Ghana 2012: Moments of Magic (Ronai’s story)

by Ronai Brumet, Signing Time Academy Master Instructor

Operation Ghana: Ronai
Ronai and her daughter, Ellie

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, and that’s good, because I have a thousand pictures and I’m having a hard time coming up with words that can adequately describe the experience that I had in Ghana.

I was privileged enough to go with an amazing group of people that included my 14 year old daughter, Ellie. I, of course, was worried, as I think any mother would be, about how she would handle all of the change. Ellie is kind of shy until she warms up to a new situation. (Ask Aaron Coleman how long she took to warm up to him the first, second, even third time she met him.) She also doesn’t like to be surrounded; she prefers to sit by the side and watch. I was SHOCKED at how quickly she adjusted to being mobbed (in a good way)by the kids at the school. She jumped in with both feet, or I should say hands, and started learning the kids’ names, teaching the new ones signs, and just giving them all the love she could. I watched in amazement as my daughter seemed to age and mature right before my eyes.

So people keep asking me how my trip was and I seem to only be able to answer with, AMAZING, or as Jen would say AH-Maze-Za-Zing! I saw so much during that short 10 days. Here it is weeks later and I’m still processing all of it. Going to the Deaf school seemed heart wrenching at first. I looked and only saw poverty because I was looking through my own flawed eyes. I kept thinking about all that the children lacked, again according to my own entitled bias. It wasn’t until I really started looking, that I saw all that these children have, and what I truly lack.

village boy
village boy

For example look at this little boy from the village. I learned so much from him as he happily pushed this skate down the street with his stick. My first thought was that my 3 boys would have a fit if I gave them anything that was pink. And the fact that there was only one skate would cause another problem. But as I watched him happily playing with his pink skate I started to think, what is it that I’ve missed teaching my children? I started to look around again and instead of seeing abject poverty, I started to see joy in the little things. The kids were playing outside nicely with each other and were creative with what they had. They weren’t inside complaining because they didn’t have the latest and greatest video game.

Ellie, Ronai, Jen and children from Mampong village
Ellie, Ronai, Jen and children from Mampong village

I went to Ghana with the intention of making an impact, and instead Ghana had a huge impact on me. My perspective has been altered, for the good, and I hope that I can help my boys see things differently. I want to teach them how to appreciate all that we have, and that we really don’t NEED all the extra. I’m not saying that I’m going to sell off everything and move into a hut (although the thought has crossed my mind.) I just want to express my gratitude more and be willing to think of others before myself.

 

The Deaf School in Mampong has a new headmistress and she is wonderful. She knows sign language and you can tell that she truly cares about the children and their education. (The previous headmistress didn’t know any sign language.) We were allowed into the classrooms right away and started teaching the younger kids simple signs so that they wouldn’t get into trouble. Signs like sit-down, stand-up, line-up, chair, table, quiet. The kids were eager to learn and picked these signs up very quickly. We also taught them the colors of the rainbow, (I knew these really well due to a song I know) the alphabet and numbers 1-10.

Jen, Ronai, Ellie and the Primary 1 class
Jen, Ronai, Ellie and the Primary 1 class

I was feeling rather frustrated due to lack of visual aids. It’s really hard to teach about something if you can’t show the kids what you are talking about. After going over and over the same material I thought I would tell them the story of the Three Little Pigs. The problem was, I was working with the kids that had little to no sign language so I really didn’t know if they understood or if they really just liked watching the funny lady make faces. I finally got smart and had Ellie draw things on the board, and grab things from outside like some grass, a stick and a brick. Then I was able to connect the signs with something visual so that the story might have some meaning to them.

This is me blowing the house down!
This is me blowing the house down!

It was after this experience that I was able to see Rachel Coleman really work her magic. Rachel had a very simple way of teaching the children.

Rachel, Leah and Carissa teaching in the Special Ed Classroom
Rachel, Leah, and Carissa teaching in the Special Ed Classroom

First she had our group label absolutely everything that we could see in the class room; wall, door, window, bowl, cup, chair, table, etc… Then she started with “my name is Rachel, this is my name sign, this is how you fingerspell it and this is how you write Rachel on the board.” What came next was so simple and so brilliant that I just thought “of course, why didn’t I think of that.”  Rachel said “Just like I have a name and a name sign, everything has a name and a sign. This is how it’s fingerspelled and this is how it’s written. She went over everything in the room. Then she had our group members split up and help the kids around the room and show them the things that were labeled and ask what their signs were and how to fingerspell them.

Guess what sign I’m teaching
Guess what sign I’m teaching

This was so successful that the next day Rachel had me go to three different classrooms and teach the exact same lesson so the teachers would be able to see a new way of teaching the kids. Some of the teachers really enjoyed this way of teaching. The next day I walked into one of the classrooms that I had taught in and all of the students names were now written in the spots that they sit, so that they would finally know how to write their own names. That, to me, felt like I had been successful.

Goofing around
Goofing around

There are many more stories that I would love to share but this was supposed to be a brief overview of my trip. I am working on a blog that is slowly taking shape. (I’ve never had a blog before!) I do have day one done, so please feel free to read about my full adventure there. I will warn you that it may take weeks, or months to post it all.

So when people ask me about my trip they always ask “Do you want to go back?” The answer that we would have to give while in Ghana is “no” because if you express a desire to return then you are essentially promising to return. That being said, I’m not in Ghana now so I will say “Most definitely!!!” I want to take each of my boys back to have their own experience. Ellie definitely wants to go back; I actually had a hard time getting her on the plane to go home. She wanted to stay at the school and help teach. The week we got home she actually started saving for another trip. Which is great but we still haven’t fully paid for this trip! If you have not yet had a chance to donate and would like to contribute to Operation Ghana,  please click here:

Donate to Operation Ghana through the Signing Time Foundation

Thank you!