He appeared at my side yesterday as soon as I stepped out of the car at the village school and he did not leave it all day. He stood beside me while I took video of the boys playing soccer at recess. He carried my bag into the classroom where I would be tutoring Osei and Adu. And then, when we were back outside listening to the girls sing, he looked up at me and asked, “When you come back, would you please bring me a bicycle?” I’m ashamed to say that I sort of dismissed him and shook my head. “No, if I brought you a bicycle I would have to bring all the other children a bicycle.” That’s always a good answer, and so I thought he and I were finished with our conversation. But he was not about to be done.
“Could you take me to U.S?” He asked about 15 minutes later. For the first time, I turned and looked into his eyes. He was serious. “Please auntie?”
I am going to need to get away from this kid, I thought. I didn’t have a good answer for this request, except to shake my head and say, “I can’t do that. You have a mommy here and she wouldn’t want me to take you away.” I should have given more careful thought to that answer. I walked into the tutoring room, certain that he and I were now finished.
A few minutes later he appeared in the room and Anna took him aside while I worked with Adu and Osei. Anna and the boy were having a nice little chat, and I thought nothing of it. When we finished our tutoring, he was still hanging around so I gave him some bubbles and waved goodbye to him as we left the school.
“You have a new little friend,” Anna said to me after we were in the car. “He wants to be adopted and go to the U.S. He’s says he’s going to bring his mother to the school tomorrow.”
“He told me his family story,” Anna continued. “It’s very sad, but he seems determined. He said that as soon as we drove up that he knew something special was going to happen to him. I told him that it doesn’t work that way, but he insisted that he is bringing his mother. He told me his parents are divorced and his father doesn’t want anything to do with him and the other children. Father doesn’t give any support and doesn’t have any food for him when he comes to his house.”
“I do not think his mother will be coming to the school tomorrow just because he asks her to,” I told Anna.
Anna shrugged. “He said that she will want to meet us. I don’t know.”
And you’re going to believe a kid? I thought. I certainly didn’t want to patronize Anna, but things like that don’t just happen.
Well, actually in Ghana, they do.
When we pulled up to the school today, the boy’s mother was sitting on the bench under a tree between the buildings. She had been waiting all day for us to come. Peter sighed and pulled out his notebook.
“I will have to see what she has to say,” he said.
So, Solomon joined us for tutoring. “What’s one more boy?” I said cheerily as he scooted on the bench beside Adu. For the next hour and a half, the three boys and I played sentence games and learned more sight words. Most of the time, we made silly sentences because I let them choose the words. Today we learned about nouns. “What is a noun?” I asked them. Osei and Adu looked at me with blank faces.
“A person, place, or thing,” Solomon said quietly. And the afternoon sort of went that way. He is a smart kid and he is eager to please, a contrast to Adu who, I have discovered, is a tough little nut to crack. He’s a bit ornery and pretends not to know English. Solomon spent the afternoon translating for Adu, who stubbornly insisted on speaking Twi. When we were almost finished with our tutoring, Solomon looked at me and said, “Tomorrow we will go to U.S.?” I felt sick to my stomach. What would you have said? Honestly, I would have loved some help in that moment. Erin only looked at me with wide eyes and returned to her work with the girls at the table across the room.
“I can’t take you to the U.S.,” I said. “I just can’t do that.”
I really didn’t know what else to say. And then he just stared up at me in complete confusion. “But my mommy is out there. We can go talk to her. She says yes.”
“No, I can’t go talk to her. I can’t take you to the U.S.” I was firm.
By the time we walked out of the classroom my head was spinning. I had – and still have – no idea what I should have said. I took a photo and a video of him giving me his age and name, just like I did yesterday with Osei and Adu. “These are just for my friends,” I told him. “So they can see the boys that I tutored.” I tried everything to make sure he didn’t misinterpret any gestures or words. I even attempted to be a little cold.
The mother, as it turns out, would like for someone to take her son. She can’t feed him, she told Peter. She sat with him and told him all the details of her and Solomon’s life. It seems that she can’t find hope anywhere. She gets no support from the father, who is remarried and also struggling. He wants nothing to do with his children.
“The father would never agree to such a thing,” I said to Peter. “I’m certain.” What an expert I am. And then, the strangest thing happened. We said our goodbyes, bought all the children a water bottle at the bottom of the hill, and began to drive away. We had only driven a short distance when we saw Solomon walking with his mother. When he recognized us, he began to wave frantically. We stopped. He spoke rapidly in Twi and pointed up the road.
“Aaah,” Peter said. “That’s his father walking toward us.”
Seriously? He just happened to be walking by?
“I’m going to talk with him,” Peter said. “He should be supporting this boy.”
So Peter got out and talked to the father, who smiled and nodded throughout the entire conversation. Probably laughing about the silliness of the mother coming to the school, and the audacity of the boy to ask if someone would take him to the U.S. The father is a teacher in a nearby village, but he is not trained and makes barely enough money to live on. Teachers in Ghana are not paid well either.
Peter got back in the car. “He doesn’t want to have anything to do with the children,” Peter said. “He isn’t going to help support them. I told him about Solomon bringing his mother to the school, and he said he doesn’t care if the boy goes to the U.S.”
Just like that? And with a smile?
I’m not sure what to make of this story. It’s surreal. What is the best thing to do in this situation? So we’ve come up with a possible solution. We will find a sponsor for Solomon through ACEF and give his mother the help that she needs to feed him and pay for his school uniform and supplies.
“He will be very happy with a sponsorship,” Peter said. “I explained to him and his mother what we can do for them to give them some hope.”
I would like to believe that this will be the best solution for Solomon. Perhaps he will continue to learn and then break the cycle of poverty and abandonment in his family. Maybe? Those are tough odds to beat, but I’m praying for Solomon, Adu, Osei, Sarah, and Beatrice – that they will dig their heels in and win.