Madison's renderings of teaching and learning

Gratitude and Grace

My last (and much belated) entry from Ghana can only be used express one thing – gratitude.

As I look back at the past year in Ghana, what floods my mind is not the experiences or the adventures, the beach trips or graded papers, the roof top dinners or nights out with friends, but what does stand out to me is the unwavering love and support shown to me through prayer by my family and friends (both new and old).

God began this year by leading me to a teaching position at one of the most prestigious schools in West Africa with the most amazing co-workers, bosses and friends I could have ever asked for and, in the past 11 months, I have seen his hand at work, protecting me and guiding me in so many ways. He has miraculously protected me from malaria, cholera, infection and all illnesses in Ghana. He has guided every Tro-Tro and taxi safely through chaotic and persistent traffic. He safeguarded my relationship with Matt and grown it into a beautiful engagement (! 🙂 ) and He has maintained my sanity (as far as I can tell) through my first year of teaching middle school mathematics in a developing country. Above all he has loved me with so much joy.

I know that I owe the protection and guidance throughout this past year to you and your consistent prayers. Because of community, He has not only protected me but grown me. It has hard for me to believe that after 9 months of being apart, I am now engaged to the most amazing man I have ever known. And after 11 months of teaching some of the most brilliant but painfully stubborn students I have ever been blessed to learn from, I still crave teaching and am headed to Vanderbilt in just one month (!) to begin my masters in education. And after struggling with corruption and the “politics” of nonprofit work, I have been provided with the most beautiful and unique collaborative education program working with some of my very best friends and much beloved students. Through the trials and tears, God has brought grace and growth and for that I can express nothing but gratitude.

I cannot thank you enough for your prayers and love. I know that this year had nothing to do with me or my plans, but it had everything to do with you and the grace that God has shown to me through you. Thank you for interceding for me and for caring for me through messages, letters, packages, advice, donations, phone calls, and in so many other ways.

I will soon post some pictures of beautiful beaches, monkeys, engagement rings, lovely dinners, my first students and future mathematicians, my office, the completed fish farm, Ghanaian snacks, Tro Tro rides, new dresses, adorable children, awe inspiring sunsets, and so much more, but before I did that, I wanted to let you know that those will not be the only things I see when I look back at this year. What I will see is God’s guidance. I will see you, my loved ones both new and old, and the grace and growth that He has provided me through you. Thank you for being my family and my friends, my community, both in the US and abroad.


Matthew 6:26-33


Big Picture

This blog so far has been a strangely freeing outlet in which I could share small bits of my day with the people I love. Ghana lends itself to focus on the details, the small perspectives of my life that are difficult and beautiful and new- like a post man who wont give me my packages or the tro tro rides which act as a wonderful combination of socialization and nerve racking confusion or the math lessons occurring beneath the mango trees. But in the beauty of these moments- moments so unique to Ghana and my life here- I’d like to share with you the bigger picture of my work here. But in that same light I’d like to show you a few moments, smiles, insights, and people that inspire that bigger perspective in me- a few small pictures that draw out a greater image of hope and joy in a home in Ofaakor, Ghana. (All of the beautiful photos that are marked wit a * in this post were taken by my beautiful and endlessly talented friend, Capers Elizabeth Rumph, who came to spend a day of face-painting fun with me and the kids. Please check out her blog at

Over the past few weeks I have had to step back and look at the larger scope of my place in Ghana and the scene has been overwhelming. I came to Ghana under the auspices of teaching- and in every way it has blessed me. I have learned though that auspice that I am meant to be a teacher, that I love working in education and I can think of only a handful of things that bring me more joy than crafting exciting math lessons and seeing a child’s face when that lesson makes a difference. It is truly a joy. But I say that I came under an auspice, because at the heart I came to Ghana for the children at Royal Seed. I came as the program director of the Eye to Eye Foundation. And this position has brought me to that widened scope that is all-together intimidating and exciting. Over the past 7 months, I have worked with the administration of Royal Seed to hire 18 amazing teachers who work so hard for the students who find themselves attending Royal Seed School- a school that not only educates the 150 children living within the home, but also an additional 250 children from the surrounding community whose families cannot afford an education.
In working with Royal Seed, we have begun a collaborative education program called the Classroom Cooperative which will partner classrooms in the US with the classes at Royal Seed to open the doors of communication, socialization and education between the two groups and simultaneously provide the resources necessary for classes at Royal Seed to continue and improve without requiring any fees from the students attending. I am thrilled about the possibilities of this program and am excited for its debut this coming Fall. I hope that through these partnerships, the students’ eyes will be opened to a new world of fellow collaborators, problem solvers and creative minds. For this project to work, we need immediate global communication, which means we need the internet. Royal Seed currently does not even have a phone line, no less internet connectivity. So this month, my goal is to figure out the steps to connecting 500 students and staff to the rest of world through the instillation of a phone line and then wireless internet. The staff at Alpha Beta has been really wonderful in helping with this project and the computer pros at the school have offered to come with me to look at what the school has and what we will need to do to make it happen.
In addition, my other project is bigger, but simpler. Since being in Ghana it has been my goal to look for ways in which the school and home at Royal Seed can become self-sustaining. With 150 children living in and 400 children attending classes at Royal Seed, it is a big task but with the recent purchase of 15 acres of land by Orphans of Ghana and the Children of Africa Fund for Social Mobility, God has answered in a big way. 5 acres of the 15 is set aside for farming and this is the first step. While the home will eventually be relocated to this new land, we have decided to start the farm first as a literal and figurative foundation for the home. With this farm, the kids would be able to learn technical skills and additionally the home would be able to provide an enormous amount of products (fruit, vegetables, meat, eggs, honey… you name it!) which would be sold at the market and used to generate income to keep the home on a sustainable path each month.
In order to begin this project, we need to build a simple one-bedroom home on the land in order to house a farmer who would deter neighbors and passer-bys from stealing produce. This home will cost approximately $4,000. If you would like to support this project, I would be so grateful. The farming program at Royal Seed would allow for us to begin the process of making the school and home a Royal Seed a self-sustaining program- a crucial aspect of our work within the home.
Both of these small projects that are on my heart will us lead into our bigger programs at the home: building a creative, accessible and resourced education system within Royal Seed and providing the 150 children within this home/school a proper home in which they can thrive.

