Monday, March 01, 2010

Hope for Life

For at least 3 weeks (but more like 1 1/2 - 2 months) I’ve had another blog entry ready to go – other than a few more rounds of editing to tighten it up, shorten it, figure it out, decide if it’s an entry I should do or not. It’s more like an ode to all the great people I had time with while I was on leave a few months ago – an appreciation for the time they gave me from their busy schedules. But I’m not going to use it at this time – maybe I never will. I might just keep it and work on it for some other reason. Maybe I’ll use excerpts from it in a future update – like an update about Morris, who I got to talk with for the first time, face to face, not writing anything down – just regular old talking. We’ll see.

I can’t use it now because there’s other stuff on my mind, so many other things going on with where I am now. It’s 1:45 a.m. when I’m typing this. I don’t really have trouble sleeping, but . . . for some reason I got up at this time with things on my mind and decided it’s best to just write about them. (To be honest - this is describing a 2nd blog entry I prepared about 1 month + ago, and I'm now posting an edited version of that - with excerpts to maybe be used in the future.) (Maybe that's confusing - basically, what's being posted is the 3rd entry I've prepared, which is an extremely edited version of the 2nd entry I did at 1:45. I know it's not at all important that this is understood - so just move on.)

I’ve been back in Ghana for 5 months – I think it’s almost exactly 5 months. If I remember, due to a canceled flight I ended up arriving here on 3 October, and now it’s 1 March.

I’m at a project called Hope for Life. Some people who’ve known me for awhile might remember I was also at a project called Hope for Life from 1996 – 1998. It’s the same project – just a 12 year-older version of it. One part of the project is called Bethany House – it’s where I live. It’s also a part of the project that was a big pull for me to come back here. It’s not only where I live, but it’s also where members of Hope for Life, all people with disabilities, are welcome to come stay if they want a break from their daily lives, if they want to have time with other people with disabilities, if they need/want somewhere to prepare for exams, if they want a place that will have electricity and running water (assuming the city is supplying those things while they’re staying at the house), or for whatever reason at all.

Over 10 years ago, the house was in a different location. HFL rented, and for a variety of reasons chose to leave the place and build its own house. Running the house can be difficult, though. It can be hard to get sponsors to be interested in donating money or resources to this part of the project since it’s just a place where people come eat, gather, rest and be happy. I’m not sure how/if it will ever become self-sufficient. Just before I left here in 1998, the lay missionary I was with worked on a proposal for a bakery to help make the project more self-sufficient. That bakery is now located on this same property (right outside my bedroom window, in fact). It’s been barely breaking even – and frequently operates at a loss. However, it recently received two sweet contracts – one is supplying the bread that goes on the airplanes flying out of Ghana, which means that some, if not all, people flying out of Ghana, when they’re eating that little sandwich thing they get on the flight just before landing, or they get the little dinner roles with their meals – it’s Hope for Life bread that they’re eating.

A year ago the house was officially closed due to lack of funds. The “House Mother” was let go. HFL members weren’t officially allowed to stay here because there was no one to look after the place, provide the meals, etc. – no money, basically. When I came back in October one of our goals became opening the house again. (I like to think of it as a project goal – but it may have just been a Steve goal.) I hoped it would be accomplished in a month or so – but then saw realistically I should shoot for January. I came back with a donation and immediately we started getting the plumbing working. I wanted to put in a garden – focused on things people use all the time in sauces and stews, but I saw that I’d never be able to actually get around to digging up the place myself.

In someone’s “wisdom” a few years ago it was decided that the driveway should be all gravel since it would be much cheaper than pavement. Uh . . . OK . . . now let’s try wheeling a wheelchair or walking with crutches or crawling on hands and knees across that gravel. One benefit at this time, though, is that a section of the gravel was much easier to shovel aside for a garden than pavement would have been. (We still need to figure out how to make the rest of it more accessible, though.) When a friend from the refugee camp who’s still here and is accepted into a university but still waiting for sponsorship (for those who visited me on the camp, I'm talking about Benedict - you probably met him at the house where I was living) asked me to help find a sponsor and in the meantime to remember him if I had any work to do – I thought, “hey – I’m not going to get around to doing this garden anytime soon – maybe he can do it.” And he did – and is still working on it. It’s amazing – already we’ve had to put to rest several beds of tomato plants that never flowered but were, all the same, beautiful to look at and smell , a bed of watermelon that produced baby watermelon that soon rotted, and a cucumber bed that had similar difficulties as the watermelon. We’ve replanted some of these beds, and have prepared a couple of others for transplanting. Other crops have done better, and, happily and yummily, we’ve already enjoyed a few meals with Okra from the garden, others with cabbage, and the carrots have also contributed to a few meals. A personal favorite is also there – radishes. I love radishes – they grow quickly and easily and I think they’re delicious - and an added bonus is they always remind me of my grandmother who first introduced me to them before I was old enough to appreciate them properly, but she enjoyed them and I love that memory. They’ve been a part of breakfast for the past couple of weeks. It’s like the only thing I’ve planted that’s solely because I wanted it (Ok, other than some herbs – mint, parsley and basil are doing the best and we’ve been enjoying them.) And the lemon grass I always end up planting is doing really well. Anyway – the goal was and still is to reduce food costs. And to open the house in January (which we did). And to give me pleasure with the radishes and the herbs and just digging in the dirt. Another lay missionary who was at Bethany House for a few months before I came shook her head in disbelief a month after I arrived saying that she never thought the garden could happen.

