Saturday, February 11, 2012

Ghana Project Update

Hi Friends! Here is an update about the funds raised for Ghana's trafficked children. Let me know if you have questions. JD wrote this but you can always contact me as well with questions.

Earlier in 2011, we learned about the scourge of slavery in Ghana, specifically on Lake Volta... children being sold into slavery and forced to toil endlessly at the hands of their slave master, often losing hope of ever seeing freedom again. 

We also learned that there are organizations dedicated to not only negotiating the rescues of these children, but also of providing for the children once they are freed from slavery.  A child can not be rescued without a future being secured for them.

Our goal was to offer financial support to increase the resources available to rescued children so that the maximum amount of children can be rescued and given the best opportunities possible. 

When we spoke to PACODEP to assess what would be the most effective way to realize our goal, we were told that their initial 3 classroom unit built at the Village Of Life was at max capacity, and that more classroom space was their greatest need.  They explained that more classroom space would help provide an education to more rescued children.

At the time, that seemed to us to be the most effective way to expand the available resources so that more children could be effectively rescued.

Touch A Life Foundation, a ministry focused solely on the needs of trafficked children, is currently supporting 28 of the 38 children at the Village Of Life.  They have worked alongside PACODEP for several years to collectively address the issues of child trafficking in Ghana, as well as the provision and support for rescued children.  TAL currently also supports 47 children in their temporary facility in Accra.  We spent time with these kids as well during our time in Ghana.  

(Photo by Touch A Life)

When Touch A Life contacted us at the end of September, we discussed the needs of the rescued children and the heart of our mission/goal.  They offered to help us implement these changes and also offered to match the donated funds to help us meet our goal.  We accepted their offer, based on their extensive experience, their integrity and transparency, as well as their ability to help us meet our goal.  The funds were transferred over to them at the end of October. 

In order to ensure our funds would be handled with the highest possible degree of responsibility and transparency, TAL conducted a thorough review of the current resources for trafficked children at the Village Of Life. 

Key points of their review, including but not limited to:

·  An additional two classrooms have been built adjacent to the original three classrooms at the Village Of Life, bringing the total classrooms to five.

·  Only 8 of the 28 rescued children sponsored by TAL at the Village of Life are receiving an education.  The majority of the children currently educated at the village of life are from the neighboring community.  Note:  We understand that there is a benefit to educating trafficked and non trafficked children together, and that there is great value in providing education to the community’s children.

TAL concluded that since roughly only half of the rescued children currently in Kete Krachi are receiving an education at the Village Of Life, there is sufficient classroom space for trafficked children at the Village Of Life within the five existing classrooms.

By comparison, all 47 formerly trafficked children in TAL's care in Accra are currently supported, sheltered, rehabilitated and educated by Touch A Life. 

In 2012, TAL will be transferring the 47 children from Accra to a permanent facility that is being established in Kumasi.  This facility will provide for up to 100 children in TAL’s holistic rehabilitation and care program, more than doubling their current capacity to provide support to rescued children.  Since there are well established schools in close proximity to the new Kumasi facility which will provide integration to the children with local non-trafficked children, no funds would be needed for constructing classrooms.  Instead, funding would be focused on the housing and care of the children, as well as furthering the rescue operations on Lake Volta.  This will make a tremendous impact in the effort to abolish child slavery practices in Ghana.

While classroom space is still an integral part of the program at the Village Of Life, with the classroom space already having been expanded to five classrooms, there is currently ample space for trafficked children to receive an education at the Village Of Life.  This ultimately changes the needs for the resources we have raised.

After much time spent in prayer, discussion and research, our team realized that in order to serve the best interest of the trafficked children, it is imperative that we reconsider our initial plan to simply expand classroom space at the Village Of Life.  We owe it to God, to the donors, but most of all, to the trafficked children, to protect the best interests of the trafficked children in Ghana.

We have carefully come to a decision that we feel will serve the best interest the children still awaiting rescue, as well as the children currently rescued.   Since both PACODEP and Touch A Life agree that their goals is to do what’s best for these trafficked children, this decision will meet both PACODEP and Touch A Life’s goals while still maintaining the integrity of our mission -- to provide expanded resources to the trafficked children in ways that would help further the abolishment of child slavery in Ghana.