Also, if you like these photos, please follow us on Twitter at!/ETEfoundation where I share many photos of my time in the home


if that isn’t enough, sign-up for our newsletter on our website and get monthly updates on everything we’re doing in Ghana!

Nothing brings me more joy.


These past few weeks have been filled to the brim with love. From the most beautiful bouquet of Valentines Day flowers to the Birthday packages and cards from family and friends back home to the long days of teaching the most wonderful children to the worship-filled mornings turned afternoons of playful abandonment at the Royal Seed Home- these weeks have been not just filled to the brim, but overflowing with love.

Thank you to everyone who made my birthday in Ghana the most joyful birthday that I can remember. The day started off waking up next to my dear friend Capers and new friend Chandler who were in visiting from Hohoe. I tend to wake up at the crack of dawn, so I (as best I could) quietly snuck out of the room to call the one-and-only Matt Knowe- there’s no better way to start my day. We were talking- full of smiles- when my amazing roommate Barbara walked in with a surprise birthday cake from the man on the other end of the line.

Everyone was soon up drinking coffee and eating cake and enjoying the company of friends- both new and old. I was then drenched with water (a Ghanaian birthday tradition) from head to toe,

and Barbara revealed that she had been intercepting my mail for the week and presented me with so many wonderful letters and package notifications. I spent what felt like an eternity sitting on the couch in my wet clothes eating the most delicious chocolate cake staring from the cake to the friends to the gifts and letters. I’m not sure when I have felt more blessed.

That afternoon Capers, Chandler and I went to the beach where we intended to spend a relaxing few hours on the deck of a hotel sipping cocktails and enjoying the luxuries of Ghana. As we arrived in the station we realized that we had no idea where we were and no idea where we were going next. We followed the pointed fingers down to the road and walked a ways along the coast until we found a beach entrance. We soon found ourselves in the middle of a fishing community surrounded by hand carved fishing boats with their owners propped up against them watching the waves roll in after a hard day’s work. Each gaze settled on the water after leaping over the most unexpected and startling sight. The beach that we found ourselves on was covered in plastic- bottles, bags, wrappers, and labels- plastic on plastic on plastic. The three of us stood there stunned, but we soon found ourselves sitting on the white sand gazing, just as the fishermen were over the plastic and past the waves and into the horizon. Our eyes may have been able to avoid the trash, but our thoughts could not. We sat there disturbed toward and contemplative of the world of which we were undeniably a part- the world that made this scene- an immaculate white sandy miracle turned dump- possible.

This moment, at the time, felt isolated- a moment of sorrow and reflection. But now, looking back on it, it seems to have fit into the weekend perfectly. It was a moment of love- love for the earth and for one other- in the midst of many precious moments of love.

One of those interconnected snapshots of love came just the day before. We spent that Saturday (the day leading into my birthday) at Royal Seed painting the kids’ faces and getting to know them more and more.

I talked to a boy named Isaac who I had never seen before. I knew that he was new to the home because he approached me in a timid eagerness- whereas the other children living at and around Royal Seed have come to know me well- boldly yelling “Madison!” and running to show me their new hair styles or sewing projects or Math papers right when I walk in the gate. But Isaac was different. He was shy but happy- excited but a little terrified. I stood in front of him with a small cup of washable red paint in my hand asking what he would want painted on his face. I had just given Paul a giant spider and a flower to Deborah, so I had nature on the mind. I have him a few choices and from them he quickly and happily chose “butterfly!”. In true Hohman fashion, I thought, “It may not be the best butterfly but it will be the biggest dern butterfly that Royal Seed has ever seen” (I’m not much of an artist… but “Go big or go home” is our motto). I began with a stripe of red paint leading from his hairline to his chin and while painting a giant butterfly on his face I asked him what grade he was in, how he was liking school and what his favorite subject was. He is in Class 2 and he loves Math and English. I got excited telling him that I am a math teacher and I love Math too! I asked him what he liked about Math. He replied that his father loves math. I was a little confused (I knew he was living in the home since he was there on a Saturday, but family isn’t a subject that typically comes up amongst the kids) so I asked, “Isaac, where is your father”. He said, “My father is dead”. His face suddenly became very downcast and he wouldn’t even look at me as I paused in mid-butterfly masterpiece. I lifted up his chin so that I could look into his dark eyes and I said, “Isaac, are you going to make your dad proud?” The brightest smile suddenly came over his face and a light came into his eyes as he said, “Yes, mam”. We smiled at each other and in that moment I knew that he would, this year, come out of his cocoon and be the best Math student that the Royal Seed International School has ever seen. I have never felt more blessed to be a small part of these kids’ lives. I get to (along with innumerable other supporters, workers, web designers, fundraisers, teachers and mothers) be the stewards that allow for a child experiencing so much sorrow and pain to make his or her father, mother, friends, or even themselves proud through Math, English, History, football, or music. We get to facilitate pride in a child who feels like at the moment that they have nothing- because in that moment they have education and they have a future.

The greatest blessing in my life is to get to take the love that is so freely given to me and pass it on to a neighbor, a friend, a beach or a child.

1 John 3:16-18, 4:19

PS. for those of you who are interested, the Eye to Eye Foundation had a big week this week with our website launch! We are so proud to be able to share the work that we have been doing and the plans that we have been scheming in Ghana for the past year. Please take a second to check it out if you haven’t yet (or if you want to check it out again!)

Thanksgiving in Harmattan

I may have missed Thanksgiving this past Fall, but in exchange God has given me an entire week of Thanksgiving right in the middle of the season of Harmattan.

These past few weeks back in Ghana have been nothing short of a miraculous challenge. Being home in Kentucky and in Charleston for over a month for the holiday could not have been more blissful. Between spending time with my wonderful sister, cousin and boyfriend drinking bourbon while making ginger snaps (it’s good to be a semi-adult), spending Christmas Eve with old and much beloved friends, and ringing in the New Year with some of my sweetest friends and loving family- it was a joy beyond anything I could have planned. Because of that joy and comfort (which my lovely parents and loved ones happily and generously poured over me), the first week in Ghana was one of the most difficult times of my life. But God in his wisdom reminded me through no shortage of happy hellos and joyful reunions that I am at home here as well. School started and my budding, immature, goofy, and remarkably astute young math students were again a constant source of joy and consternation for me. It was truly good to be back.

