People Reach

These programs are specifically designed to bring about a connectedness between human beings and a new hope for their future. This is accomplished in many formats ranging from educational outreach in a classroom setting to sponsoring the local orphanage. In all our affairs kindness is always the underlying message.

The "Art" of Kindness

No matter what country we visit we have always been encouraged to find that the future still lies in the hands of the children. When KI first worked in the village of Debrezeit, Ethiopia, we maintained a program in the elementary schools that taught kindness to animals. painting classIt was a combination petting zoo and story telling and it was very successful in giving active and innocent minds a creative and optimistic way to grow.

The success of that program in Ethiopia extended itself to an orphanage in Ghana. The children from St. Mary’s Baby home as well as local neighborhood children gathered to express their feelings about kindness in watercolor and poetry. This unusual day sponsored by KI was filled with painting, singing and an endless amount of food. Although in both countries we have been aided by translators, we quickly found that joy transcended language and a room of rarely seen smiles were their own reward.


This program gives hope, fun, creativity and a sense of future to the children it touches. They are able to get a sense of validation when they share something they have created and it also gives form to something that otherwise remains unarticulated. The food and the clothing that comes with this artful day is yet another sign that life matters.

St. Mary's Baby Home

St. Mary's Baby Home is an orphanage on the outskirts of Yua in Ghana.

The word “orphan” is purposefully omitted from its title as well as any conversations about the Home because of the tremendous stigma surrounding the word. We learned about the myths and history surrounding this stigma from Sister Marguerite who is the resident “mother” to all at St. Mary’s. In her deep, confident voice she astounded us with a series of powerful stories that inspired these entries in “Jan Mitchell's Journal” e-newsletter as quoted below.

orphan boy

“There are soothsayers in these parts that can declare a newborn a witch if it's a twin, if the mother dies in childbirth, if it is deformed or if someone in the family is suddenly struck sick.

When the local soothsayer makes his decision regarding the fate of a child, the family is grateful for the information and the soothsayer collects his fee. The family discusses the demise of the child with relatives who usually agree with the soothsayer. Some clandestine person is contacted who is known for his skills in concocting herbs that will kill the child. He collects the child at the home of the family and takes it to a particular hilltop carrying the child in one arm and poison tea in the other. The drink is consumed and the baby is either tossed off the hill or left to die. If a rare intervention occurs, such as the father’s covert “kidnapping”, then the child's life is spared and it is delivered to St. Mary’s.

Sister Mary told us it is not usually the father who is in favor of this practice. It is more often the extended family. Fathers are usually relieved to place their precious children at the orphanage in the arms of a loving woman and sometimes visit when the child is older and less of a threat to the family. Even though it might be revealed that the “witch” did not bring on the evil to the family, many times these children are left there to grow up with no known parents. Upon entering high school, the teenagers must find another home.”

orphaned children

Akunz and I stood in the large, empty concrete area that was surrounded by small, rectangular buildings that housed the children. I plugged in a tape player and reggae music echoed throughout as the children slowly emerged from their rooms. Larmasi, the little two and a half year old girl whom I had held for two days previously, saw me and came running with outstretched arms. When I picked her up, I realized that her face was still no different than it had been every time before, expressionless. I held her in my arms and danced with her towards the center of the play area. We twirled and bounced and I danced to the beat as best I could with her in my arms. She watched my eyes the entire time and at one point she caught herself smiling but then quickly made her face expressionless again. I continued moving and jumping while other children and caregivers joined us when finally Larmasi couldn't help herself and her face broke into a faint little smile. At that moment I felt this rush of joy fill me and I told my friend Akunz, that I couldn’t believe that I was dancing on the playground of an orphanage in Africa. The power of kindness gives in both directions.”

Jan Mitchell with orphan

“I held out my arms to an underdeveloped two and a half year old who clutched her white cloth doll with yarn hair. Another girl held on to my leg. A young snotty nosed boy sat on my lap. I looked into the eyes of these innocent, hungry, deprived children and felt the love I had come here to share and not the pity that I started this work with years ago in Ethiopia.

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