About the Blog

United Hearts Children Center is located in Bawjiase, Ghana. It is currently home to 25 children, who are excited to move into their NEW home in the next few months. We are continuing fundraising to complete the project and have just started to fundraise for the United Hearts Community School. Check them out in my links!

Friday, December 31, 2010

Afishiapah! (Merry Christmas/Happy New Year)

Sorry to disappoint, but I have very little to entertain you with today. Exciting news of the week is that I am quite tan but have not been sunburned ONCE. Some of the tan is likely just dirt, but I won't know that for sure until I get home because that will be the next time I am clean. Sad news of the week is that the candy I brought is almost finished, which means we went through a 3.5 pound bag of Swedish Fish in two weeks. However, I still have enough Starbucks Via to last me at least through January.

Wednesday I went with "Doctor" Kwame, Kwashie, and Jonas to the hospital in Swedru, about 45 minutes from Bawjiase. Kwame came to the orphanage for prayer a few months ago and ended up staying, now working as an orphanage staff who is in charge of the children's basic medical needs. Kwashie had developed something that looked like a sty that was obviously infected, so we took him to the eye clinic. Jonas, Pastor's son, also came along, as they insisted he needed to be looked at as well. The thing is, the eye clinic nurses know Jonas because he is taken there so often for what Pastor and Marta claim is a Big Problem. The volunteers and the nurses at the eye clinic have identified this Big Problem as allergies. For those of you with allergies, you hopefully know that you do not need to go to the doctor every time they get worse, and now Kwame knows this too. Kwashie was given some medicine and his eye is already looking better.

Yesterday Kwame and I took nine children to the clinic near the orphanage for the rashes they are being treated for. It was the final injection for seven of them because Toffic was out of town at "soccer camp" last week and Agogo clenches his butt so that they can't get the medicine in. I go back and forth between thinking it's quite smart of him and thinking it is quite stupid of him, as it means he needs to continuously go back and get stabbed in the butt over and over again. The experience went from funny to slightly upsetting when I had to hold Agogo down with all of my strength, which I certainly am not looking forward to next Thursday. Ernestina, the youngest child receiving an injection (I think she is about 2 1/2) showed up everyone, even the older kids, barely crying or moving when it was her turn. Quite impressive!

By tomorrow Lauren, Vlad and I will be the only volunteers until the middle of February. We keep joking about how we will get nothing done, but Vlad and Lauren are the two biggest players in what is going on in the development of the orphanage. I have linked to Lauren's blog on the right side of my page and I hope that you will take time to read it. She writes much more about what is going on in terms of fundraising and progress on the building, and we think our blogs really compliment each other. So, go ahead and read!

Tonight is New Years and we are looking forward to being the only people in Bawjiase celebrating. Most people will be in church for varying amounts of time, like 8 pm to 5 am, which is happening at the orphanage. We will not be attending. After I am finished with this post I am venturing out into the maze of market to hopefully find the guy I bought sparklers from last week, as he had fireworks that we want to buy for tonight. It sounds more dangerous than it really is. I think.

I will hopefully post tomorrow or Sunday, as I want to write about the "party" that was hosted by a church at the orphanage for 100+ children. And to assure you that all my limbs are still intact after our fireworks display.

This is the staff picture from Christmas at the new building.
Back row, left to right: Sister Akua, Fifi (he will tell you he cooks for us but is not our cook but he does get paid), Jenna (she left a few days ago), Pastor Elisha, Vlad, Nana (orphanage secretary/Bawjiase gangsta'), Marta, Lauren
Front row, left to right: Yours truly, Sister Rejoice (came to the orphanage for prayer and is incredibly helpful but we just don't have the money to employ her), Doctor Kwame, Sister Mary, Stefani (leaving tomorrow), and Meshak (Pastor and Marta's youngest child)
Cynthia after finding her present

