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And So It Begins. . . Reading Camp Training. . . . by Martina Kinslow

Debi asked me to give some impressions of the team’s first day going to the Reading Camp Training.


On the road to Akramaman last Thursday, we had to eat our breakfast in the bus byfbc386d4-c1a1-4fb1-9eae-a9dea80bc4a4 by peeling eggs or making peanut butter sandwiches. One experienced volunteer would remind us to take our malaria drugs. All of this while watching ladies along the road in their colorful dresses carrying variety products on their heads and cute babies on their backs.


The roads are bumpy, red clay. Goats and chickens run across the road but finally, we made it.


Teachers from three different villages are waiting to expand their knowledge about building understanding relationship with their students. They are taught the importance of building and establishing love for books and reading.

All of them dress nicely moving quietly to the very small seats at the children’s desk, ready to listen to training presented by Debi and Becky.


I took my place in the back –camera ready. The information delivered by Debi and Becky, and the teacher’s interactions and feedback were so interesting that I totally plunked myself down in to the training.

The teachers were asked to write two symbols of your life. I had my camera ready to video tape the answers. Suddenly I thought, let me think about my symbols as well.


My first symbol is a tree. It represents life- like a tree we all have roots  encored in different places, countries, continents… we all grew up in different culture, building characters, and like a tree no person is never same and always changing.

And there is a symbol of “Heart” representing love connecting all of us in this very moment.

Martina Kinslow lives in Bradenton, Florida. She and Debi know one another through the Community Foundation. Martina hope to start nonprofit work in Uganda.

The best laid plans. . . . . . .



Tuesday morning nine GMH volunteers arrived in Ghana. Becki and Bruce Neumann and Zach and Janet Neumann have been wonderful dedicated volunteers who have traveled here many time. They were joined with Jason Wheeler and his daughter Tabitha, Merele Holsinger and his granddaughter Carys, and Martina Kinslow.  By the time you read this blog, two more volunteers, Ben Spiker and his son, Aiden, will have arrived. So now the fun really begins. The plan: only five of us would be in Ghana this year but now we are tweleve. AWESOME!

IMG_6299As with all our of mission trip programs, plans are made a year in advance. Our plan for this year was to host three simultaneous Reading Camps in three different villages; Akramaman, Twerebo, and Boate. Each camp would host 50 children entering class 2 and include 10 Ghanaian teachers. Akramaman and Twerebo would be mentored by Kate Okine, a Ghanaian teacher. Kate has been helping with our camps for seven years and is quite capable of visiting both camps and making sure the leadership is doing their job. The volunteer team would work in the Eastern Region to help mentor the teachers at Boate. The best laid plans. . .

What we didn’t plan was that Kate would be expecting a new addition to her family this summer. She delivered by cesarean section on July 10th and has a beautiful baby boy. She cannot help with Reading Camp but Anastasia, a former Ghanaian volunteer, will be able to join us in Kate’s stead. AWESOME!


Our plans: Host a two day, dynamic teacher workshop for 30 teachers before the Reading Camps. We did not plan for road work to detour us causing day one of the work shop to be delayed an hour. What we did not plan was to detour right past the brand new high school, the first to ever be built in this area.

When people ask or question the impact of what we do in Ghana, I want them to look at this photo. In 2007 GMH funded a preschool. Then in 2010 GMH funded  a primary school. The third and fourth are a new four story high school built by the government because families are moving to this area for the quality of education in the local schools. The reading camps we have run and the teacher training we have done have had a ripple effect in an area where very few students made it to high school. Until now.

The power of education is priceless. These students now have access to opportunity and a chance for a future.    AWESOME!



The plan was a two day teacher training course. Day one would deal with teaching techniques in general with day two focusing on the mechanics behind our reading camp curriculum. What we did not plan for was the Municipal Education Department deciding to host a new curriculum workshop during our reading camp. This would effect one camp. We also did not plan on the Municipal Education Department to create new rules for working with NGO. One school was told they could not attend the training or host the Reading Camp.

The teachers and the Head Master came to the training anyway. We began these training sessions six years ago. Usually the teachers are very quiet and less engaged. These two days have been filled to the brim with excitement, animation, TOO much talking, and some great ideas.  In other words, these two days turned our AWESOME!



