School Sisters of Notre Dame – Africa

Transforming the World through Education


Nsawam Orthopedic Training Center

This morning I went down to the Orthopedic Training Center where S. Liz works. It was begun by the Divine Word Missionaries in 1961. Brother Tarcisius was the founder and is still the director. Sister Liz is the co-director. The center serves both adults and children who have orthopedic disabilities. Many of the adults are amputees either from accidents or from diabetes. Many of the chlldren may be bow-legged or have birth defects or also be amputees.

Prosthetics, calipers, splints, special shoes are all crafted on site and fitted individually. There is an extensive workshop for this.

Training in using the prosthetics, exercise programs and wound care are all part of the training that is needed for a person to be successful in becoming independent. Adults and children who live at the center while they are getting rehabilitated have dorms, meal preparation, etc. Some of the children go out to school while others (usually small ones) have classes on site.

The stories of some of the children are chilling and heart-breaking. Some of the children who are born with a disability are regularly beaten and even abandoned by parents. All of them who make their way to OTC find loving welcome. Who knows the long term effect of the abuse or the mitigating nature of the love from the center. But every effort is made to help the children in whatever ways are needed. In the weeks after I return I will try to tell some of the stories. In the meantime here are a few pictures of the Center.

Going home!  Today was the day that this lovely woman was going home and she was dressed for the occasion!

Going home! Today was the day that this lovely woman was going home and she was dressed for the occasion!

This little one was happily distracted while S. Liz put the little braces on his feet!

This little one was happily distracted while S. Liz put the little braces on his feet!

This little guy was fast even with his feet braced together!!

This little guy was fast even with his feet braced together!!

Some of the children wanting to get in the pictures.  No diability in that realm!

Some of the children wanting to get in the pictures. No diability in that realm!

The base of the statue says "My disablility is my cross but my cross is my only support."

The base of the statue says “My disablility is my cross but my cross is my only support.”


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On the Bus

Today we traveled back down country. S. Irmina and I stopped in Nsawam and S. Mara traveled on to Accra. She flies to Kenya tomorrow. It seems that really the easiest way to go is on the bus. So we got up early to get to the bus station. The tickets had been bought yesterday, but you have to pay for your bags according to the size. They said mine cost 5 cedis and on the ticket they printed they said it wieghed 71 kilograms! I couldn’t move it if it weighed that much but I wasn’t going to argue over about a dollar extra.

We had assigned seats which was good. The bus was air conditioned which was also good. The first part of the trip a loud radio station was on and if it was in English I couldn’t understand it. I tried to block it out. After we made our first stop in Kumasi, they showed videos. They were Nigerian movies. The first one was called “A World Apart” It was sort of a cross between Cinderella and Pygmalion. The second was call “Christ in Me”. I never got to see the end of it because we arrived in Nsawam, but it was very confusing and had instances of spells being put on people. I hope it ended well.

At the rest stops you pay for a ticket to use the toilets. Kumasi was very iffy, but the second one was better. They even had rolls of toilet paper outside that you could tear off and take in with you.

When we arrived in Nsawam the sisters said to just take a taxi and tell them you wanted to go to the Orthopedic Center. Everyone knows where that is. Well. lucky us we found the only taxi driver in Nsawam who had no idea where we wanted to go. To his credit, he did stop along the way and ask but got some bad information. Finally he stopped and asked a student walking on the road who got in the cab and directed him.

We arrived!!

We knew that S. Liz was in Accra so we asked one of the men who was on the compound to help. He got the key and let us in to the house. Inside there was a note inviting us to eat food that was warming in the stove. It tasted great especially with cold water.

After resting a little Cecelia took me out to see the resident alligators. There are two of them that have been on this compound for a long time. They seem well fed so I guess I wouldn’t worry about them. They also have a few other animals that make up the zoo here…a parakeet, a cutting grass, rabbits and one monkey.

