Ghana 2013 - the long trip home...
Day 11/2 A belated blog entry… as it was a long trip home.
We headed off on Saturday down to Accra via the Akosombo dam. The dam was a little sight-seeing tour and it's this dam that produces 60% of Ghana’s electricity. Being educated as a civil engineer for me, at least, it was fascinating although our tour guide was very sensitive about taking photos or getting anywhere close to the edge of the dam in case we fell in.
After a spot of lunch overlooking the dam we headed off for a quick visit to Tema market. We were going to originally vista the medina market in Accra but time didn’t really permit as we then had to head off to the Airport. At this point the team started to split up as Jill and Will were staying behind for a few more days at the children's home.
The rest of the team spent a few hours in the airport before getting on a plane heading to Istanbul… via the Ivory coast! Yes we would have 3 take offs and landings in 3 different counties during a 24 hour period (although at one point Katherine was arguing with me we would only have 2 landings for some reason... not sure she thought we’d make it home!).
Trying to sleep for me on the plane is always tough, although I think I may have actually got some as I felt sort of refreshed when we got to Istanbul. We had about 5 hours wait there before the connecting flight back to London although again at this point the team split as Reninca was getting a flight to Gatwick. So another team member down but then a quick trip to Heathrow and we actually landed about 30 minutes early which was a first! The team then parted ways and headed home.
At the end of another distribution I am left with similar feelings to previous trips - On one hand glad to be home but with mixed feelings about what I experienced:
As mentioned, the team was fantastic. Again I’ll mention Will our leader who’s just got a great heart, Graham who seems to have women falling at his feet most of the time, Katherine, Jill and Helen being excellent OT’s and Kathy who has to try so hard keeping up with the OT’s since she’s only a physio (joking of course) and of course Reninca who’s observation over the week was great... i.e. she watched everything and did nothing (again I am joking of course). And finally Pam for her spiritual leadership and helping many people find Jesus whilst we were there. Thanks also to our hosts, Ellen, Catherine and Eric as we couldn't have done it without them.
For those we gave out chairs and mobility aids to I pray that God will bless them and for those who we couldn’t I pray that equally God will bless them too.
I finish thinking about the children again and a twinge of sadness as in the western world we really have it easy most of the time. Many children in the UK have so much and yet take it for granted, they often want more. Disabled people in the UK do have good access to wheelchairs etc (as far as I can tel) but in Ghana that just doesn’t happen.
So my final request for prayer is for those children who we saw and that God will transform their lives and they will learn to know Jesus and perhaps God would perform a few miracles in their lives as I remember not to limit God!
For me I have a lot of photos and videos to edit now and I am hoping to be able to share those soon. Thanks for all the support and prayers we got from you whilst we were in Ghana and it's been a privilege to write the blog - I hope it helped give you some idea of what went on.
Till next time... for now I’ll say goodbye and God bless.
Ghana 2013 - the final two days
In these last two blogs, volunteer Phil talks about the highs and lows of the trip...
We started the day praying for God’s support as we knew we only had a few chairs and mobility aids left and we weren't sure how many would turn up today.
As we arrived we prioritised those that had come from Kpassa. They had set off over a day ago and so the therapists saw them first to see what chairs we could give them. More and more people were arriving and for me I already knew some people would go away with out a chair or mobility aid.
We had again quite a few children which in a way was great since we had a selection of children's wheelchairs… again some may say a coincidence but more God-incidences. Jill mentioned that even though we had a few chairs left each person she saw she managed to get a chair to fit.
Things got a little bit more chaotic when a bus appeared with more people looking for wheelchairs. By this point we just didn’t have any left but despite telling them several times they just didn’t believe us it seemed. I was doing some ‘crowd control’ at points to try and keep the area for the therapists clear of people. As mentioned the other day I can understand the desperation of the people wanting wheelchairs and it’s a shame that it ends up in frustration. They were upset but I wish they could understand that we are equally upset as we would love to be able to give chairs to everyone that needs them.
We also had a situation where one man had hidden his current wheelchair across the road and had come asking for another. We realised this (with Ellen’s help) as we were fitting him in a chair and found his old chair. We did offer to fix up his old chair - even though it wasn’t in too bad a state, it was still useable. He just decided to ride off instead though. So this was an upsetting moment for me, with so many people in need, that someone would do that.
I was praying that things would calm down a little and later on in the early afternoon the people who had come later realised that we simply didn’t have enough chairs or walking aids, plus there were still quite a few people left before them anyway and as such they left. So on one hand it was a relief but on another it was horrible since as mentioned we’d have love to help them. We did manage to give out some bibles to some of them though, and also some blankets.
Things did calm down further and we did what we could with the walking aids we had left. Some people still ended up without anything but we had nothing left to give - no chairs, walking aids, blankets or Bibles.
So for me a lot of low points today. The children were both high and low points though. Many had such energy, although one little boy Reninca and Jill were working with was not happy at all that he was being given a wheelchair! I got a few photos of him and he looked really grumpy - I just wish he could realise how it will hopefully help him.
