I first came to Ghana with Elective Ghana as a premedical student when graduated from Stanford University. I spent 3 months in Donkorkrom living at Spartanburg Orphanage and volunteering at Donkorkrom Presbytery Hospital during the day in 2009.
Living and volunteering at the orphanage was a wonderful experience that has shaped my views on global health and volunteer work in developing countries. When I was first at Spartanburg Orphanage, the children ranged from newborns to 8 year olds and currently the oldest child is 13. The kids come from all over, some were found after being abandoned, some are the product of rape of mentally disabled women, but the majorities have a mother who died in childbirth and a family that cannot take care of them as infants.
Because Spartanburg Orphanage is a private orphanage, it allows children to be reunited with their families once they are older and the family feels that they can care for them. In the government-run orphanages the children are not allowed to leave until they turn 18 and they never go back to their families. Unfortunately, by being private, this means that Spartanburg Orphanage does not get government funding and so has to rely on donations for 100% of their operating costs.
They have planned to build a guesthouse on unused orphanage land with the intention of using the profits of the guesthouse to support the orphanage, so that it can become a sustainable enterprise. Currently, two women run the household, doing all of the cooking, shopping, laundry, and cleaning for the 18 children who live in the orphanage. They are paid less than $65 per MONTH. The orphans have few clothes or toys and yet the orphanage is a happy place with the children playing and running outside all afternoon after school. During my 3 months at the orphanage, I got to know all of the children but became especially close to one of the oldest children, and incredibly smart and caring boy named Yaw. Now Yaw is 13 and acts as a good older brother for the other children. He settles arguments, plays with all the little children, and is a role model in that he is dedicated to his school studies and hopes to become a doctor in the future.
I came back to Ghana in 2011 and 2014 to do a public health project with Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health between my first and second years of medical school. Though I was in a completely different part of the country, I made a trip to Spartanburg Orphanage to visit my kiddos. When anyone approaches the orphanage, which is just on the outskirts of town, all of the children run as fast as their legs will carry them towards the visitor while screaming at the top of their lungs in excitement. It was so nice to return to the orphanage 2 years after I had lived there and get this enthusiastic greeting that I had missed so much. At this point, I was please to see that the structure of the guesthouse had been built, but they were still working on the inside- to get plumbing, electricity, floors, and ceilings put in place. And so they were still relying on donations in order to operate. I have just returned to Donkorkrom for a 2 month medical elective in my final year of medical school at Cornell University. I visited the orphanage every afternoon. Getting to know the kids, who are now older and speak more English, was the highlight of my time in Ghana 2014.
They all crave attention since the mothers who run the house are usually very busy with cooking and cleaning and do not have time to play with the children. We spent the afternoons with the children all huddled around us, playing games and being adorable. Unfortunately, the guesthouse was in the same state as it was during my last trip 3 year ago and so the orphanage still relies completely on donations to operate and has not yet been able to achieve its goal of becoming sustainable. That is why I and Sefa Boateng started Medics Aid Projects as a way to fund raise to help the orphanage finish the guesthouse and equip them with the means to secure their own finances.
If you are interested in donating to Spartanburg Orphanage or in volunteering please contact Medics Aid Projects.