Day 9 Ghana 2012: Be The Change

Sunday January 22, 2012
It has been hot, but today seemed hotter. Maybe that’s because we have no running water. The power has been on and off, mostly off.

Today Marco and Hannah came over for a little visit. It was great spending time with them.

Ronai and Jen followed some locals who were going to church. Their plan was to peek in on the services. Turns out they ended up being the main event. They were brought up to the front of the congregation, songs were sung to them and blessings and prayers were said for them. Oh, and they danced while the members of the church caught their dancing on video with cell phones.

When they came back to tell us about their adventure, both Curry and Marco had basically summed it up before Jen or Ronai could even say a word. Curry’s volunteers have had that same idea before, and from all accounts there is no sneaking in, or sneaking out for that matter. Marco was laughing so hard when we told him where Jen and Ronai had gone. He said, “They might come back having been baptized. They could be the newest converts!”

The preacher had asked them their names so he could pray for them. Their names are Jennifer and Ronai… so he blessed their work, their group and blessed everything our hands touch, for good. He blessed, “Jennifer and her friend”… (Long pause.) Heh, heh. Jen and Ronai smiled, it’s not the first time someone wasn’t quite sure of Ronai’s name, (it sounds like Renee but with an O. Ro-Nay). But, the preacher continued, “her friend, whose name is so powerful we cannot speak it!”

You can guess what we call Ronai now.
Here’s a link to Ronai’s Ghana Blog 🙂

Marco and Hannah left and lead most of our group on a “hike” exploring the back roads and visiting the cocoa farm.

Hannah works at the school’s kitchen so she took them on a tour of that too.

Can you imagine cooking for 250 students without an oven or fridge? Love the wheels though, those still make me smile.

I stayed at the hotel because I was anticipating company. Five years ago I took a course through Landmark Education and it really impacted my life. I have since continued taking various courses over the years and one of my Seminar Leaders happens to have a son-in-law who lives in Ghana. I had planned to meet Anthony on Sunday. He lives a good 45 minutes away from where we are staying. Cell signal is hit and miss, but when I finally got ahold of him he told me that his ride had not shown up. We made a new plan to meet in Accra at the airport on Monday night before I fly out. I hope it happens.

Carissa, Pablo, and I sat under a ceiling fan and chatted for a while. Carissa works with The Signing Time Foundation and she coordinates my outreach events when they are partnerships with Instructors in our Signing Time Academy. Since Carissa lives in Portland, it has been nice to sit face-to-face and discuss the evolution of Signing Time and its many offshoots. We’ve been able to chat about upcoming outreach events too. (It looks like I’m coming to Boston MA, Sacramento CA, Portland OR, Peoria IL, and Fremont CA this year. So far.)

When our crew returned, we went up to the school to play with the students.

When we arrived at the school campus the school bus pulled up. The JSS students (middle school) had gone to Accra to attend a deaf church there. They were all dressed in clean white shirts. (How do they keep those whites so white?) Some of the oldest students are now allowed to grow their hair out so that the students at the vocational salon have heads of hair to practice on. Many of the JSS students remembered us from our 2008 visit and “Where’s Alex?” was a frequent question. It’s easy conversing with the JSS students, they are smart and they are getting/understanding their education. Many of them said that they love JSS, and that the Primary School had been boring.

Carissa, who is in an interpreting program, was telling some of the teachers here that some of her teachers, back home, are deaf. They did a double take. They couldn’t imagine deaf teachers being allowed to instruct hearing students. I had never considered how bizarre this would seem to them, since they have deaf teachers at the school, but the deaf teachers here teach deaf students. They asked if there are deaf doctors, deaf accountants or deaf bankers. They asked if the deaf were allowed to drive and how they accomplished that. Of course, Carissa answered all of those questions and the teachers looked back and forth in disbelief.

The high school has expanded and they are working on building more dorms for the students. It has been explained to us that one of the biggest problems in the high school is that even though English is the official language in Ghana, the deaf students are not graduating with enough English proficiency to be accepted at any of the colleges in the US. They are not equipped to realize their dreams of attending Gallaudet or similar universities. Signs of Hope was trying to implement an English program in the high school, but the headmaster there has a very specific way of doing things, and from what I hear, it seems to involves outside organizations first donating large amounts of money in order to bring in any program at all. (Rachel grabs her braids and pulls them in frustration!) This situation will likely persist until there is a change in staff. I JUST HAD AN IDEA!!!! The Primary School and JSS both have programs through SOHI. What if we bring in English programs before high school! What if we could implement an English reading and writing intensive program? (Why do I suddenly envision myself living in Ghana for a good portion of the year?)

In November and December I was doing some soul searching. I was wondering what my life is for. Not a cry for help, mind you, I was just considering 2012 and what problems are worthy of my life. I mean it. Is there a cause that I would die for? Of course I have day-to-day problems like everyone else, like Lucy’s Science Fair Project that’s due the day we get back home.(Eek!) But, honestly, if altering the future for a group of “forgotten” individuals was possible, well, I dare say THAT would be worth living for and worth dying for.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again the plight of many Americans is summed up in one question: Am I happy?
It’s dangerous. We run around in pursuit of happiness and all we need to do is stop running. Hold still. Experience reality. Be grateful. Give something away. Surprise someone else. Be a little kinder. Be a little gentler. Be just a wee bit less judgmental. Be the change we wish to see in the world. Give others the space to have their own beliefs. Let go of the assumption that our point of view is the correct one.

