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.