On my second day back I was able to return to Royal Seed and see the children with hearts so big, that it amazes me that their tiny frames could ever contain them. I was welcomed with open arms and some surprised faces of children saying, “You came back!!” To which my response is always, “Of course I came back. I will always come back”. I spent that day with Yaw, Jon Jon, Prince, Deborah, Paul, and an uncountable number of other children who together with me enjoyed a few Reese’s cups and some light hearted Veggie Tales. Prince and I learned about how to work a MacBook. He is becoming quite the pro- His motto is, “Computers are freedom”- it is by far the most fun I have ever had with my computer. We watched some old school Michael Jackson videos (prompting us to try and moonwalk), learned how to open, type on and save a Word Document, and Google things. As any good human being would do, the first thing he Googled was himself. At the end of the day, right before I was about to leave- trying to pack up my things and beat the traffic and the dark (to no avail)- Jon Jon waddled in carrying a sheet of gold star stickers which he determinately removed and proceeded to stick all over himself and anything he was standing near. Prince finally got a hold of the stickers and when he did he asked if he could put one on my laptop. I, of course, agreed that that would be the best place for gold start stickers to go. As he put 1 and then 2 on my computer on each side of the apple he smiled as he said, “one for you and one for me”. I prompted, “What do you think they mean?” to which Prince beautifully responded, “It means we love each other”. And to that there is no other response than a hug. I felt welcomed back home- it was still difficult and at times I desperately wanted to be drinking a Kentucky Ale with a Mr Matt Knowe by my side, but in everything, those gold stars remind me why I am here- “Because we love each other”.

Since then life has gradually gotten back to normal. Not much except the weather seems to have changed since I left. In the month I was gone, Ghana entered the season of Harmattan (pronounced “Hammer Time”… or so it seems to me) and it is unlike anything I have ever seen. It is much drier but cooler than when I left and the sun all day sits behind a veil of dust and fog- so much so that even in mid-day you can often look straight at it, this oddly perfectly shaped ball of fire (pictured below). Everything was covered in a thick layer of red dust that has, from what I have been told, traveled all the way from the Sahara thanks to the seasonal desert wind storms there. But since yesterday everything has been bright and new as the dust was washed down to the ocean with the first big rain storm of the season- leaving behind a freshly painted scenery of tropical trees. For which I am endlessly thankful.

And with that scenery change, my life has taken a turn down a new exciting road. This week both Matt and I were accepted at Vanderbilt University’s graduate school (in Chemical Biology and Education respectively). God has been so good to us in this time and we could not be more excited to see what He has planned for our lives in Nashville and at Vandy. Through that news and celebration, God has brought me closer to the people around me, like my roommate and my officemate who were both endlessly thrilled for Matt and I and the plans that God has for us. It is so good to have the opportunity to share joy with people.  We celebrated on Friday night with popcorn and ice cream courtesy of the bar across the street.

As my heart was overflowing with thanksgiving and joy this afternoon, Barbara and I walked into the apartment and plopped down as usual on the couch. Both nearly too exhausted to move, I forced myself up to go and clean up my mess in the bathroom from doing laundry at 2am this morning. Since September, our water has only come on between the hours of 11pm and 3am (“ish”) so we get up in the middle of the night and groggily clean the dishes, wash our clothes and fill our buckets for bathing in the morning. I typically do my laundry between Friday and Saturday because then I can sleep in, but this past Friday the water never came on so I resorted to waking up early this morning to wash my clothes before school. I tend to get water and bubbles and clothes everywhere, but this morning I was too tired to pick up afterwards to I let it sit and wait on me until I came home from school. In cleaning, I flushed the toilet and a miracle happened- it began to fill back up with water. I ran around the house turning on every faucet possible not really believing that it was true, but it was… we had water during the day! Barbara came up from getting our laundry off the lines and I proudly announced to her that, “We have WATER!!”. To we she responded, “NO! Seriously?!?” It was a great moment for us. Since then we have been cleaning and filling up our giant bucket with as much water as possible just in case our luck runs out- and I don’t think we have stopped smiling the whole time. It has been a great day.

And tomorrow I have the chance to again travel to Royal Seed and start my day off with prayers, pledges to Ghana and marching to classrooms as the students process through their morning assembly at school. I am so blessed to get to see almost 400 children marching in pride to their classroom led by their teacher who, that day and everyday, will encourage and inspire them to love, explore and appreciate their education. We have some amazing teachers at the Royal Seed School- teachers who drive me beyond words in gratitude. Thank you to everyone who is, every month, helping to keep them at the front of those classrooms. I have been overwhelmed with the support and the generosity that we have seen in allowing these teachers a salary and consequently allowing these wonderful, curious, and bright students to have teacher.

It has truly been a season of thanksgiving, joy and growth. Everyday is new and every praise sung with an open heart in the glory of living the life set before me.

2 Corinthians 4:15

Out of the Ordinary

It has been a long while since my last blog, but looking back on the last month I can’t see much that has been out of the ordinary – nothing that seemed worth noting and reporting back home about, and that in itself seems quite out of the ordinary. I am a born and raised Kentucky girl who was privileged to attend “The College” of my dreams in the most beautiful town in America- everything about this experience should be out of my ordinary. But after 13 short weeks of living in Ghana I am beginning to feel at home. I have learned to invite people to my meals and snacks. When the lights go out for the 8th night in a row and the water doesn’t flow for three days straight, I throw up my hands and say “EIH!”, but like every Ghanaian, I have resolved to the fact that there is no one to call, so I sit on my indignation and wait for someone else to fix it (which they always do… eventually). I have learned the slight head nod that indicates to the Tro Tro mate that you would like to exit the Tro Tro at the next stop (instead of yelling at him at the last minute like I used to). I can do my laundry by hand- getting more bubbles in less time with every wash. And, with the help of Pat (Alpha Beta’s administrative secretary and new friend) and one of the cleaners at the school, I am learning more and more Twi (the local language) everyday. I am gradually adjusting to the idea that I am absolutely out of the ordinary in Ghana (I stick out like a sore thumb everywhere I go), since Ghana is becoming more and more ordinary to me. I used to get an embarrassing amount of attention as I walked down the street in my neighborhood as the locals yelled, “EY, OBRUNI” (meaning, “HEY, WHITE GIRL”) and children would follow me 20 feet lagging skipping along at my pace, laughing, staring, pointing and singing “Obruni, Obruni, Obruni” on my way to buy bread or bananas. But the attention becomes more and more faint everyday as my neighbors and their darling children begin to realize that the white lady will be walking down the street more often than they care to watch and in that I begin to feel more at home.