Monday, December 27, 2010

Ghanaian Wisdom

Things I have learned or that have happened since I last wrote:
  • The very popular STAR beer is actually an acronym for sit together and relax.
  • We went to a wedding on Saturday. I use this phrase loosely seeing as we showed up three hours after we were supposed to, sat down where no one else was sitting, were joined by the rest of the guests, sat some more, listened to music, followed our friends through the village and ended up at a football (soccer) game, walked back through the village while children cried because we were the first white people they have ever seen, arrived back at the wedding to a scene that was exactly the same as when we left, listened to people speak for a very long time in Twi, watched people dance and the bride and groom walk back and forth, got up and went home.
  • Cats like to have their babies in a corner under a covering to feel protected. This is why Oprah kept picking up her children and bringing them under our beds because she wasn't happy that they were in the middle of the room. Vlad built her a home:
  • "That is the problem with Africa; people waste too much time in church." - Kobby, the young man I am tutoring in math, who was not available yesterday because he was in church.
  • Akpetishie, a very potent Ghanaian alcohol, is excellent for fixing wounds. We went for a walk through town last night just to get out of the house. I took an epic tumble down four concrete steps on our frantic search for a frozen fruit bar I've been wanting to try. Luckily, my snowboarding skills have taught me how to fall, and I walked away with a scrape on my knee and a gash on my toe. We walked to Two Face where I went behind the bar to grab a Coke and show Idris (the owner and a good friend of the volunteers) my wounds, to which he proclaimed "Becca! I will fix them like we do in Ghana." This frightened me, as I'm used to my mother saying things like this (minus the Ghana part) and giving me weird looking pills and drops. However, Idris pulled out the bottle of Akpetishie, which actually frightened me just as much because it is vile. He grabbed my leg and proceeded to pour the alcoholic beverage on my wounds, rubbing it in to get rid of the blood and dirt.
We celebrated Christmas with the children yesterday, which was absolutely amazing. We went to the site of the new building and decorated, then put the presents in their soon-to-be bedrooms, let them run wild and find the gift bag with their name on it. Crying was kept to a minimum, mainly occurring when they didn't realize there were two boys rooms with gifts and two girls rooms with gifts. Each kid received a new outfit, including underwear, a coloring book and crayons. The girls all received headbands and watches. The older boys also received watches and the young boys received cars. The day before, Marta, pastor's wife, came up to our house to confirm that all the clothing we were giving the children were the correct sizes. (This picture shows some of our main common area where we spend most of our time)

Taking a look at what's inside the bags!

Showing off Irene's new shirt!

The kids are all doing very well and are as healthy as they can be. A local church is coming later today to host a party for all our children as well as many local kids. The kids are excited to have a party and the volunteers are excited to be able to sit back and relax, which will be a wonderful break from the work we are normally doing. Tomorrow will be a staff party, which we are hosting for the orphanage staff. We will provide Marta with money to buy food at market and she will be cooking for us, which I am quite excited about. I keep thinking about making guacamole, but I'm not sure if the motivation is there, so I might wait to make some for the volunteers Saturday night. The avocados here are AMAZING. They are called pear, which is pronounced more like pay-ah, and it was one of the most important words I learned last time I was here.

That is all from Bawjiase right now. Things should quiet down by the end of the week and we'll be able to return to a normal routine, which I am very much looking forward to.

I know holiday season is nearing its end, but our fundraising is not, and we have thousands of dollars still to raise. There are so many wonderful organizations out there and sometimes I feel as though we are not helping enough people. However, we cannot save the world or help every orphan, but we can make a difference in the lives of these 25 children.

Mama Hope

We are also fundraising through our own website, managed by Vlad. This is his third stay in Bawjiase and his total time spent here totals nearly a year. The money donated through our site is used for immediate needs, ranging from the building, food, and staff salaries.

Ghana Orphanage

Thursday, December 23, 2010


We are making lots of progress on the new building, but so much is left to be done. Just extending the electricity to the site and setting it up is going to be around $3500, and paying people to do it will cost ever more. There are so many little things that must be done and they add up so quickly. During this holiday season, please consider donating.

Also, I did just graduate college, so you can pretend it is your graduation present to me, given I know all of you were planning on getting me something.


A few days ago during activity time with the kids I started playing a word game with one of the girls. She was scrambling peoples' names in the sand and I had to figure out what it said. We went through some easy ones: Becca, Jonas, Raheal, Barbara. All names of the kids (and me, of course). The game became more difficult as she started writing names of people not at the orphanage. Josephine, Joyce, Kwame. Then she wrote AYRM. Either I was having trouble correctly reading the letters, too tired from all the day's activities, or not even paying attention, but I was completely unable to figure it out. She started giving me a hint, but all I could understand was that she was telling me it was someone's mother. Whose mother? After repeating it maybe four times, I realized what she was saying.

Jesus' Mother

And too many seconds later I figured it out.

Yesterday we took the kids to the site of the orphanage for activity time. There is a very large hole that was dug for sewage, and apparently it is their favorite place to play when we are there. After I recovered from my heart attack (the result of seeing these small children perched on sandy piles leaning into a twenty foot ditch), I began taking pictures. There was a small animal that clearly missed the memo that he should not jump into it. We still don't know what it is, but it was kind of chipmunk like. As anyone would do upon seeing this animal, the kids started throwing rocks at it.