Out of the funds raised currently held in trust by TAL, $5,000 USD will be provided to PACODEP, to join the $1,000 we have already provided to them prior to our travels for construction materials.  These funds will be used by PACODEP to provide the construction and labor for one additional classroom.  This will help raise the amount of classroom space from the original three to a total of six.  This classroom will be equipped with sewing machines and other resources that can be used by the older children currently residing at the Village Of Life to gain necessary skills for successful employment. 

The remaining $24,000 of the funds raised will be used by TAL to establish the Kumasi facilities  as well as to further the rescue operations on Lake Volta.  Full accountability and transparency of how these funds are used for the Kumasi facilities will be readily provided by Touch A Life.

Any concerns or questions as to the distribution of these funds or how this decision was reached, please feel free to contact Touch A Life or our team, at

Please note that I will be in Cameroon until the end of February, and will be unable to respond until my return.  

Friday, January 6, 2012

Getting to know me: 25 facts

I will get back to blogging about human rights soon. Promise! I was thinking the other day that I am sure there are people who read this blog who don't know much about me. So I am going to tell you all a bit about myself. So today, here are 25 facts about me.

1) Repetitive noises bother me... a lot
2) My favorite color is orange
3) I started dating my husband when I was 14 and we got married when I was 18 and him 19.
4) I have 2 darling boys who will be 6 and 3 pretty soon. They are amazing and fun and quirky and SO different from one another.
5) I don't like most fruit because of their textures but I abhor bananas. ick!
6) I have never lived alone. I went from my parents home, to a college roommate to being married.
7) I dropped out of college to have a baby and it was the best choice I could have made.
8) I am going to go back to college and getting a degree the first chance I get though :)
9) We don't plan on having more biological children and hope to adopt someday to expand our family
10) Dealing with chronic illness is something that I am only learning to accept and handle with grace. It has taken a long while to get here and it is always a challenge moving forward. But I do hope to always push myself to reach my goals even through any illness I am dealing with. It is all about attitude is my motto.
11) We take our kids to a local grocery store with an attached coffee shop on saturdays for a breakfast of grocery store bakery donuts, milk and coffee. Super inexpensive but one of THE family highlights of our week.
12) I would love to go to NYC and see a broadway production.
13) I have only lived in the midwest... like seriously, my whole life. I love the midwest for its kind people and hospitality but can't wait to explore different parts of the country.
14) My favorite Christmas gift ever... was a dishwasher the 2nd Christmas we were in our house. <3
15) On my right wrist, I have a tattoo. My husband didn't want me to get one because he doesn't like them. I decided to get one anyway and I love it. I got lots of grief about not listening to Kyle about it but he respects my right to make choices concerning my own body so it's cool. It is a heart with my husband and sons' first initial in it. Kind of abstract and always reminds me of them.
16) Some of my hero's include: Jesus, Somaly Mam, Desmond Tutu, Amanda W. (she is very well know :P)
17) I strongly believe that we can end slavery across the world in my lifetime.
18) Blue hair is awesome. I want blue hair again! Yes, I had blue hair in the past...
19) I am dragging my near 6 year old to see Beauty and the Beast with me when its in the theaters again. It is my favorite movie and my husband won't be my date. I don't even care if I have to buy him a $10 bucket of popcorn to make him stay still... he is my date for this movie :)
20) LOVE sports. Our family is really into football and baseball but I like basketball. I play softball and volleyball and love to cycle and run.
21) One of my goals in life is to be invited to give a TED talk. I hate public speaking and I have to do something very significant but I figure I can do anything if I really put my mind to it.
22) I would love to visit Ireland above all other places.
23) Ghana is my home in many ways and I can't wait to go back.
24) We are moving this summer and don't know where to yet.
25) I can't read and listen to music or tv at the same time. Does not work.

According to my best friend an edit is required. So I will give you a bonus fact instead of deleting a previous fact:

26) I am never late. Like... ever. It makes me have serious anxiety to be late.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

2012: One Word

I have been waffling between several important words to me to figure out what one word I need to tackle this year.

I love the idea of the word FINISH because I have loads of things I have started that I need to run with this year and be committed to seeing them through.