I am thankful everyday for the joy that I have found in living here. Life here, as it begins to feel more ordinary, also begins to take shape in my heart as something that is not just a trip or an adventure or a transient learning experience but a joyful, challenging and ever unexpected, out of the ordinary way of life.

I visit the boarding house every Tuesday and Thursday after school to answer questions and help with homework. This past week it was beautiful outside. The sun was just preparing to turn red and sneak away for the night as Michael (the school counselor) told me that the school had just purchased new white boards for the house and that we were welcome to use them for the lesson. The kids saw me smile and without saying a word went out to get it. As we began to lug it into the study room, Daisy (yes, she is as cute as her name makes her sound) asked if, since the white board wasn’t yet on a wall, we could have the lesson outside. The other two kids jumped up and down excitedly and, while I refrained from physically jumping with joy, my spirit jumped a little as well. It was too pretty of a day to deny so I took the white board and each kid grabbed a desk and we moved out math lesson out under the Mango tree. I strain to think of anything that would bring me more joy than teaching Math in Africa at sunset under a Mango tree. The mangos were almost ripe and my joy felt just as sweet as I imagined them being. This life as a math teacher is, needless to say, quite out of the ordinary.

I hope that through this writing, I can be reminded everyday that while this place and these experiences feel more and more typical, everyday brings something different and joyful – a moment giving worthy cause for praise and thanksgiving- and not just in Africa, but in every life in every corner of the world.

Seeing Eye to Eye

Yesterday, I went to the Royal Seed Shelter where I was met with smiling faces producing wet snotty kisses and requesting infinitely many piggyback rides and airplane simulations- which I happily accepted and provided. I met with Pastor Sylvester and Shaibu, the two driven and inspiring men running the school at the Royal Seed Shelter, and I was able to once again see their passion and love for the children with which they work. In addition, I had the incredible opportunity to meet with the new teachers at the school who work diligently day-in and day-out (with very little pay in an extremely challenging environment) to give the 300+ children currently attending school at Royal Seed a better life and a hope for their future. Hundreds of children living in poverty from the surrounding community come to the Royal Seed everyday with the hope for a better education in even the most desperate of conditions. As the sun came up yesterday morning, I was able to witness the overwhelming influx of children into the orphanage from the community. It was both joyful and horrifying- uplifting to see children walking into school ready and excited to learn, and saddening to see the conditions in which they are asked to do so. I sat with 7 girls in Class 2 who were working together on methods of addition- carrying the 1’s, and the 2’s and my hopes with them. They were working together, correcting each other, helping one another and having a blast doing it- all while standing in an open air classroom with desks threatening to fall apart from underneath them onto the dirt floor. This small orphanage cannot sustain a school of 300 children, but the need within the orphanage and within the community is present and growing, so the orphanage addresses it with all available energy and resources.

In my short time here so far, I have seen that this need is based in the fact that many children of Ghana and their loved ones are faced with an impossible decision- choosing between a remedial and often unpredictable but free education at a local government school versus a quality education with a high price tag at a private school. For families living in poverty in the Central Region, there is no option. Because of the inadequate education at the government facilities, many of the families will choose to keep a child at home to work for the family- considering the minor cost of books, uniforms, and transportation a waste of resources in a public education system that has not produced a significant number of promising results.

But in Ofaakor, Ghana, the Royal Seed Shelter is a beacon of hope that seeks to provide a free and quality education to the children living in poverty within and around the shelter. The Royal Seed has thus far managed to run their school based on the actions of kind strangers, volunteers and happenstance donations, but with over 300 children now attending this school, we see a need to provide this program with sustainable resources.

In an effort to pursue this consistent educational need, The Eye to Eye Foundation and the Royal Seed are working toward a pilot project called the Classroom Cooperative. We are thrilled to soon bring this idea to schools and children all across the US and Ghana. The Classroom Cooperative will be a network of classrooms which partner with each other to provide academic, social, and creative support to children of the same age all around the world. The Eye to Eye Foundation sees this opportunity to not only provide academic resources for children in need but also to begin a conversation between children around the world about education, financial resources, culture, and society- inspiring and facilitating creative academic programs whose effects could last for generations. Any group of children can become a member of the Classroom Cooperative and each member will sponsor a specific classroom in need. In doing so, this group will have the opportunity to connect and converse with the children in that classroom- discussing anything from what they learned in history class this week to their new favorite music artist. This conversation will be aided by the Eye to Eye Foundation through our contacts on the ground in Ghana. This program is still in the works, but as it evolves and becomes more established we hope that through it we will be able form relationships between children of all ages, races, and nationalities – connecting both resources and imaginations. If you would like more information about this program or the possibilities of becoming a part of the Classroom Cooperative in the future please contact me at

This monumental project requires a lot of resources on a regular basis. If you would like to help in this endeavor but don’t have a horde of children at hand- we welcome any donations or contributions. All monetary donations will go to benefit the classrooms and the children at Royal Seed through provisions of desks, books, pencils, test materials, and the salary of every teacher at Royal Seed. Please visit our website ( to make a donation via PayPal or contact Abby Ellis at +1616.481.4429 or for more information.

We are so excited to bring this program to life. We welcome any ideas that could further this program and benefit the lives of the children involved. If you would like to join the Classroom Cooperative, receive more information about the program or have any questions, please contact me, Madison Hohman, at +233.020.371.8813 or

As a short introduction: here are a few of the people that would be impacted by the work of the Eye to Eye Foundation at the Royal Seed Shelter in Ghana.

Two of the Class 1 boys playing with Kobe (in back) in the KG (kindergarten) classroom before school assembly. Kobe arrived at the orphanage when I was in Ghana 2 years ago. He is deaf and attends school with the KG classes to learn his ABCs and 123s.

Class 2 (second grade) kids with their teacher, Ms Wobil Joyce.

Some tutoring with the Class 4 teacher before school.

Ms Cynthia teaching the KG 2 class. They were happily working on their times tables for multiples of 2.

Mr Atsou Edem, the french teacher for Class 3 (third grade) through J.H.S. 2 (8th grade), teaching his first lesson of the day to the J.H.S 2 class.

Mr Ebenezer Larbie, the Maths and Science teacher for J.S.H. 1 to J.S.H. 3 (7th grade to 9th grade), teaching a lesson on subtracting indices.

