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My African adventure

New days at the orphanage

GHANA | Wednesday, 24 February 2010 | Views [719] | Comments [2]

Who can resist a gossip? So when I heard about the saga at the orphanage, of course I had to go there to see for myself. How strange to return after a month of travelling. When I arrived, the older children were preparing for March 6th celebrations (Independence day)- marching to the teachers' drumming.

The babes were hovering around, as usual, and one or two of the older babes recognised me, which was very gratifying. I spent a lovely hour or more picking up and cuddling one after the other and plAying games with them. The only other volunteer was Babita, whom I had introduced to the orphanage in the early days. SYTO - the organisation who arranges volunteer placements - has temporarily stopped new volunteers from working there.

So - I saw Madame who, in her nonchalant way, appeared pleased to see me. Some of the workers made a big fuss of me, told me they'd missed me and didn't think they'd see me again. And my lovely young friend Sofia came to see me and gave me a hug.

Then I met with Mia, the main donor and her boyfriend Mark, to discuss what's been happening and what will happen. Mia and Mark were leaving the orphanage the following day and were of course concerned at how they were going to leave it.

She had got rid of Mr Nigerian Mafia Man (NMM) and had just recruited a new headmaster. She is desperate to get rid of Madame but has no proof of her ill-doing (or fraud) though she (Madame) had a temper tantrum earlier in the day when Mia was talking to Seth, the SYTO co-ordinator. Such a pleasant, well-balanced woman who's in charge of the children!

The money that Madame and NMM have siphoned off has been used to build a private school barely 10 minutes away from the orphanage.The cheek of it - but there's no proof as to where the money has come from. Madame has also taken on several women to do the work that the volunteers were doing - cleaning dishes and clothes, looking after the babies etc. Mia has arranged it that she sends Seth the money for salaries aNd Seth now pays this direct into their bank account. But there is a suspicion that Madame may be blackmailing the women to give her a percentage of their salary (as a finder's fee). But it's pure speculation ...

Back in Accra, Mia and I spent a couple of days together before she was returning to Norway. She expressed her concern about the orphanage and about Madame in particular. We talked about options and choices open to her and she felt that as she (Mia) was leaving Ghana immediately, she hadn't got time to find a replacement for Madame so instead she's recruited me a spy! Like a duck to water ....

I've agreed to go there every week to see how the land lies - speak to the new headmaster, the cook (who speaks excellent English) and any of the workers who can understand me. Seth has now refused to go there because "I'm not going anywhere near that woman". So he, Eric (one of the workers) and I will go and buy the food aNd Eric and I will take it there - and I'm going to keep an eagle eye to see what happens to it. Can we guess??

So Wednesday saw me back again and changes have been made. MAdame has removed herself from the main orphanage site and has taken the babes with her around the corner to a self-contained area which is clean and free of animals - no goats, dogs, cats and their accompanying excrements. She has a number of workers- washing clothes, cooking, cleaning the babies when they're dirty, teaching and general help - and the babies are definitely calmer. Something that can't be said for MAdame - she had a rant at me soon after I arrived, accusing me of telling Mia that she was incapable of looking after the babes. This in fact was one thing that I didn't say to Mia about Madame. Other things more connected with finances but not about her childminding abilities.

By the time I left a few hours later, she'd calmed down, especially when I told her I thought it was much better where she is now and also Babita and I offered to take the kids to Cape Coast castle for the day in a couple of weeks' time.

I also had the opportunity to speak to the new headmaster who was decidedly unmafia- like. He had good ideas that he wants to implement and is concerned, as he should be, for each child's education. Spoke at length to one of the teachers who seemed happy with the way things are going. So the general feeling I got was that it'll be alright, as long as Madame has no control over the finances. Good news indeed for Mia. Of course I'll continue to monitor (I do hate the word "spy"!)the goings-on as long as I'm here and report back. What's wonderful for me is that I can continue to visit the babes and have lots of cuddles - I may yet turn up at Heathrow next month with a babe on either arm ...



It's when I read about this depressing "disappearance" of orphanage funding that I realise how lucky I was at FrankEve - when I went back, I could see where every penny I had raised had been spent, with the 2 "heads" and their son still living in one single room on the floor, clearly not having used the money for their own personal betterment.
Stories here are now revealing that up to 95% of Band Aid money for famine relief was "diverted" to the arming of Ethiopian rebels. You and I have talked about the misuse of major international charity funding ................. where the hell is the way out for that amazing continent?! It makes one despair.
You are clearly still having an amazing experience and I can't wait to hear all the stories you haven't yet told on your return.
Take care and be well x

  Wendy Mar 4, 2010 8:56 PM


we may despair, but we haven't given up hope like, I'd venture the say, most Ghanaians....

  MADINGHANA Mar 7, 2010 7:19 PM

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