PATIENCE has also jumped out at me several times since we are in waiting limbo for so many big life decisions lately.

But I kept mulling over those ideas and neither seemed to really convict me. Because the things I don't finish I continue to work on and toward and life will happen how it happens so whether I am patient or not will not speed up the results.

But I have felt very convicted by one word in the past week.

So my word for 2012 is going to be Forgive

I am going to seek to forgive myself even more for things and forgive others more often and more quickly this year.  I will try to own my mistakes so that I am easier to forgive and admit them so I can repair damage in relationships before they are irreparable. I will extend grace to others when they do the same for me. I will forgive my children quickly and seek to teach them with grace and love when they make mistakes.

So here's to a year of Forgiveness

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Top 10 of 2011

1. Finding a passion
2. Forgiving myself
3. Kolt starting Kindergarten and falling in love with learning
4. Kyle got the NASA fellowship
5. Getting good news about Kenton's health
6. Friends. Amazing, wonderful, encouraging friends
7. Experiences in Ghana
8. Education
9. An incredible family to share life with
10. healthcare. A repaired knee, antibiotics for crazy illnesses brought home from Africa and a dr who cares about me and my family.

2011 has been amazing in so many ways. I am so thankful for this year and hopeful for next year too.

I sincerely wish you all an healthy and happy 2012 and thank you for your support over the past year.


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Compassion International- Visiting Precious

I have waited a long time to figure out how to write about Compassion and how visiting their projects impacted me. I had long heard awesome things people had told me about the organization. I had never been involved with Compassion before I went on this trip to Ghana. I had just heard lots of things about it through my community of blog friends and in real life friends who sponsor children. 

Honestly, I had been skeptical of many of the claims made by people about how perfect and honest and transparent CI was. Thankfully I was pleasantly surprised by my visits to 3 compassion project sites in Ghana, West Africa. 

The trip to visit Precious impacted me the most. We could make arguments as to why, certainly. But I think it is because Michelle trusted me to share her love with this little girl. We were utterly exhausted the day we visited Ato Sam and I really don't remember it in much detail beyond what I penned in my journal. And I loved visiting George and George because it was part of JD and Tia's beautiful friendship together. But Precious and the kids sponsored through this woman who lives 5000 miles away from them is what really stuck with me.

We got to see everything about Precious' project. The meticulously kept records, the curricula used to teach the children basic education. I will even admit to feeling a huge sigh of relief as JD passed to me a book that explains good touch, bad touch and how an adult should never touch their body in ways that make them uncomfortable. I knew what they were teaching would help these kids. 
Some of the curricula used by Compassion International
The project directors had a very neat office and every single photo of every single child enrolled into the program displayed on a bulletin board. It was neat to know they knew them all by name. Knew their neighborhoods, their families, their needs. We asked about children who had been sponsored because of Precious and they pulled out a list of names and pointed them out to us.
Pictures of the Compassion children. They did not even have to look for a child when we asked about one, they knew the faces and where they were by heart
When we asked about Michelle, their faces broke into smiles. Ear to ear. They had Precious' file waiting for us and showed us every single letter Michelle and her family had sent to this little girl and every letter she had sent to them. They had record of every cent spent on her and how it was spent, records of her being enrolled into the medical program, records of her schooling successes and her family life, illnesses... you name it, it was in this file.
Us pouring over Precious' file

 It was very amazing to find out that this particular project won the award for best project in Ghana the previous year. And they were so excited to tell us about it.

Samuel (on the right) was out gracious host for the visits to the compassion centers. It was a pleasure and joy to get to know him a bit. Next to him is his best friend.
 When we got to Precious' school we were greeted by so many beautiful, happy, sweet children.

Eventually we found one of the most beautiful kids I had ever seen with her little black backpack on her back bouncing around with her friends.
Be Still, My Heart- Photo Credit: JD Richardson
 We got to meet Precious and 3 other children who have been sponsored through the Precious connection.