We pushed forward with the garden and with working towards opening the house. We interviewed people for the new House Manager. People who were unofficially staying here and would probably be considered squatters were given their notice to move along. A House Manager was chosen (the former House Mother). The overflowing septic system (yes, nasty) was cleaned out. Major scrubbing and cleaning took place. Curtains were re-hung. Kitchen and other items that were no longer around were replaced. And - - - the house opened in January.

This has been my goal – with no idea of how it will be funded. Another lay missionary who was here last year (and is still here) recently told me that (for some reason I can’t remember because it made no sense to me) she didn’t do any fundraising for the project last year. I know she had a lot on her shoulders - and maybe that's basically the reason - it's a big project and can be daunting, leaving someone scratching their head and wondering where to begin. And now, the funds are finished. Sadly, I’m not the best fundraiser in the world – mostly operating on trust and faith - but that’s the work before us now. Christmas Eve – I received an email from some friends who are like family, that they were sending a HUGE donation for my work in Ghana. My eyes watered. I didn’t quite cry, but I seriously wanted to. I knew we’d be able to keep the house open for awhile. Last week, the HFL Secretary spent a couple of days with me writing fundraising letters for local businesses – and this week we’ll start delivering them. We’ll see how it goes – because this is how it usually goes – you have to go ahead with things and not let the fear hold you back. Things don’t change – we go ahead on trust and faith, like I said. It sounds naïve – and I’m sure to any banker/money person, there’d be a lot of cringing going on with decisions being made to go ahead with things not knowing where/if the resources will be there. But if we don’t go ahead, then nothing gets done – ever. (I'm sure those bankers are probably nodding their heads in approval that I got out of accounting in my junior year of university.)

Happily, for a few months now, I’ve been surrounded by great people. They’ve been the ones making so much of this possible. They've been the ones adding to a good spirit at the house - and a feeling of home that's coming back to the place.


At 2:49 PM, Blogger Nate said...

Glad to hear you met your goals of getting the house open and growing a garden! It sounds difficult to keep going not knowing if funds will be there in the future, but I'm sure something will work out.

Thanks for the update, good as always to hear from you. Take care.

At 4:52 PM, Blogger Q Schroe said...

Well, you might not be a banker, but it sounds like you have the right perspective and attitude to make this project a success! It's wonderful that you were able to open the house and make it a part of the community again.

Best of luck continuing with the garden, the bakery and the fund-raising.

At 6:41 PM, Blogger MJ said...

So glad to see that you found time to update your blog. I'm glad you met your goal of opening the house and sure hope you can keep it going. I know how much you wanted to get back there and try to get it to where it was so many years ago. I know you did a tremendous amount of good then and made many new friends--some of which I'm sure are still there and were very glad to see you back.

At 7:37 PM, Anonymous Ladonna said...

I would like to send in a donation for the house. How do I do that?

At 1:26 AM, Blogger Rick said...

Thanks for the update, and all of your commitment, faith, and hard work. I am sure it is not easy, but things seem to be moving forward. Good for you and everyone involved. I'd love to see a few photos of the house and the garden too.

At 4:59 AM, Blogger TJ said...

steve, does the bakery still deliver baked goods? does it go to local businesses to try and sell the product? when alex was the driver, he used to come around labone and i was able to help him make sales to local businesses. you may want to start bringing some baked goods to area restaurants in osu and the like and give samples out. the bread was really good and is appealing particularly to foreign restaurants. no that the airlines are buying it, that might be a selling point.

At 2:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Steve -- In December we donated $$ to SMA on-line. I've just called to the Tenafly office to make sure it gets to your project. Hope so! -- Christine

At 3:27 AM, Blogger Karen Solas said...

Thanks for writing this blog post - it gave me a better picture of what you've been working on and all the challenges you've been facing. It sounds daunting, but really exciting! Having seen what an amazing place Bethany House once was, it makes me so happy to hear that it is on its way back to being that way again. Miss you and love you lots.

At 11:55 PM, Blogger steve said...

Hey - thanks for all the comments. To answer a few questions:
Ladonna- great to hear from you - I hope you and the baby are fine - feel free to send a picture or few. Checks can be made out to: SMA and sent to:
Attn: Theresa Hicks
256 North Manor Circle
Takoma Park, MD 20912

and a not should be included that specifies who/what it is to be used for -then I'll get it and it will go directly to House related stuff.

TJ - the bakery does still deliver baked goods - to local and to some bigger businesses, as well (if anyone flies out of Ghana, they now eat Hope for Life bread on the plane). Hopefully more support will be coming to the project from the sales of the bakery.

Christine - Theresa is following up on the donation (which is another way to donated, Ladonna - online, with credit card, to the SMA Fathers - but send an email to me so I can be sure it gets followed up on - otherwise the Fathers may not know where it goes)

I should have done a separate blog entry to answer these - this is a long response.

At 11:59 PM, Blogger steve said...

Some typoes and not clear things in that response -
it's a "note", Ladonna, not a "not"
Also - I meant that the Fathers may not know to where the donation is supposed to be directed, not that they don't know what happens to the money when they receive it.

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