Akwaaba Accra and a Journey Across the Volta

Boom!

That’s the feeling you get in your chest when you first step off the plane and feet touch the land of Africa. The heat, the chaos, all the faces turned towards you as you make your way through the crowds and find out how this new place works… the feeling as your toes curl, your stomach pulls in, you’re about to go over the edge. This is a different kind of world. You’ve walked many lands, but this is a place where you must run. It commands it. Crashes into you with open spirit.

Ghana has quickly become my ‘third home’ after a few trips there over these past couple of years. There is something magnetic between me and that part of the earth. Some connection has been made, and will forever now remain unbreakable.

My first home is the UK, that green isle, my birthland, with my English family, friends and the artists and various cultivators of Creation with whom I work, play and build the foundations of my legacy.

Second will always be Italy; Florence, Venice… That land of sunshine, skylines of spires and domes and the classical arts. A land I have walked frequently for many years now, and always seem to return to… never quite rid of her siren call, ringing endless through the deep places of my mind…

And Ghana has become my home in Africa. My place of red earth, drum beats, ringing voices, wilderness, and charity. Visiting there is no longer like visiting such a ‘foreign’ place, but rather a return, to somewhere I have loved, been loved, to a family I have there. A chance to delve back into precious memory… And a chance for adventure.

My good friend David, who I met by chance during my first trip to Ghana (backpacking round solo for a month without booking hotels or tours) kindly hosted Nina and I as we arrived in Accra, the capital, and gave us a true ‘Accra Akwaaba’ ~ welcome.

We learnt how to prepare some of the local dishes using traditional methods and coal fire. How to cut cassava and yam with machetes, and how to pound ‘foo foo’. Ghanaian food is so delicious! Banku is just incredible. My absolute favourite. I’m literally salivating now looking at these pictures. I ate this almost everyday in Ghana. You can go to these little ‘chop bars’ where you sit on a little stool in a shack and ‘pay as you go’. I used to eat about four per sitting… oh, and, don’t expect a knife and fork. This is no hotel or fancy tourist restaurant. If, like me, you want to really live like the locals do, you’ll learn to eat everything with your hand… that includes Okra Stew!

David had us some traditional clothing made, and invited us to come to church, as it was Sunday. His family gifted us beads and bracelets for the occasion and gave us their blessings as they would not be joining us that day. Beautiful heavy items that I wear to this day, and take on all my travels, whether near or far.

Nothing could have prepared us for Church in Africa.

It was something like a mixture between the Gospel music I used to sing with my choir back in Florence, and the Lion King. We danced around and joined in with the songs and praise, the exclamations of hallelujahs and amens. I looked round and saw Nina had tears rolling down her face. People who claim no faith I would implore to witness church in Africa… I was moved.

Whilst I was sitting back in the stools I found some quotes in the bible that leapt out at me… resonated.

Then they asked me to sing. So I did.
I sang a song I remembered from my choir days…

I don’t think they knew what hit them!

Had no idea Nina was going to join me!
I don’t think she did either… but she brought the house down of course… even though she didn’t know the words!
She has a talent for the ‘gab’.

One young girl, three, became obsessed with me, as some young kids do, especially when in Africa for some reason…  I’m like a magnet for children. After holding her in my arms for a while, tired to put her down but she wouldn’t let me! Literally screamed and wailed every time I tried… so I just held her.

But I eventually managed to escape and after finding a toilet (which turned out to be a gutter in the middle of the road) David took us for a walk around the neighbourhood, and into a local slum area.

I’ve been to slums before, lived on one for a couple of weeks in fact.

Yet I found this one difficult…

It had been raining so everything was wet, puddles everywhere, rats and dampness. I hadn’t bought any anti-malarial medicines by this point either so I was feeling a bit uneasy around all the stagnant water.

Yet, as always, knowledge of how other people live this manifestation of ‘life’ is enlightening, humbling, increases the openness of my mind and heart… and reminds me to be thankful… for everything I have.

