Written by: Sheila Leech. Published on 12th August 2017
'Journals from Ghana' features poignant stories from the 2017 Ghana medical internship where Sheila was serving as a team leader.
His beaming smile greeted us each morning as our convoy of vehicles pulled into the dusty schoolyard. Such joy at greeting the team that had become his friends so quickly! His wide smile was reciprocated by the team members. The Reach Beyond summer interns looked forward every day to seeing Joshua.
Joshua was not the most agile team player during games, he was not the most articulate student but he definitely seemed to be the happiest.
Born with cerebral palsy, eight year old Joshua struggles to speak clearly. His gait is awkward and he falls a lot. This does not deter him from joyfully launching in to every activity taking place from chasing bubbles to playing "duck duck goose" to throwing a ball. To watch him throw a beach ball is a tense, breath-holding experience as he positions himself carefully, staggering slightly until he achieves balance. He raises the ball above his head and, after several aborted attempts, with incredible concentration and deep breaths – succeeds in launching the ball in the general direction of the next person in line.
Even when his effort is not quite successful the satisfaction he gets from the thunderous applause of the surrounding team is evident by the beaming smile he gives and the way he enthusiastically applauds himself.
There is a saying in development circles "it takes a village to raise a child" and certainly this seems to be true for Joshua. It appears that his teachers are patient with him, other parents are caring and look out for his safety and other children are willing to let him play even though he has the capacity to totally mess up their games. True he gets a bit bullied and pushed around at times but what child doesn’t?
Joshua's father visited the clinic one day. He is an intelligent articulate man who had spent some years living and working in London. Now he is home in the village, a far cry from the busy bustling streets of England's capital city. His life consists of farming at a gentler pace under the hot African sun and eking out a living to provide for Joshua and his two brothers. He spoke with love and affection for Joshua, who although always filthy from rolling in the dust and his constant falls, was always well dressed and wore good strong shoes to facilitate his mobility.
The Reach Beyond intern team were blessed by Joshua. They loved his warm welcome each day, loved and admired his supreme efforts to accomplish even small tasks and celebrated with him when he made small steps forward in learning new skills.
To many people, Joshua's life might seem a sad tragedy of what life might have been - if only he had been born without cerebral palsy, if only he had been born in the UK, or somewhere he could have received speech and physical therapy. However, Joshua's life is filled with the important things – the love of his family and lots of laughter. Every new thing he can do is a huge accomplishment and every new thing he learns contributes to a better quality of life for him. While our team were sad to think about what Joshua's life might become, Joshua teaches us a lesson which the apostle Paul learned long ago "I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content" (Philippians 4:11). Joshua seemed VERY content with his life and especially the gift of a new red baseball cap from the USA!