There was a little girl Helen was working with and she was trying her out with some children's crutches. It turned out that she had a really sore leg, which seemed to be infected. In the end she went into a buggy and had fallen asleep as I took photos of her. It’s quite possible at some point she may have to have her leg amputated. That again nearly finished me off.
In the week we have been here we have given out over 150 chairs and lots of crutches and seen over 300 people. Sure we’d love to do more but it’s of course an achievement that the team should be proud of.
Will’s wife is flying out today as they are heading off after the trip to Shekinah (which is a children's home, most of which are street children). Now I was a little worried since Will and I are sharing a room and I wondered where she would be sleeping. There is a little gap between the beds in the room and Will had suggested that would be a good spot! However, it turns out they have another room booked so I’ll have the room to myself so I’ll miss Will’s snoring… or should I say he will miss mine, although of course I still can’t believe it’s true.
Tomorrow we have a day off and I believe we are off for a little sight-seeing to see some waterfalls, followed by a visit back to the village that I can’t pronounce in the evening for dinner and some local dancing. Yes dancing! The suggestion is we will have to take part, but of course being a photographer I’ll use the excuse that I need to be behind the camera!
The team had a bit of downtime when we got home and either soaked up some Wifi/Internet access or a dip in the pool. We then had our team time and a debrief on the days activities. Again the team did a fantastic job if I do say so myself... but seeing the amount of people we did today took some doing.
We therefore had our last evening meal at the hotel as on Saturday we will be heading back down to Accra and then off to the airport for a late evening flight.
So I find myself again reflecting sat outside in the moon and starlight. We have so much to be thankful for and I am just thanking God for those I can remember and those I can’t. Again today was a real blur and trying to remember everything that happened will take some processing time.
I was looking at some of my photos and video and I really hope you get some idea of what goes on here based on them. I know I have got lots of video to look through when I get home but I am sure you will see some of the pictures in the next week or so if you're interested.
Please pray for those that we have been able to help that their chairs etc will be a blessing to them. Please of course don’t forget those we haven’t been able to help and pray for them too.
I am thanking God for the tea. It’s funny how within a week we know so much about each other and have just gelled so well. Now of course as I prepare to head to bed I’ll again let you know that your loved ones are tucked in and will have a little bit of a lie in tomorrow morning.
I’ll hopefully do a quick blog tomorrow and Saturday but we have completed the distribution and although I’d still ask for your prayers for the next few days till we get back home safe and sound I do want to thank you for you're prayers throughout the trip. I’d also ask that you share the news about what Wheels for the World does so that they can continue helping disabled people in Ghana and the other places they go. So at the end of day 9, I’ll in my now customary fashion say night night.
It’s of course no surprise to you by now, that breakfast was eggs and beans.
Also since Will had moved out of the room then there was no sign of anyone snoring… so all the talk of me snoring… well it can’t be true since no-one complained last night!
Not all the team were with us unfortunately today as some were still feeling a little rough and decided to stay at the hotel and rest but the rest of the team were heading off to a large waterfall via a little diversion organised by the regional director of the Ho region we met the other week in Dzolokpuita. We went to the top of a local mountain, (we were in the air conditioned transport of course, not walking, before you started to get impressed) but we were met with some great views of the surrounding area.
From there we headed off to a waterfall which apparently is the highest in Ghana. After a fairly long drive it then took a little trek to actually get there, basically walking through tropical forest before opening up at the last minute to a stunning waterfall and hundreds of rather large bats which would periodically fly around before landing on the cliff faces.
When we arrived there were hundreds of local students around and we had to wait for a little while before they left to be able to experience the real beauty of it all. It’s really hard to describe it unless you’re actually there but I did get a few photos to show the rest of the team.
We then headed back to the coach before heading off to the Regional director’s village where we would be entertained by some local dancing and some food. The selection of food included rice, chicken and goat as well as some other sauces that would probably blow my head off! I stuck with some rice to be on the safe side although some of the team were more adventurous trying out the goat.
The event started out with customary greetings before the dancing commenced. Then the team were invited to dance with the local dancing troop..! Now, I had a camera of course so I couldn’t obviously take part but the rest of the team were obliged to dance. Saying that, I did join the rest of the team for a little while so I didn’t completely chicken out. Will looked like he could have danced all night.
I was actually feeling a little exhausted as I hadn’t really eaten much and taking malerone (anti malaria drug) for me at least can have a few strange side effects and I think this was one of them.
Once the dancing was over the team headed back for the rather bumpy ride home as we were taking the back roads back to the hotel. Back at the hotel a quick catch up with the rest of the team although some had already headed to bed as we need to pack and be ready to leave the hotel at about 9am. Reninca had managed to get hold of some money to be able to pay the hotel bill so it looks like I may actually be freed to come home... I didn’t really fancy cleaning up dishes for the next 20 years!
I did have some time at the end of the day to contemplate what we had achieved here. Safe to say God’s of course been in it all and it’s going to take me a while to process some stuff. I think when I look through the photos and video it’s also going to flood back and realising we have actually seen more than 300 people in 6 days of distributions is quite some going.
