Mother-daughter dynamic duo challenge each other overseas

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At the crack of dawn, the rooster crows and Emily Sagal and her mother climb out of their bunk beds.

They bathe the kids in the orphanage and start working on building them a better home. During the day they prepare meals for the boys and girls who live there.

As they walk down the street to buy eggs for breakfast from a local neighbour’s chicken coop, cows and goats follow them.

The streets are lined with garbage and most of the crowded village lives in poverty.

However, it doesn’t stop locals from setting up nail and hair dresser salons the size of a booth to try to lure in customers.

“We knew what we were getting into and we wanted to do it,” said Sagal.

In fact, for Sagal, 29, and her mother, Chris Hill, 59, this scenario was a lifelong dream.

Back in April, Sagal and Hill travelled to a village in Ghana called Adam Ana, about an hour and a half away from the capital city of Accra. For over two weeks they volunteered their money and time in helping build a much needed orphanage.

Through IVHQ (International Volunteer Headquarters), an international volunteer program, they were able to provide new beds, clothes and essentially a new life and perspective to the children of the village.

“We tried to make them feel like they are very important people. I think every child needs to be nurtured,” said Hill, who was the oldest volunteer on the project.

“I got really close to the teenage girls and I wonder what’s going to happen to them. They all have big dreams, like being a doctor or pilot, and I told them I hope their dreams come true, and that they can come true.”

When the mother-daughter duo arrived to the village the boys were sleeping in a garage that had no windows or bed. Together with other volunteers, they were able to build new dormitories which included eight metal bunk beds that replaced four wooden bunks that were covered in termites.

“It was the best feeling of my life, being able to help them,” said Sagal.

Everyone has their role in the village. The older girls help take care of the younger kids while others pitch in to do laundry, cook and clean.

“They have such minimal things, but they are so thankful,” said Hill. “I learned we have way too much to worry about.”

Being in Ghana was a cultural shock for Hill and her daughter, who both live in Moose Jaw.

“We wanted to take the kids to play video games one day and they said no, that they wanted to play soccer outside. They don’t care about technology. It was nice to see them use their imagination,” said Sagal.

“They just want to learn so much. I’ll take a book out and suddenly you have 10 kids around you. I read about a helicopter to the little boys and they were so fascinated about the helicopter and you try to give them as much details as you can,” added Hill.

The one culture shock Sagal and Hill noticed within the community they stayed in was that no one was wasteful.

“They used everything they had,” said Sagal. “There was no waste. After they were done with a coffee tin, they’d make crafts out of it and sell it. Once the water was dirty, they’d use it for something else. I learned to reduce, reuse, recycle. It’s amazing what we take for granted. We are so lucky to live here. But over there they are all so happy. I’ve travelled a bit in my life, but those people are the happiest people I’ve ever met in my life. They’re not looking for better. They see what they have and they make the most of it.”

Not only did Sagal and Hill improve the lives of the children of the orphange, but they improved their relationship with each other by developing a stronger bond.

“The biggest thrill was that I got to share this with my daughter,” said Hill. “We can’t stop talking about it. We would climb in our bunk beds at the end of the day and talk about the day and you never have the TV or the computer on.”

Now that this journey is over, Sagal hopes to continue to impact the lives of others around the world.

“I really think my mom and I made a difference at this place. We had such nice donations given to us from family and friends and we bought a lot for the orphanage and set them up pretty good.

“So it’s now on to the next because there are a lot of orphanages that need help, and it’s my time to do this,” said Sagal.

This dynamic duo hopes that their experiences and story will encourage others to give back to those who don’t have as much as they do.

“Anyone can do this. It’s affordable. It’s the same price as an all-inclusive vacation and I think everybody should do it,” said Sagal. “People think they can’t, but they can. My mom is 59 and she was in there. She did so good.”

Mickey Djuric can be reached at 306-691-1263 or @Mickey_MJTimes

Geographic location: Ghana, Accra, Moose Jaw

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  • Barb (Thompson) Boese
    June 24, 2014 - 11:13

    What an experience of a lifetime, helping people who need it so much. Kudos to you Chris & Emily! Barb (Thompson) Boese Prince George BC