• Frank Haight: Blue Springs family on a mission for Ghana

  • When Martin and Mildred Cobbinah visit Martin’s homeland of Ghana, West Africa, which they do every five to eight years with family members, they never go empty-handed.

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  • When Martin and Mildred Cobbinah visit Martin’s homeland of Ghana, West Africa, which they do every five to eight years with family members, they never go empty-handed.
    Before flying to the capital of Accra on May 28 with eight family members and three close friends, the Cobbinahs collected eyeglasses, school supplies and medical equipment – all earmarked for Obuasi, Martin’s hometown.
    “We try to do what we can on our regular visits to Ghana,” Mildred says, sitting with her husband in the living room of their Blue Springs home, where pictures of their three children and two grandchildren hang on the wall behind them. “There is nothing special that we do. Nothing special at all.”
    Making the trans-Atlantic crossing safely tucked away in a suitcase, in three small boxes, were 40 pairs of eyeglasses that members of Mildred’s church, Plaza Heights Baptist, had collected, as well as 10 more pairs donated by the Blue Springs branch of Discover Vision Centers.
    Waiting for the Cobbinahs on their arrival in Accra was a large plastic drum filled with school and medical supplies the Cobbinahs had collected and shipped in advance at their own expense. They were distributed in Obuasi, a gold-mining town where Martin lived most of his young life and attended school. He later attended Nautical College and served as a navigator aboard a ship carrying heavy equipment and transformers to Ghana to erect a hydroelectric dam.
    Martin recalls meeting with the medical director and staff at the Obuasi Government Hospital, where he presented the much-needed eyeglasses and medical supplies.
    “They were very elated and thankful for the items and delighted to know that they are thought of by people in the United States of America,” Mildred recently wrote in a thank-you letter to her church.
    Aware of the urgent need of eyeglasses in the nation of some 24 million people, Mildred, who wears glasses, as does her husband, says she feels “blessed that she could do something on this scale.”
    What excites her the most, she says, was that her church caught her excitement and became involved in her small mission effort that resulted in one member bringing in two pairs of glasses from John Knox Village where she worked, saying, “I can get more.”
    “I loved it; I loved it,” she says excitedly, with a broad grin.
    The Cobbinahs were moved to help the sick after learning that those in Ghana facing surgeries and diagnostic procedures must provide the dressings, medications and some equipment for their surgical or diagnostic procedures.
    Wanting to offer assistance in this area, Martin asked his daughter, Dr. Ingenue F. Cobbinah, an OB/GYN physician in Blue Springs, not to discard items that weren’t used in surgeries and procedures so he could take them to Ghana. And she did. He also asked other doctors to do the same.
    Page 2 of 3 - And what about the school supplies that Martin donated to the elementary school he once attended? All these pencils, ink pens, pencil sharpeners, erasers, scratch pads, crayons, rulers, scissors and more were collected after the Cobbinahs discovered the need of them on their last visit in 2004.
    “Because of the classroom situation that we saw the last time we were there, we brought certain items that school kids take for granted here,” Mildred says. “But in Ghana it is not taken for granted, so we brought (needed) things that many children can’t afford.”
    Says Martin: “My intention was even if I can give them something that they can use for at least one week that their parents don’t have to pay for, then I have achieved my goal.”
    Mildred noted all the schoolchildren wear uniforms, which are not easy to come by.
    “But even more despondent,” she says, “is the fact that not all of them have shoes. A lot of them wear what we call thongs, but at least that is better than nothing. But to give them school supplies was something else.
    “It was a lot of joy just knowing that there is some way or another you can help in your own special way. It doesn’t have to be anything big or expensive, just something they can use.”
    Martin, who was born 70 years ago in Ghana when it was known as the Gold Coast, had the opportunity to address the students at an all-school assembly when he dropped off the school supplies.
    Telling the children why he came to the school he attended years ago, Martin stressed that if he could make it through school, they could too. He explained his mother died when he was 6 years old and his daddy never went to school, so there was no one to help him with his homework.
    Reflecting on his visit to the Obausi school, Martin says he brought just a little token of his love of the children by giving back to the school, adding: “There was much joy from the teachers.”
    Every trip has a highlight. And for Mildred, it was seeing the expressions on the face of her 43-year-old son, Martin Asamoah Cobbinah, a Kansas City police officer, as he chatted with his dad’s 92-year-old sister and 82-year-old brother.
    “It is something we have been looking forward to from the day he was born,” Mildred says, recalling this was her son’s first trip to Ghana. His two sisters, Ingenue and Stella Ofosua Cobbinah, had been there before.
    “I got a chance myself to see his interaction with his aunt and uncle, and it was moving,” Mildred says. “It was a tearjerker; it brought tears to me.”
    Seeing his son joyously interacting with his aunt and uncle was something Martin says he will forever cherish.
    Page 3 of 3 - “I wanted him to go at least once before I died,” he says. “I didn’t want him to have to go over there when I am not there.”
    Mildred, a native of Louisiana, made her first trip to Ghana shortly after her marriage to Martin in 1967, and her life hasn’t been the same since.
    “Ghana has my heart,” Mildred says, noting her trip there (May 27 to June 8) was her sixth one. “I love Ghana. … I’ll do just about anything for Ghana.”
    Would she like to live there?
    “My heart is to go to Ghana, then live in Ghana and visit the United States” she says.
    Is that a possibility?
    “It could be,” she replies. “But as long as we can keep on doing what we are doing, I am OK with it.”

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