So thanks to God !
Now at the end of day 10, rather exhausted but feeling good, I’ll of course say night night.
Ghana 2013 - Day 8
Our Wheels for the World team are in Ghana for an eleven-day series of Wheelchair distributions. Team member, Phil Green, is writing a regular blog to let us know how it all goes. Here's his account of day eight of the trip. Catch up on all Phil's entries by following this link to our Wheels blog page.
For breakfast I had French toast, Bacon, Mushrooms with Maple Syrup… well that was in my dreams….. in Ghana we had eggs and beans, but with some fuel on board we headed off into Ho for an early start.
Busy day at the office just doesn’t describe the day!
I thought yesterday was bad, but today was really crazy and even more of a blur. It’s the busiest day I have ever experienced on any of the Wheels trips I have been on.
Will even suggested that too.
The distribution was at the church that Will and I went to on Sunday and thankfully we were able to use the inside of the church as otherwise we would have baked in the sun.
The scene was just chaotic with people appearing from everywhere. There were so many crawlers (It may sound like a horrible term but thats how they get around, i.e. crawling, so it's really the best way of describing them, I don’t mean any offence of course), that at one point there were 4 in a row and I was doing my best to try and capture the scene on video as much as possible so that I can hopefully help show just what its like when we get home.
However, Graham was the star of the day with his organisational skills managing the front desk. We had quite a lot of people registered but many more who hadn’t so they all had to be checked in and given a ticket and asked to wait. The challenge is that not everyone was happy to wait.
As the day went on, we were getting through wheelchairs really fast and everyone was full on. Today was so busy I was struggling to remember people we were seeing, again it was all a bit of a blur. I was taking photos left, right and centre, capturing scenes on video and also modifying some chairs. More and more people kept arriving and it became clear we were running out of chairs and time. We had to start sending people home and that's when some started to get a little frustrated and tempers sometimes got frayed. Graham bore lot of the brunt of it, and working with Ellen and Eric as well as Will stepping in now and again, had to try and explain the situation.
It is, of course, really hard for the team as we never want to send anyone home without being able to help, but we simply couldn’t do any more.
It’s understandable of course that people were frustrated as they are just desperate for some help or a wheelchair. Based on today's experience it really highlights the need here.
We also know we will have the same, if not worse, situation tomorrow. Some people who have registered are coming from a long distance away, in fact they set off last night to arrive tomorrow morning! We have a handful of chairs left with some other mobility aids. We are praying for some guidance on what to do and how to handle the situations where we have to turn people away. Please pray for them.
We gave out 48 wheelchairs today and around 74 people in total, but over 100 had turned up today. It’s really hard to write today's blog… just because so much went on and no-one really wants to write that we couldn’t help some people and had to turn them away. I didn’t want to write that some people who came expecting a chair got angry... but that is the reality.
Saying this, the team is still in great spirits though and there were some memorable moments, my first time cleaning up after someone with incontinence with the help of Jill for example. Now I of course am not making light of someone's predicament, but it's a new experience for me and I am just sharing. (Perhaps I shouldn’t, I can imagine some of you thinking).
For Graham he also experienced something new, as he had at least one woman today laid at his feet today. I did ask Kathy (his wife) if she had seen the situation and asked if she had fallen at his feet in similar vain. The answer was a very clear no! To try and explain, as Graham was manning the admin desk giving out all the numbers etc everyone would gather round the table. They believed, I think, that being closer to the table would mean they would been seen first. As such one or two people would end up on the floor in front of the table. So at least Graham is off the hook...
Anyway as it got closer to 6pm we had less and less chairs available and the light was fading. The church also had a power cut and as such we ended up finishing the last chair in near darkness, fitting/modifying chairs by torch light.
We then headed back off to the hotel for a bit of a relax before team time and dinner. The team did a really fantastic job today, there were some hi-fives all round with the sheer effort involved and the numbers that the OT’s got through. It was a remarkable team effort, a therapist wouldn’t deal with this many people in a week in the NHS at home, I suspect.
Graham again deserves a special mention as he would occasionally bring round the sweet box which acted like a little pick-me-up during the day. However, I must say he seemed to keep forgetting me so perhaps it's him getting his own back on me!
Pam again was doing a remarkable job too as she spoke to every single person the team saw today and to me she’s the most important really as knowing God and finding salvation far outweighs everything else.
At team time we reflected on how busy it had been and prayed about the chair situation. We really need God to help us with this situation, as we strongly there just won’t be enough chairs to go around, based on the number that have registered.
We prayed that those who don’t get chairs can get blessed in other ways.
I am again sat outside finishing off the blog with a nice cool breeze, reflecting on the day. The team just keep thanking God for his provision as well as everything else for that matter, we do have so much to be thankful for, and although I can’t say I am really looking forward to tomorrow due to the situation with the chairs etc, I know I need to just keep trusting in God. I don’t want to limit God and so I’ll just keep praying for miracles.
