15 February 2013

The Beacon House Children

Today I spent the day teaching first grade at the orphanage. There are 6 kids in the class between 6 and 8 years old. All of them are at different levels of mathematics and English, but overall they catch on so quickly and genuinely care to learn. The children here in Ghana, and in Africa in general, are incredibly self-sufficient. From the moment they are born they are given space and belief that they can teach themselves how to grow. They are obviously loved and supported through these younger stages of life, but for the most part the children find their own way. I've not seen any of them fuss or whine or even act ungrateful for anything they have been given; they are treated and expected to be like active members of society…very small members of society. No mother coddles her child or gives them what they want if they cry hard enough, they simply give the children the tools of life and allow them to utilize those tools as they themselves see fit. Take that America.

I am quickly falling in love with the children at Beacon. They have this wonderful innocence about them that allows them to open their hearts to complete strangers; they would trust anyone who sat them down to read Winnie the Pooh. After all that they have been through, after all the traumatic experiences they have had and horrifying fear they have felt, they never give up; they fight for attention and love, and they watch one another’s backs. To understand what I see every day at the Beacon House, I've decided to introduce you all to a handful of the children. For legal purposes I will not be able to disclose any of their names or personal history, just know these kids are troopers.

Chapter Two: The Beacon House Children

“Ray Wonder”

This little nugget is “Ray”. He was the first one I met and the first one I will introduce. When I walked in the gate for the first time, he wrapped his little arms around my legs and pointed at the swing; he really loves swinging. He is a visually impaired child who just needs a little affection. When I picked “Ray” up for the first time and swung him upside down, he completely zoned out; he stared at the sun…which he does too often…and completely relaxed. I take him around the courtyard sometimes and put his hands on the leaves and flowers just so he can get a feeling for all the things he can now see; he gets so excited. Nothing he does is wrong in my eyes, and if he’s not adopted by the time I’m financially stable, rest assured, I will be back.


This wonderful human being is “Handsome”. Every morning I walk in and touch his hand and he pets mine back. He has a passion for music and piano, like myself, and rocks back and forth to any sound he hears. When I first played his keyboard with him, he stroked my hand in approval. I've never heard him speak and I know I never will, but no matter; he wears his heart on his sleeve and his voice in the pet of his hands. He keeps to himself, but I don’t think there will ever be a day in his life that he feels anything but happy.

“Mama Bear”

Although “Mama Bear” is obviously not this little angel’s name, it is a perfect reflection of her. In class she guides everyone through counting and the alphabet; when someone isn't paying attention she’ll simply shout at them in her thick accent things I don’t understand; it works every time.  I've bonded especially with “Mama Bear” because of her genuine care for all. Although I am there to teach her, she has really taught me so much about interacting with and getting through to the other kids. She tells me things about the others to help me understand them, and she is always looking out for me like she doesn't want to see anyone disrespect me; it’s really beautiful to see such a young girl have such awareness to others and their differences. She handles her own and has such a powerful presence. I hope she remembers just how far she can go and how wonderful she is when she faces the real world someday.


“Petey” and his older brother are two of the quickest learning children I have ever met; they have a real enthusiasm for education and a charm that would make up for lack of it anyhow. “Petey” is genuine and loving, and from time to time he can be very sensitive. He loves being center of attention and having piles of books read to him. Whenever I bring out a new book for him his little eyes light up and he starts dancing around; sounds like a real dream child right? He listens eagerly and always goes back over the pictures at the end of a story; the kids always have to wait around for him to be done scanning the photos one more time before they start a new book. I know “Petey” and his brother will make some family very proud one day. They have so much love to offer.


This little attention hog is “Romeo”. He has a real way with the ladies but is just too excitable to give one person attention for too long. One minute he’s begging to have a puzzle buddy and the next he is running off with someone’s shoe. When he’s around a lot of people he tends to bounce off the walls, but sometimes I catch him alone just standing in one place staring at the sky and observing the world; it’s actually quite adorable. He has a real curiosity for life and the energy to fulfill it.  

The Beacon House children have taught me something very important about love and life: our minds are fragile, and the memories we choose to fill it with and act on should be full of love we can offer to everyone every day.  These kids have accepted their pasts for what they are and love regardless, which is not easily said about many people. They allow their memories to shape the people they are today, but without bitterness and without shutting the world out. It makes me think about all the people of this world and how we all react so differently to pain and upsetting memories; some people tune out of life altogether. I think it is so important for us to use the lessons from our memories to make us smarter and more eager to learn like these children have decided to do, rather than turn off and tune out. They keep fighting for love and affection, and they trust openly. If a young child can do this every day after seeing more pain than most will see in a lifetime, I think we are all very capable of doing just the same. Love on people. Love on. 

Nante Yie.
Emily Chamberlain