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Black Hiawatha

February 15th, 2009
This girl got me. I don't know here name because everytime she finger-spelled it, it changed. She'd randomly add letters to the end, something different every day. I think about her every day.
 
 
 
Gary wasn’t surprised when I called him from JFK and said, “I’m a different person, and I’m going back to Africa.” He said, “I figured you’d say that.”

Let me give you the details. I worked in a deaf school, for a charity called Signs of Hope. No, I don’t sign well, but I know enough to get by. Mostly I just played with the kids, painted the school, and helped them pump water. The hardest part was pumping the water, because I tried to carry it on my head like they do. No, the hardest part was leaving the kids. I cried like a baby, and I’ve never been the same since.

I named my favorite girl, Black Hiawatha, because nobody could figure out her name. Every time she finger-spelled it to us, the letters changed. But it consistently started with an “h.” Don’t ask me why I gave her an American Indian name. It just seemed to fit.

I loved all the kids, but she was the one who got me the most. I tried to steal private time with her, but it was next to impossible because the kids swarmed me every time I set foot in the school. Nonetheless, “H” and I connected on a  level that surprised me. The eyes really are a window into the soul.

About two percent of the population in Ghana is deaf, mostly due to heredity and disease. The government is doing all they can to help the people, but because of the numbers, the deaf schools are crowded and inadequate.

Thousands of deaf, school-age kids wander the streets because their families can’t afford to send them to school. What’s more, they have no way to communicate because most families don’t sign. I was blown away at the number of kids I met in the school who had deaf siblings and parents.

So I’m learning to sign for real now. And I’ve joined the founder of the charity as the marketing/communications person. Once we get our press kit out, you’ll be seeing a donate now button on Gary’s blog.

Oh yea, I did see a few Africanesque things while I was there–an elephant in the wild, a bunch of crazy monkeys, many thousands of beautiful people, and a rainforest full of snakes, spiders and a freaky suspension bridge.

Check out the photos. But I have to say, they don’t do the country–or the people–justice. I’ve been to a lot of places around the world, but nothing can compare to what I saw in Ghana.

I’m smitten.

 

Meet Akwea. Her grandmother, mother and uncle were also born deaf.

Meet Akwea. Her mother, grandmother, brother and uncle are also deaf.

This is Akwea's grandma and brother. They are sitting at the door of their house in one of the remote deaf villages.

This is Akwea's grandma and brother. They are sitting at the door of their house in one of the remote deaf villages.

The boys in the school were tough and confident.

The boys in the school are tough and confident.

The kids line up for breakfast every morning. If they're late, they pay for with hunger and sometimes a hard slap to the head. Then they turn around and take it out on their friends. I noticed early on that few tears are shed over physical pain.

The kids line up for breakfast every morning. If they're late, they pay for it with hunger and sometimes a hard slap to the head. Then they turn around and take it out on their friends. I noticed early on that few tears are shed over physical pain.

 

The kids work and study hard. I told my boys the girls could easily whip them in just about everything.

The kids work and study hard. I told my boys the girls could easily whip them in just about everything. By the way, the girls have their heads shaved--mostly because of lice.

 
 
I've never been around happier people.

I've never been around happier people.

Seeing this elephant in the wild made my heart skip a beat.

Seeing this elephant in the wild made my heart skip a beat.

 

 

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  • Mr. McGillicudy

    Very neat story and the pictures are so fun to see. How does one get involved with this charity? Thanks.

  • http://iloveyandex.com Dortcorse

    Thank you!

  • Aaron

    Wow Sue. That is incredible. The pictures of the kids are amazing, really amazing and beautiful. I am so happy you were able to have that experience and it sounds as if there will be more. I want to come. I’m glad your back safely and look forward to hear more about your experience. Very cool and a good reminder of what is “real” in life.

  • jonah

    fun trip mom