Day 10 Ghana 2012: Leah’s Wisdom

Monday, January 23, 2012
Last night we stayed up late and packed. We still have no running water. It was a really hot and miserable night. Jen and I are sharing a room. I woke up and saw that she was all cocooned up in her light blue sheet, (we brought our own sheets to use on top of the hotel bedding). The power was on and the fan was near her, so I said, “Jen, if you are too cold and want to kill the fan, go for it.” She peeked her head out and reached over and hit the “off” button. Immediately were hit with hot and humid air. It was so fast! “Ah!” I groaned, “or… you can feel free to turn it back on!” We both started laughing, as she quickly turned the fan back on.

Today is our last day. Curry, Aaron, Leah, Jen and I got up early and went to visit the deaf school in Koforidua. It’s very different from the school in Mampong. The Koforidua school has two vocational programs for their students, one trains them in the art of batik fabrics. The teacher walked us through the process.

I told her that Leah is an artist and the teacher suggested that Leah could stay with her for a few months and learn to do batik. I, for one, cannot think of a better option if Leah has rough teenage years. It’s nice to have an open invitation to a third world country for vocational training and a reality check, that’s for sure! The fabrics are beautiful and some of the designs are hand drawn in wax, while others are stamped, with carved wooden stamps, that have been dipped in the wax. The school sells this fabric to help pay for the cost of the programs.
(Click on photos to enlarge)

Every year, Signs of Hope visits and purchases large amounts of the batik fabric. Last time Curry came and purchased their fabric, the program used that money that to buy a new serger. The school also has a leatherwork program. The students are trained to make sandals, wallets, and belts.

This deaf school also has a special education class, the children are taught to Batik as well. We were told “their work is not perfect, but it’s still a good opportunity for them to learn.” Today was the first time that I saw children who have Down syndrome here in Ghana.

Today was a special day, because I was able to meet up with Amma, who is the mother of Shirley, who follows me on twitter. Shirley had seen me tweet when she found out about our Team going to Ghana. Her mother happened to be there already and had brought Signing Time DVDs with her for their family members. Amma met up with us at the Deaf school and took the tour with us. She has started the Kentucky Academy a Kindergarten program that also feeds the children. They currently have 100 children in their program.
It was great meeting Amma and she was excited to see the deaf school too. She and her husband have a group of volunteers that come from the University of Kentucky and she said that in the future their volunteers could stop by this deaf school when shopping for fabric. She asked me how, with all of my fans, I even saw the tweet from her daughter, let alone took the time to respond. I told her, it’s because I am not “a real celebrity”, it seems that “real celebrities” just collect followers, but rarely interact with them.

We went back to Mampong and made a hurried visit to Aburi. I stopped by Modest Fashions and got my dresses.

Then we went to the wood district and got the Wooden Probar.

I rushed across the road to see how Lucy’s wooden lollipop was coming along. My wood-carver was nowhere to be seen, but his Uncle handed me a cell phone. “Madam, I am sorry. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t make the lollipop.” I was pretty bummed. The one thing Lucy had asked for and I wasn’t going to deliver. I walked back across the street where Aaron was still talking to Sammy. When I told them what happened, Sammy said, “I will make you a wooden lollipop by three o’clock!” We left for a few hours and when we came back…

We went to Mampong for lunch and had the most delicious chicken, rice and fried plantains. We all ate until we were stuffed!

We went back to the school for our last visit.

We hugged the children, told them goodbye and many of them pointed to the sky and told us that they would watch for us in an airplane flying over their heads.

As we made our way from the school grounds to toward the road we noticed a young woman who was signing and then we noticed that the person with her put their own hands beneath hers as they replied. Miracle of miracles, it was Sylvia! Leah and I went over and began signing with her. She was pretty confused at first and asked for her translator. Then Sylvia put her hands on Leah’s and Leah told her, “I am Leah.” Sylvia touched Leah’s face and hair, and recognized her, “Leah? You have grown! Your hair is braided too.”