This structure is the Class 6 (sixth grade) classroom. On the left is the new well installed by Orphans of Ghana and in front is the children’s playground. The man walking is Shaibu, a wonderful man who runs the school at Royal Seed.

Inside the Class 6 room, one of the student attentively listens to the spelling lesson for the day.

Always learning, but what normal kids can do their homework after school without a proper afternoon snack?

Before I left yesterday I got to talk one-on-one with the Math and Science teacher, Ebenezer. I asked why he decided to work at Royal Seed (with the remedial pay and the straining condidtions). What he said struck at the heart of the work we are doing here and is (I believe) what makes these pictures so full of beauty and hope. He nearly blushed as he said, “Ah, I dont know what to say except that I believe in these children. I believe in the work here. It is good work. This is God’s work”.

Thank you for helping us make education a reality for these exceedingly bright and endlessly beautiful children.

Sharing Life

There’s a connection between people here that I have never felt anywhere else in the world. You can sense an old, remembered and revered way of life even in the busiest of streets and the most modern internet cafes. Every morning on my way to work I have the pleasure of sitting next to mechanics, cooks, farmers and mothers. Our only acknowledgement of one other is the slight nod or transient glance, but still I know a small piece of their life. As the cook enters, she proceeds to take up one-and-a-half seats while filling the rest of the cabin with the most delightful scent of onions. I have never seen her cook- only shared a seat (or half a seat) with her, but without a doubt she has had her hands wrist-deep in onions and it is only 6:30am. Without ever speaking a word to her I get to imagine her planning a menu and persistently pushing off the grandkids while they eagerly wait for dinner every night.

The mother is easy to spot, as she carries a prop with her. The child strapped to her back slumbers quietly as she enters the tro tro and positions herself in the 15-passenger van at the seat in which she is least likely to wake the baby- the rest of the company in the van happily cater to this need. It is most likely the baby in this case, but her morning smells like sweet baby powder and spit-up, a strange and lovely reminder of new life in the early morning.

As we bump and stumble down the road, I am able to have a little extra patience with the tro tro driver seeing as he struggled with the engine this morning- he reeks of motor oil and gasoline. And it is a little more understandable that the man who elbowed the fire out of me did so without acknowledging it in the least because his perfume that morning was a heavy dose of stale liquor. He likely has many more significant worries on his mind than how gracefully he enters the vehicle.

In Ghana, you share pieces of your life with everyone (through every sensory system possible) whether you like it or not, and I have come to find it really beautiful.

This environment is epitomized by the phrase “you’re invited”, which (even after almost 2 months of being here) I am still getting used to. When approaching someone, anyone, who is eating, snacking, drinking or enjoying anything at all, they always turn to you, even as a stranger, and announce, “you’re invited”. I used to awkwardly pretend like I was considering their offer to share the item they were holding out in my direction and then do my very best impression of a polite decline- that was until Anis (God bless Anis) explained the situation a little further. He told me that the invitation is not a true invitation, but instead merely a civil tradition. In the old villages, before colonialism and western influence, communities partook in food, drink, and life together. Meal times were shared by family, friends and strangers alike out of a communal dish and the words “you’re invited” remain in the culture even if the act of actually inviting a neighbor to your table does not exist with such frequency (although, the hospitality in Ghana surpasses any I have ever seen- if I went to my neighbors door now and asked if we could eat together I have no doubt that (s)he would happily accept and offer to cook). I now know, in response to a “you’re invited”, to smile and say “oh, thank you” and to also invite others to my blessings as well. I say that I am still getting acquainted with the phrase, because I often forget to do the inviting. But there is no shortage of people around who are now comfortable enough with me to let me know when I am in the wrong.

Lunch in the staff room is often followed with Eric (a science teacher) asking me, “was I not invited?” and me promptly slapping my forehead in stupidity at forgetting, once again, my Ghanaian manners. While Eric is usually just giving me a hard time, some take it very seriously.

This week, after a lesson on fractions (in which I had the students split a whole cup of juice into different fractions and compare them), I brought the juice that remained back to the fridge in the office. There was a meeting going on so I snuck in, got a small glass of juice for myself before putting it away and sat quietly at my desk. Two days later, the counselor (who I share an office with) mentioned that I didn’t deserve any of his coke (which at the moment he was inviting me to have some of) because I did not offer to share my juice with him. That lesson from 1st grade should have been more influential in my life, “if you bring a treat to school, bring enough for everyone”. The same experience has gone for my morning coffee. But there is no way I am giving up my School Spirit Coffee that easily!

It is a blessing everyday to learn to share both my life and my food. I hope that I can pass on not only the physical gifts but also the bits of wisdom that I receive so frequently from the wonderful people that surround me here- to continually find joy in the ability that we have to share with friends, those close and those yet unknown.


These past few weeks have allowed me to realize only one – but one very crucial – absolute truth: that my comfort travels with me.

Being in Ghana tests my spirit, my will and my strength- only to the extent that lets me know that if it was by my strength alone, I would have left Ghana the day after I arrived. After my first night’s rest in Ghana, I received a phone call from my doctor back home that raised some serious concerns about my health and my ability to stay in Ghana. I had to wait for nearly a month to find out the results of some more tests that were done by a wonderful doctor here in Ghana. This doctor, last Monday, told me through a smile that I could literally hear through the phone line that I have been healed and that by the grace of God I get to stay where I know I belong. I have never felt more weak or helpless in my own body and never felt more joy in knowing the strength that Christ is in me. That Monday, I made attempts to call the doctor for approximately 5 hours to get my results (he is apparently in very high demand), and as I waited I only knew to pray. Walking up and down the halls, eating lunch, teaching lessons on Highest Common Factors, I could only pray and know that my future was not in my hands. It was joyful and beautiful and vulnerable. I went to a worship service on that Sunday night before that was essentially a 2 hour dance party- the most fun I have ever had with a theater full of strangers. During that service, I thought back to Dad’s study of Daniel and found so much comfort in the words and spirit of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. Even as their lives were being threatened and the weakness of their body exploited by the risk of flame, I picture them all three smiling from ear to ear as they face death with the response, that the God we serve is able to deliver us… but even if he does not, we want you to know that we still serve the Most High God (Daniel 3:16-18). There is so much peace in that.

Also, on that same Monday, I was surprised (again!) with the most beautiful bouquet of flowers a girl ever did see. Orchids and African Lilies. I am so spoiled. The girls at the school were dropping their jaws left and right and the men all agreed that I must have someone who really loves me back in America. All I could do was nod fervently and blush.

