so she handled the damage control. Only we then learned that you should never give airports more credit than they deserve, even if they do hold a jumbo-jet just for your convenience. As it turns out, the bags never received new tracking numbers in Johannesburg, and the airline had no record of them. So we did what any group of people who have been travelling for 22 hours and have swollen feet would do. We waited. Impatiently. It was at this time that Chris decided to just go scope out the bags for the flight that recently landed, just in case. Luck for us, he was thinking like a rationale human being, and had a good hunch, because out popped our bags onto the conveyer belt and we were free to being our trek to the hotel.

Ah… the hotel. Naturally, the hotel didn’t have our reservations. So we did more impatient waiting, only to discover that our room had been booked for the previous night due to a clerical mistake and had since been cancelled. It was then, nearly 25 hours after leaving Charlotte, that we were finally settled into our hotel rooms at the Breakwater Lodge on Cape Town’s waterfront.

Because Chris is and man, and is able to shower and become human much faster than women normally can, he did what any good guy would do and found a shopping market for us while he was waiting! Chris and Nicole went exploring first while Prof. Wofford took care of the responsible adult business of reassuring the hotel managers that they would receive their payment. Chris seemed to enjoy shopping for his girlfriend, while Nicole just simply enjoyed shopping. After we collected Prof. Wofford from the hotel, we did more shopping at the waterfront, scoped out the re-bus tours for the following day, and finally made our way to a nice brewery that served good food and great beer. After dinner, we decided to find a wine bar that Nicole and Prof. Wofford noticed earlier in the evening. Finding the wine bar turned into a challenge, as neither Nicole nor Prof. Wofford are good with directions. After Chris realized that they were walking circles, they were finally able to find the bar… which wasn’t really a bar but a shop that was then closed for the night. Luckily there was a pub next door with live music and wine. Chris quickly befriended an African man who enjoyed talking about golf, and started his strong trend of attracting strangers who gravitate toward him. Eventually we made our way back to the hotel, to do homework or sleep…

Saturday, March 24, 2012 – Today we visited the Kumasi Children’s Home, which is a local orphanage here in Kumasi. This was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to emotionally endure. The conditions of the place were unlike any orphanage then I had ever seen, then again the conditions of Ghana in general are unlike I’ve ever seen, so I guess that was to be expected, except this is nothing you can prepare for. The first stop we made was in the boys building. We met several little boys, about 5 or 6, who were aged from, I’m purely guessing, 18months to about 5 or 6 years old. A few of the boys were eager for company, ready to mingle with the Abrunees (white people, or to some this included black Americans), however there were two little boys, who looked to be the youngest two, who simply sat there and stared curiously. I picked one of the boys up and began holding and rocking him and he seemed quite content, it wasn’t until we were told we were moving on to the next building and I went to put him down did the issue occur. I leaned to place him down and he began to cry, however the cry wasn’t one of what you would normally hear just when you put a child down and they want to be held, the cry was, and of course this is simply based on feelings and emotions, a cry of pure desperation. A child desperate not to be abandoned again. His cry clung to every emotion I owned and I couldn’t help but to cry along with him, for there was nothing I could do for him at that moment but hold him just a moment longer. 

We couldn’t take pictures where the children slept, but the mental images are there. The boys were laying on these thin, plastic mats in a room that wasn’t really a room at all, but more like a hallway. There were only 2 mats down and about 5 or 6 boys in that area, so I assume they sleep sharing mats. The windows had wiring and I’m sure did not open. I didn’t see many toys, except the ones that were lock behind a cage. Lets just say the conditions these children were staying left A LOT to be desired. 

The girls building was a little better but not by much, only in the fact that there were “beds” there, of course there were also more girls and not nearly enough beds for all of them, at least I didn’t see them. We also saw a baby who was only one day old. According to the lady working, her mother had given birth yesterday (March 23) and dropped the baby off today. She left the child there at the orphanage because she couldn’t take care of a child and continue to work and if she didn’t work, she didn’t eat. The fact that this woman had to make the decision of whether to work and provide for herself or take care of her child and starve, hit me hard. We’re faced with many decision, some that we’d label as the hardest decision that we’ll make, however I think I can safely say that no decision I have ever been faced with or that I see coming, has even been a tenth of this on the scale of difficulty. I just can’t even fathom what she must have felt making that decision.