Sylvia told us that she is now in high school, she passed the tests and is now the very first deaf-blind student all of Ghana to enter high school. We congratulated her, talked a little more and then really had to go. We needed to pack, load the tro-tro and get to the airport. The rest of our Team had moved on without us, but it was okay. Leah and I said our goodbyes to Sylvia and then, I took my daughter’s hand and we walked down the dirt road to the street. My eyes were full of tears and I glanced over and noticed tears streaming down Leah’s cheeks. She was smiling. I signed, “What is it?” She signed back, “Mom, she’s the proof. Sylvia is the evidence that anything is possible. She’s a deaf, blind, Ghanaian girl who is now in high school and plans to go to college. Mom, it’s not our circumstances that keep us from reaching our dreams. It’s our excuses that keep us from reaching our dreams.”

I put an arm around her and we walked. The sun was setting. The sky was smoky. We were both hot and tired. I couldn’t help but think back to the day in 1998 when Aaron and I found out that our one-year-old toddler was deaf. I had cried. I wept. That day, I imagined many, many different things, things that my baby girl could never do. I also imagined many things that I would have to give up, like writing and performing music. Honestly, what I couldn’t do back then was imagine all of the wonderful things that would happen to us. I couldn’t imagine the countless friends that we would have around the country and around the world. I couldn’t foresee how many lives we would touch, or how many children we would help with their communication. I had no idea of the many, many lives that would impact ours.

“I’m going to come back, you know.” I said to Leah.
“I know, mom” she said, “I’m coming back too.”

34 thoughts on “Day 10 Ghana 2012: Leah’s Wisdom

  1. I must admit that I teared up when I read about what Leah said about Sylvia. You have an extremely intelligent and caring daughter who you should (and I know you are) be very proud of. You and Aaron have done a wonderful job raising Leah. I hope my girls have the same strength and character as they grow up.


  2. Leah is very wise. What an amazing young woman you’ve nurtured.
    So awesome that you got to see Sylvia again! Thanks for sharing your adventures again. I’ve also been reading Jen’s, Carissa’s & Ronai’s blogs. I have a feeling it won’t be another four years before your next Ghanaian trip.
    I miss you guys.


  3. I’ve so enjoyed reading about the amazing adventures and the education and outreach all of you have done. The blogs and photos are great. The signing hand fabric you had in a photo area is wonderful image to share.


  4. wow Leah’s wisdom is so touching

    I also loved reading about Sylvia as I am going to school hopefully in september to become an intervener for the deaf blind.


  5. And now I’m crying… What a wonderful story and great insight from your daughter. I can only hope my girls will have the wisdom and maturity Leah seems to have at such a young age. She is a special young woman. Thank you for sharing this story with us all!


  6. Wow! I was going to comment on how amazing real the wooden probar and lollipop looked, but then I read the rest and now I need Kleenex. So many times I read what you write and end up crying, sometimes tears of joy, others sorrow or for a deep appreciation for God and all He does for us and through us. I think I ended up with all those feelings and more while reading your 10 days in Ghana. You have a wonderful family and many people have been blessed by it both here in the US and around the world. Thank you Rachel and family for all you do and have given.


    Tammy C Reply:

    I couldn’t have said it better than Heidi A. Thank you for all that you do!


  7. Leah warms my heart. I learn as much about my granddaughter by reading your blog as i do when I get to see her. Sensitive and loving. What a precious young lady. I love what you and Aaron have done as parents to my 2 darlins’.

    Love you all,
    Grandma V


  8. I cired right along with you while reading this. You are so right about not knowing the blessing that are coming when we have heartache. You are a bright light illulminating many. As too are those that work with you.


  9. Amazing. You remind me that we can all make a difference. My son has autism and we are just coming out of that self centered, foggy phase where we just think of ourselves and how to make things better. Thinking ahead to helping others is just starting to seem possible – reading along with you and seeing how far you have come, it just means so much. You are all really just amazing and encouraging. Many thanks for sharing this journey with us.


  10. Okay, where was the tissue alert on this one?! Leah… so profound and wise at such a young age. Wow, I love reading your story, and it’s awe-inspiring how many people you have touched (there, never mind here!!). I agree with Kei… it won’t be four more years; it will be sooner.
    When will these adventures be written book-style?
    Thanks for sharing. Again.
    Well done, you (and you, and you, and your whole crew).


  11. What a wonderful person, that Leah. I am just weeping over the amazing person she has become! We are so blessed you’ve shared her with us all these years!


