Our day in Mole and Larabanga

| May 27, 2013

Today we visited the baby born with cleft lip. In Ghana, when children are born with disabilities, there is a huge shame associated with it. All family members may not be able to get married due to belief that that family is tainted and being punished by God. In extreme cases, people even want to sacrifice the child for repentance. Therefore, the mother had been hiding her 3 month old baby.

We found the baby’s uncle, who had never seen the baby. He translated for us and took us to visit the mother and child. We let her know that we work with children with cleft palate all the time in the US and Ghana and that it is very common. We told her that we just want to make sure that the baby is ready for the surgery. The mom reported to have signed up for cleft surgery by one of the missions. The mother told us that when the baby was born the father refused to recognize his son and left. He never returned since. She was crying as she was telling us this story. We explained to the mom that the baby is beautiful and very smart. After his lip is repaired he will be able to have perfect speech and live a normal life. We all donated money to help assure that the baby will have enough food to develop a strong body ready for surgery and transportation to the hospital. We learned that little donations like this can make a difference in someone’s life. The mom was crying from joy and when she bid us farewell. She brought her baby out of the house and held him proudly.

Then we visited one of the oldest mosques in West Africa, the Larabanga Mosque. It is rumored to date back to 1421. This northern region of Ghana uniquely is home to many Muslims. The mosque has a very different architectural structure and mud-plaster construction that is unique to this region. The tour guide told us the story behind the mosque: A Muslim trader was traveling through Ghana and he decided to throw his spear and sleep wherever it landed. When he slept there he had a dream that Allah was telling him to build a mosque, and when he awoke there were materials to build the mosque as a miracle from Allah. The man built Larabanga. Today his remains are buried under a majestic baobab tree next to the entrance.

Next we went to Catholic mass. We arrived in time to hear the readings and the homily. The priest left us with a great reminder of the work we are doing: that God has endowed everyone with special gifts and that we should all use those gifts to help others and better the community around us. It reinforced the paths that we chose and we are reenergized and motivated to continue our work. We then went to another Catholic church were Albert’s son, Pious, used to play the organ. We had learned that this community is known for its Ghanaian xylophone, the gyil. The gyil has 14 wooden bars over the frame that vibrate freely when struck. The sounds are produced by the resonating gourds beneath each bar. It is traditionally played by men. After the mass, they played the gyil with drums and many members of the congregation as well as members of our group danced. This concluded our weekend in the north and we headed back to Accra.

We’re back in Accra, the capital! Now we will get to learn more about the Ga people. George told us that they are only 3% of the population but they are the loudest. It will be interesting to interact with them in the morning and see how they compare to the Ashanti people we were meeting in Kumasi. In our meeting tonight, we brainstormed ideas about how to make our work even more sustainable.  How do you think we could help?