Don't worry, though. After we told the children Christmas would be canceled if they threw any more rocks into the ditch, it stopped. Vlad then went down with a bucket used for drawing water from the well, trapped the animal in the bucket, and I pulled it up as if I was drawing water (And it's okay because I have my rabies vaccination).

Raheal and I walked off from the chaos of the children running circles around the hole and hitting each other with sticks:

On a completely different note, it has been absolutely incredible to walk around town and run into people from my last stay here. I stopped by to see Vivian, the woman who made my clothes last time I was here, who informed my that she will be coming with me when I go home in March, because she has "a lot of money." I also visited some of my old neighbors at market on Tuesday (people are always in the same place at market), and was surprised at how easily I managed to navigate the maze that is Bawjiase's market. I stopped by their houses to visit for a little bit, and then made my way to the house where Kobby (Kobe) lives. I met him the other day when I went with another volunteer who was visiting the family he lives with. Kobby was sitting outside studying a math book, and we started talking. He is a teacher and is studying for a math exam on January 4th. If he passes he will receive his next certification, similar to a Masters degree. I ended up helping him and have now become his teacher. I spent a few hours with him yesterday going through one of the units, but am hoping he doesn't want to study more today because a new volunteer will be here soon! I certainly didn't expect to be a math tutor here, but it will pay off because after he is finished with his test he is going to be my Twi tutor. It will be nice to have someone who is well educated helping me with Twi, because unlike many of the people in Bawjiase he is able to write the language, which is something I really want to learn.

My dear Torch Club: The Smurf coloring book was a huge hit the other day! Obviously getting the children to be in the picture was more difficult, but after only a few hours they had colored every page in the book!

Monday, December 20, 2010

I Have Arrived

9:30 - 11:30 AM Pentecostal Church. I did not have time to actually find out what this means, so if anyone knows, feel free to comment.

Stand up. Clap. Sing. Sit down. Sermon?
-Praise the Lord
- Hallelujah
More singing. Head down. Individual prayer?
Stare at the oburonis. Laugh. Sing.

This is what I learned at church yesterday. Considering I only hate half of my breakfast (egg sandwich) and one bag of Via (1/100th of the amount of caffeine in my 5-shot espresso Starbucks beverage) AND was jet lagged, I think this is pretty good. Things I also learned: Oburonis can sit/stand on the wrong side of church without being stared at (at least more than normal). It is okay if your head is not covered. Some obibinis didn't have their heads covered. Everybody stands or everybody sits, but you can come and go as you please. You are allowed to write during church. Next week I will be bringing my notebook.

I am as far from being religious as you can be, but religion isn't just part of life, it is life in Ghana. Religion makes its way into everything the people do, and in order to survive here you must be accepting of that. I think I may be doing some sort of church update every so often, as I would like to keep attending, especially because the orphanage rotates churches they attend every Sunday, and getting a taste of different ones of varying sizes sounds like something I must do in order to get the full experience.

In other news, I have clearly arrived in Bawjiase.
It is so very familiar, and even after two and a half days it barely feels as though I have ever left. Just today, waiting for a tro-tro, a friend of mine from my last stay ran up to give me a hug. Everyone likes to be remembered (I think), but to be remembered by a young man I knew for just six weeks in a town I only started to think of as home felt amazing.

I have adjusted very quickly, and although I am currently living with two volunteers I just met on Saturday in a different house than before, it feels the same. Ghanaian time has come back to me quickly, and leaving for church at 9:30 after being told to be ready at 8:45 felt totally natural. The heat is easier to bare than I had expected, especially coming from such cold weather. I am already used to being dirty and sweaty, and only two days later I barely notice the smell of my clothing. I am still in the adjustment phase of remembering how much water I must drink to stay hydrated, but it is easy to buy a bag of water whenever I am out of the house, so I am able to stay somewhat on top of it.

The children are still absolutely wonderful. I was tackled upon my first visit to the orphanage, completely blown away at hearing them all yell my name. The youngest ones were skeptical at first, but they warm up to new (old) people quickly, and already there is no problem. I became very close to one of the orphanage workers, Sister Hannah, during my last stay, and we gave each other a giant, sweaty hug when I got there. Her three year-old daughter, Ernestina, lives at the orphanage, and I printed out the picture I posted of her last week to give to Hannah. Seeing the other staff was also wonderful, and I was ecstatic when Pastor woke me up from my jet-lag nap to give me a hug and catch up.