As usual with that famed African welcome, I met some people who lived there who invited us to sit with them, to talk and to share their food. So we did. It’s obvious what’s in a person’s soul, you can see instantly by their smile… and their eyes. They didn’t want anything in return, just our company. Just to share.

They showed me the slum’s very own ‘church’ with walls made from old fridge doors, no roof… no gold, precious stones, no ornate statues, and no pomp. Take note Vatican! This is the church Jesus came to build, not your palace of lies.

I tell you, beware of that wolf in the guise of a pure lamb. They are all demons in disguise, pretending to be great or good, or ‘perfect’ (impossible!). People giving money to the Vatican, getting water flicked into their eyes and incense blown up their ass, and then thinking that’s somehow the key to ‘Salvation’ or that it makes them better than any other person who doesn’t go to ‘church’ and do the rituals.

It all comes from within. No being on this earth is any more holy than the next. All glory belongs to God, the Great Spirit, the ‘Energy’ or whatever you want to call it that makes you feel comfortable. Forget the celebrities and the ‘holy men’ and the special Yoga poses or ‘ashrams’ and stop believing they are The Way. It exists within you… always has. Look to yourself.

You can find it anywhere. Forget the fashion. That’s all a disguise and almost always has a hidden purpose.

This is the ‘He’ I was singing to in that church, and in every church I sing, every mountain, beach or desert or field. Whenever the Spirit comes into me, I sing with all my passion.

‘He’ is the omnipresent divine and exists in all places, whether grand, or just a simple four walls like this…

Because ‘He’ exists in ‘You’
(He is as much ‘He’ as you are ‘You’… think about that after a smoke!)

I am genuinely sorry if my views or opinions ever offend anybody on this site, or outside of it. But you have a choice, you can close the page with the X in the corner, or you can keep going, forget the words and just look at the pretty pictures. What’s truth for me may not be truth for you. Respect.

*

After goodbyes to many people, as always with travel, it was time to move on…
but never really goodbye forever. I don’t believe in such a thing anymore.

I am definitely a country boy at heart, I think, and the countryside of Ghana is simply breathtaking…
I was keen to get back to basics.

people carrying goods back to their rural village, in the Volta Region, Ghana

Ghana + Home equals one place and one place only for me = the Missahoe Children’s Home, in the beautiful Volta Region.

I’ve been back a couple of times now, raised money on three occasions with the generosity and help of communities in the UK, and on this trip had the chance to see some of the money we raised in action.

And, of course, to see my precious boy again…

Reunited!

They literally placed him in my arms when I arrived, that little skinny frame no bigger than when I was there six months before. He just clung to me peacefully like no time had passed at all… and more or less stayed there for the whole month, always by my side, climbing over my bed, sitting on my shoulders, rearranging the things in my rucksack.

Living in an orphanage in Ghana is truly an unforgettable experience. Life-changing doesn’t cover it. Seeing a child smile when you buy them a new pair of shoes, or let them have something they’ve always wanted, like a pen, or an empty plastic bottle so they can take clean water to school… heartbreaking, yet so beautiful.

The Missahoe Children’s Home has been such a fantastic base to explore Ghana, and Mawusi, the founder and ‘Mother’ of the orphanage, is an incredible host. Mawusi I miss your cooking! And your smile, and your attitude to life. She believes everything happens for a reason, nothing is a mistake, that all will always be well in time, even if we cannot see it in the present. Her faith has inspired me greatly. This lady has been shunned by the local society for starting this home for the unwanted children of the town some years ago. It is not seen as the ‘normal’ thing to do to live a life separate from a husband, surrounded by children and strange ‘white’ volunteers who insist on walking around the town in strange clothes (I take full credit for that!)

But I personally think the work you have done is incredible, and I have vowed to do my best to promote and support your Foundation for as long as I can.

Being a part of your family is a blessing. Being given the chance to reach out, and touch a hand, touch a heart, touch a life… priceless.

Down in the town there is a school which is also run by the children’s home. I did some English teaching there. When I first arrived, I’ll never forget, crowds of kids came running out to greet me, crowding round all trying to touch me calling me ‘Jesu Jesu’!

