23.01.2017 -36 °C
Hello from a very hot and noisy Ghana,
We are in Jamestown, Accra for a few months to teach music to orphans and street children who attend the JayNii streetwise foundation. We are living at the centre with its founders (Jay and Nii), their family and 12 of the children who they look after. From the first day we arrived, they have been so kind and welcoming towards us and we already feel as though we are part of their family. The children are between the ages of 2 - 21 and are all very helpful and eager to learn.
During the first week, the children were on their school holidays - this gave us the chance to jump straight in with teaching them throughout the day. We have started from the basics as they don't have music lessons at school. Their enthusiasm to learn gave us encouragement that what we are doing here is worthwhile and appreciated. Our second week was a bit quieter as the children went back to school which gave us the incentive to start building them a playground before our group class begins when they are home in the afternoon. Our playground idea is to use the waste materials lying around the area such as old tyres and wood which, as well as creating something useful, helps to clear up the area and encourage recycling. So far we are the proud builders of a tyre snake which just needs a final lick of paint and time to dry before the kids come home and play on it...
Nii took us on a tour around Jamestown on our first day and we were overwhelmed by the poverty here. Jamestown is an extremely poor area; its only real income is fishing (so the smell around is interesting) and when it is not fishing season they really struggle. There have been quite a few cultural changes we have had to adapt to...
The driving here is mental! We have spent more time with our eyes closed than open and even the pavements aren't safe from motorbikes. Cars come at you left right and centre and the constant sound of beeping horns will haunt us forever never mind the gunshot that scared us out of our skin when we are told to quickly wind the window up - but we were all fine!
We still understand very little of what is going on half the time...they all speak Ga here and although we are learning we can still only confidently say "egg" and "thank you". Their English here is fairly good so teaching isn't too difficult, although they are all convinced Hannah is from America as she speaks too fast!
Food - what can we say? We never quite know what we are going to get or what it is when it comes. Breakfast comes in the form of variations on a theme of custard; grey gooey lumpy jelly, spiced peanut butter slop and when we are lucky, porridge. We have had a few cooking lessons and learnt how to cook plantain and wowolofolo, we are also big fans of yam, wachi and red red. However, we are still yet to reach the African level of spice, learn to understand how they can stomach leather and eat leafy fishy stew all at the same time.
The electricity and water is temperamental so there are many bucket showers and dinners in the dark - though we feel very lucky to have any at all considering our surroundings. Our huts are basic but perfectly adequate - it's really teaching us that you don't need a lot for a happy existence-apart from lie-ins, though we are slowly getting used to our 5am alarm clock thanks to the cockerel, dogs and screaming children.
On Sundays we go to church. They are all very religious here, not just the family we live with but the whole of Accra. This meant that over 2000 people attended the service. They are very different to a traditional English service but we really enjoyed it especially with the live music and choir and we found the messages very current and applicable such as: 'Would you still do your job even if you were not being paid?' and 'You can train the hand but not the heart'. Everybody dresses beautifully for church and so Jay has promised us she will teach us how to make an African dress that we can wear!
From all our teaching so far the children have learnt nursery rhymes on the recorder, basic theory and some easy English songs on the ukulele and melodica. We do a lot of singing with them which they love to put an African twist on - it all sounds amazing - this week we learnt Under the Sea accompanied by some fab African drumming. We are hoping to put on a concert at the end of our time here for the locals to come and hear what these wonderful children can do.
That's it from us for now! Thank you to those who have donated to our fundraising page: www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/jayniimusicproject .
We are so grateful and all the money raised really will help to improve the lives of these children. For those who don't know, we are trying to raise some money to help to buy some more musical instruments and music books for the children as well as a few extra building materials for the playground. One of the children who lives at the centre was brought here as her brother was trying to sell her for marriage when she was only 13. Sadly, this week her mother passed away so she is now an orphan with no safe family for her to go back to, so Jay and Nii will keep her at the centre to keep her out of harm. It is moments like this when we realise how special the children here are and how unfair it is that they do and will not get all the opportunities they deserve. Any support in improving the lives of these children is therefore greatly appreciated and we feel so grateful for the chance to work with them.
Much love from us both,
Lily and Hannah xx