Sunday, November 11, 2007


Today I woke up early because we had a meeting at the biggest oil refinery in Cote D'Ivoire. Apparently Cote D'Ivoire is known for being one of the largest suppliers of both Coffee and Oil in the region. It's big business in Africa and is one of the main reasons France colonized Cote D'Ivoire and remains as it's occupying force...hence, the recent civil war and persistent resentment of the French. One side note-I discussed economics and international politics with people at great lengths while I was in Cote D'Ivoire which, once again, confirmed for me the harsh reality of our world; the most powerful countries like to take over the little ones, either subtly or overtly, and exploit them for profit. For more on this, please read the book, "Confessions of an Economic Hitman" by John Perkins or any Howard Zinn or Noam Chomsky books...

Anyhow, we had a meeting with Georgette Nogbou, the secretary general of the SIR Refinery Foundation and basically gave her a really heartfelt and professional pitch of Children's Hope. It went well and I felt like the guys were glad that I was there to help. Georgette seemed impressed that their work had reached people in the US enough to have an American show up at her office.

After leaving the refinery and travelling the hour back to the Children's Hope offices, I learned from Benedict that Ephrahim's passport, which we were supposed to have by today, had been rerouted to another administrative official's office in the country for some more bureaucratic red tape and wouldn't be in our hands for another week to a month. This kind of thing is not uncommon in West Africa. We worked hard all day trying to communicate with the government and get the process expedited and when that didn't work, we tried various other strategies like just taking Ephrahim with the incorrect passport and just paying for the really expensive ticket but in the end, it was too much money and everyone felt weird about travelling internationally with a child who had incorrect information on his passport. So, sadly, I could not bring Ephrahim back to the US. I felt terrible as did Benedict and everyone else. I had met Ephrahim and his parents the day before and they are wonderful and very grateful for the help and it was crushing to tell them that they would have to wait longer. However, there are plans to get Ephrahim to the US soon so I left all of the baby supplies I brought with me with Benedict, for the next escort to use with Ephrahim.

I should mention here that, while it may appear from this situation that the government is inflexible or difficult when we are just trying to help these kids, that is not entirely the case. In previous years, there has been some trouble with government officials and corruption as it relates to children's welfare but, recently, a new minister of family services has been appointed who I became friendly with and is AMAZING. Her name is Madame Coolibali Adom (excuse the spelling) and she has helped to turn over a new leaf in the government with respect to helping the children of Cote D'Ivoire. Emmanuel was the first child under her watch and she has assured us that there will be many more to come.

After the disappointing outcome with Ephrahim, we regrouped and Rhene, Benedict and Benedict's aunt drove me out to Abobo, the district most devastated by poverty and overpopulation, to see another child, ironically named Emmanuel as well. The say everyday in Abobo is "le guerre" which means "the war" in French. Not because there is actual combat but because the daily struggle to survive in this part of the city is so difficult. I don't have many pictures from traveling through Abobo because they told me not to pull out my camera in fear that someone would reach into the car while we were driving and snatch it.

When I met Emmanuel II, I was amazed at what a bright and gifted child he was. He's around six years old but somehow, seemed to have the depth and presence of an adult. He has some sort of heart problem that affects almost all of his senses and nearly every week he has some emergency where his mother has to drive him to the hospital. Now, the hospital is only about ten miles away but because the government has misspent the money to repair the roads in Abobo, the drive to and from the hospital takes her most of the day, and she still has to work. Even going to the hospital doesn't mean anything gets better for Emmanuel II because they are lacking the technology and capability to truly help him. He is hopefully going to come to the US for help soon.

Today was Rhene's wife's birthday so they had a party at Rhene's house in the evening. I got to really hang with the men of Children's Hope, whom I've now come to refer to as "THE KINGS OF COCODY" because thay really seem to be running the place and doing so much good. All of their girlfriends and wives were there as well. Again, we had great food, discussed alot of things, and danced to great music. These people are starting to feel like family.


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