My math classes this week felt a little like the day after the first Dr Heldrich Organic Chemistry Test at CofC. The kids didn’t do so well on their first test, but the day that they took the test I knew that that would be the case. I had given them a practice test a week in advance that was almost identical to the real test only much longer. They were supposed to turn it in on the day of the test and only about 5 of them did. The school organizes it in such a way that each teacher is required to give an end of the month test that covers the material from that month of teaching. But since every teacher literally does it at the end of the month, the kids are subject to something equivalent to finals week every single month. I gave my test on the Thursday and Friday of the last week of September and every student looked exhausted. Based on their poor little young drawn out faces, I am now giving end of the week quizzes which will add up to a test grade at the end of every month instead of a monthly test. Their first quiz grade from this past week was added onto their abysmal test grade, but they still weren’t happy. I don’t give percentages and I wouldn’t tell them what the passing score was (and most of them don’t know how to calculate percentages yet- that’s next week!) because they focus so much on that. They only want to know what they need to pass. I tell them that every question that they get right is a point towards getting a better grade in this class- they hate it, but I think it’s good for them.

A real blessing from the horrible test grades is that I am now tutoring at the boarding house for a few of my Form 1 kids. Two of the girls in my class joined us three weeks late so we are working on catching them up. They are the two sweetest girls you’ve ever met- especially together. One is very good at (speaking) English and decent at Math and the other is extremely good at Math but our ability to communicate is often strained. So they help each other. It is really fun. One of the boys at the boarding house is also in my Form 1 class. He has the second highest grade in the class but every time I walk into the boarding house he runs over to ask me if we are doing math today. When I say “Of course! We are always doing math today”, he lights up and runs upstairs to get his notebook and textbook to join us. He may be the coolest kid ever.

The same boy is also the star of the swim team. Who would have thought that my first job would involve (assistant) coaching a swim team? I am not very good at swimming, but really the only requirement is to be able to not drown- which I can do. The swim team isn’t necessarily competition ready- I do my best to keep them all from drowning every week, but my star swimmer swims back and forth, knowing every stroke. I get him to help me keep the other kids’ heads above water, but he is tiny so I have to make sure that they don’t take him under as well. The kids here have been such a joy to me. There isn’t a day that goes by where they don’t make me laugh. One of them this past week ran up to me smiling and slammed right into a screen glass door that I was standing behind. I was a little concerned for his brain at first (he hit hard), but he popped right back up and we both instantly were laughing uncontrollably.

Despite the obvious joy of the children, each week (day) here is met with new challenges and new ways to look for and always find joy in them:

Two days ago, I received a little slip of paper asking me kindly to come pick up a package at the post office. So the next day, after school, I set out to make the hour-long journey into Accra. On the way, the Tro Tro I was riding suddenly went into fits- making the most horrible sounds you have ever heard a car make. Four other lovely people and I got stranded somewhere between Banana Inn and High Street. I waited for a while for another Tro Tro to come around, but eventually I had to flag a taxi since it was already 415 and I was told that the post office closes at 5:00. As we exited the broken Tro Tro, I heard a schoolgirl tell the mate that she was headed home to Colibu. Colibu was on the way to High Street, so I waved her into the taxi with me and, together, Elizabeth and I continued on- dancing to the taxi drivers very loud rap music in the backseat until she jumped out at the Colibu junction. I traveled another 30 minutes in the taxi, getting out at the gates of the post office, only to find out that they close at 4:00 (it was 4:45- and I had been in transit for over an hour). Additionally, I had left my money in my other bag at home so I had to walk about a mile to find a cheaper Tro Tro that could take me to Nkrumah Circle and then another one to Banana Inn (home). I was frustrated and worn out, but somehow my time with Elizabeth stayed with me. It comes in the oddest times and disguises, but my comfort, in the form of dancing to rap music with a Ghanaian schoolgirl, literally traveled with me.

Two days ago was followed immediately by yesterday, during which I was able to take some time to do my laundry. Our water is still off here on the third floor of the apartment building (this is the third week that we have been getting up at 3 in the morning to fill up water jugs and wash dishes), but they usually have water on the 1st floor, so I lugged my laundry, 2 buckets and soap downstairs to the spicket only to find that it was off downstairs today as well. So I came back upstairs to use our back-up supply of water and washed my laundry in the shower. The sun came out just as I was hanging up my wet and oh-so-clean clothes on the line and I was thrilled at myself. So proud- knowing that yes, I could actually survive here without a washing machine and that I would have one of my favorite dresses clean by tonight and ready to wear to church tomorrow. Just before the sun went down last night, I went get my laundry off the line only to find that someone else had already graciously taken it off the line for me and then proceeded to run away with it. I just sat there for a second, frustrated and frankly pissed off that all my underwear was gone. After that second, I went up and told Barbara- she laughed thinking I was kidding- nope, not kidding. She left her dinner cooking on the stove to help me. I had immediately jumped to the conclusion that some rag-a-muffin had run off the with white girls clothes, but Barbara is a bit more level headed than me and thinks that one of the children in the complex may have gotten laundry off the line and accidentally grabbed mine as well. We have asked around, but no luck yet.

And that is just the past two days- although sometimes it feels much longer.

Whether it is to the sterility of a doctor’s office, the locked gates of the postal service, the quiet boarding house study room filled with laughter or even to the vacant laundry line I know now, without a shadow of a doubt, that my comfort travels with me.  2 Corinthians 1:3-11


The word of the week is patience. I knew before coming to Ghana that a lot of patience would be required of me, but this week has shown me just a small picture of how necessary it really is.

My day starts between 4 and 5am depending on how much joy I find in seeing the sun and how loud the traffic is on that particular morning. It is good for me to wake up early because you never really know when something won’t work right in Ghana. 4 days ago, I went to brush my teeth and found that when I turned my faucet on, it just laughed at me- gurgling and sputtering in its stubbornness. The morning after that and yesterday morning and again this morning have been in the same spirit, but I guess it is good to hear laughter, even if only from your bathroom sink, first thing in the morning. The water spicket in the parking lot outside works so Barbara was able to get some jugs from the school’s boarding house and we go down at night to fill our jugs expecting that next morning will also produce no water. As we were walking into the apartment yesterday, I asked Barbara who we should call about getting the water fixed. She looked at me smiling a little and said, “no, no. There is no one to call. We just wait”. Right. How silly of me. Patience.