Unbelievable! I’d been reading the New Testament just hours before fascinating over stories of Jesus, and his teachings to the crowds who tried to touch him just to be healed.

Unfortunately for the children of this school in Kpando town I am not Jesus, or in fact a healer, but the kids haven’t seemed to have cottoned on to this fact (probably because I insist on wearing long robes all the time and look a bit like a Jew). So every time I came to the school the children would come out of the classrooms and sing to me, or would take it in turns to hold my hand whilst we were walking through the grounds.

‘Oh Happy Day’ remains forever a crowd pleaser…

With some of the money we raised before my last trip we bought all the children of the orphanage a new pair of shoes (we let them choose their own which made them very happy!) we bought a few months worth of food, and then also did some building works – chiefly a new shower block as the old one became unusable and fell into disrepair.

They made us ‘thank you’ signs.

As well as lack of food another common problem at the orphanage is Malaria, which we experienced first hand. The kids get Malaria every year and are treated with pharmaceuticals. None of them take anti-malarial medication as it would be too expensive.

My little Desmond had malaria whilst I was there.
I was very worried.
We made sure he had all the medicines that he needed and I cared for him.
Bathed him in cold water as he had high fevers.
I wrapped him in my orange Hindu scarf that I got from a temple in India.
I took that scarf with me on all my travels for the last few years.

I gave it to the boy as I was leaving, told him to ‘look after it’ until I came back as I would want it back… it was my promise to return again. I made sure one of the older kids translated to him so he definitely understood what I was saying… he needed to know I would come back… and I will.

Saying goodbye is never easy.
I cherish these pictures until I return.
At least I have these.

There really is so much work to be done here. I can’t stress it enough!
If anyone reading this would like to get involved please do not hesitate to make contact.

There are always ways you can help.
We still need to do so much work at the orphanage.
Finish the floors which are all rough concrete and dirt at the moment.
Finish all the windows so scorpions, and lizards and rats don’t keep getting in.
They need new toilet facilities, clothes, food, books for school etc.

Anybody willing to donate goods can send them to –
Missahoe Children’s Home and Montessori School,
Box 186, Kpando, Volta Region, Ghana, West Africa.
Social Welfare Number – G11 363.

If you would like to donate money or sponsor a child please get in contact
and I will help you make the necessary connections.

-> Sponsor a Child <-

You can ‘whatsapp’ the founder, Florence Mawusi Dotse, on +233207157666
She will help facilitate a donation (usually via Western Union).

Alternatively if you’d like to get involved in fundraising or actually make a trip to Ghana I will be returning to West Africa with a small group November/December this year. We will stay at the orphanage for one month, live simply, and travel independently around the country using local transport.

You can always contact me here via the Contact Page with any questions, advice or even just to chat. I will always answer, in time.

I will be travelling for the next couple of months in North Africa, and then will return to the UK in the Summer to work on some creative projects, and to start fundraising for the November trip.

Reach out… touch a hand.

*

Kpando lies close to the vast Volta Lake. Leaving the orphanage we began our journey one day, into the Bush…

To be continued…

Jx

23 Comments

  1. As always fabulous photos and interested in your adventures. You impart so much the world needs to know how people live and maintain a good faith. I liked to read your belief about the religious state. You do amazing work in Ghana and may you continue to do so. Take care you are both blessed souls.

    Like

  2. Haven’t been on your page in a while so it was so pleasant to travel with you once again through your words and photos. Great story. I felt like I was right there with you!!

    Like

  3. Wow, simply wow! I love your story and your way of telling it! I am helping a refugee from Ghana here in Germany. I have no idea about his country really. So it’s nice to learn more about it.

    Like

  4. Very touching James. So happy to see your reunited with your Desmond. I really hope your dreams of helping more come true. I like the philosophy of the orphanage mother “that all will always be well in time, even if we cannot see it in the present.” Keep safe. Lindsey ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Katelon. It was such a good day seeing his little face again. Can’t wait till my next trip. Even just spreading the word can make a big difference. Let me know if you ever need help or info. Blessings x

      Liked by 1 person

Shine your light...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s