More tomorrowl

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Notre Dame Secondary School Sunyani

Ann Coleman picked me up at the Novitiate this morning at 6:10 AM. We drove over to Notre Dame Secondary School for the student Mass at 6:30 AM. Can you believe it??? The school has about 800 students and out of that about 780 are boarders. The Mass was held in the dining hall. They are in the process of building a new dining hall but today they were just putting the roof on it. The have a chaplain for the school. He does some teaching and says Mass for the school three days a week. Well, the Mass didn’t actually start until about 6:45 AM. The girls were saying that there was no water in the showers this morning so many were late.

After Mass the students have one class and then they have breakfast. This morning’s breakfast was millet which sort of looks like brown cream of wheat but they like it very much. S. Carolyn took me around to see the boarding areas after Mass. There are about 18 girls in each room. They have two buildings now. Before the second one was built there almost twice that number in each room. The shower rooms and bathrooms are in two separate buildings which are pretty nice. The school has three wells (bore holes) to accommodate all the needs.

After that brief tour we met up with Ann and she took me back to the sister’s house for some breakfast. S. Kathleen Feeley was also there. Kathleen teaches in four of the formation houses here in Sunyani. She teaches “whatever they ask me to teach.” Right now is the History of Religious Life and English composition. They are all lucky to have her.

When we went back to the school, we toured the classroom facilities. I wanted to get a little video of the girls but some were too shy. We did get the senior prefect and three of the other prefects and had a good conversation. The girls are very articulate and their English is very fine. I was very impressed.

The educational system in Ghana is a little hard to figure out. Right now there are four years of secondary school but next year there will only be three. Two classes will be sitting for the West African exams. The Form Three girls are upset because they will never get to be the head of the school. There is definitely a cast system and they will never get to be the Brahmins of the school.

The government just supplied some new science equipment but someone from Accra has to come to open it and check it so it is just sitting in a classroom for now.

S. Carolyn just took over as head of the school, but she wants to make sure that everything is in order before the official handover. She works too hard but she is so qualified and professional that it will only make the school better.

They have a lot of dreams for the school. It is not owned by SSND. It is a government school now so all the money and sweat equity that SSND has put into it can only be counted as a labor of love and not a real resource.

Tomorrow we take the bus to Nsawam. I think it will be easier that driving from what our experience was on Sunday. Sister Irmina and I will stop and visit at Nsawam and S. Mara will go on to Accra. She flies to Kenya on Thursday.



The last thing that I wrote was a bit about our trip up from Kumasi to Sunyani. The trip is supposed to take 2 hours. We left Kumasi at 2 PM and were taking the “shortcut” through town. At the end of the shortcut we had to once again join the main road. I don’t know what caused the initial delay but when we got there it seemed that no one was moving. The road onto which we were turning had two big trucks on it and they weren’t moving. We edged into a left turn and before we knew it there were about four lanes turning left. The vehicles that were going in the direction of the right were completely blocked by us. It was utter chaos and then a vehicle that was turning onto the road we were on died as it tried to turn. I thanked God I wasn’t driving!

We arrived in Sunyani a little after 5 PM. The Novitiate site is really lovely. The house is built in a rectangle with a nice courtyard in the center. Every room opens on to this courtyard. The novices are not here just now because they are on their apostolic experience. So it is just the permanent community here. We had a lovely supper even with ice cream with mango sauce for dessert. Since I didn’t know several of the sisters, it was a good time to get to know them. Both Mara and Delia who are the novice directors I did know. They are both leaving within the next week to visit the novices at their ministry sites.

We went to the Cathedral on Monday morning for Mass. There was a good crowd there and the singing was lively. The Mass was in Twi, the local language so I needed to just use the non-verbal clues to know where we were in the Mass. On Monday people bring bottles of water to be blessed for the week. And anyone with a birthday comes up to get a blessing. They also did that at the student Mass in Cape Coast.

The rest of that day was a restful day. I was still finishing the minutes of the development meeting so I was grateful for the time. It was relaxing. The other thing that was good was how cool it is here. I was actually cold in the morning when I got up! We had to leave for Mass at 6 AM so it was dark but the full moon was shining down and made for a beautiful sight. Throughout the day there were strong winds which they say never happens here. It was like Harmattan in Sierra Leone. The electricity went out for about six hours which they say is not unusual.

Tuesday is a visit to Notre Dame Secondary School.