I’ve just returned from another week at the Good Shepherd... another week that defies explanation... “seeing is believing”. I won’t even TRY to capture the full experience in one blog entry... and know that 100 entries still couldn’t adequately convey all that we experience in just one week in Ghana. The days are long and we go non-stop, struggling to find time to connect with each child while also attending to all of the details of the various efforts we are currently making for the orphanage and school.
For today, I just want to write about what happens when a small community of orphans, vulnerable children, and poor families learns that there is HOPE for some of these children to attend high school. Such a small thing... something that every family in America takes utterly for granted... and yet such a HUGE thing for the people of Ghana. Virtually NONE of the children who are currently at the Good Shepherd School could ever afford to go to high school; none could possibly pay the $1,000/year expense of attending these boarding schools and buying all of the required materials. And so the few lucky children who have attended primary school will be finished after 8th grade, and will go to work in the fields or on the roadside, hoping to make enough money to survive. Most girls will end up pregnant at very young ages, and many of the boys will fall prey to alcohol abuse as a way of coping with the lack of jobs and endless struggle. For the orphans who have no family to go to... things are even bleaker.
But then... we tell this community that we will be offering high school sponsorships for any child who is able to pass the national high school entrance exam... and suddenly there is HOPE. One child getting a high school education and a “real job” could support his or her extended family back in the village. One child heading off to high school could break through the cynicism of so many parents who decided not to even bother sending their children to school at all because “why bother?... they’ll end up right back in the village”. One child can go on to become a nurse who can treat the hundreds of people who die prematurely in these poor villages. One child can become a teacher who returns to the Good Shepherd School to become the teacher of one more child.
And now imagine that this dream will be coming true for SEVERAL children in this community, not just one. Our goal is to raise enough money for EVERY child who gets accepted into high school to receive a scholarship, and the teachers tell us that could be as many as 15-20 students! At first I thought this was a greatly optimistic number, but then I saw how hard they are studying for this exam... and how hard their teachers are working to prepare them for this exam... and I am suddenly feeling like it is not entirely out of the question. The children are starting classes at 5 AM, breaking for three meals throughout the day, and finishing classes at 9 PM!!! And they are SO ecstatic about it... all they see is opportunity and hope, and there is not a complaint to be heard. To be completely honest, I was actually confused at first by their enthusiasm as they told me about their new class schedule! Were they being sarcastic? But it became very clear that they were truly overjoyed at all this schooling... at this hope for a different life than the one they had always envisioned.
Seeing how hard these kids are working, and seeing how just the HOPE of a better future has vitalized this entire community, I am determined to be able to fulfill my goal of being able to offer sponsorships to ALL who pass the test. Will it be hard to find 20 sponsors? Sure it will. And won’t that be a wonderful problem to have!!