Because adoption is not common here, most of these children are here until they grow up and leave, which is not necessarily at age 18. I believe we were told that the oldest person there is 31 because they also look after mentally ill children and they often do not leave. We asked whether the children are moved to another facility or if there is a certain age when they are no long permitted to stay there and one of the house mother’s answered “No, this is there home”. Its so profound, but no matter the conditions, no matter the ages, no matter what is going on around them, the home seems to prove some sense of just that, home. I guess its because they know that it is not likely for the children to be adopted so this is the only opportunity they have to actually be a part of a family.

We were able to leave donations of items like toilet paper, toothbrushes and toothpaste, soap, blankets, and a few other things, which was great but not nearly enough. I’m sure this is one place that will be burned into our memory; I’m sure I’ll carry this with me everyday.


J. Nichole TuckerImage



As I have settled back into my American my lifestyle (rather nicely I might add) and I reflect upon my experience’s in Ghana, it’s hard to find words that accurately captivate my emotions during those 12 days. PRIVILEGED is a good place to start. Living in the United States and living a more carefree life, it’s become rather easy to over look your priorities. After visiting the children of the orphanages, seeing the girls at the Kumasi market, and dealing with all the street hawkers who refuse to take No for an answer, I definitively can say I feel privileged. The struggles and hardships that these people face day in and day out are struggles and hardships that I could never imagine. Image

HUMBLE, as we often take things for granted after this experience its hard not to feel somewhat humble. I don’t know if it was the children at the school who had to cook their own lunch and had to use the restroom in the middle of the yard, or if it was the people at the refugee camp who were focused to sleep in tents in order to escape the implications of war. 


RESPECTFUL, the people and culture of Ghana definitively consume you and I definitively have the upmost respect for them and their lifestyles. Many work every long hours’ in the African heat for every little. Children focused to drop out of school and work in order to support their families at young ages. Students attending school with no restrooms, power, and water in order to obtain mediocrity education at best.  All of these people that I encountered I don’t think I once heard anyone of them complain. 


UNABLE, during the trip I continued to have this overwhelming feeling of my inability to help. 12 days and 5,000 dollars doesn’t go every far in a country with every little, and although I am proud of our efforts and contribution I cannot help but feel that we could of or perhaps should of done more. 


And finally AWARE, I have always heard about the hardships and struggles that some people in the world face, and it’s easy to say you are aware of what is going on and its also easy to fall right back into our carefree lifestyles and turn an eye to our neighbor who has fallen victim to extreme poverty. But after this trip I can now say I am aware, and the first step towards change is awareness.

Neal Stanifer  

Over the past 48 hours, while I have attempted to re-cooperate from our journey home, I have had the opportunity to reflect on the once in a lifetime experience of traveling to Ghana. Admittedly, before we left the U.S. I was quite nervous about what to expect. Venturing to a foreign country with no true understanding of the culture is a scary thing; however, once we touched down in Accra, and later Kumasi, I began to feel right at home. Taking in the scenery on our drive from the Kumasi airport to KNUST I felt as if we had been infused into a scene from Slumdog Millionaire. One of the main things that stood out for me however was the number of people; there were people EVERYWHERE! And it seemed as if each of them had something on top of their head in their bowl that they wanted to sell to you: bags of water, plantain, tangerines, bread, cookies, and coconuts. And the energy? The energy of the people was contagious! After being in Kumasi for only a few hours, I knew that it would be a memorable trip.

Interacting with children from Our Lady of Apostles’ School the first day was heart-warming. From teaching the 3 & 4 year old classes the song “Head, Shoulders, Knees & Toes”; to signing our “A,B,C’s” and giving each table of children a set of the alphabets that we collected during our fundraiser; to feeling like an absolute ROCK STAR once the children saw us approaching; it was a wonderful experience. When we went into the older classrooms and began to talk with the students about what they wanted to be when they became adults, I was shocked by the number of students that wanted to be engineers and doctors. Out of the 60-plus students that were asked what they wanted to be, only ONE said that he wanted to be a football (soccer) player. What a difference an 11-hour flight can make in the attitude of a young person! Amidst all of the happy memories however was the reality that these children did not have access to many of the common staples that American children have in their schools. Some of the children went without food because their parents could not afford to send them to school with a lunch in addition to paying their school fees. Some of the children sat two to a desk. Many did not have writing instruments and there was not a library available for them to utilize to expand their mind. Simple things that we have (and take for granted here in America) would mean the world to some of these children.