Me and You


Last week I had the pleasure of doing a book and cultural exchange with the second grade of Alta Vista Elementary School. After reading “The Ghanaian Goldilocks” and “Clifford at the Circus,” I had the pleasure of introducing Ghanaian culture to each class. I was not prepared for so many questions but the children were truly excited to know about children who live in other parts of the world. Each child wrote a letter inside the “Clifford at the Circus” book to a new friend in Ghana. I took all of the Clifford books with me that week as I cross the ocean to Ghana.

As I read each letter, tear began to fall. The beautiful fully accepting innocence of children should be a lesson to each of us. The drawings in the letter above is a great example. Me and you are all alike with are just clothed with different skin.


In Ghana through the years, I have run into a problem with the lack of books that children can enjoy and learn that reading can be fun. Our summer reading program gives every child five books to read for fun. This cultural book exchange gave the Alta Vista children in Sarasota a chance to learn about St. Paul’s school in Ghana and the Ghana children a chance to learn about an interesting fact about Sarasota. We are a circus town.

The Ghana children also were presented with a cultural program about America. Then they began to write their response letters to the children in Sarasota.

Bright letter

Many of children wrote how happy they were to have a new friend. 

Today marked a new high for children in both classes as we held a video chat between the schools. For a small village in the bush of Ghana, this was a major event. Today is a school holiday and yet every child, an at least 50 other children arrived two hours before the video chat. It is 89 degrees in the shade here. There is no air conditioning and no fans to move the air in the rooms. 

Challenges abounded. We needed a projector and someone borrowed one from their work, but when we got to the school, today is lights off. They have rolling blackouts in Ghana. With no power and just a 13″ screen it looked pretty bleak. Another friend, Seth Owsu, sent two of his IT workers to help. They had a tiny battery operated projector. We had no screen. After taping 4 pieces of paper to the blackboard and borrowing sheets to cover the windows we could barely see the image but we were set.


The day open with. . . . . 


Both schools wearing red noses to prove we are so much alike. The Ghana children were treated to a clown performance thank to Sarasota Arts Conservatory.


And Sarasota children were treated to drumming and dancing. The link to the drumming is at the end.

After the excitement of the clowns and drumming, each school had students asks questions of the other school. What food do you eat for lunch? How many are in your family? Does you family own a car? There were 20 questions posed and many high 5’s when the children on both sides found their answers were the same.

All of this happened because of Ghanaian Mothers’ Hope Donors, The Patterson Foundation, The Sarasota Community Foundation, Dr. Barbara Shirley and the staff of Alta Vista Elementary, and the Ghana Education System at St. Paul’s Anglican Basic School, Akramaman.








Boy is it hot in Ghana

I am sitting here in my room in Ghana with no electricity, sweltering.  Thankfully my trusty Mac Book Air has a long battery life. My WiFi unit has a full change, and I can finally share with you why I would travel to Ghana in March, the hottest time of the year.

The Ghanaian Goldilocks

This book, “The Ghanaian Goldilocks,” has been sitting on my shelf for five years waiting to be used. Thanks to those of you who donated to the Giving Campaign last May, Ghanaian Mothers’ Hope is able to share this book with 70 second graders at Alta Vista Elementary along with a pretend journey to Ghana to experience the beautiful culture. 

The children loved learning about foods, school, stools, kente and so much more. Each student wrote a letter to a new friend in Ghana inside of a book with a little Sarasota culture, “Clifford at the circus.”  Many thanks to Jody and Burns Waters for donating the Clifford books. Sarasota has been a circus training ground for a long time. 


So now I am in Ghana getting ready to visit the second grade at St. Paul’s, Akramaman. They will have a chance to travel on a pretend journey to Sarasota and the circus. They in turn will write back to their new friend and the whole program will be topped with a Skype chat between the two schools on Thursday. There is a rumor that a few clowns may stop by to join the group in Sarasota and entertain the group in Ghana. 



Books are here, snacks have been purchased. Please, God, deal with the technical issues and thank you for Seth Owsu who is helping us.

Stay tuned.


Sew perfect. . . . no it’s not misspelled


Last summer I received a Facebook message from a friend from my days at Epiphany Episcopal Church in Timonium, Maryland. Susie Necker and I had been former choir members and our children had grown up together in Springdale. Now she lives in South Carolina and I’m in Florida.

Our daughters reconnected us on Facebook and Susie was curious about my work in Ghana after seeing photos. We agreed to talk when I returned.

Susie run the group you see in the photo above. This group was formed to begin sewing reusable sanitary pads for teens and women in Africa who do not have the money to purchase sanitary pads. Girls will skip school during that time of the month.


