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My African adventure

Orphanage outing to Cape Coast Castle

GHANA | Monday, 8 March 2010 | Views [1049] | Comments [6]

Tuesday 2nd March was the day set to take the children from the orphanage on an outing to Cape Coast Castle. Babita had organised a 60-seater coach to take us along with 50-60 children and 7-8 staff. We had told Madame that we'd pick them all up at 7 (she wasn't going to come thankfully, as she looks after the babes), knowing that This Is Africa, so if we turned up at 7.30, there would be a slim chance that they may be ready.

We arrived at the hotel from whom we'd hired their coach, to discover that there is no 60-seater, though Babita had checked twice beforehand that this is what we were going to have use of. The only one for hire was a 30-seater. An interesting conundrum then - how to get 70 people on a coach for 30. Arguments ensued but to no avail of course, so we decided to go to the orphanage and see. We thought we'd be able to squeeze on lots of kids (This Is Africa) and maybe leave behind the kindergarten class, as they were really too young to appreciate the significance of the trip, so perhaps there would be only 45-50 children. How naive are we!

Off we go on the 30 minute ride from Swedru to the orphanage in relative comfort. Calm before the storm ...

All the debate and discussion meant we arrived at the orphanage at around 7.45 - and the children were eating breakfast, so of course were nowhere near ready. As even the headmaster said - This Is Africa. So we went to see Mandame to ask her about the lunch for the kids that she had promised us she'd provide. Guess what? She denied she'd ever promised anything of the sort so we had to decide again what to do - and decided we'd buy some street food for all and worry later about the logistics of feeding 60-70.

By this time, breakfast was over and it was time to get the 60 children (well, squeeze them!) on the coach. Except there weren't 60 - there were 95!! So we straightaway abandoned the KG kids, as we expected we'd have to do, and attempted to fit all the rest on to the bus, The teachers organised oldest first, by class, and we fitted in as many as the bus could hold - not forgetting the adults. We were rather appalled at the teachers' conduct at this stage - pushing and shoving so they got seats, even before all the kids were in. We decided that 10 adults were unnecessary so Babita told the deputy HM we only wanted 5 of them. Eruptions as we turfed a couple of them off. Acting like the children they were supposed to be in charge of!

Not all the kids could get on, unsurprisingly, so we were mortified when the bus pulled away with some of the younger children crying at the roadside - and how at the last minute, the teachers plucked an extra 2 or 3 of their favourites - none of whom were legitimate orphans, having at least one parent alive - and squeezed them on before the door firmly closed.

But then we were on our way to Cape Coast - with 70 children and 10 adults on board a bus meant for 30. As soon as we left the orphanage, all the children and most of the staff burst into spontaneous song, accompanied by the deputy HM on drums. It was so exhilerating to listen to them whilst we drove through the African countryside, with banana and plantain trees (sill haven't worked out the difference), palm trees, pineapple bushes to our left and right. It was a supremely surreal moment for me - listening to the poor African children, most of whom owned nothing, singing happily as we sped along, being taken on an excursion to a place of great history for them. I felt privileged to be part of this moment.

We arrived at the castle 2 and a half hours later and we all piled out, attempting to get the children to line up crocodile fashion (why crocodiles? When I saw them at Mole National Park and Paga, they certainly didn't line up in twos). Entrance to the castle was 20 peswars per child (about 9p)and 1 GHC for Ghanaian adults, 5 for us volunteers (9 GHC if you're merely a foreigner). For once, I didn't mind the discrepancy between the obruni and local prices.

More lining up two by two, each child having a buddy to whom they had to stick like glue. The guide we were allocated was superb - he engaged them all for a full hour, taking them to the cells, frightening them by turning off the lights for a few seconds so we could get a brief glimpse into the terrible conditions these poor slaves had to suffer. Each of the 5 cells held 200 men at any one time (there were separate, female cells that were equally as appalling). We were a group of 80, most of whom were little people, and we were cramped so we could only imagine how dire it must have been. We passed through the Gate of No Return and again could only guess at the emotions that the slaves must have felt as they each went through that gate.

But more recently the Gate has been given a more pleasant makeover and is now called, on the "other" side - the one from which slaves in the past would have stepped through to have one last walk on their  native soil - Gate of Return. A heartening end to a tragic (hi)story.

After an hour and a half of a riveting tour, it was time to get back on the bus. We counted heads and fortunately found that all 70 children were accounted for. Off we went to find a Chop Bar (fast food restaurant/cafe) so that we could feed 70 hungry mouths - and eventually found one that served banku (rather unpleasant food similar to fufu (see previous story on my host family for a definition of what fufu is!) which is part of the Ghanaian staple diet, along with some stew and fish - for 50 peswars per child. Not bad, feeding 70 kids for 35 GHC - approx 17 Br pounds. Try doing that at home ...

Sated, we all piled back on the bus, the children once more bursting into song. Two and a half hours later, back to the orphanage, with 70 very happy and sleepy little people. Truly a memorable day for all, myself included. 



Just caught up on your posts from the past month or so, Helen. Seriously, I think you should consider entering a travel blogging competition. Your entries have been both insightful and amusing. Am looking forward to reading more as and when you next post.

  Alex C Mar 9, 2010 4:25 AM


One of those days you'll remember for the rest if your life. I agree about your blogs by the way, your writing is not only amusing and insightful but with fluent, elegant and well-paced.

  Colin Altman Mar 11, 2010 7:54 AM


I'm amazed that you got 70 kids to have this experience with TIA against you - you are Superwoman (well, I knew that really!)

Mrs O H

  Mrs O H Mar 12, 2010 2:53 AM


It sounds like a real adventure- and great to bring such happiness to the children. I'm lost in admiration!

  Barbara Williams Mar 15, 2010 6:57 AM


Hi, Im in Saltpond, Ghana, and I have some cloth I want to donate to an orphanage in cape coast! Can you tell me where is located this orphanage? And if you have little kids?

  Adriana Sep 2, 2014 8:35 PM


Hi, Im in Saltpond, Ghana, and I have some cloth I want to donate to an orphanage in cape coast! Can you tell me where is located this orphanage? And if you have little kids?

  Adriana Sep 2, 2014 8:35 PM

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