My final thought before I close for the night is again the children I saw today, many were just so happy and, like the other day, just gave out such wonderful energy. No wonder God loves little children so much.
So I’ll ask again for prayer for the team, tummy issues seem to be improving, but all the team still need stamina for the day ahead, and again pray for those tomorrow expecting a chair who may not get one. At the end of an incredibly busy day I’ll again let you know that your loved ones are tucked up in bed and I’ll say night night.
Ghana Blog - Day 7
Phil Green is on the ground in Ghana for the Wheels for the World distribution - he's bringing us a daily blog from the trip. Catch up on all the entries by following this link to our Wheels blog page.
An early start today and breakfast, you may have guessed, was eggs and beans etc. I am not complaining, although I am looking forward to a little selection at breakfast next week.
We headed back off to Dzolokpuita (Still have no idea how to pronounce it though). We had expected a few more people there initially but people were coming in through the morning. In total we saw 65 people today with 25 wheelchairs given out, along with 4 buggies so it ended up being quite busy.
I was again struck by all the children we saw, and at one point I was almost in tears with one little boy (Laurence). He had come yesterday, but we didn’t have a footplate for the buggy we wanted to fit him in. We had got one last night however and asked if they could come back today. I was playing with him as Kathy was working with him, but she said something like 'there is a little boy in there just trapped inside but wanting to get out.'
He had epilepsy I just found out, and it was causing brain damage. The more he would fit, the more brain damage he would get. Just thinking about it now makes me a little sad, and again I do feel helpless, so all I can do is pray for him I suppose.
Similar feelings for other children I saw today including a little boy called Shadrack, great name of course but his brothers were not called Meshach and Abednego. He was mostly smiles and again the children always bring real energy even if sometimes it meant they were crying. Seeing white faces for the first time must also be quite scary too for some of the children.
The day was busy though with a combination of fixing chairs, taking photos and capturing video and the rest of the team were equally busy… it was really a bit of a blur (for me at least) now I think about it.
At the end of the day we had one lady turn up after we were just about to get back on the mini bus (or, I should say, our luxury air conditioned coach). She was being pushed in an old wheelchair, which has a bit of a story behind it as it had been brought in as an old chair in the day, and its owner was then given a new wheelchair. The chair wasn’t in great condition but was just about functional. Ellen (our host) gave the chair away to someone and it disappeared off. However, that someone had given the chair to someone else, which resulted in this lady turning up in it being pushed by her brother (I think). She ended up with a new wheelchair. We left the chair behind hoping that someone else could still use it.
As we were just about to leave we were invited in for a drink with the Ho West region Regional Director. They were our hosts in Dzolokpuita, and he had been over several times to see what Wheels for the World was all about. When he realised we weren’t just there to give out wheelchairs but also to show God's love in action by sharing the Gospel and giving out Bibles then he was really impressed. They ended up giving a donation (quite sizeable in Ghanaian terms) to the work we were doing in combination with Ellen's Light Outreach work. Ellen, if I haven’t explained well, is the real reason we are here with the work that she does for street children and people with disabilities. A fantastic woman.
Anyway, the regional director was really complimentary and expressed a wish to work closer with Wheels and Ellen in the future, so that was great news! This really boosted many in the team.
Personally I find it hard to accept praise sometimes, especially on a trip like this when I just want to crack on and help as best I can. At the same time, my photo/video work will only really kick in when I am back at home and start editing etc. But although I find it hard sometimes I do now realise first hand from Ghanaians themselves that we are changing people's lives, so actually when I sit and think about it now it does give me a warm feeling.
It seems that there is a feeling that some Ghanians think that NGOs etc come into the country to make money and then just disappear, so they can be skeptical of some good works, and hopefully now that the director and his team have seen what we do, (i.e. that it's not for money) and was really impressed at the love the team shows to people he may well be able to help Wheels in the future. For example he may be able to help with the speedier release of the container which sat in the port for well over a week this time. So please pray that he can influence this with the other powers that be here.
After the meeting we headed back to the hotel. One of our team had come back earlier due to an upset tummy, so we are praying about that. Despite that, spirits are high, and we keep praying as mentioned and I again ask that you do too please.
WiFi/internet connectivity was online for a while, so the team all sat around with iPhones, tablets and laptops out. It’s strange how many of us are dependant on our smart devices and WiFi/Internet to be able to keep up with family/friends and world news. I think Kathy and Graham were texting each other even though they were sat next to each other. They claim they weren’t of course!
I also had an email from Glenda, who I have been on 3 trips with and if you don’t know Glenda then well she’s another amazing woman and you should perhaps read some of my blogs from previous trips.
Her email said 'you're doing a fantastic job' followed by 'the team of course.. not you !' hmmmm...
But I agree the team are doing a fantastic job and as we were told by the regional director he said we are changing lives. I don’t want to be arrogant about this, but I am believing thats the case.