Barbara and I take the Tro Tro to school in the morning. I may have told this already but Tro Tros are essentially large (15 passenger) vans that act as the most common mode of transportation in Ghana. It is really cheap (40 pesewas – about 25 cents) to get to work but the downside is that each Tro Tro is independently owned and managed by the driver and his “mate”. The mate is a man that sits at the passenger door and yells out the window the name of the location where the Tro Tro is headed. If you want to go in that direction you simply signal to the mate, they pull over and you jump on. The mate also tells the passengers inside the Tro Tro what stop is coming up next so when you want off you simply say “bar stop”. The independent ownership makes riding the Tro Tro system… unpredictable. The majority of Tro Tros are falling apart- I rode in one the other day in which the engine was smoking up through the stick shift and I could see the road through the bottom of the door which kept moving back and forth on its hinges at every bump and pot hole. In addition, if a Tro Tro driver feels like taking another route that day then they can. There has been construction (they have been paving the road for 2.5 years now) at the Dansoman Roundabout (where Alpha Beta is located) so most of the Tro Tro’s going to Dansoman Roundabout have chosen other, more profitable routes. This leaves us waiting for anywhere between 30 seconds and 30 minutes for a Tro Tro every morning to get to school. And every morning I tell myself, “patience”.

When I do get to school, I clock in and make my way through the furrowed browed cleaning crew who are in the process of moping red dust from the construction off the stairs that I need to walk up. Once leaving a trail of red-dusted tip-toe prints up three flights of stairs, I usually find my office locked. I come early with Barbara because she is the secretary and so each day I am there before the other teachers I share an office with. So I set my stuff down to go search for Yaw, the go-to maintenance man at the school, who has been cutting an office key for me for 3 weeks now. He takes a few minutes to flip through his string of keys to find key#55 and hands me the entire ring to take upstairs- all this while observing me with a look in his eyes that says, “patience”.

My days fly by without much struggle barring the children not wanting to turn in their homework, but children are children and misdemeanor marks flow out of my pink pen when necessary, but with as much frequency as praises and merit points (don’t worry).

Two days ago was Barbara’s 25 birthday (which she neglected to tell me until about 5:00) so we decided to go out for dinner (the fact that we still didn’t have water encouraged this decision). We waited for the persistently irregular Tro Tro for about 45 mins until we instead caught 2 seats in a taxi headed to the restaurant of Barbara’s choosing. As we got closer we realized that everything around us suddenly became very dark. The lights were out in the entire area, but as we pulled up to the restaurant we sighed a relief- the restaurant had a generator. So we went in, made our order of chicken, chips (french fries) and a sprite and sat down to wait. About 5 minutes into waiting, the room went dark. The generator had gone out. Barbara and I looked at each other, laughed at the struggle and I wished her a Happy Birthday. The manager of the restaurant told us to wait for the chubby and pleasantly grinning security guard to fix the generator. We did, and 10 minutes later, the lights were back and in 20 we had food in hand. It only took a little patience.

And last night I received a text message from the mother of Royal Seed Shelter that confirmed that after 3 weeks of waiting (and straining patience) we can meet this week with the Social Welfare worker and see the land on which we plan to build a new home for the children at Royal Seed. Please keep this project in your prayers- that the process moves quickly and efficiently and with the best interest of the kids in mind. If you want to keep updated on any of the progress of this building project or our education project please email me at and I will send out regular emails to anyone interested about our plans, needs, successes, and ideas for these 118 beautiful children. It is in this project that my patience is most strained. I am lucky and so very blessed to get to visit the orphanage each week and play with the most adorable and carefree children you have ever laid eyes on. But getting these children a proper home and education is something on which I refuse to stand still. Ghana will require patience, but with every teaspoon of patience we will pay forward with a water jug full of diligence and creativity. After all, these jugs must be good for something after our water comes back.

The Wonderfully Worn-Out Way of Life

These are my shoes after just one week of teaching in Ghana. Granted, they were not brand new when I stepped foot off the plane, but they sure didn’t have the nail protruding out of the heel. Not only have my shoes been worn-out- walking up and down halls and to and from Tro Tros (the cheapest and most convenient mode of transportation in Ghana)-, but I have been worn-out. Thankfully, this isn’t a worn out where you come home wanting to go to bed hoping that things will be different tomorrow. Nope, I have been wonderfully worn-out. Every night, Barbara and I come home to our new apartment at around 6:00pm, struggle to get the door open with the one key we have (the other one is lost- and it is apparently a particular kind of special key that cannot be duplicated… ohhhh Ghana), I crash on the couch while she plops in the chair and we sit there for some time wondering “so… what should we do for dinner?”. Over dinner we both laugh about the kids and the teachers and how ridiculous both of our respective cultures are and by the time the sun goes down, I am excited to wake up tomorrow at 5am and try something different, something new and something that might work better than what worked today. For all the teachers out there (and especially my Mimommy), thank you for giving your life to children in the way that you do. It is truly a sacrificial blessing that requires so much patience and dedication and humility, in that the praise you get for your work comes in the form of a 12 year old… but what better praise than that coming from a brutally honest child.

Teaching Math has been such a joy already. It has only been 2 weeks, but I have already learned so much. I share an office with Ernest Atakesi and Anis Haffar, two older (but young at heart) men who are veteran teachers of everything from English to Literature to Ancient History. I receive welcomed advice from them everyday, but more effectively I see how much their students adore them. In the morning, most of the students in their classes pop their head in the door before school starts just to say good morning or ask if either of them need anything- I have seen students light up at the chance to get either teacher a water, snack or extra chair. They are beloved at the Alpha Beta Education Centre and I am so honored to work side-by-side with them everyday. This week I shared some Avett Brothers with Anis. He said he loved it, but the lyrics were too good to allow him to get any work done.

