Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Foster Care Home in Ghana

Today I want to post about a project I’ve been working on since our last trip to Ghana in March. You know me, I like to be thorough and I like to REMEMBER all that God is doing and orchestrating to bring visions to fruition in our lives. This post is long, and detailed, but it will serve as a reminder to me of God’s hand over this………..

You all know that it has been in my heart to start a foster care home in Ghana. Ever since we found out Justice was abused and used as a servant in the foster home he stayed in, I have had all the motivation I need to find a way to create a safe home for vulnerable and orphaned children, as well as those in-process for adoptions. On the December trip to Asikuma we were able to identify the perfect area that we could set aside to do just that. Here is a mental reminder of the four buildings we would like to eventually turn into a group foster care home:
As we sorted through our projects for Asikuma last March, it was determined that more research still needed to be done before we could start on the foster home. We had learned so much at our time at the Beacon House as we picked the founder’s brain regarding the ins and outs of running a home for orphans. But, our time with the founder brought up more questions in my mind that I didn’t have the answers to. Mainly what I realized was that in Ghana, the only legal/proper way to do a child intake (bring an orphan into your foster home) is through social welfare. Social welfare must first investigate the child’s situation, identify them as orphaned, and only then can they be referred to a foster care home (or orphanage in the case of the Beacon House). This became a big issue standing in our way ~ our Isaiah 1:17 Foundation does not have any sort of connection or relationship with social welfare….for our previous work we just haven’t needed one. But, it was obvious that it was senseless to create a foster home without that connection. From there, I disappointedly shelved my foster home idea for a later date. I figured that God would clearly guide us into it once the timing was right.

Enter Christian’s situation. :) As I began my communications with the Ghana program coordinator (Anita) of Adoption Advocates International (AAI) about Christian, I got to see how a child’s situation is investigated first-hand. AAI partners with The Ripley Foundation (TRF) in Ghana. TRF does all the investigation and work with social welfare needed for situations like Christian’s. TRF places a high emphasis on orphan care, family preservation, and humanitarian work in Ghana. They are there to help and counsel vulnerable families and children and to come up with the best possible plan for their future, which is NOT always adoption. *I have more to say on that coming up in a later post.* TRF notified social welfare of Christian’s case, and then a social investigation report was conducted on his case. TRF also met with Christian, his caretakers, and his birthmother extensively before arriving at the decision of international adoption being in his best interest.

Meanwhile, at the same time that I am working on figuring out how God would use me to help Christian, I decided that this would be a good time to get to know Anita from AAI. I am always looking for new relationships and knowledge in the world of all things Ghana. Through a string of emails, I began to bombard her with all of the questions I have been waiting to ask until I found the right person with full expertise and experience. And as it turned out, Anita had also been keeping up to speed on our Asikuma projects through our blog and read about my heart to start the foster care home. What I didn’t know at the time was that our foster care home would actually fulfill a missing link within AAI’s Ghana program. They currently utilize private foster homes (up to 3 kids in each home) for the children in their program, but they are quickly running out of room! Oftentimes there are children that need to come into their adoption program, but they don’t have a foster home to refer them to. As we emailed, it became apparent that a partnership made great sense. Anita introduced me to The Ripley Foundation coordinators, who of course provide the missing link for us. TRF has the connection needed with social welfare in Ghana…..the connection that we don’t have.

It would work like this: As children are identified (either through Isaiah 1:17 or TRF), TRF would work with the families to help them come up with a long-term plan for their child, and work with social welfare for any children whose plan includes adoption. When social welfare agrees to the placement, the children could then come to live at the foster care home until their adoptive family is found and adoption complete. TRF would facilitate the adoptions. Since our adoption of Justice finished, I have searched far and wide for an organization that is doing ethical adoptions and steering clear of feeding the corruptive practices that are so prevalent in Ghana within the adoption world. The Ripley Foundation (who partners with Adoption Advocates International) is the organization I have been looking for.

So, all of these communications have been going on since the end of March. You can imagine all the emails back and forth between the numerous aspects of this project….remodel of existing buildings, furnishings for the home (beds, tables, chairs), electricity, water supply, monthly expenses for each child (food, medical, school, etc.), and identifying housemothers/caregivers. It’s truly going to be a partnership effort, but I feel that God has led us to this exact place and things are starting to come together. There is a sense of urgency now. Through our email conversations with TRF it was clear early on that our foster care home is really needed as soon as possible. In fact, I became certain that the foster care home was now a Phase I project, instead of something to be completed in a year or two. Of course, that’s all fine and dandy, but can I pound a nail? No. So, I prayed and prayed about how I was going to approach our construction guys to add in another project in August……would they be able to do it? I knew God was stirring me up, so I went for it. I compiled an email to them by copying and pasting all sorts of excerpts from my communications with Anita and TRF and basically said, “See? God is working!!! Can we make it happen??!!” And the answer is, YES IT’S POSSIBLE!