In Glenda’s email she also said it made a change not to be the butt of some of my remarks… I know Reninca is getting most of those now…. now Glenda, I was going to bring up some embarrassing memory from the past but just this once I won’t.. I’ll just say I miss you and its different not having you on a trip with me.
I am again sitting under the moon and stars at the end of day 7 about to head to bed.
It’s been a mentally challenging day for me really… not that I didn’t expect to be mentally challenged on this trip since I knew I’d end up feeling emotional about some of the things we see, especially the children.
Again all I can do is thank God for what he provides and ask him to bless those we have seen.
I am thinking about little Laurence in particular tonight and praying for him.
I am trusting God’s got it all in hand and at the same time I know I and some of the team are praying for miracles so perhaps you can pray the same too.
So with my usual sign off at the end of day 7 with the team tucked in again and probably snoring away I’ll say night night.
Ghana blog - Day 6
Phil Green is on the ground in Ghana for the Wheels for the World distribution - he's bringing us a daily blog from the trip. Catch up on all the entries by following this link to our Wheels blog page.
A routine start to the day, with breakfast the Ghanaian way.. . yes eggs, beans etc. I think you may be realising there isn’t much choice at breakfast but if you like eggs, beans etc then its great!
Will and I headed out early to sort out some banking needs and to try and get some mobile broadband sorted. Will also had a few issues at the bank so please pray for this as we will need to pay for the hotel at some point… either that or I’ll be doing the washing up here for the next 20 years to pay off the bill.
So we were a little late heading off to Dzolokpuita (don’t ask me to pronounce it, I have no idea!) We were told it was only 20 mins away but the team were wondering if that really meant 20 mins or the African equivalent i.e. an hour or so. It was however really only about 20 mins away! So the team got straight to it... The people there were a lot calmer and more patient than at Kpando. It’s amazing that some people who hadn’t registered stayed all day to see if we could help, including a little boy called Kofi, more on him later.
There were lots of children today it seemed… seeing them really has an impact on me. We had Edith, Dorothy, Laurence and Kofi that I remember today. Most of the time they were always smiling and wanting to interact - It’s just so easy to want to stop and play with them rather than actually get on and fit them in a chair etc.
In terms of lunch I’m not sure I have mentioned in Ghana this typically consists of rice and chicken. Reninca came to me today and said that lunch was cheese and pickle sandwiches. I got really excited at the thought of that, well up to the point when the word gullible appeared in my mind and Reninca revealed she was teasing me! So rice and chicken it was! Reninca is getting her own back for my teasing.
I was helping Katherine making a makeshift splint out of a plastic bottle and duct tape - We were doing our recycling bit! Quite often we have to think laterally to come up with ways of modifying chairs etc and with very little resources we do what we can.
At the end of today’s distribution Jill was working with the little boy, Kofi. We think he has severe learning disabilities but he was a real joy to be around. We entertained him with bubbles, sweets, shoes and a hat but in reality he was entertaining us with his constant smiling and energy. Will did some modifications on his wheelchair and he and his family left happy and grateful.
We packed up and then made the quick journey home, with a little detour on the way as we were being measured up for a traditional Ghanaian dress or a shirt which was a surprise to us all. I decided to choose the dress of course. (Not really!)
I also learned something new today - that oranges are not orange! Well not in Ghana anyway. They were green on one of the trees here but ripe they are yellow. Will bought some and essentially you just chop the top off and drink it by squeezing and sucking. Tasted just like tropicana orange back home (to me at least).
For those who want to know some facts, today we fitted 17 people in chairs, 1 buggy and 18 crutches. Tomorrow may well be more challenging as we are expecting more people and some with more severe disabilities, but the team will handle it in their normal professional manner. We do have an early start though, aiming to be there for 8am… so we plan to leave the hotel at about 7:30 - I should really get to bed a little earlier tonight so perhaps I’ll have to keep the blog a little shorter today.
I overheard a conversation where apparently some of the team are really enjoying the trip and as well as being encouraged by the way the team has just gelled together they are having fun! I won’t mention names at this point (for a small fee I might) but the perpetrators will be taken to one side and dealt with appropriately. In all seriousness though I have mentioned it before that the team just works... if anyone needs help they get it, if they need encouragement they get that too. We still have a few with slightly dodgy tummies and the team are looking after them but prayers of course welcomed still.
There were so many little moments today I just can’t capture them all. In fact I am slightly overwhelmed right now as I write this just thinking about those we met today. Those with so little yet so much... Pam mentioned in the team time about “the last shall be first” and some of those we saw today as mentioned had waited all day to get a chair or some help. Just reflecting on this now I am thanking God for all the great things that happened today and for his provision. It’s quite easy sometimes to forget God’s involvement in the little things as well as the big but right now I am thanking him.
I am thanking God for all those we saw today and I am particularly praying for those children. Perhaps you could do the same? Pray for Dorothy, Edith, Laurence, Kofi and the other children we met, and for their parents/guardians, that they know God as their rock and saviour.
The team again are safety tucked up in bed... and as I look up at the moon and stars again I’ll get ready to head off for bed too. So day 6 comes to a close and again I say night night.
