The journey to serve the children in the Volta Region afflicted with HIV continues. I recently spent almost 30 days in Ghana working with, for and through PFHS. While there, I was committed to providing relief, compassion and prayer whenever the opportunity presented, and was blessed with many such opportunities.
One of the main purposes of the trip was to continue to strengthen PFHS relationships with the Diocese of Ho, specifically Bishop Fianu, Sisters of Mary, and Fr. Jeremiah, PFHS cofounder. In a meeting with Bishop Fianu, we agreed that we would have a groundbreaking ceremony at the completion of the 2018 Initiative (School, Farm, Aquaponics), which should be within 12 months.
The PFHS Outreach Program continues to grow and expand. While we endeavor to raise funds to build the children a home, our efforts to provide services to the children in their current situations are ongoing. With the aid of generous donors, many children’s needs are being met. Sr. Justine (nurse in charge of HIV treatments) and I visited dozens of children in their homes. Some have been sponsored by our Outreach Program, but most are on the waiting list. Most of the children’s parents have passed from AIDS. They are cared for by extended family or whoever will take them in. Most are suffering from multiple ailments such as malnourishment, anemia, kidney issues, pneumonia and other infections.
I will share one story that is heartbreaking but not without hope. Sandra is a 3-year-old who lives with her mother, Cecelia, in a small block home in a rural village. Cecelia is 21 years old, unmarried, with HIV. Sr. Justine informed me that Cecelia came to the hospital for her February visit without Sandra, and requested she bring Sandra in at the March visit. In mid-March, Cecelia came again without Sandra. Sr. Justine asked, “How is Sandra?” Cecelia informed Sr. that Sandra was sick. Cecelia stated that she had stopped giving Sandra her daily HIV medications, and that she wanted to die together with her daughter. HIV is still painfully stigmatized in rural Ghana; Cecelia had given up. Sr. Justine and the hospital social worker, Francis, began counseling Cecelia that day. But they made little progress.
One week later, we visited Sandra and Cecelia. Cecelia was still not providing Sandra with her daily medications and Sandra had developed of a cough. Both Sr. Justine and Sammy Kwami, PFHS Project Manager, encouraged Cecelia to please give Sandra her medicine. They explained that Sandra was a gift from God and that she is to be cared for. Cecelia was non-responsive and offered little dialogue. Eventually Sr. Justine asked if she could take Sandra and provide her a good home, which Cecelia denied. Cecelia’s auntie joined the conversation, and Sr. Justine asked if the auntie would be willing to be responsible to give Sandra her medicine twice daily, an arrangement to which the auntie and Cecelia agreed.
Since I first started visiting Ghana in 2010, I have learned that even the best intentions are sometimes not realized. Cecelia needs intense counseling to cope with her diagnosis. The following week Sammy and an American missionary who is a professional counselor visited Cecelia and Sandra. They prayed with Cecelia, explained that HIV is not a death sentence, and encouraged her that motherhood was the most important job in the world. Time will tell if Cecelia will change her view. The auntie is following through, providing Sandra with her medicine as needed. PFHS has provided Cecelia with a cell phone so she can speak with a counselor. Please pray for Cecelia and Sandra.
Such stories are very common. I was introduced to Eugenia in the spring of 2017, when she was 3 years old. Eugenia’s parents had passed from AIDS and she was, desperately sick, living with her grandmother. The picture on the left was just before Eugenia was admitted to Sr. Justine’s hospital in critical condition, near death. Sr. Justine asked PFHS Outreach to assist. Eugenia needed to be transferred to a hospital capable of caring for her, but her grandmother couldn’t afford that level of care. PFHS Outreach provided the funds. Once at the better-equipped hospital, by His Grace, Eugenia made a remarkable recovery. In early April, I spent time with her (photo below) and her grandmother. Eugenia is now a 4-year-old full of life. She ran around singing during our visit, and a gift to all who know her.
The opportunities to serve in Ghana are limitless. On Easter Sunday, I and a friend spent the afternoon in a children’s ward at a large government hospital. In Ghana, healthcare is a major challenge. Family support is an absolute requirement, as the family is responsible for the patient’s food, bathroom visits, and obtaining any prescribed medicine. We went to the hospital to offer whatever small assistance we could. The children’s ward had about 15 kids that day. Some of them had minor broken bones and injuries from car/motorcycle accidents. But several were deathly sick with cancer, kidney and respiratory ailments.
We prayed with the parents, encouraged the children, and provided them with ice cream. A unique feature regarding healthcare in Ghana is that you can not be discharged from the hospital without paying your total bill. Sadly, there were 3 children who were eligible for release but their families did not have the funds. We paid the bills for the 3 children. One was a 6-year-old orphan, who was being cared for by a family in her home village. She had recovered from an auto accident weeks ago. There was a 12- year-old who also had recovered from an auto accident. Her mother had left the hospital 4 days before to hopefully find the funds to pay the bill. The hospital staff was concerned she would not return. Once we agreed to pay her bill the hospital sent someone to her home village to notify her to pick up her child. The 3rd child was extremely ill with a non-functioning kidney. The hospital was not equipped to care for such an ailment and recommended the family take him to the best hospital in Accra, but would not release him because the family could not pay the bill. With our support, they left that afternoon for Accra.
The PFHS Outreach Program continues to work with the Sisters of Mary and in the community. But our emphasis is to build a home for those with HIV and who are suffering greatly from malnourishment. In the past 3 years, over 20 children under the care of the Sisters of Mary have passed needlessly. If PFHS was open, we pray that all would be alive today. Please consider a gift to PFHS towards our goal of building a comprehensive facility for these children in Ghana. For your convenience, donations may be made directly through our website at popefrancishomeghana.org/donate. PFHS is a registered 501(c)(3) and donations are fully tax-deductible.