The West African Children’s Foundation
I have heard the story of how the WACF started on several occasions – likely as many times as volunteers have asked, which is surprisingly few, if I actually stop to think about it… When I hear it again from Patrick, though, I learn even more each time – more about the history, more about him, his faith, and his resolve, and perhaps more about myself as well. I have never written the history out, but it is worth sharing a million times over, especially with those that have the heart to hear it. So to that end, perhaps I ought to have started with this post, rather than a silly one about Amsterdam?
In any event, here it is – a year late, but no less honest or important…
The WACF is relatively new. Less than two years ago Patrick and Mamma Pat were not the caretakers of orphan children. Mamma Pat had her own three children to look after, while Patrick was a teacher, a chicken farmer, and studying to become a pastor. During their morning devotions one day, Patrick recalled that Mamma Pat suddenly had it on her heart to care for the children and struggling mothers they saw around Adam Nana and Kasoa all too often. Patrick admits that he laughed, and disregarded what he thought was an unrealistic ideal. They had never even considered it before, and had no intentions toward it. But God wouldn’t let it go. Patrick had a dream the next week that they would do this, and so he was swayed.
About the time he began this project, a Ghanaian friend living in the United States called him and said he wanted to help – to financially support them. So Patrick took these vulnerable children into his own home, offering them what he could. Unfortunately, several months later that same friend was no longer able to offer them support. Patrick had begun to care for these few kids already, though, and would not turn them out. Instead of wavering, he gave more. He poured all his own time, money and efforts into what he had started. Soon the money ran out and there were no more people at the markets to borrow from, and no future support available.
In retelling the story, Patrick says, “It was not my idea to do this. It was God’s idea. So what do I do? I must talk to God.” So he did. He shut himself in his room for seven days of prayer and fasting. On the seventh day, he left his room and on his way to church – “on a Saturday, because I am Seventh Day Adventist, and that is the Sabbath Day,” he always points out with a smile – a woman he had never met asked what he did for work. He replied that he doesn’t work, but runs an orphanage. She asked if he needed help, to which he of course replied an emphatic “yes, I need help!” On the spot, the woman made a phone call and spent some time talking to someone, convincing him to meet Patrick. That person turned out to be Francis, a man I eventually met myself. He is an employee of International Volunteer HQ Ghana, the organization that I was placed through last year. After a couple site visits, and work to set up accommodations for volunteers, Patrick received his first group on March 15, 2012. I arrived with the bunch on May 15. Patrick makes sure to tell us each time that calls all his volunteers angels: “You are my angels. I asked God for help and he sent you.”
Patrick is an incredible father, pastor, and human being altogether. Highly respected, very loved by the kids, and always humble and gracious. This particular retelling was prompted by a group meeting during which one agenda item was how he handles all donations. Carefully and earnestly, Patrick told us that he uses each donation very wisely because he knows that each one is a blessing and if he misuses God’s blessings, the next will not come. I know that he strives to do things right – in a way that is right with his community and right with God.
Indeed, the WACF is not just a home for vulnerable children, but rather like a community center offering help and opportunity as well to families and local workers from many parts of Ghana. The goal is primarily to give these children a better life, but it is also much more than that. It is clear Patrick and Mamma Pat’s goal is also a larger social justice one. Patrick fully employs, from what I have seen, about 15 people from around Kasoa – cooks, caretakers, teachers, and various craftsmen when necessary, managing all their projects and work. He asks day students for only what they can pay in school fees, turning no one away from an education – considering that lost potential. He and Mamma Pat hold regular meetings with the mothers to educate them on a myriad of things from mundane topics such as school-related info, to the more contentious, though necessary issues they face, such as birth control and responsible financing. He reaches out to extended families willing or able to take the kids in. Likewise, he seeks out absent fathers and, if appropriate, counsels the marriages back to health so the child may return home and be provided for.
Patrick and Mamma Pat have many visions about where they want to take the WACF – among them is the effort to move toward self-sustainability in the form of his current chicken farm, and plans for future agricultural and fish farms. Patrick understands that “the donations will not come forever. When they stop, we must be able to feed ourselves.” I have very few doubts he will continue to make this happen. Patrick stands resolved that “God opened [his] heart to this, and so God will make a way because He is good, so good.”
Surely, there are countless stories similar to Patrick’s – and praise God for those people in this world – and surely there are just as many like my own. But this is the one I have been blessed to play a part in, the story I am meant to retell. For whatever I can do at this point in my life, I have given what I can…