Ghana blog - day 5
Phil Green is on the ground in Ghana for the Wheels for the World distribution - he's bringing us a daily blog from the trip. Catch up on all the entries by following this link to our Wheels blog page.
I had the opportunity to have a lie in but my body clock had me awake at about 5:30/6am but I wasn’t getting out of bed just then, so I had a little quiet time. Will just seems to wake up and go but I had to give myself a bit more encouragement before I finally got out of bed for breakfast.
I’d been thinking about the previous days and in particular little “Blessed”. He brought a tear to my eye again and I was yet again challenging myself as to what sort of difference we could make in Ghana. I have been reading The Shack whilst I am here and although it’s a fictional book it just reminded me about God’s love, whatever happens, and so I believe God’s looking out for him.
A few prayers later and with breakfast finished (yep eggs, beans etc again) the team started separating for the different churches... Kathy, Graham and Katherine headed off to church for an 8am start and Pam and Helen headed off to the leper colony where I believe Pam was preaching. Reninca and Jill headed off for another church with Will and me heading off for another close behind...
The service wasn’t in English and although we had some partial translation it was hard to follow. One of the songs I recognised, well the tune anyway, as they were singing in Ewe the local language here. There are also a lot of offerings. Not sure exactly how many they took but it was a lot! Will was asked to explain why we were there and whilst he only spoke for about 5-10 mins it was a great sermon even though it wasn’t supposed to be. He spoke about the banquet in the Bible where the rich were invited but didn’t go so instead the weak/poor etc were invited in and that was of course the link to Wheels. It really moved me!
The service finished after 12 and you may therefore realise that the services are quite long here. I don’t mean to sound critical of course, it’s a different culture and a different experience to the UK. On our return to the hotel we caught up with the rest of the team and shared experiences in and around the pool. Graham, Kathy and Katherine ended up at two church services and Graham spoke at both.
Some of the team are suffering from upset tummies so please pray for health/protection for the team. It was therefore good that the afternoon was spent getting some rest. We got a whiff of WiFi in the air so for a brief period we were able to email home until the hotel’s data credit was used up again which seems to happen very often. Perhaps its God’s way of saying “be patient” although it’s hard as many of us want to update loved ones at home.
Will went to sort some chairs for tomorrows distribution in a place called Dzolokpuita. I have to mention Will again here as he’s just a humble selfless guy... he’s fantastic! Also worth an extra special mention is Ellen our host who again gives up loads of her own time/money etc for something she really believes in and cares about. If we had more people like Ellen then the world would be a much better place so thank God for Ellen!
I am enjoying a nice breeze sat overlooking the town of Ho with a full moon and some stars to gaze at whilst I write this. I am reminded again of God’s awesomeness just looking up at the sky and I am praying for tomorrow that we can again help improve some lives - I’d love to see a miracle or two thrown in too.
I’ll keep asking for prayers, as mentioned for the team, but also for those who come tomorrow hoping for a chair or mobility aid that we would be able to help them and have the right chair just for them. At the end of day 5, again I will say night night.
Ghana blog - day 4
After the customary breakfast of eggs, beans etc we headed off again to Kpando. Now this is the correct spelling - I thought it was spelt Kandu previously. It’s almost a silent k when pronounced. For those who look on Google maps its north west of Ho near Lake Volta.
We had less people today but quite a few children. At the same time there was a wedding going on in the background, which resulted in an energetic and fun atmosphere. Some of the team suggested I should offer my services as a wedding photographer and make some money for Wheels whilst I was there! However, I didn’t really want to step on the toes of the photographer they had. (Katherine and I did get to peak inside the church as the service was going on - It wasn’t like any wedding I had seen before and it went on for hours!)
However, back to the task at hand i.e. distributing wheelchairs...
We had quite a few memorable moments today. One young man called Ben came in, using custom made blocks of wood. We found out that he was actually a shoe maker with a wife and a young son, so hopefully the chair will really help him - it’s great seeing the ‘before’ and ‘after’ and how much a difference a wheelchair can make. Will and Katherine were working on another chair for another child and did a great job modifying the chair to fit.
Now, I have to make an apology to Katherine at this point... I gave here the worst insult anyone could, by calling her a physio when she’s really an Occupational Therapist. As it turns out Kathy is our only physio and Katherine, Jill, Helen and Will (when he’s not in techie mode) are all OT’s. Thankfully the team don’t hold this against Kathy! I am told there is apparently a friendly rivalry between OT’s and Physio’s so it’s not just my teasing, well hopefully not.
I think our “observer” Reninca realised she’d have to up the ante today and so she became a techie for the day. For those who haven’t realised, I am only joking and the team know I am just teasing. Reninca is doing a great job and she’s absorbing lots of information and I am sure she will be a great asset to the international work of Through the Roof charity.
