You Win Some, You Lose Some

I know some of you are already having “Going To Ghana” withdrawals. So am I! I promise to continue posting some more pictures and stories.

I am relieved to have the entire journal transcribed and posted and it was a real challenge for me to “go back” especially over the final two journal days. When all is said and done and read, I realized I was only successful in giving you a flavor of the experience. Honestly, I have concerns about what I posted and that eventually there will come the request for me to remove it. My bigger concerns are about the things I didn’t post. Going to Ghana reminded me that looking only a generation or two into our country’s past you find stories of families sending their children with special needs into full care homes. It was not so long ago that you would send your deaf child to a boarding school and only see them on weekends or holidays. It was not so long ago that most deaf children’s families could not communicate with them.

When we discovered Leah’s deafness, we were asked if we would send her to a deaf institute for schooling. We were warned against signing with her for fear she “may never talk.” This was only 10 years ago. Disability laws are relatively new in our country, in the grand scheme of things. I think it is important to remember that, as we look at the progress and vision that will come to these third world countries.

A week after our return home, Curry called and said that some of the teachers had requested that rather than being paid cash for attendance and participation in their sign language classes, they would like to be “paid” in Signing Time DVD’s. This is a huge honor! The teachers said they would like to be able to view the DVD’s at home and review the signs so they can remember them better. This is a beautiful breakthrough in what is possible for the teachers and their students. It’s beautiful to have the teachers looking for a way to have the information reinforced at home, on their own time 🙂 And we all know that if they have any small children in the home, they too will be signing soon enough! Curry offered to have SOHI pay for the DVD’s, but knowing that each $250 is equal to a year of life for a deaf child, I cannot charge him. We will be donating over $2000 in Signing Time product to Signs of Hope International so that they can use it to pay the teachers.

Before we went to Ghana I shared that we could not give the children anything that could be taken away from them, thus our focus was giving them love and language. We had heard of other groups who had raised large amounts of money to provide items for each child, things like hearing aids or glasses. We also heard that after these items were distributed and the groups returned to their country, the items were collected from the children and never seen again. We can only presume they were sold. It is my understanding that similar events have occurred with donations of clothing, toys and books. When word got back to the groups, they never returned to offer assistance again. Would you?

When we first began planning for this experience Emilie and I said we would love to leave a set of Signing Time Books with each child, we were discouraged from doing this, because we heard that the children would not end up with the books once we left. I know it is hard to imagine, and I urge you to steer clear of the immediate judgments from our comfortable lives where all we can call it is “stealing.” If your life focus was survival, then you might see those “extra” items for “disabled” children (or children with no rights or future) as unnecessary and even an extravagant waste of resources. Now, just to be clear, I am not saying that it is my opinion, by any means. I am just trying to help you imagine a world and view that is very different than our own but it is THE view have. It is what most people there believe. I just know that it is hard for us to see it as anything other than evil and selfish. Fortunately, our children have rights, whether they have disabilities or not. Sadly that is not the case in many countries. It is a different mindset.

A few days ago I was informed that the full set of DVD’s that we left for use in the schools, the teacher’s sign language classes and the church sign language class had been collected immediately after we left and have not been seen since. Of course I was furious. I am sure it was no help that I had a 106-degree fever, but I sat at my computer and wept. Then, I went through all of the things you can yell out loud so you feel better, things like, “It’s Not Fair!” “What’s The Use?” and many others. Leah, who has been home sick all week, saw my tantrum and said, “What’s wrong mom?” When I told her, she took a deep breath and held it until she turned red. “I want to pummel them!” She said, and then gave me a hug.

The stupid thing is, I knew better. I knew that anyTHING I left could be taken away. I guess I just didn’t think it would happen to us especially since the THING we left would support education and communication. It is frustrating, but I am not going to be one of the people who quit, because it’s not about the things, it’s about the kids.

12 thoughts on “You Win Some, You Lose Some”

  1. Rachel, I have been reading and following all of your journal and LOVING IT!! After feeling connected to it by reading it, I too started to cry when I read what happened with the DVDs!! I keep buying all your DVDs even though my kids don’t want to watch them anymore. I know how great they are as teaching tools and I use them in my Signing Playgroup! You are AMAZING!!! Keep up the blogs…..I LOVE THEM!!!

