:: How wonderful is it that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world. ::

Anne Frank

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Cambodia Photos.

These are some photos from the Place of Rescue in Cambodia, taken by volunteer photographer, Justin Harris. The pictures showcase the beauty of the children and staff members in the Touch A Life program in Cambodia. Thank you, Justin, for capturing these special moments!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

We're Back!

For those of you who have continued to checking in on this blog despite our lack of updates, thank you so much! Your time was not wasted because we are bringing this blog back, complete with written updates from our staff members, photographs from our trips, notes from the Touch A Life children, and inspirational quotes and thoughts. We will keep you informed of the events happening with our foundation and with Jantsen's Gift. So add this spot to your Web browser's bookmarks because we'll be sharing updates you won't want to miss!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Remainder of the August Ghana Trip.

With Emmanuel and Joel, two incredible Touch A Life children.

The rest of our team's trip to Ghana was spent joyously watching the children from all three Touch A Life programs (in Gomoa-Fetteh; in Tema; and in Kete-Krachi) unite and create amazing works of art. For an entire week, they lived, laughed, and loved together. They painted pictures, built sculptures, decorated masks, choreographed dances, banged on drums, and jammed on guitars. The creative energy was obvious, and all 40 of the Children's Art Village volunteers felt honored to be a part of it all.

It was a blast to see the kids interacting with the other children from the Village of Hope Orphanage. The Touch A Life children get along with others so well; in spite of their backgrounds of spending their childhood on Lake Volta, the TAL kids make friends easily, are great at sharing, and have a general appreciation for life that isn't always evident in other children their age. They are truly resilient, and it was amazing to watch their kind interactions with others.

After camp ended, Pam and I stayed in Ghana for another week. We joined a team of Portuguese journalists who came to film a sequel to a documentary they'd previously created. Their previous piece captured the traumatic events occurring on Volta. Alexandra Borges, the lead journalist, had been part of a series of rescues and had fallen in love with the children she'd met. As a result, she wanted to return to Ghana in an effort to continue to raise awareness on the issue.

The journalists met us at the Village of Hope and along with our Ghanaian staff, we made the 11-hour trek up to Kete-Krachi. We spent the week there, bonding with the teenagers living there and participating in rescue missions. We were able to rescue 13 more incredible children. We escorted them to their first doctor's visit, which was one of the hardest things that Pam and I have had to witness during our stay. All of the children were sick, and many were diagnosed with malaria or typhoid. One sweet boy, Humphrey, was diagnosed with cerebral malaria and was very seriously ill. Fortunately, he received treatment and his health was restored, but it was difficult to watch Humphrey lay helplessly in his hospital bed when he was clearly in so much pain.

On the flip side, we got to participate in many fun things with the kids, too. We played soccer during a thunderstorm, which was an incredibly memorable experience, to say the least. We took the boys on a shopping trip to get snazzy church clothes. We watched the kids weave Kenti fabrics and work on other vocational projects.

We went from Kete-Krachi to Tema to join up with the youngest kids in our program. We had a party on the evening we arrived and we presented the children with new drums. Additionally, they got a treat: their first-ever taste of pizza. It was so much fun to run around the front yard with them, dancing to the drumbeats and snacking on pizza.


A Fresh Start.

We've decided to switch back to this blog for more personal, anecdotal pieces on the Foundation. Recent News updates will remain on Touch A Life's Web site but photos and human interest pieces will reside here. We'll be seeking the feedback of our readers, so please provide us with your comments on whether or not you like these dual formats!


Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Ghana Trip: August 9.

Everyone woke up pretty jet-lagged on Sunday morning. Depending on where the volunteers live, the time change ranged from four to seven hours. After breakfast, most people attended a church service on the grounds. The children sang a variety of hymns, harmonizing perfectly. We basked in the peacefulness of the morning sunshine, and looked forward to a day of spending time with the children.

The rest of the afternoon was spent reconnecting with the kids. Touch A Life children like Richard, Mark, Famous, and Gabriel. One volunteer brought bubbles, which were definitely a hit. The kids loved running around the lawn, chasing each other and taking turns blowing bubbles.

The majority of the volunteer team spent the last remaining hours of the afternoon soaking up the sun on the beach. The coast is located about one mile from the Village of Hope, and the group trekked through Gomoa-Fetteh on the way to the water. The local townspeople waved and yelled at us as we walked, shrieking "Abroni!" (the Ghanaian word for "white man") as we passed. We were struck by the state of the community; most people lived in mud huts with thatched roofs, didn't have electricity, and had goats and chickens constantly running through their homes. The people's dispositions, though, were not based on their circumstances; rather, they were clearly content with and blessed by their lives. It was certainly an important trip for most of us to witness, as it served to remind us of the lives we lead and of our responsibility to give back to others.

Ghana Trip: August 8.

Last week, Pam and I returned from an incredible two-week trip to Ghana. Though we were exhausted and jet-lagged, we were simultaneously rejuvenated by our visit. The children in our programs are flourishing and the Ghanaian staff members are making great strides in growing our child development centers. We were overwhelmed by the love, grace, and hospitality we received from our Ghanaian staff counterparts while abroad, and, as always, we were floored by the resilience of the children who are loving living their lives off of Lake Volta.

We arrived in Ghana on Saturday, August 8, with 38 other American volunteers. The intent of the week was to participate in an art, music, and dance camp sponsored by the Children's Art Village. Included in the group were Pam's children, Van Cope, Tatum Cope, and Crista Cope Austin; Pam's son-in-law, Zach Austin; my mother, Beth Johnson; Touch A Life supporters Jennifer Hackmann, Jason Hackmann, Eric Cope, and Chris Field; and members from our partner organization, One is Greater Than None, Sharon Genden, Chelsea Genden, and Tyler Genden. 

After being picked up at the Accra International Airport, the group headed to the Village of Hope Orphanage in Gomoa-Fetteh, a rural area in southern Ghana. The orphanage is mainly supported by a church in Memphis, TN, and is funded by donations from both the United States and from Ghana. There are 21 Touch A Life children living at the orphanage. 

The children were so excited to greet their new visitors. They were swarming around us as we unloaded our vans. We were warmly welcomed by the house parents and other Village of Hope staff members, and we excitedly unpacked our belongings in the guest houses before heading out to the lawn to relax with the kids. Children like Mark (the first boy rescued by Touch A Life), Hagar (Mark's sister), and Kofi (Mark's brother) continually showered us with love as they gave us hugs, encouraged us to play soccer, and held our hands. After eating dinner together, everyone made their way to bed. Exhausted and overwhelmed, we fell into a dreamless sleep, excited for the possibilities of the week ahead.

A Word from Ghana.

Hello from the Village of Hope Orphanage! Pam and I are resting after an incredible and busy week at the Children's Art Village here in Gomoa-Fetteh. The kids made some fantastic artwork, learned some new dances and musical routines, and basically just had a great time running around and playing together. All of our children from our three programs in Ghana (Village of Hope in Gomoa-Fetteh, City of Refuge in Tema, and Village of Life in Kete-Krachi) were united at the camp, and it was so much fun to watch them interact and bond.

During the week, Touch A Life volunteers Eric Cope, Chris Field, and Jason Hackmann joined George Achibra and his rescue team to save three sweet boys from Lake Volta. They are adjusting very well; two of them even joined the rest at the art camp. Pam and I are heading to Kete-Krachi tomorrow. We are hoping to rescue 10 children off of the lake during the next week.

As always, your prayers and encouragement are so greatly appreciated. More updates and photos will come when we return from Ghana on August 22nd.