Anyway, later in the day Helen was helping a little boy called “Blessed” who had spina bifida. It’s hard to describe how I felt since I had a tear in my eye but as he was such a gorgeous little boy he brought a smile to everyone’s face. Helen was looking to put him in to a buggy but with a whole team effort we ended up creating some customised posture aids for him out of foam and wait for it… a cardboard box! Yes, we ended up putting a 14 month old in a cardboard box, but it was the best solution for him as a buggy wouldn’t have helped him.
We of course put a Wheels for the World sticker on the box and considered putting some wheels on the bottom but Blessed’s mother looked really happy with all the various aids we created for him. It was really a good ending to the day’s distribution since he was a really special little boy and all the team got involved. I am of course not advocating the next trip consists of a container full of cardboard boxes!
It’s something to remember that it’s not always possible or practical/beneficial to put everyone in a wheelchair. If they can walk in some fashion then it’s often better to give them crutches to help them keep their mobility.
Once we had packed up we had a little time watching the wedding that was still going on in the background before a quick visit to see the massive, man-made Lake Volta.
Later, in our team time we discussed plans for Church in the morning. Some of the team are going to the leper colony, and the rest are splitting up between churches. Will was going through the selection of services which was summarised by duration. He seemed to mention some of the services were from 8 till 12pm but I was holding out to see if he mentioned an 11 till 12 service so I could have a lie in! Seriously though I think we are all looking forward to the experience even though we are not sure if the services will be in English and if we may have to stand up and say a few words.
So as the day ends I am again reflecting on the day and thanking God again for those we saw - for Ben and Blessed as well as all the others, that God would bless them. Again I am praying that we have made a little difference in their lives.
I had been saying to Reninca that you get desensitised to things and on my 4th Wheels trip it’s no different… that is until I really sit there and think about it. In the Western world we are so fortunate to have great health care. Sure, some moan about the NHS etc but if you come out here your perceptions may well change. Again for me it’s the children that really have an impact. Seeing little Blessed in his box brought a tear to my eye. I have no idea what will happen to him or what sort of life he will live but I don’t think I’ll forget him and I’ll do my best to pray for him when I do think about him. Please pray for him too.
With that… at the end of day 4 I’ll say goodnight.
Ghana blog - day 3
Breakfast here seems to consist of omelette, beans and sausages... No cornflakes in sight, but once fuelled up we hit the road. We needed foam but, more importantly we needed Ghanaian money to buy it with! The currency is Cidis and it’s about 3.3 to the pound out of interest, but we headed to the bank to get some money exchanged. The first bank we tried didn’t accept good old Stirling… shocking, I’ll be having words with my bank manager when I get home! Another bank later and we had money for the foam. We then had to make two stops at different places as they are in short supply of the foam we prefer use. A sheet cost us 86 Cidis, about £26.
The drive to Kandu (I am not sure now if that’s spelt correctly!) took over 1.5 hours but people were ready and waiting when we arrived, so the team got straight to work.
I say this every time but the OT’s and Physios are just fantastic… I joke that the Physios are just glorified OT’s and vice versa but perhaps it’s not really a good time to joke when surrounded by Helen, Jill, Kathy and Katherine! Thank goodness they know I am joking... They do their job like clockwork, diagnosing the issues for each person then trying to get the right chair or mobility aid to match. If it needs some form of alteration they either do it themselves or ask Will or me for some ‘techie’ help.
Special mention for Katherine who did great on her first day of a distribution - by the end of the day she looked like she’d been doing it for years. Well done Katherine! Will is a seasoned veteran and he too on the techie side of things is just fantastic, coming up with different ways to modify and customise chairs.
Now before you think they paid me to say this, they haven’t seen any of the blogs yet so I assure you they have no idea I am writing this about them, not yet anyway!
I can’t, of course, miss out Graham and Reninca (although if you remember she’s in “observation mode” - so sits around doing nothing !) Joking of course, and she’s just slotting in great as another team member… but both of them are essential as they manage all the administration.
Pam then handles another essential bit, ministering to those who have been given chairs or mobility aids. I don’t envy her really as I can imagine it being emotionally as well as physically draining, but Wheels is about demonstrating God’s love in a practical way and I know she does a great job of sharing God’s word with those we help.
God is clearly here and actively involved. The day seemed to go really well with no major issues. Will realised on the way home that we left the drill behind but God had it covered as one of our hosts at the RC Church where the distribution took place had seen it and already taken it into his care for tomorrow when we return there for our second distribution.
As for me, I was helping Katherine work on a chair which needed some foot plate modifications. We have a shortage of straps but I’d early that day noticed a special strap hidden seemingly in a pile of blankets… there was just one and I’d pulled it out thinking perhaps it was there for a reason. Well there was! It was for the young man’s chair we were working on. It was a special foot plate strap and a little while later we had it fitted. Some may think its just coincidence but I think God’s involved in many of those - a God-incidence as some would say.
I got plenty of photos and video footage from the day and hopefully you may see some of them in the next week, but that depends on the internet access here. It’s strange of course as we take internet access in the UK for granted most of the time, but not in Ghana!
So at the end of day 3, I am thanking God for a great day and praying for tomorrow for more of the same, and again having the right chairs (or straps etc) for those who we get to help.