On Saturday we visited the market. Before we could park the bus however, we saw a baby boy (about one year old) and a little girl (about 6 years old) sitting in front of a church. This little girl, we would come to learn, had been “given” to various people (some family members, others complete strangers) and she now was responsible for taking care of this baby boy. During the week she was able to find refuge from the street at the Street Girls Center; however, because the day we saw her was a Saturday, she was on the street…alone. Her name was Maria. To look in that little girl’s face and see the innocence of her childhood fading as she picked up the little boy and wrapped him on her back touched me deeply.

What could I do?

How could I help?

Unbeknownst to us, Maria was just a small sample of what we would see and learn that day.

Once we got inside the market area and met some of the Kaykayei girls. These are girls that work in the market carrying items for other people. Many of these girls are sent to Kumasi from the northern areas of Ghana by their families to make money. There were at least 60 girls in one area that we went to. Many of them had babies or small children that they cared for. At first I was unsure on how to approach the girls. In one regard I did not want to essentially “buy” a girl to carry my things through the market area, yet in another regard I wanted to help the girls…even if it was only one. When we began shopping the group that I was with decided that we would carry all of our items ourselves. Eventually that became too much and we had to seek additional assistance. We got one of the kaykayei girls to assist us with carry the excess amount of toilet paper that we purchased to donate to the various orphanages and refugee camp that we planned to visit. When we got back to the bus, each of us gave her 10-15 cedi (the Ghanaian dollar); she walked away with an excess of 60 cedi. She bowed and I could sense tears in her eyes. We would later learn that this was the largest amount of money that she had ever seen in her life. We also learned that she was pregnant. For the kaykayei girls, if they made 1 cedi a week they were doing well, the 60 cedi that we paid to this girl was equivalent to the amount of money that she would make in a year.

Our first two full days in Kumasi were rewarding, educational, and humbling. Little did we know, things would get even more rewarding, educational and very humbling as we spent time at a government-run orphanage, a privately-owned orphanage, and then at a UNHCR refugee camp. Those reflections will be posted soon.



Jeffery Walker


George Will once said “childhood is frequently a solemn business for those inside it,” and I never understood that quote.  Nor did I want to understand it.  I’d like to think, since my childhood was fairly carefree, that everyone’s childhood was comparable to mine.  However, that’d be my optimism and naivete shining through rather brightly.  Now I’m not saying my childhood was entirely peachy keen but it certainly was not like anything I witnessed at the outdoor market in Kumasi.  The most accurate words fail me in describing the emotions I felt watching the Kayayei street girls working in and around the market.  The market itself was essentially a swap meet on steroids, or even some sort of labyrinth.  It was a big ball of Ghanaian confusion, hundreds of people going to and fro at record speed, bartering for what could very well have been their family’s next meal.  Everything from toilet tissue and laundry detergent to rotting meat and the service of the street girls was exchanged for cedis, pesewas, and even Michael Jordan apparel.  The hustle of the street girls was actually admirable, but it broke my heart at the same time.  I can’t ever imagine having to part with my adolescence to do everything in my power to ensure that my family and I were cared for.  The street girls carried their burdens atop their heads just as they did their merchandise, but they always seemed to walk upright.  And while that was certainly a testament to their bearing, a testament to how strong they had to appear in order to obtain work, I’m sure their inner workings were quite shattered.  For these girls, these children, they were in the solemn business of childhood, and for once in my life I understood that quote by George Will.  Age means nothing; school means nothing when an entire family’s well-being is dependent on a daughter’s (or a sister’s) meager earnings from selling or carrying a basketful of items on top of her head.  Despite it all, though, there’s no way these girls can be pessimistic and survive in their line of “work”.  They are the young saviors of their familial units, the people who hold destinies in their hands.  They’re independent and are learning much more about the world than most girls their age.  These are the realities and experiences that push some of the Kayayei girls forward.  And hopefully the drive they use to maneuver merchandise in and out of the market and up and down the city streets will be used to escape the slippery slope of street girl life.

— Shanae Auguste