A small, dark blue school bus makes its way down a dirt road through the African bush. On either side, the passing scenery is of towering palm trees bending under the weight of coconuts and the dense, green foliage of cocoa trees with their pods hanging from the trunk like fat, green missiles.
As we ‘round the bend in the road, a small cluster of huts emerges with a group of children waiting with anticipation. When they see the bus bounce into view, they begin to shout and jump with joy. It is time to be picked up for reading camp.
As I stepped off the bus to open the door for the children, Adjoa, in her purple dress, grabs my hand, smiles and says, “Good morning, Uncle Zach”. As the bus makes its rounds, we stop at four or five other places to collect some of the children who live too far from the school to walk. We laugh and smile as the bus bounces along the road. The children giggle at the goofy, big white guy whose head looks like a boggle head. The sound of children giggling with delight is one of the purest, most uplifting sounds in the world.
Reading camp. 55 children from this village gather this week for special attention. All of the primary school students have been invited. The US team has brought books, songs, smiles, and hugs. Many of the children struggle to read. During the reading assessment where we determined which class the students should be in, I met several who told me their age of 12 years and that they are in class three, the equivalent of third grade. These are our children. These are the ones who come each day, seeking to read, knowing that without the ability to read, their future is limited, or worse, non-existent. What a burden for such young hearts and minds to bear. In just two days, some of the children have shown improvement. Some, who could not identify letters yesterday, know the whole alphabet today. What will they be able to do tomorrow? Some, who could not read the words, “A happy smile”, can now show their joyous smiles as the read and understand words on a page. What will they be able to read tomorrow? A sign? A job application? A doctor’s directions? A president’s speech?
Dear readers, pause for a moment and think exactly how much you read every single day. Road signs. Computer screens. Billboards. Directions. Recipes. What if you could not read? How would your life be plunged into darkness? How would you function? Imagine that despite your efforts, you can only pick out a few letters. Now what? Where is your future? That is what we come to Ghana to do. We strive to empower both the Ghanaian teachers and students so that they may have a hope for a future. All students have dreams but not all students have access to those dreams. Day two of reading camp has helped our dear children in Boate take another step towards their dreams. What promises and dreams will day three hold?