By Jason Wheeler,
On Friday morning we leave the hotel and drive to the village of Akramaman where we will be running the Reading Camp next week. We enter the small village after driving down a long dirt road filled with potholes the size of a Volkswagen Beetle, and apparently the road has been greatly improved from last year. Visually, the village is exactly what I imagined. Emotionally, it is something entirely different. I was told about the road conditions (poor) and the living conditions (poorer still), but until you see it, walk it, breathe it, and just absorb the moment of it; you really can’t anticipate the emotions that come with it until your feet are on the ground kicking up the red, red dirt.
When we step off the bus at the new
preschool built, by the Grace of God, through the hard work of Ghanaian Mother’s Hope, a few children appear out of nowhere glancing nervously and curiously at our small group of strangers. A few waves and “hellos” elicit big teethy smiles. The brave ones step up and want to touch your hand or tell you their name, while others keep a little bit of distance. More and more children keep appearing. They seem to double in numbers every 10 minutes – children of all ages ranging from about 14 down to the littlest 1-year-old toddlers.
We go to work unpacking supplies, setting up classrooms and coordinating lesson plans. Bruce and I survey the playground and take stock of the tools and materials we will need to rebuild the swings. The materials will have to be located among the small shops lining the streets of Amasaman. The tools will be a mixture of well worn hand tools sent over from the States, combined with whatever we find laying around the village (and Bruce’s gift of ingenuity).
When our preparations at the school conclude, Debi takes us on a walk into the village. The children come along, some racing ahead, others following behind, and still others grabbing us by the hand to walk side-by-side. As we reach the middle of the village, we have become a small parade. We weave among the huts and hovels of the village and are greeted with some smiles. More children join the “parade”. Sometimes, a laughing mother pushes their shy one towards us or asks us to shake their children’s hands. I’m sure we are quite a sight, especially to the smallest villagers who rarely, if ever have seen an American.
Our parade takes us past a funeral at a respectful distance. We proceed to the house of the village chief. He is very pleasant and cheerful, but the experience of the moment doesn’t even sink in until later that I actually just met and shook hands with a real African chief.
We then continue our walk and reach the edge of the village. We bid the children goodbye so we can walk down the dirt road towards the other school site to look at the new primary and secondary school.
Debi provides us with the history of how GMHope came to this village and Mercia talks about all the great things that have happened since, including the building of a new health center with nurses’ quarters, and the fact that these new facilities encouraged the city to bring electricity to the village.
We board the bus for the drive home, but are excited and ready to return for the start of camp on Monday…which suddenly feels like such a long way off.