'I Have Known Nothing But Love' - Our Autumn 2013 Newsletter
Our Autumn 2013 Vital Link is now available for download - this issue features a report on the Hinwick holiday and retreat, an introduction to Reninca, our new International Missions Manager, details of the successful wheelchair distribution in Kenya, fundraising stories, and much more!
Please get in touch (on 01372 749955 or by following this link to email us) if you have any problems downloading this, or if you’d like to receive future newsletters by post or email.
Ghana 2013 - 1st Blog
Our Wheels for the World team have arrived in Ghana for an eleven-day series of Wheelchair distributions. Team member, Phil Green, is writing a regular blog to let us know how it all goes. Here's his account of the first two days - the picture shows this trip's team, eager to get to work. Catch up on all Phil's entries by following this link to our Wheels blog page.
4am start heading to the Airport where the rest of the team were all ready and waiting… a trouble-free journey with a brief stop in Istanbul to change planes before landing in Ghana. It felt just like home with long queues to get through immigration.
Once out of the Airport we met up with Ellen and Catherine before boarding an air conditioned coach, and I thought this was supposed to be a Wheels trip, as I was more used to less luxurious transport! But we have been really blessed as we will have use of it for the time we are here.
It was another 4 hours drive to Ho and the team were flagging so when we arrived at the hotel it was straight to bed with instructions for a bit of a lie in as the container hadn’t arrived yet.
The team had breakfast and then we discussed the plan as we hadn’t got news on the container at that point.
The Occupational Therapists and Physios were sorting through the paper work ready for the distributions, during which news came that the container wouldn’t arrive till after dark. Apparently it had been taken the wrong way… via Uganda perhaps!
We needed to unload the container and sort the chairs today, so we were preparing for a long night with torches, I am always up for a challenge but this would be something new for me at least on a Wheels trip. So I know the team were sending up prayers about this.
We had the luxury therefore of a few hours down time, before we were due to visit the Regional Minister for the area (a Member of the Ghana government). It’s down to him that we have our luxury air-conditioned coach, so please thank God for him.
On the team this year we have some seasoned 'Wheel-ers', including Kathy & Graham, Pam, Helen, Jill and Kathy (yes, we have two so it could get confusing). Kathy is a physio doing her first trip with Wheels, so friends and family please know we will look after her.
We also have Will who’s our leader this year, although we have Reninca, fresh back from Haiti who started her new job as Through the Roof's International Mission Manager this week. She tells us that she’s in observation mode at the moment… personally I think it’s an excuse so she doesn’t have to do anything, but that's never going to wash with the team, so sorry Reninca!
We all get a Wheels tee or polo shirt for the trip but I think something went a little wrong with the size requests, as they were either too large or way too small for me so I squeezed into a t-shirt that would have fit me at 12 years old!
I felt kinda bad as the OTs and Physio were doing all the work at this point, sorting out the paper work as I just wanted to get stuck into something physical, but I was sure I’d have the opportunity later in the back of the container.
The other thing you need on a Wheels trip is the ability to be flexible, since just before we set off to meet the Regional Minister news of the container arriving came in and it had arrived at the former leper colony where the Chairs would be stored. It also turned out that the minister had gone to Accra instead so this meant we would hopefully have a chance to unload the container before sundown if we were quick. So thank you God for prayers answered again, as we really would have struggled if it had been dark.
We managed to get the container unloaded and chairs sorted out for the different distributions before the sun went down at around 6pm. So the team's already fully functioning like a well oiled machine. The hotel is good, and the food has been good so far, which is a real blessing and really helps when things get really full on.
We are having a few issues with the WiFi here at the hotel and some of the team are having issues with phones which haven’t been set up to roam in Ghana. So communications home may not be as good as we had hoped. For those friends and families who get texts from numbers they don’t recognise telling you that they miss and love you …. well, now you know why!
Tomorrow we head for Kandu for the first distribution. We are planning on having 5 distributions at different locations but please pray about this as things are a little fluid at the moment due to a few local issues.
Please pray generally for the logistics of the trip to all just work, we know many are praying for us and the team know and really appreciate this. Please know we are praying too for family and friends and loved ones. God blesses us in so many ways and for me this year has been learning to trust him more and more. He does provide and he does guide. One of my favourite verses is Proverbs 3v5, 'Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.'
So as I write this and the rest of the team are getting tucked up in bed I’d just ask you to pray for the team, that we stay fit and well. Pray for Jill who still has a cough that it will go and not hinder her. Pray for the distributions that God will give us the right chairs for the right people. Pray that through the work we do here that people will see that God is behind it all and I want to pray for people to be saved and lives changed.
Although writing the blog captures some of the things we get get up to as a team it actually makes me focus on God, it's a little quiet time for me. It makes me think about how much God does for us, for those who we give chairs our to, how much he provides and how faithful he is. I love being able to share this with you and tell you what I hope you already know that God is such a great God. On that note I’ll say goodnight at the end of our first full day in Ghana.