My students have already blown me away. On the first day of class, my Form 2 class (8th grade) learned the different types of numbers (Natural, Integers, Rationals, Irrationals, and Reals) and a few of the students would not let go of the idea of an irrational number- “what is Pi?” and “how in the heck do we know that a number never repeats if we can’t even get to the end of it?”. That day we talked about how Pi could be found by dividing the circumference of a circle by its diameter and I challenged a few of them to try it. The next day one of the girls, Manuela, came in saying that I had gotten a definition wrong. She had looked up on the internet and found that ALL irrational numbers have periodic decimals and ALL rational numbers have terminating decimals. So we wrote her hypothesis up on the board and the theme of the class that day suddenly became “PROVE IT!” I ask all my students to not believe anything I say and to try to prove any statement that they think might be bogus (we have also proved the properties of multiplying and dividing negative and positive numbers using a giant number line on the floor)- and she was doing just that! I asked the students, “If I told you that all turtles were blue, how would you prove me wrong”. One girl, Shaniqua, immediately raised her hand and said “I’d show you a green turtle”. “Yes! That is called Proof by Example”. So we went back to Manuela’s hypothesis and decided that we could prove this wrong just by finding a rational number that had a periodic decimal. So each student came up with a fraction of integers (a rational number – 3/7, 1/3, etc) that, by using long division, they found was also a periodic decimal, a fraction that never gives you a remainder of 0 in your long division. So we all found an example that proved that rational numbers could be periodic. BUT the kids still didn’t let it go. The next question was “How do we know irrational numbers never repeat if we can’t do long division on them”. So we talked about how to prove a number is actually irrational by using Proof by Contradiction (which I spelled c-o-n-t-r-i-d-i-c-t-i-o-n on the board and one of the girls pulled out her dictionary to correct me… ridiculous)- assuming that a number is rational and then showing through basic algebra that that cannot be true- so therefore it must be irrational. BUT these kids don’t even know how to use exponents yet, so I told them that we would prove that the square root of 2 is irrational after the lesson on indices. They were excited about it- yes, excited and looking forward to a math lesson. So we proved Manuel’s internet hypothesis wrong (which Manuela was not happy about), proved the original definition correct, learned that the internet can lie and what it means to be a Mathematician (using 2 different kinds of proofs)… all in one day! And that was only the second day of class. I was honestly floating. I had so much fun and I honestly think that most of the kids did too.

My Form 1 (7th grade) class is a different story. They are stubborn and obnoxious most of the time, but I broke a smile onto the face of one of the tough-stuff bullies (who I had to pull aside on the very first day of class for being rude and distracting) the other day. He was dancing like a ballerina on his giant number line that each student made- thinking that no one was watching- and I asked if he could save his dance moves for after class when he might could teach me a few of them. He burst out laughing, as did his buddies. Since then, I have had only a little trouble with him and he has actually spoken up and even volunteered for some activities in class. It’s has been a true blessing to watch.

The teachers at school have been wonderful, kind, helpful and always wanting to be “invited” for lunch. In Ghana whenever you are eating, you always invite whoever is around to eat with you- even total strangers- by saying “You are invited”. It always throws me off. When I began teaching 2 weeks ago I was the only non-Ghanaian and also the only female. So… I stand out a little, but since that time we have picked up one new full-time and one part-time female teacher which has been really nice. The Math and Science Dept is still all men, and I have named them the “Boy’s Club”. They all have one large shared office on the ground floor next to the Chemistry Lab and every time I walk in they are cutting up, pushing each other around, sharing ideas, and doing lesson plans all in one space. I am upstairs on the 3rd floor with the older and less boisterous English and History teachers. But despite my distance from them (in both office space and cultures), I have been able to work with a few of them to create the new Science and Math Club. Tony (the lab teacher), Eric (the General Science teacher) and Alex (I have no idea what Alex teaches) are my co-coordinators for the Club and I think it will be really fun. Tony is reserved and very “lab ratty” (in a pleasant/nerdy way), Eric is more quite and respectful and has so many fun idea and is actually able/willing to follow through on them, and Alex is the loose cannon who will make the club exciting for the rest of us. They are all ridiculously intelligent and I’m really excited to get to work with all of them.

Being that I am surrounded by the “boy’s club”. I have come to terms with the fact that I am constantly being talked around in Twi (the native language). I can hear people talking about me but not have a clue what they are saying. I have been so blessed to have a friend in Barbara (my flatmate) who is willing to protect me from gossip and rumors. We were laughing while making dinner last night about the fact that someone came to ask her at school yesterday what it was like to cook with me. She told me that she just laughed and said “You know I am a busy woman. Do we make your food? So, why should it matter to you how we make it together?” She is so funny and has been such a blessing to me. We went to the butcher shop (cold store- it’s literally just a store front with a ton of freezers in it) last week and from the moment we walked in I could tell that I was being watched. One of the men cutting the meat for us started arguing with one of the men that was stacking boxes in the back. I could tell that the conversation was about me, but I had not a clue what they were talking about. They then pulled a more elderly gentleman, who looked like he had been running the cash register behind which he was sitting for the past 50 years, into the argument. He agreed with the man who was stacking boxes who then raised his hands in victory while the other man gave us our meat. The entire time Barbara just stood there smiling, but not saying a word. After we left I asked what they were arguing about and she said that the man cutting the meat was telling the man with the boxes to hurry up, but he said that he couldn’t hurry because he was distracted by me because I was the first white person to ever come into their place of business. They argued for a while about whether that was true or not and then pulled the elderly man into the conversation. The wise cashier agreed that I was in fact the first white person they have even had in their shop- the boxes man claimed victory and we left. Even buying meat in Ghana in a social adventure and everything (and I do mean everything) can be turned into an activity or playful argument. I hope to learn to language quickly so I can start to sit in on these conversations quietly while people chat about me- around me.

These past 2 weeks have been full of challenges and growth and excitement. I am thrilled to start next week, learning and finding joy in the people and the work around me. Thank you all for your prayers and love and notes of encouragement. I have letters and notes from friends and family around my room (on my new bookshelf!) and to see them everyday when I wake up and before I go to bed is such an amazing encouragement.

If you want to contact me please do by

phone: +233.020.371.8813



address: Madison Hohman c/o Alpha Beta Education Centre PO Box 4001 Accra, Ghana.

I love letters. Love them so much.

Also, The Eye to Eye Foundation is working to start finding sponsors for children at the Royal Seed Home to go to school. I am still getting the details together on the cost of schooling and which students we would be sending, but there are 117 children living in this home and we hope to provide every one of them with an education that they can find joy in and make progress with. If it is on your heart to help with this cause in any way please let me know. I will have more information on it this week, but please begin thinking and praying about if this might be something that you, your family, friends, classroom, youth group or Bridge club might want to be a part of. Thank you all for your support and love, both for me and for these beautiful kids.