  12. Thank you for all that you do! You inspire me! Our daughter has disabilities and you have given us the gift of communication and so much more! You should be so proud of your beautiful daughters.


  13. Rachel,

    Thank you for writing your blogs with a lot of details. Make us feel close to you. I am writing here because something you wrote Struck me and I had to comment. You said ” She asked me how, with all of my fans, I even saw the tweet from her daughter, let alone took the time to respond. I told her, it’s because I am not “a real celebrity”, it seems that “real celebrities” just collect followers, but rarely interact with them. ”

    OK. You are a real celebrity. You are a R.E.A.L CELEBRITY. and I was very surprised to found you on facebook, let along replying to people and me. So, THANK YOU!

    TO me you are as big as Madonna and Michael Jackson should I say bigger because eventhough I love those artists musics so much, I don;t own a single CD, DVD, BOOKS, MAGAZINES, DOLLS, ETC… from them but I have all of “YOUR” DVD, CD’S, BOOKS, FLASH CARDs and I am waiting to order 2 of your new books that are suppose to come out soon with the potty time bundle.

    So, I had to tell you . Thank you for all you do.
    Thank you for sharing your knowledge of SIGNIGNG. Thanks to this language that I never though I will learn in my life, we are having the best days of our life every day. THank you very much to you and the entire family in front of and behind cameras. Thank you.

    I am signing with my today exactly 2 year old girl, and will soon with my son who is 2 months old.

    This language is so fantastic, it should be mandatory worlwide, deaf or not. Lots of children would have such a easier life I think.

    Thank you :)


  14. One more thing about “Being a real celebrity”.
    Rachel, if you ever get famous as the pope, you would still have to talk to us and interact a litle… much, because after all, you are teatching us a language, a communication skill. That would be something if you would just “collect followers” to.
    Thank you.
    Just watch “Leahs Farm” special and that was hillarious to hear your dad do the mouse noise. hi hi hi hi


  15. Wow, what a beautiful post and a beautiful daughter you have raised! Thank you so much for staying connected. My little one has Ds, we loved your videos when she was young. You taught us so much, thank you. She is now speaking but I so appreciate being able to follow your family’s journey. We still sign letters to reinforce spelling words and I sign subtle little mommy reminders across the room. 😉 Your family has been a blessing to so many! Thank you!!


  16. This is coming all the way from Kingston, Ontario CANADA! I heard of Signing Times, but this is the first time I’m reading about your children. Thank you for not giving in to the norm…

    “Mom, it’s not our circumstances that keep us from reaching our dreams. It’s our excuses that keep us from reaching our dreams.” Thank you Leah, I had to post this on my facebook wall crediting you. This hit the spot!

    I am a deaf photographer and have been working on a project with another deaf woman called “Pictures are Worth a Thousand Words”, our purpose was to encourage CHANGE for deaf children. We have experienced barriers and overcomed them thousand of times throughout our lives, we are tired of the excuses to fix us. The deaf children should not go through the same as we did, words have not been making a difference, maybe pictures might?

    Keep blogging, keep growing!


  17. I wrote what Leah said down! I’m 15 but watch Signing Time with my little sister as often as possible! I’m loving learning ASL with her and we’ve even begun signing while we’re talking! Thanks so much for the impact!!


    Mari D. Reply:

    GOOD LUCK Sarah, sign IS wonderful.


  18. Hi Rachel

    Please don’t tell me you’ve stopped your blog!! My kids and I love signing time and I love reading your blog!! It always inspires me and gives me new things to think about. I’m having withdrawal symptoms and even started my own blog – where I even mentioned you and signing time.
    but I keep coming back to check – and can’t see any new posts?…??


    Rachel Coleman Reply:

    LOL, no, I haven’t stopped. I’ve been working on a few really great things to share and I will be selling some of our Fabulous Ghana Finds on ebay soon to benefit the Signing Time Foundation. Thanks for checking in!


