Monday, February 8, 2016

(The Associated Press)
Strength is your biggest companion

Posted on March 25, 2014 at 3:46 p.m.


My name is Monica Murphy and I am a recent graduate of Saint Mary’s College. I graduated with a degree in social work. I am currently living in Ghana, Africa, teaching, doing social work, serving as the librarian, assisting in classrooms, and writing stories about ordinary people who face adversity with optimism and faith. I arrived in August 2013, and will be here until May of this year. I am called, as everyone in life is, to use my gifts and step into the unknown—boldly.

I love people and I love to write. Since my formative years, stories have always allured my spirit. I remember holding a toy microphone with poise, while reciting a self-made script. In the same breath, I would talk to imaginary people, capturing their stories. I do believe that our gifts birth from a young age. My inquisitive spirit intensifies my hunger to tell stories with vibrant authenticity, thus sharing them in the most dignified way. There is nothing more gratifying. Stories teach us about resurrected hope, resilience, determination, how to live more fully, and help us to rebuild mindsets and attitudes. Often times, too, our judgments fade when we listen with an open heart—we are then more eager to find a common understanding.

So far, the stories that I have captured, mainly from my “superstar” kids, and the courageous women who are now my friends, astonish me. One key lesson I have learned is that it is hard to break the cycle of poverty. It is humbling and promising to know that some of these bright individuals desire to be educated for a brighter future. Here is one story—

KASOA, Ghana-

According to a mother of three, life has not been easy. In her formative years, she lived in a compound house, which accommodated about twenty families. Her family, twelve-in-size, lived in one of the rooms, the size of a small bedroom. As one can imagine space was tight. As the fifth child out of ten, she spent a lot of her childhood playing “mom,” carrying household duties and many responsibilities. Because of hardship and a lack of money, she also sold items on the roadside. She could not attend early childhood education right away, mainly for financial reasons. At the age of seven, she participated in a non-formal educational program. From there she finished her secondary education.

She still faces challenges today, but remains positive for her children—who keep her going. When paid her teaching salary, she uses the money to support her children. Investing in her children’s education, she says, is her number one priority and dream. For example, she hires someone for private tutoring lessons. This is just one quiet sacrifice that she makes. She shared, “Raising my kids to become useful to society is a challenge for me.” One of her hopes is to see her children achieve their dreams. Despite any dispiriting moment, like a lack of food, she keeps plugging away, filled with grace along the way.

Her home is incomplete, as only one of the rooms has a roof. The completed room is a multi-purpose room: a living room, kitchen, bedroom, and storage. The other rooms, roofless, are vacant, but the kids enjoy kicking balls in the space.

My continued visits to her home are always invigorating experiences. I am riveted by her story and wisdom every time. Her hardship is light in comparison to the intoxicating joy that she has. As I talk with this mother, she is always looking skyward, inspired by her faith, which keeps her going. Even in the challenges, I am amazed by her generous soul and motherly love. The stories people tell do in fact change us in a personal way. If anything, we can take these lessons to help us become a better version of ourselves.

I leave you with her words, “Strength is important because without it, you can’t work and care for your children. My advice for other females out there is to focus, believe, and be courageous.”