Prince, Precious, Kenneth (all sponsored through the Precious Connection)
We also got to see where Precious goes to school and meet her lovely family.
Precious and her family- Photo Credit: JD Richardson
I got the very awesome and humbling honor to present Precious and her family with many of the gifts that Michelle chose for her and her family. JD did most of the talking because well, I don't really like to lead the talking and she is pretty flawless at it. But I did get to stroke sweet faces and hand out prized possessions to their family. Precious LOVED the doll that her American sister picked out for her. And Precious' little brother, Prince, was jumping out of his shoes with anticipation over the soccer ball that awaited him.
Prince receiving his soccer ball. Photo credit: JD Richardson.
. There were a few children who hadn't yet been sponsored in Precious' project. 8 to be exact. Well, 7... because we brought news that someone had sponsored Emmanuel. The project did not even know yet that he'd been sponsor and we already had gifts for him and a message from his sponsor that he was very loved. We asked where he was when we visited the offices and they told us that he was in the hospital with malaria and that we could go see him if we wanted. We did and it was very good to see him doing well, he was even released to go home and we dropped him off in his neighborhood. But what is so awesome about Compassion is that when you are enrolled into the program, you get all the benefits of a sponsored child. Emmanuel hadn't been sponsored yet but he DID have national health insurance since he was enrolled in the program. And was able to get the medical care he needed when he was quite sick.

It was an awesome experience to visit the compassion projects! I can wholeheartedly say that Compassion is transparent and honest in how they run their organization. I can say the children who are in the program are healthy and enrolled in school and doing well. I can say that a sponsorship doesn't just help a child but it helps the entire community. I can tell you that if you sponsor a child you will gain a new family that you will love and connect with (if you put the work into building those relationships of course). You will be alerted to the childs successes and their communities successes. You will be invested in a life and in a community and it is a beautiful thing to witness.

So please, if you have ever thought about sponsoring a child go to Compassion's website and look for a child who speaks to your heart. If you want to be a part of The Precious Connection, get in touch with Michelle and she can help you find a child in project GH220 who needs a sponsor.

And trust me when I say that I have seen it with my own eyes and it isn't just about one child. As if that weren't enough (because we all know it is) but it is about equipping communities.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Because I am a human too

I have been wanting to get a new documentary since I heard it would be coming out. It is called Not My Life and it is a sampling of the types of trafficking going on in the world today. It focused on various places in the world including Ghana, the US, India, Cambodia, and some other places.

Well I got the DVD for Christmas from my sweet mother in law (thanks :)) and got around to watching it today. It is a very good documentary. If you want to see what is going on in the world in terms of slavery, this is a great film to check out.

I had not even watched the film for two minutes before the tears fell down my face. The first scenes are of my precious children on Lake Volta. How I miss those kids, how I miss the reality of trafficking in front of my eyes, how I miss the heartache that motivates me so much. Sounds strange to miss heart ache and reality of atrocity but I do. The atrocity can be easily overlooked in the US, it can be easy to come home and do what I have always done and I don't want to be that person. I think if I become that person, in the end I won't be able to respect myself. So I dive into information to remind me of it.

And it did. I saw my friend George discussing his passions and I saw children that I recognized. I saw some of my heroes discussing their passion and heart for children and human rights abuses. I saw Desmond Tutu and Somaly Mam and George.

But most importantly... this guy who I don't know his name... he was just in the last clips. He said something that resonated with me. He said something like this: I don't have a passion to do what I am doing because I am a good person. Or because I have better morals than anyone. I am not worth more or more valuable. I do what I do because I am human too.

I am human too. This could have been me, this could be my kids we were born in a different culture and time. It could be my nephews or nieces. But more importantly... this is OUR world. Each child is vital to it and the progression of human kind. To say that is "not my life" is to say that this is "not my world". To say that they are "not my children" is to say that they don't matter to our world. Future leaders are there in trafficking. Do we want them to be products of life long abuses or do we want to change our world so that their potential can be given back to them?

It is my life. They are my children.

Thursday, December 22, 2011


I am super busy around the house and with my boys (Kolt is on winter break) so I apologize for the brief blogging interruption. Hopefully I get back to the regularly scheduled programming once the hustle and bustle is over :)

I am having a great time with my boys. Learning and playing new games, watching movies, making crafts and cookies... love this time of year and so thankful to be spending it with my family.

I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas and that God blesses you now and in the new year.