Thursday, May 10, 2007

I left Ghana on 20 April. In the 2 months or so prior to leaving I received some very nice donations that helped me to tie things up really well.

Otis is a young man who had polio when he was younger. As a result, he now walks with a limp. He is alone on the camp, and a few years ago – about 6 months before I arrived – another Liberian I had known when I was in Ivory Coast had taken Otis on as his apprentice for tailoring. About a year after I arrived, my friend got resettled to Norway, but he had introduced me to Otis and we were able to find the money needed (thanks to Liliane Fonds) to help Otis complete his training, and to take it a step further by also learning embroidery. About a year ago he completed all his training, and was able to set up his own tailoring shop.
Otis instructing some of his students

Otis embroidering in his shop

The thing that’s really special about Otis is that, in addition to running his own business, he is training – for free or a reduced fee – other people with disabilities. He also voluntarily comes to the school for the deaf once a week to hold a class teaching the older students some of the basics of tailoring. He believes that this is the only way he has to repay the assistance he received in the past – by helping other people with disabilities learn a trade and hopefully gain a means of becoming more self-sufficient.

(A few of us outside Otis' shop - Otis in white t-shirt)
Otis has been struggling to make his business successful – just barely getting by. Part of the problem is that the electricity on the camp (and in the country) has been extremely unreliable. In parts of the camp the residents can go for days without power (just prior to my departure I went for two weeks with no power – fortunately I don’t keep too much extra in the fridge, just in case, and I was able to eat what was there before it spoiled). So, when the power’s out at Otis’ shop, it limits the work he can do. Some of the donations received helped us to remedy this problem by purchasing a generator. He still has more hopes and dreams for expanding his business – but this was a good start.

Otis with his generator

Another person who impressed me a lot over the past few years is Mr. Obeng. He’s 74 years old and has a few children – one of whom is in her mid-20s and has schizophrenia. (Unfortunately, for some reason I have no pictures of Mr. Obeng or his daughter, Hagar.) Often when people have disabilities they’re not valued as highly, are sometimes abandoned, put out for begging, and are the last to receive any resources the family may have available. Even though Mr. Obeng is trying hard to make ends meet for his family, he didn’t do this with Hagar. He took good care of her, even paying for her to apprentice to a seamstress. When I met them, though, this training had been interrupted because they didn’t have the money needed to go to the doctor for her psychotropic medicines. Again, Liliane Fonds helped out – agreeing to help with the costs of the meds while Hagar completed her training.

Meanwhile – Mr. Obeng’s poor vision was becoming worse – he was practically blind. So we took him to Mercy Ship (I wrote a little more about Mercy Ship in my July 4, 2006, blog entry - if you scroll down the link here you'll find it - just after the Puppy Birthing and Rehab Center pics), where they were able to do surgery to improve the vision of one of his eyes. The recovery took more time than expected, though – and he still needed glasses afterwards.

Those timely donations helped us to get Mr. Obeng his eye check-up and glasses, as well as to get Hagar some of the basics she was needing to begin her business as a seamstress now that she’s completed her training.

This entry is getting long, but one last story that’s very nice to finish up. Dixon left for Liberia the day before I left for the states. It was so nice to be a part of that entire process with him – his arrival in Ghana for the spinal surgery, scheduling the surgery with only faith that the money would be there when the scheduled date arrived, the surgery, the recovery, training in computer repair/maintenance while in the recovery process, and finally, with the help of those donations, acquiring a 2nd hand computer and a couple of other items for him to carry back with him to Liberia to get himself established there.

It’s a nice ending.


At 3:07 PM, Blogger Nate said...

Thanks for the update - I was just thinking how weird it would be to not have any more updates from Steve in Ghana... :)

I've been emailing Samuel a bit, it's good stay in touch - and good to hear that things wrapped up well for you in the last few months!

At 8:35 PM, Blogger Rick said...

Thanks for the news, it is good to hear and to see the photos too. Having been to Otis's shop and met him, and Dixon too, makes it all the more exciting to get the followup story.

At 10:40 PM, Blogger Artem said...

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