Jason and Tabitha Wheeler live in northern Virginia and attend Christ Church, Anglican. Jason volunteered in Ghana with Ghanaian Mothers’ Hope in 2012.
This is my second Reading Camp in Ghana through Ghanaian Mothers Hope. When the first trip came to an end, I promised the children “I will be back again soon”. Well, it took me seven years to keep that promise, but I am so thrilled to be back. As one of my fellow missioners says, “you will never get the red Ghanaian dirt off your shoes” (in other words, you will always have a piece of it in your heart and a desire to return).
This second time around is even more special for me since I’m sharing the experience with my oldest daughter, Tabitha. She has been longing to participate in these Reading Camps since she was 10-years old, and now Tabitha will be starting her senior year of high school this fall and there was no stopping her from coming. Tabitha has a big heart for little children and a real gift for teaching, and would like to pursue early childhood education as a career. What a wonderful opportunity to enrich herself as well as the children of Ghana. I have no doubt she will learn just as much from them in the process.
We just completed day 3 of reading camp in Boate, a small farming village approximately 2 hours north of the capital city of Accra. I am leading the level 1 class along with one of our teen missioners, Carys. We also have 3 Ghanaian teachers in the classroom who are assisting but also learning about the way grade school children are taught in the U.S.
My level 1 class is for the 2nd graders (who range in ages from about 8 to 14) who are struggling the most with their reading. On day 1, most knew the alphabet, some knew the sounds of the letters, but few could actually read any words. But where these children lack in their current reading abilities they make up for with their desire, dedication, effort, respect, and eagerness to learn. These children come from homes with dirt floors, thatched roofs, no electricity, and no running water. They also have no books to call their own, yet they know that books can open up a door to the bigger world beyond their village. But the key to unlocking that door is through the ability to read.
I’m very encouraged by the progress so far. After just three short days of teaching through books, poems, songs and art, we are already seeing improvement in their abilities. To see their eyes go big and a smile from ear-to-ear as they suddenly realize “Hey! I just read something in this book!” is enough to melt anyone’s heart. The experience for all of us is beyond magical, it is providential!
I has officially been three days of reading camp, and I am so proud of my class. They went from too nervous to speak to so excited they didn’t want to stay in their seats. They are no longer afraid to laugh or giggle when something is funny. I make sure to always have a smile on my face, that way, if a child looks at me while I’m observing their work, they’ll see a happy face.
The thing I am most surprised about is their level of confidence. They’ll gladly pop out of their seats to do dance motions with us, where as on the first day, no one would move or even make a sound. Many students still struggle with understanding and remembering the sounds of the letters
Leading a class can be a bit nerve-wracking, but it makes it easy to see how incredibly far they’ve come in just three short days. I know I won’t be able to hold back the tears when day five comes to a close.