What if peace, love, and happiness is not about more, bigger, and better. What if it’s about disappearing your “self” in service of others?

Signs of Hope comes back to Ghana with volunteers in May…

Tomorrow is Monday. Tomorrow we go home.

This entry was posted in Going To Ghana and tagged , by Rachel Coleman. Bookmark the permalink.

About Rachel Coleman

The opinions and late night musings published on this blog are Rachel de Azevedo Coleman's alone, and are not ever intended to represent the opinions and sentiments of any organization or product that Rachel is, was, or will be associated with. Rachel Coleman is the creator and Emmy-nominated host of Signing Time!, the children's American Sign Language vocabulary building series. She is also the creator and host of Baby Signing Time, Rachel & the TreeSchoolers, and Rachel & Me. Rachel now serves as the Executive Director of the American Society for Deaf Children, a 501c3 nonprofit established in 1967 by parents of deaf children. ASDC is the American Sign Language organization for families who are raising deaf children. Motivated by her child, Leah's deafness, Rachel has spent the last 18 years creating ASL products to help bridge the communication barrier between hearing and signing communities. In 2006 Rachel founded the Signing Time Foundation, a 501c3 non-profit dedicated to putting communication in the hands of all children of all abilities. In 2014, the Signing Time Foundation launched a 50-Lesson online ASL curriculum called "Sign It: ASL Made Easy" that is available free-of-charge to families with deaf or hard of hearing children ages 36 months and under. Apply at For those who do not qualify to receive Sign It ASL for free, they can find it for purchase at very reasonable rates on Rachel and her husband, Aaron, live in Salt Lake City Utah. They are parents to Leah who was born profoundly deaf, and is now a senior in college at NTID/RIT in Rochester, NY. They are also parents to Lucy who has spina bifida and cerebral palsy, and recently graduated high school. In 2010 the Colemans were joyfully reunited with Rachel's daughter Laura. Rachel is proud to be Laura's birth mom. Laura was placed for adoption as an infant in 1992 when Rachel was 17 years-old.

8 thoughts on “Day 9 Ghana 2012: Be The Change

  1. When you made the labels and put them stuff in the kids classroom you could see how the kids picked up on what you were teaching. The school headmaster can’t take that knowledge away from the kids. In one of your TV interviews you talked about the kids getting needed hearing aids and that after the “givers” went home the hearing aids were taken from kids so they could be sold elsewhere. The story about the school getting a free electric generator and the “givers” going home happy with themselves but not thinking that the school has no money for gasoline. When you talked about the need for new mattresses for the kids I thought your wanting to help was a great idea. However- the hearing aid deal comes to mind. The mattresses might be collected after you leave and sold to get money. I’m not saying the school leaders a crooks– it’s just that they might want the money to buy the kids rice to eat. The only thing that will help the kids is knowledge. What you and your Signing Time Team did was great. Your given knowledge to the kids can not be taken away. Congratulations on a job well done. 🙂

  2. I am glad for all your posts and thought-provoking prose. I’m most glad today to read how to properly pronounce Ronai’s name; I have always wondered! I chuckled at the church experience because I could relate to a similar one myself. Thinking back to the day you labeled the classroom and I think you said you were frantic – with excitement over how it was working, and immediately a scene from the Miracle Worker come to mind when Hellen Keller is first understanding the water coming from the pump as Ann Sullivan signs the letter into her hands spelling the word. There is excitement and wonder in learning and teaching, and you have brought both in this trip. Your passion is inspiring.
    Anita 🙂

  3. I could not agree with you more about your last part of the post. We adopted a little boy with Down syndrome 18 months ago (we also have a 6 1/2 yr old w/ Ds) and it has been a much bigger challenge than I ever thought. But God knows exactly what He is doing even though I struggled many many days during this journey. I know God called me to this ministry of being a mom and I just needed to be pruned (and He is still not done with that…OUCH, it hurts) but when MY will is aligned with HIS will things go so much smoother. There really is something about serving others when getting “nothing” in return….or at least it feels like “nothing” at times…but really we do get way more than we could ever deserve. Rachel, you have an amazing ministry going on and I am so grateful for what you are have done and are still doing. We pray almost daily for a miracle for Joey asking God to give him a “voice” that EVERYONE can hear but at the same time we are SO thankful he has a “voice” some of us can “hear” thanks to Signing Time. Oh, and thanks for explaining how to pronounce “Ronai” 🙂

  4. Thank you for all your posts. You hit the nail on the head in your last paragraph. We are always looking for happiness. But is happiness in seeing others benefit from our talents and gifts, be it money, ideas, teachings that are timeless? Thank you so much for what you do. My church too believes in coming along side and helping others help themselves, what a valuable lesson you are sharing with all of us. Let us know what you decide your life is for during 2012 and we can rejoice and support you in it!!

  5. Absolutely love this entry, the photos make it so real. I made the first photo my desktop photo and it makes me smile every time I pass by the desktop! You all look like angels of support and love to the School. Love to all of you who are featured in this blog diary! I love you all and remember you in my prayers!

  6. Reading your blog makes me home sick (missionary kid who grew up in Africa).
    Now I’m a mom who has a 13 month old who has been hooked on Baby Signing Time since she was three months old. Watches nothing else and currently signs over 100 words. I had to look you up and tell you how much you and your family have impacted not only our family, but every one who knows us! They all say our girl (her name is Amazing Grace) is so smart. I have to tell them I believe every child has this same capability if given the tools. Thanks for the tools, Rachel.

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