  2. Rachel,
    I can only imagine how frustrating it must be, but you hit the nail on the head. It isn’t about things, it’s about the kids.
    When you stand back and look at the larger picture, what you and your team did for the children and the adults that care for them while in Africa can never be taken away.
    These children had the opportunity to see other children that could comunicate with them and the teachers now have a valuable resource to reach these kids. (That is probably why they want to be able to take it home with them so they can learn!)
    I can tell you first hand that your cd’s are priceless. I at one time had a job where we were supposed to be introducing sign language to the children in our class. I did not know how to sign and the lessons they gave us as teachers were boring and uninspiring. I learned nothing. (which meant there was no way to teach my children in the class what I didn’t know.) I now have my own home daycare and came across your program by accident on PBS. The kids in my care loved it as well as myself. Long story short, I am not anywhere fluent in sign language, but I feel as though I could at least comunicate with someone else if the opportunity presented itself.
    I have no doubt the teacher’s in this school feel the same way. You amd everyone in your team have given the teachers a key to unlock the door of comunication with these precious children.
    (Not to mention what a priceless experience this must have been for your daughter and nephew! I can’t even imagine how this must have touched their lives.)
    Don’t get too discouraged or frustrated over this. Know that whay your team left can never be taken away.
    I don’t know who originally wrote this saying but I love it.
    A mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions.
    God bless you and your family and crew.

  3. Wow… just… wow. It’s wonderful that the teachers would rather be paid in ST dvds than cash for their attendance~ what an impact having you there, seeing for themselves just how quickly they could learn sign language was.

    I have no fever, but when I read about how the full set of dvd’s that were left for the schools, teacher’s classes and the church had been collected and not seen since, I sat here and wept too. The thing is, you did leave them with the more important things which can never be stolen… knowledge, caring, friendship and hope.

  4. Yuck, that both makes me sick and breaks my heart. Will the same danger of stolen DVDs be there with the teachers?? Who is it that takes them away? I appreciated your commentary on the mindset they have in taking things away, because no way would I have been able to fathom an excuse that wasn’t 100% cruel in its intent. Denise

  5. Just what ‘things’ would you be asked to remove from your blog posts?

    I see nothing that is distasteful or disrespectful, just observations.

    And dont let this mishap get you down and stress you out. At least you can go to bed at night (or wee hours 🙂 j/k) and think “man, i got to help some wonderful kids today.” (and goofy adults like me) learn to sign :0)

  6. Boy… we do take a lot for granted. America is all about “rights” (and folks in his society suing wih a knee jerk reaction when those rights are seemingly trampled).
    Sad that the videos were confiscated. The tools that those children and teachers needed, and were so psyched to get. It’s hard to imagine that there’s nothing that can be done about it. Upsetting.

    Thanks for bringing this all to us for our awareness. It certainly is a different mindset, and the caution not to judge is definitely needed.

    Thanks again.

  7. Change only comes when people don’t give up. If people continue to give up, the hope is gone. You have brought these children hope that one day their futures will be brighter. I agree with everyone else, they can’t take away knowledge. We will all be here to support the next Ghana trip, I won’t give up!

  8. Rachel, the important thing is not the wrong that was done by another. It is the RIGHT that was done by you. I liken this to giving money to panhandlers. Sure, you may give them a dollar that they then use to buy alcohol or drugs. but you didn’t give it to them with that spirit. you gave it in the spirit of helping others and that is what counts. I don’t believe that the end justifies the means, rather that the means supercede the ends. You gave those DVDs in the spirit of love and education. And if even one child picked up one sign from those DVDs before they disappeared, then they have made a difference in that child’s life. Focus on the love, focus on “The Good” (Ahem) – and know that you are making a difference, one sign at a time, to many people all over the world. And THAT is worth a thousand DVDs.

  9. I can relate to your anger, frustration, and sadness of the DVD’s that were left. I too would feel the same, but you said it quite well earlier in your blog, ” I urge you to steer clear of the immediate judgments from our comfortable lives where all we can call it is “stealing.” If your LIFE FOCUS was SURVIVAL,”. Just try to remember that you left them the most important thing that you wanted to leave them — LOVE AND LANGUAGE and that can NEVER be taken away. Not to mention you left everyone there with one other thing that can NEVER be taken away — HOPE. You encourage the girls not to be ashamed or scared to not try anything. You, Leah, Alex, and everyone else also showed them LOVE and everything can be solved with love. Leah proved that when the children would get upset because they wanted to be closer to her. All the children picked up on this, especially the older children. Look at what you left them that isn’t even in a ‘tangible’ form — hope, love, language, laughter, smiles, and memories.

    I think you have the right perspective and mind set — “but I am NOT going to be one of the people who quit, because it’s not about the things, it’s about the kids.”. And as Cathybarra said, ‘Change only comes when people don’t give up. I won’t give up!’ You and Leah are like that — You two will NOT give up. You are showing that by donating the videos to the teachers for being paid for their training. Also in the fact that you are willing to go back and help and still want too. Thanks for sharing that with me and all us here.

    May the Lord continue to bless you, your family, and crew for all the service that you have given past, present and intend to give in the future. I truly have a blessing each day when I am able to read on your blog and enjoy the wonderful things that are happening. Life is great and a BIG GRAND ADVENTURE.

  10. I can’t think of anything to say that hasn’t been said. I want to raise my voice with all the other people here with encouragement and a big Hug 🙂

  11. This just breaks my heart and brings tears to my eyes. I’ll pray for the people who took the stuff and those who need it the most! 🙁

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