Samuel Opoku Arthur
He had always known that he would celebrate his fiftieth birthday by giving back to the less fortunate, and had discussed it with his wife Clara. He just wasn’t sure how to give back. Until ‘Sintim,’ the dispatch rider who normally delivered his waakye from Asylum down told him his life story.
A loner, Sintim had lost his parents when he was young. Then, was moved from one family to another. The tale of Sintim’s childhood was a very sad one indeed, causing Opoku to wonder whether he wouldn’t have been well off had there been a better support system in place when his parents died. For instance, an orphanage. Opoku wondered how many ‘Sintims’ were scattered all over Ghana. He could see Sintim in the many homeless children who thronged the traffic in Accra, washing people’s windscreens or hawking for a living; he saw him in the children who slept in shady places by night and ran around the streets by day; in the children who because they had no protection, were subject to abuse and manipulation by sick adults; in the children who for want of survival had joined criminal gangs, prostitution rings, and fraud racketeers.
He thought of his own children, and those of his friends; safe, sound, protected. Children who had it all; good families, material wealth, love, everything a child should have.
It gave Opoku his light bulb moment. Why not make a donation to an orphanage for his fiftieth birthday? Not just any donation, something different. He discussed with Cee as he called his wife, gave her the names of fifty people who had impacted his life and asked her to invite them to come along to spend the day with him at the orphanage. If he had his way he would make donations to all the orphanages in Ghana but for now, he needed to start from somewhere. And where else to start from but his birth region, the Eastern Region? He settled on the St. Elisabeth orphanage nestled somewhere in between the hills of Aburi; a big orphanage with a big heart, and asked Cee to visit the orphanage and see how they could help.
Cee took it in her stride. Sat right in front of the orphanage administrator the next day, she weighed the options available for a donation. Did they want to donate cash? Or food? Or did they want to furnish one of the orphanage’s apartments in order to make room for the intake of more children? The administrator herself was overjoyed, she told Cee something which touched her heart. The mattress she slept on had been donated by someone during their seventieth birthday. She wished more people would make donations.
The Arthurs chose the most exciting option of all, which Cee, dubbed the ‘Elisabeth Project.’ It became their mission and it all came to a head on the 17th of January, 2023.
A precocious nine-year-old with a zest for life, and a penchant for mischief. A creative girl from Aburi, who always thought she would rule the world. Until her parents died.
It was her grandmother who took her to the Social Welfare people when she was nine. The agony of living with her aunt was unbearable. The officers at the Social Welfare were apologetic, they would have sent her to the St, Elisabeth Orphanage at Aburi, so she could be nearer home, but there were no rooms available at the moment. Yes, the orphanage had several apartments but they were not furnished so they could not afford to take any more orphans. She returned back to her aunt, disappointed, gloomy, destined for hardship.
So when one day, her grandmother got a call from the Social Welfare people to say that there was room at the St. Elisabeth orphanage, that they would take seven more girls of which she was one, she was beyond elated.
Now she was here, and although she had been here for several days, the novelty had not worn off. She walked around the apartment for the hundredth time, with big round eyes, the whole thing beyond her imagination. She patted her bed; her bedsheet, the loveliest she had ever seen, the curtains, heavenly. Then off to the living room again, where she admired the exquisitely set up living room with sofas, TV and curtains. The dining room had a table and chairs to seat eight! Oh! And the kitchen had the most beautiful pots, an electric kettle and a microwave! She had never seen one before she came here. Such comfort as they had here with their orphanage mother. Here she could afford to dream again, could begin to build her strength again. She could forget the past. She could forget the time her aunt tied her up to a tree and whipped her blue black, forget all the times her aunt dressed her own children up in beautiful dresses and shoes while she had to go about in rags. From here, she could rise up and become the somebody she always knew she would become. She would use this opportunity to rise up, to achieve her dreams.
As she neared the wall, she saw a plaque on it; a plaque which read, ‘This apartment was furnished by Mr. Opoku Arthur in commemoration of his fiftieth birthday.’ She remembered. She had not been accepted at the orphanage at first because there were no furnished apartments left. Oh! It was because of this Mr. Opoku Arthur that she had been given this new lease of life! Because of him that all her other six sisters in her apartment had been spared their previously miserable existence! She leaned against the plaque and whispered, ‘thank you very much, Mr. Opoku Arthur, you saved my life!’ hoping that he would hear her from wherever he was.
Mr. Opoku Arthur sat at his office desk looking through a pile of reports. He felt a soft tug in his heart, a soft tug as if he was being pulled back to the Elisabeth orphanage. It gave him a warm feeling, as if someone was saying, ‘thank you.’ He smiled. If only he knew what was happening, the connection of souls; of a man, eager to change the world one person at a time, and a girl, desirous to make use of the lifeline that life had given her.