Working in England for a few days. Got a call to come to Belgium. The Men’s Group of the Ambassador Club Westland had included us in their New Year’s Eve fundraiser and would like us to come and pick up donations and speak with a journalist. So, my friend and colleague, Brigitte Squire (Dehouck) and I set out in her car for the train to tunnel under the English Channel and make our way to Belgium. Like all good African-related trips, a story was in the making that we did not realize. The first thing that happened was we began to smell an “oil-like” smell. The next thing that happened is the car stopped. Luckily we were able to get it to the side of the very busy motorway. After two hours of standing on the roadside and lots of phone calls we were rescued by a car rescue service and Brigitte’s friend Geoff. The car service took off with Brigitte’s car with promises that this was probably the end of the car’s engine. Geoff (after a lot of work to enable Brigitte to drive his car) took off with the car service and we proceeded to Belgium in Geoff’s car. It was interesting being on the side of the motorway and having to quiet our minds and when you do that you notice things like beautiful wild flowers, a castle in the distance, a clear blue sky. The gift of slowed down time is rare and that was the positive side of this.
We arrived in France and made our way to Belgium. First we stopped by to visit Alice, Brigitte’s mother. She is in a retirement home in the city of Poperinge. Alice feels very much that she is the grandmother to baby Afia in Ghana. She has pictures of her up in her room and talks to other residents and friends about her. Although Alice is on a very tight pension, she gave me money to help with Afia’s care. This will go to Ghana to help with the raising of this very special baby.
Next we made our way to the home of Brigitte’s brother and sister-in-law – Damien and Brigitte. Very rapidly an afternoon and evening that would always be remembered began to unfold. It seems that a very lovely man named Freddy Dereckx decided to make a sponsorship for Project OKURASE. Freddy is a brilliant man who designs and makes machines (conveyor belts and such) and he has a very giant heart of solid gold. He told us that it meant a lot to him to give a sponsorship directly to a person affiliated with Project OKURASE and he could see exactly where the money is going. Freddy is a person who wants to make a difference and is looking for a way to do this that he can feel sure about. He feels sure about Project OKURASE. Freddy shared with us some life lessons that I think are so important. Every day he sees people make money and spend it on getting more and more things for themselves but this does not result in happiness. He finds that reaching out to others, sharing and having a generous heart does result in happiness. These are important lessons for us all to keep in mind.
We spent the afternoon talking, hearing about Freddy’s family that he is so proud of, and had a toast on behalf of Project OKURASE and to give a very big Akwaaba to Freddy into the Project OKURASE family. Now Freddy is part of an even bigger family. Thank you so much Freddy for helping us continue the building of the vocational school that is started. We are extremely grateful for your loving heart, human kindness and consideration of others, and generosity.
Along with Freddy was another very lovely man named Pieter-Jan Breyne. Pieter-Jan is a journalist who came to talk with us for two reasons. First, he wanted cover the nomination and selection of Brigitte for Member of British Empire. This is an amazing award based on her work with youth offending in England and bringing Multisystemic Therapy to England. At some point she will receive the award directly from the Queen of England. The second reason for our interview was for Pieter-Jan to learn about Project OKURASE and get the word out in Belgium about what we are doing. Pieter-Jan is no stranger to Africa. He has conducted work with street children in the Congo and is quite knowledgeable. We look forward to seeing Pieter-Jan’s article. Thank you sooooo much Pieter-Jan.
Damien, Brigitte and Brigitte spent some time in the evening talking about Afia, the baby in Ghana they helped save one year ago. Brigitte Squire had printed out photos of Afia and we looked at them and talked about the miracle of this baby who was near death. We were brought into her life by Project OKURASE and now she is a thriving baby of about a year and a half.
After having a meal together (brilliantly prepared by Damien and Brigitte), we went to Freddy’s workshop to see some of the machinery he is designing. He is quite impressive. The next day we made our way back to England with an added richness from the time we spent with the wonderful people of Belgium.
In closing and on behalf of Project OKURASE and the people of Okurase, I offer a great degree of thanks to Freddy, Pieter-Jan, Damien, Brigitte, Brigitte, and the men of The Ambassador Club Westland. May you see good health and long life and may you forever feel you are part of the family of Project OKURASE. We hope to see your continued involvement and we hope to see you in Ghana.
Cindy, Freddy, Brigitte Squire
Freddy and Cindy discussing Project OKURASE