Here is the plan: on our August trip we are going to start in on the remodel of 1 of the 4 buildings. This will allow us to get our feet wet with just a few children. The Ripley Foundation and Anita met with Nana in Asikuma last week and compiled a list of items that need to be done to get one building in good condition. Our goal is for it to be livable, not fancy. To be honest, it doesn’t take much for it to be in way better condition than most of the other homes in Ghana. Notes from Anita on her first visit to the area for the foster care home (aka the children’s haven):

From there we headed out to the Children's Haven. Seriously Janel, what a perfect setting! Nana showed us the front-most house. That's the one he wants to outfit for the kids first. I have pics, but can't send them until I get home because it would eat all of my internet units to send them. The biggest thing that needs to be done is getting water supply to the home. There are two choices. Either they can pipe the water in, or dig a bore hole. To pipe it in, they would have to literally rip up the road in front of the land, and rebuild the road. I'm told that there would be several government entities to deal with because of the road issue. That option would be less expensive, but would likely take months because of red tape. The borehole would be much quicker, but also more expensive. They were talking 5000-6000 cedis for the borehole. The house is already wired for electricity so we're good to go there. Just need to get it turned on. [And really, lots of Ghana lives without electricity, so...] There were a few places in the ceiling where we could see water damage. The ceiling would need to be repaired, and also the roof where it is leaking. The screens on the home DEFINITELY need to be redone, to protect from mosquitoes, but that's a cheap fix. The porch of the home we could either screen in to make it a porch, or we could do what Nana has done with his--making it more of an enclosed area to use as a main hall. Joha, Nana, and Muna seemed to all think it would be a good idea to enclose it to make it a common room for the "family." The "summer hut" is a great place for hanging outside. However, there is probably a 4X3 food area that needs to be rethatched there. The bathroom in the first house is quite basic. Nana suggests that it be modernized as funds allow, but to start with there's nothing wrong with it being a regular "local" wash room and toilet. I would think a mom and 4 kids could fit easily into each room--each house having 8 children.

Joha and Muna are so excited about partnering with you guys. They were so happy to think of what a lovely place it will be for the children. Actually, they joked that maybe they should retire at the Children's Haven! =-) In all seriousness, all of us feel honored to have the opportunity to work with you on this. There is such a need for a home such as this. I can see the Lord's hand all over this!

Me too, Anita! :)

Beyond the actual remodel/construction part we will also need to purchase beds, table/chairs for dining, plus cooking/kitchen equipment. As funds allow we can furnish the home more nicely with couches and other items, but just the basics will be a great start.

By now I am sure you are wondering how in the heck we are going to fund another project? Especially since, if you’ve taken a look up at my sidebar lately, we aren’t close to covering the amount needed for the first 2 projects we’ve signed up for. Well, this is the part in which we trust that we serve a BIG God. He funds what He favors. By the world’s wisdom, we would not even venture into any of this in Ghana without having clear cut ideas of how we are going to fund it. But, all I can tell you on this blog is what we want to do, what we could do, what we will do, with the right funding. So far, with very little funding, we’ve started a student hosting program in Ghana, a basketball academy in Ghana, a scholarship program within Jake’s Kingdom Hoops program in the U.S., and an inner-city youth outreach program in the hub of Des Moines. Imagine what Kingdom Cares International could do, with the right funding, in a place like Asikuma? So how do we fund it? Simply, it just takes people with resources to come up behind us and believe that we WILL do what we say we are going to do. It takes people taking the time to see the RESULTS coming from changed lives. The Nana Yaw’s, the Ezekiel’s, the Samuel’s, the Justice’s, and hopefully the Christian’s. God has worked through us to give each of those kids opportunities. And there are a million more out there just like them. It’s not about building a library, or a medical clinic, or even a foster care home. It’s about the LIVES behind each of those projects. God can use us to impact more and more lives, and we are relying on Him to open up doors financially so that our good intentions are not left at just that. Don’t get me wrong, we aren’t just sitting around twiddling our thumbs and looking up at the sky to rain down money from the heavens. We are proactively telling the stories behind the faces, telling of our progress thus far, and telling of our visions for what could be. On average, Jake gets dressed up in his fancy suit at least 3 times a week and gets to stand in front of CEO’s, community foundations, and those of extreme influence and position to tell our story. To ask for support. To interview for grants. To be seen and heard, so that the lives behind our projects can be seen and heard. Right now, it feels that is what God is asking us to do. Tell! Speak! Stand up and be the voice for those who have none! And we will keep on, keepin' on, and pray that others catch our vision too!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

May God stir in the hearts of many, and use us however He may!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

1 comment:

A. Gillispie said...

Love you J! Love your heart, love your ministry, and love the idea of how many children will be blessed by the Haven in the future!