Monday, May 16, 2011


This is another blog requesting assistance. But, first, maybe I should give a quick update about some other people for whom I’ve made requests in the past year or so. Benedict, the guy who’s been helping SMA lay missionaries around their houses for about 10 years now, hasn’t yet received any assistance towards his goal of education. Thomas, the guy who works with Elizabeth, was able to receive some donations that have made it possible for him to pay his exam fees for round 1 of the exams in September, and he had enough left over to take some preparatory classes. Elizabeth was able to get enough for her rent and is still actively in charge of Harmony. Jackson was able to receive what was needed to pay the rent for the hostel he needed while he attends school. So, thanks to everyone who has made these things possible - - - - and now . . .

Alice is one of the original Hope for Life members.

She’s blind, has a quick wit, likes to pick an argument when given a chance (all in a way to challenge, encourage a conversation, or maybe annoy me if she knows I’m tired). She’s like a sister to me. Years ago when I was living in Accra and also with HFL I got to know Alice. She came by the house a lot, stayed often, helped out, talked, told stories, laughed and was a strong part of life there. At some point in the 25-year history of HFL, Alice was president of the organization. She’s also been a branch coordinator (the head of the “branch” of Hope for Life in the part of Accra where she lives). A beautiful woman.

When HFL started in 1986, Alice was the one who wove the chairs that we still use around the dining table today (the chair seats and backs are woven with some kind of grass or something). She also wove doormats that we took to bazaars to sell with other HFL products. In addition, she had a small stationery shop on the side of the road, a wooden shack where she sold basic school supplies. She was managing to live her life.

At that time, on Sundays, the other SMA lay missionary and I took whoever was in the house to the beach. It was one of the highlights of my life here in Accra during those years – going to the beach (and the other favorite time was sitting for dinner together with everyone in the house: eating, talking, laughing, joking, singing songs – sometimes sharing a box or two of wine, depending upon how much help I needed to swallow the meal that night, which was usually delicious, but at times needed some assistance). The first time we went with Alice to the beach I held her hand and we went into the water. She had grown up on the coast, but this was her first time to ever enter the sea. Every time a wave came she’d laugh, turn her head, and eventually tell me to stop. She was convinced I was the one pushing water onto her. Even when I held both her hands, explained and embellished my limited knowledge of waves, she still was convinced that somehow I was the one making her head go under the water. It’s one of my best beach memories.

Somewhere around 2001, the landlord of the land where she had her shop decided that he wanted that parcel of land back for his own use. Without giving Alice warning, he sent people to start destroying her shop early one morning. She didn’t even have a chance to remove her supplies. All was destroyed. She had nowhere to turn, and since has been unable to rebuild her business. At this time, she sells a few different candies just outside of the room where she lives. When it rains, her room floods, her clothes and Braille books get ruined and it takes her awhile to get things organized again.

She’s struggling. Last year while she was staying at the house she told me that she has a lot of pain in her eyes and even has trouble sleeping due to the pain. In November we went to an eye doctor who recommended outpatient surgery, scraping the growths from her eyes, and removing the pain – it would be free if she had insurance, but would cost around $300 (if I remember well) without insurance. Her insurance had expired (uggh), so we decided to wait until it could be renewed. He also explained to her that this surgery would only take away the pain; it wouldn’t restore any sight.

I invited her to come stay at Bethany House for the Christmas celebration. When she arrived, she quietly told me how grateful she was – she hadn’t known how she would have enough food to make it to the end of that week and that she doesn’t always have food during a day.

It breaks my heart – she’s intelligent, compassionate, and wants to work to take care of her life. She’s like a sister to me – we tease, joke, poke, tickle, give each other hard times, throw water on each other, etc. And we all had a great Christmas – with Alice and me washing the dishes following each meal for the two-day celebration. After Christmas, we arranged for a good friend of ours to help her renew her insurance. She didn’t have the money, but I’d received some donations. When the insurance finally came, we arranged for the surgery.

She came and stayed at the house prior to the surgery, and when the day came I joined her to the Save the Nation's Sight clinic (a wonderful place - Dr. Baah has been helpful with Blahmacee (another Blahmacee link here) and Alice, considering the limited resources available for the work, etc. - he and his wife are amazing to me). Following the surgery, we were given ointment, drops and painkillers, and came back to the house where she spent the night sick to her stomach, vomiting, and in pain. I thought of my mom, and went down the street to get some coke, some sprite and some cream crackers (closest thing to Saltines here), also some Digestives for the next morning, and a Malta. She was able to keep down the coke and the crackers – and, as a result, take the pain killer.

I’ll leave out the removal of her bandage and the time spent recovering and doing follow-up visits – other than the first follow-up visit. It was a different doctor who examined Alice when we went for the follow-up. When she’d finished the exam, Alice asked her if there wasn’t some surgery they could do to give her some sight back, just enough sight to differentiate light or dark, or maybe distinguish colors. The doctor didn’t respond, and after about 10 seconds looked at me and just shook her head. I answered for her, reminding Alice what the other doctor had explained, that she couldn’t get her sight back, that there was nothing they could do.

I’ve never had to deliver news like that before – when someone I cared about from the camp was dying years ago I was told not to tell her. This was different – Alice asked, she was hopeful, in spite of having heard the answer in the past. There’ll probably be a time in the future, another eye doctor somewhere, and she’ll ask again. I suppose it’s not easy to just give up that kind of hope, that there will be some kind of miracle, that something may change, that another doctor may have different skills, machines, knowledge, abilities, magic, whatever.

After a couple of months in the house, during which time Alice helped wash window louvers, walls, dishes – whatever she was asked to do – she returned home. Only one eye had been operated upon, and we have one more visit to make at the clinic, during which the doctor will discuss an artificial eye or something and Alice can decide if she needs surgery on her other eye.

Alice and I have had time to talk about how to improve her situation. The first priority was to get rid of the pain. That one we can check off the list. The second was to start her business again. We talked about this a few months before Christmas. I told her to figure out what was needed – and finally, she did. She gave me a list a builder had prepared with details of what’s needed to build her kiosk/shop again. I promised I would write a blog about her. It’s taken time – as usual, a lot’s been going on, blah blah blah. But, time is also running out for me – so while I put off major paperwork/report I need to do for another donor organization, I am updating the blog about this beautiful woman, and asking for yet more assistance. She needs $550.00 to rebuild the kiosk, and another $500.00 to get some basic school supplies that she’ll be able to use to start and then build up her business.

OK, following are two very similar photos, but neither one was fair to both me and Alice - one I look stupid, and one isn't the most flattering of Alice - so I had to include the two

hmmm, looking at them again, I suspect neither one is flattering to steve. Anyway, I've never been accused of being photogenic

I know that some people have done a lot to help me and the people I work with over the years – and, trust me, there will be a few more requests in the years ahead, probably even in the months ahead. But this is the request of the moment: Can we continue to build up Alice’s life again – give her some control and some of her dignity back. If it’s possible, then, as usual, the donations go this way:

C/O Theresa Hicks
256 North Manor Circle
Takoma Park, MD 20912

And a brief note should be included specifying that it’s for Steve’s work with Alice. (With other people who have been helped, it’s not always one donor who comes up with the full amount, but someone donating something here, someone else donating something there, and it all adds up to help make something possible for someone.)


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