Things are much more organized than they were when I left, and although I will not be writing too much about that right now, it is something I plan on getting into in a future post. We try to do activity time every day with the children and are sitting here trying to figure out what exactly to do, as it sounds like coloring is one of the few activities that usually takes place and branching out is a necessity.

Until next time!

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Fine Print

Firstly, to tide you over, this is what my packing room looked like a few hours ago:

Before I get into the heart of this post, I want to share something awesome. I spent my semester interning in the teen center of a local Boys and Girls Club. A few weeks ago I was called into a meeting of Torch Club (hey guys!), who wanted to ask me if they could choose the orphanage for their fundraising project. Since then, they have worked incredibly hard, making a beautiful poster with information about Ghana and pictures of the children, and raised over $100! Today when I went in for my final goodbye, I walked in to find a table with the many items Torch Club purchased for the children (and two delicious cakes!).
It was certainly a challenge fitting everything they bought into my luggage, especially when I realized TSA might be angry with the built in crayon sharpeners in the back of the crayon boxes, forcing me to pack them in my checked baggage. However, years of summer camp have taught me well, and I managed to turn my packing room into this:

Now, onto the real reason for this post.

As I wrote before, I decided to start a blog as a way to keep people updated on my experiences while in Ghana. It's an easy place to post pictures and tell stories of what I encounter. However, my experiences for the next two and a half months will extend far beyond simply being in Ghana. For this reason, I would like to give you ample warning of the things you will likely read.

This isn't going to be an objective log of day to day life in Bawjiase. It's going to be Becca's take on these things, and the thoughts and feelings they bring about within me.

That, my friends, is the fine print I speak of. The not-so-subtle warning that this blog is going to be just as much a tale of 10 weeks in Bawjiase as it will be a chronicle of the next two and a half months of my life. What exactly that means, I don't know. We'll just have to wait and see.

I'm off tomorrow morning and don't know the next time I will be able to post, so enjoy the cold weather and I'll be back soon!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


The new building

Pretending to sleep in what will soon be their bedroom

"V" for Victory!



Well, it has happened...

And I have caved. I am now joining the world of increasingly trendy bloggers. I wasn't going to blog. Ten weeks is barely enough time and it's not like anyone would be interested in reading about my life for 70 days. I have been proven wrong.

This all started for myself. I wanted to travel, Africa seemed cool, Ghana seemed even cooler, and anywhere I could work with kids was great. I wanted to spend my time in amazing places, and Bawjiase, Ghana became one of a small handful of locations I have had the fortune of exploring. I spent my summer in this little town, and my sixth and final week there was consumed by phone calls to my mother, sobbing. I'm so attached to the people here, I cried to her. I don't know how to say goodbye, especially when I know, in my heart, that I will never be back. But my heart was wrong. I continued crying upon my return home. I missed Bawjiase and the people I met there more than I ever thought possible, and I just had to go back.

A college graduate as of five days ago, I spent the past few months dodging questions of what I was going to do now. Eventually they became impossible to avoid, and my answer turned into the one-liner of "I'm leaving the country." Some laughed, some asked questions, and some pressed for information of what I was going to do when I come back. And as for me, well I had no idea why. Throughout the next few months I hope to slowly discover the answer to these questions.

The orphanage in Bawjiase is currently home to 25 children, who are being evicted from their current building. The volunteers have come together in the past few months to raise the thousands of dollars needed to hire workers, purchase supplies, and construct a new building. Clearly passionate about this cause, I joined the fundraising bandwagon, and sent out emails and Facebook messages to friends and family. Suddenly, this trip wasn't simply about me.

I have been shocked by the interest those around me have taken in this orphanage. My faith in humanity has been restored (or perhaps finally established) as people ask me how they can help. My sister's holiday present to me was a donation, the children at my internship decided to raise money for the orphanage, and relatives I barely know are sending me emails asking what they can do. The more people who hear about my trip, a mere ten weeks of my life, the more I cannot believe what this has turned into. I never believed professors, classmates, coworkers, friends, relatives, and children would be so interested in a journey I set out on solely for myself.

I wasn't going to blog. I wasn't going to write about my experiences anywhere except a notebook, because my experiences were meant to be mine and mine alone. Yet other people want a piece of these experiences and after all their help and support, it is only fair to let them in.

I leave in three days, and although I like to think this is my adios, USA entry, I may in fact post with a frantic I-am-not-packed-so-I-am-blogging-instead-of-packing post. Either way, I will be here, posting pictures, updates, and thoughts, for myself and anyone who wants to be a part of them.

We are still fundraising, and if you are reading this and have yet to donate, please consider contributing to these beautiful children who mean the world to me, and will hopefully find their way into your hearts through this blog.