  19. I’ve only been seeing Signing Time for this year, and LOVE the show. I’ve been interested in sign since high school, but haven’t had time or ability to persue the language until recently. Since finding “Signing Time” on TV (I am not able to pay to learn)I now have a 9 yr. old interested in sign language. He has a “snowballs chance in hell” of getting a decent education & I TRY to teach as best as I can. I am on a VERY limited income and can now persue a language I’ve adored for a very long time. I realize the shows are older, but I DO appreciate them. Our local library has about 6 sign books & Jr. & I have 460 words to our credit (very beginning). Please pray he will continue. I intend to. Thank you sooooooo much for being there & for reminding me I can still learn & (hopefully) teach a younger person that there is still good in this world.


  20. I just wanted to thank you for everything you do! My son was just diagnosed with Autism a few months ago at 2 1/2. We had been having such a hard time trying to communicate with him. My mother (an Early Developmental Specialist) started sending us your Signing Time DVD’s, and within weeks my son started signing and has even begun to say real words! He gets so excited every time he sees your DVD come on, and has even begun to sing the theme song! You have helped to open the world up to my son, and I couldn’t even begin to thank you enough. Keep doing all you do and give Alex and Leah big hugs for helping teach my son too.


  21. We faithfully watch Signing Time on PBS everyday. I am a firm believer that ASL opens new worlds for people of all ages, whether they are deaf or not. I am raising a two year old grandchild who hears, but will grow up bilingual. I had never come to your blog site until today and one of you old posts from 2010 prompted me to write to you, “I’m Sorry, Your Child Is Stupid”.

    My son just turned 39 last month. He is an extremely successful K-9 officer with many accreditations as well as commendations. He not only works his full time police job, he teaches and trains dogs and officers to work together, he spent many years designing and writing a field manual for K-9 officers on emergency first aid for their dogs. I am soo proud of him. When he was Young I kept asking my pediatrician about certain things I noticed with Cody. He just was not like his brother. I was labeled a nervous nelly by the doctor, and my husband sided with the dr. When Cody started school, he seemed to miss out on so much. I started substituting about this time so I could observe his classroom behavior. He was a model student, and seemed to try harder than other kids, but still didn’t seem to get things right. I began observing that when he sat to the front, with his left ear away from the heater/ac unit and window, that seemed to do better. I made an appointment with an audiologist who diagnosed that Cody was deaf in his left ear. What I thought was a major break-thru turned out to be anything but. I entered into a long battle with our school system who stuck him into labs and gave him remedial work. I battled daily with them, all the while teaching him to read lips and doing what little I could. It all came to a head the day that I went in for an actual IEP conference. We had been battling with school labs and lab teachers for over a year at this point and never had an IEP conference. When the teacher looked me in the eye and said “all we expect him to know is how to have the gas turned off and on and how to address an envelope when he graduates”…I became a crazy person. To this day I am surprised I was not arrested! I yanked both of my kids out of the school system that day, then faced what to do. I went to our neighboring system and marched into the superintendants office. Thank God I found someone who would listen and agreed that my son was not stupid, he was deaf! We got the kids transferred and the new system designed a program specifically for Cody. He was in mainstream classes with some restrictions… On the teachers. They wrote out his instructions for him. They did not teach with their backs turned to the class, he was at the front, away from noise interruptions and with his good ear always facing the heater or ac. My child blossomed…and continued to blossom. He is still deaf in one ear, but has accomplished so much, and overcome so many obstacles. Every day of my life I want to scream HE’S DEAF…NOT DUMB! The school system was the dumb one!


  22. Zune and iPod: Most people compare the Zune to the Touch, but after seeing how slim and surprisingly small and light it is, I consider it to be a rather unique hybrid that combines qualities of both the Touch and the Nano. It’s very colorful and lovely OLED screen is slightly smaller than the touch screen, but the player itself feels quite a bit smaller and lighter. It weighs about 2/3 as much, and is noticeably smaller in width and height, while being just a hair thicker.


  23. Hi Rachel! We love Signing Time at our house. Our now-6-year-old can still remember many of the signs she learned prior to being able to speak.

    On a very unrelated note, I used to own a music CD by Ali Ali Oxen Free (of which you were a part), but must have misplaced it a few years ago when we moved. I recently wanted to listed to it, and found it missing. Anyway, do you know where I can buy a new copy? I have looked everywhere online. The closest copy appears to be at a public library in Oregon! LOL

    Best wishes. Matt


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