Hale and Farewell. Volunteerism transcends to Hedonism

Whereas when we start these programs, they seem as if they will last forever. Accommodations, food and comfort are not exactly five star. The initial onslaught of 35 children as regulars, augmented by 130 day schoolers, presents a faceless sea of humanity in need. One wonders what we can do to make a dent. Then we wonder how we will ever learn their names. Time accelerates; partly due to the camaraderie of the other volunteers and the staff working there, but more so as the faces and personalities emerge from the swirling and apparently daunting morass of kids in need. Florence becomes a little sweetie with attitude and learning difficulties. Grace is one of the older kids. She mothers with a firm hand. Augustin is a bit of a renegade but I’d trade even up for his art skills. Then there are the triplets – Gifty, Georgina and and Gaby. Young, bright and eager.

Closing Time

Suddenly, you wake up, it’s Friday morning and two weeks have zipped by. You head to the orphanage for a last goodbye where you are serenaded, hugged, given a kente tallis and a few tears hit the ground.

They can use the water.


The volunteers plan an afternoon at the beach.

Calum Smallman

Calum, the youngest but largest volunteer, vacillates as usual but shows up. His will be a short day since his mom is flying in from England that evening and he must head to Accra to take care of Passport duties and pick her up. As the only other male volunteer, we keep each other company. He is a skilled labourer with a background as a stone mason. His skills are evident when he repairs electrical plugs, builds shelves, etc. We have had many conversations together, usually over a couple of smokes and a beer, weighing the value of a college degree versus practical, hands on experience. Calum will ultimately be best served by following his practical talents. At present, he has no desire to return to his previous life of hanging out in the same pub with his same mates getting shitfaced and going nowhere. His stay in Ghana will be an extended one. Who knows how long it will last and to where it will take him. As a nineteen year old, the best advice I can offer at this stage is to enjoy the ride.

Sarah Coffey is a study in how kids today should grow up. From a stable background having lived in Boston and the Cape, she is a young nurse who decided to take a giant step. Although she wore deer-in-the-headlights eyes for the first couple of days, she has blossomed since arriving. Her original placement was at the local clinic. The staff would not allow her to bring her skills to the table – operating or otherwise. The sanitary conditions were as appalling as the dismissiveness of the staff so she decided to join us at the orphanage where her skills in first aid came in handy daily. No shortage of infections, wounds, pus filled abscesses and the like to keep her busy. Sarah has a Kennedy like face and J Crew looks. She even waitresses on the Cape during the summer. Sarah is a deeply sensitive person who is starting to understand the difference she can make in this world. Other than being a Bruins fan, there is nothing wrong with her.

One of the other volunteers has been in service for three months. Her name is Kyndl Quayle (no typo, her mom named her after a female body builder in some ’80’s flick). I call her ‘Squadron Leader’. She is tall and buff without being chiselled. Her short blond hair frames a mid-west looking face. She wears relatively innocuous bone earrings and is the only girl I’ve met who does serious positive justice to a small iron nose ring. She is dedicated and hard working beyond belief. First in and last out, her love and care for the children and staff is truly something to behold. When not carrying the load in Ghana, she is in Utah running 11 day expeditions along the Colorado River as it surges rapidly (both senses) through the Grand Canyon. A product of orthodox Mormonism, she has successfully shed the insane elements of the religion yet retained a humanistic value system that any decent religion should be proud to adopt.

The vols are amazing and their spirit and unjaded approach to life is an invigorating force for Lori and I.


So we take a tro-tro,which is a communal mini-van, for a few miles. As the picture indicates, Ghanaians know their football!!


Costs about 12 cents. We then disembark and grab a taxi the rest of the way to Kokrobedie Beach, located on the Atlantic. The main hangout is Big Millie’s.

Best hangout at Kokrobedie


Come to Big Millie’s. Get ahead (wood carving)



It’s a bar, resto, shop, and beachfront scene catering to native Ghanians and Obrunis (us people) alike. Access to the beach is through some pretty ramshackle villages but the beach itself is spectacular. There are a few vendors high up near Millie’s selling beads, bracelets, African print fabrics and Che Gueverra tank-tops. Could be Old Orchard but they don’t speak French. Once past the rabble, the waves are the right height, the water temperature bath like, the sand powdery and the bodies very tanned; I mean very. We hung out, bought some crap, body surfed, drank a bit of beer and laughed the afternoon away. Calum said his good byes to Lori and me and headed to the airport to greet Marge.

Lucky, Polina, Kyndl, Sara, Lori
The remaining five of us (love that ratio!) walked up the road for a delightful Italian meal al fresco. Food was delicious and plentiful.

Pre-dinner cocktails and a bottle of Italian vino rossi. I was doing fine quaffing large quantities of beer all afternoon. The cocktail went down OK, but the red wine was the match in the gas tank. I have not been so hammered in quite some time. It was fun, I didn’t throw up, and managed to get into bed before passing out.



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