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Why This Project?

JoDee (Mama J) Robertson Molly Robertson

I am the proud mom of three adult children. In 2001, we moved from Toledo, Ohio to the San Francisco Bay Area in California and I began working for an organization called Challenge Day (home of the Be the Change Movement).

At Challenge Day, I learned about the power of connecting people and realized that I wanted to make a difference in this world. I found myself asking, “What do I want to do with the rest of my life?” After a lot of prayer and soul searching, I decided to volunteer at an orphanage in Africa.

I wrote an e-mail to my daughter, Molly, who was on the road with Up with People.

Molly wrote back and said, “Mom, I’d love to do that with you.” So began our journey to Gomoa Achiase Children’s Home in Ghana, West Africa.

I could tell hundreds of stories, but instead, here is an excerpt from an email I sent to my family and friends on our last day in Ghana.

…My heart is heavy and full today. Yesterday was one of the most difficult days I've had in a long time. Similar to the feeling of dropping the kids off for college the first time (amplified).

Molly and I got up early and finished packing. We had breakfast and had all our things ready to go. We then walked over to the orphanage. It was a somber morning. Most of the children were dawdling, waiting for us to show up. Tears were already flowing for many (including me). Some of the kids ran to us and yelled "don't go". Others were more reserved and hid themselves so that no one would see them crying. A few were angry that we were leaving and then still others who didn't know what they felt, so they stood at a distance with their faces like stone. We helped them get ready for school, as usual. But soon it became obvious that our being there was just making it more painful for everyone.

So, we started our "goodbyes". Sarah held on to me and just kept saying "Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! May God bless you! We will miss you!" all while we sobbed together. I said "goodbye" to a few of the others and then ... I heard Wofa.

Wofa is a special one. From the first day we arrived in the village, Wofa grabbed my heart. Well, in that moment, I could hear him wailing in one of the other volunteer’s arms.

I went over and took him into my arms. He held me so tight and he cried and cried. The sound of his crying will remain with me forever. We walked away from the group and just held each other. I whispered "I love you" into his ear. I gave him kisses and thanked him for everything (as much as I could with a 6-year-old). I tried to be silly with him, but there was none of that for him. He just let himself feel the grief. After a short time, I pried him from me and gave him back to the other volunteer (with both of us sobbing) and told Molly "we need to go".

We said "goodbyes" to the rest of them and Mr. Sam, Sarah and Aggie walked us out to the street. We could hear Wofa wailing as we slowly walked down to the road. I was bawling too. Quite a sight. Heart cracked wide open.

After a few minutes, Aggie ran away up the driveway weeping. She couldn't say "goodbye". Mr. Sam started to shake my hand and I just pulled him in and gave him a big hug. He returned it. Five minutes later, a tro-tro came and we were on our way to Accra.

Molly and I were both pretty quiet during the ride. From time to time, Molly would say something enlightening or she'd say something that just let me know that she understood and was feeling too. She's so easy to be with. She really knows me and understands me. What a gift to have her on this journey with me.

This morning, I'm very sad. I want to go back and bring Wofa with me (and I know that's not the thing to do, it's just a feeling). I watch this little boy be the most open, loving, giving, funny generous little boy. Every volunteer who comes in, he opens himself up and loves him/her so purely. Talk about risking annihilation. He is Jesus in a small body.

I pray, pray, pray that he continues to love so tenderly. I pray that having to say "goodbye" to loved ones over and over will not shut him down. And I pray that I can learn to love like that.  

Thanks for listening. I love my life. I asked God to use me and I feel that has happened. At the same time, I have been given such a beautiful gift in the package of Achiase Children's Home…

Yes, we fell in love with Wofa as well as Mr. Sam, Sarah and all the children of Achiase.

Our goal is to help the Achiase Children’s Home become self-supporting so that Sarah & Mr. Sam can spend more time parenting and loving the kids and less time worrying about how to feed them.

This is how we decided to help build a school.

One day while we were cooking dinner by the fire, I asked Sara, “What is your dream? If you had a magic wand and could create your dream, what would it be?”

She jumped up and took my hand and said “Mama J, come with me.”

We walked on the narrow paths through the jungle and eventually came to an opening in a neighboring village. She said “that is my dream”.

When I looked up, I saw a beautiful school. We held hands as we stood together realizing what this conversation could mean.

After I returned home, I spent a lot of time thinking and praying about it. Finally, I realized,

We can do this! We can build a school.

 

I graduated from college and was looking for the next step in my life.  I knew I wanted to travel and was given that opportunity through an international group called Up with People. I spent two and a half years traveling throughout North America, Asia, and Europe doing community service and performance. Experiencing new cultures opened the doors and inspired me to see more of the world. 

Near the end of my time in Up with People, my mom mentioned she wanted to spend a few months doing community service somewhere. I told her if she waited for me to finish my commitment, I would join her. 

We ended up in Ghana, where our lives intertwined with the amazing people at Achiase Children’s Home. We helped to teach in the school, which was a far cry from the schools of my youth. We gained a great appreciation for the comforts and fortunes of life at home. Along the way, we chronicled our adventures on my blog.

http://mollyskye.wordpress.com/     

While we were in Ghana, we began to look at ways we could support them in becoming sustainable.

Through the generosity of our family and friends, we were able to raise enough money to do several projects as well as buy 4 acres of land for the children’s home so that they could grow cocoa and plantain, which are cash crops, as a source of future income for the children's home.

It takes about 4 years for a cocoa plant to bear fruit. Also we learned that because cocoa is a shade plant, it is common to plant plantain (another basic food for the locals) with the cocoa to provide shade. The plantain can be used to feed the kids and surplus can be sold to help support the home.

 

Now that we are home, the next step is to ensure these children we’ve come to know and love get the best education possible.