This project fascinated me. I am all about giving girls what they need to go to school. She told me they also make pillowcase dresses and boys shorts. Well now I was really interested. I agreed to come meet with the ladies in February.

What a energetic group of ladies and some men who together once a month to create items for use in Africa. Many sew at home during the month. They have a regular assembly line going.

When I arrived everyone was busy. Ten or twelve sewing machines are going at the same time. Material, notions, sewing machines, have all been donated to the group. The storage area of materials was like a small garage.

I left with 152 pillowcase dresses,


140 pair of boys shorts,


and over 800 sanitary pads packaged in beautiful bags with a sewing kit, wash cloth, panties, and a zip lock bag. Some of the panties were a little large and the women really laughed. Three different villages have benefitted from these donations. Ladies, I am so grateful for you.

There are other sewers to thank as well. The Redeemer Quilters of Southern Maryland have made several hundred blankets for us as well. Dedicated women, coming together to help those in need by using their talents.

The photo below is of one family who has 11 children including four sets of twins. They were given blankets for the children.



As my time this year in Ghana comes to a close, I thank everyone who has helped Ghanaian Mothers’ Hope make a difference one village at a time. Your kindness will  empower the future leaders of Africa.

I’ll See You Next Year . . . . . . . . by Joanna Haslem


While the rest of the team left last Sunday, I stayed an extra week to work at theReading Camp in Akramaman . It was quite a difference from teaching in Boate.  At the latter school, children had never before experienced Reading Camp.  At first, they were very shy and quiet.  It took nearly the full week for their enthusiasm to show.  I had wished for another week with them.


On the other hand, Reading Camp finished its ninth year in Akramaman this summer.  The children entered my class with all the enthusiasm that took nearly a week to develop at Boate.


Debi had known a number of children since they were infants.  Kate Annim, a Ghanaian teacher, acted as head mistress, very confident and capable in her duties.  I grew to like her very much.  She is also from Accra and took the tro-tro and then a taxi, a two hour ride each way every day.


The curriculum was the same as that we used last week.  My class had the highest-level readers.  One of the highlights of my week was discovering that some of my flightier students could actually read quite well.  Focus is a learning skill that we try to develop.  One moment I will give my “look and listen” signal (Da dada Da Da-Da Da to the tune of Shave and a Haircut) and get the children’s’ attention, and as soon as I start giving direction, the attention is gone!  I have learned that a rousing game of Simon Says works wonders to release energy and restore focus.


Another of my weekly highlights was witnessing the development of critical thinking skills.  Two of the books we read (children received all five of their books to keep and take home) had comprehension puzzles at the end of the story that involved sequencing, true and false, what’s wrong with this picture, etc.  After working the first puzzle, the children tried to do the next in the same way.  With a little coaxing, they began to rethink as needed.  By the end of the week of the week we did not need to refer at all to the story pages.


Of course, we had our games as well.  It was when playing Around the World with our vocabulary words that I discovered that one little girl was much quicker than I imagined.  I also taught the class Red Rover, Red Rover which they loved so much that I believe they could do nothing but play that game all day.


In the camp closing, each child received a GMH t-shirt and a bag filled with books, their exercise books and coloring and writing utensils.  In addition each boy was given a new pair of shorts and each girl a sun dress, all made with loving hands by the ladies of the Ladies Freedom Project, Columbia, South Carolina.


It was with great pleasure that as I said goodbye to each of my children I said, “I’ll see you next year!”

What is Reading Camp? by Solomon Worlako Amesimeku

DSC_0016I came to the GMH Summer Reading Camp, 2018, wondering exactly how it is going to be like.


I was expecting it’s just going to be lots of reading. To be candid, the GMH Reading Camp is a lot more than I expected.


It’s got lots of fun filled activities, that arouse and sustain the children’s interest in reading. I see the children showing appreciable love for reading by reason of a variety of activities, materials, books, positive reinforcement and lots of multi-sensory activities infused in the entire program.



The children who have much difficulty reading not only show much interest in reading now but are wonderfully picking up in reading.


The creative activities are interesting and reveal the children’s creative prowess. As a teacher, I have learnt much more to improving my classroom practices, especially reading instruction.


I must acknowledge Auntie Joanna and Auntie Debi are great, hardworking teachers. I am really privileged to have been a part of this Reading Camp at Akramaman and I teaching here next summer.


Solomon Worlako Amesimeku

KG-2 teacher, St. Paul’s Anglican Preschool, Akramaman

Just how do you dress when you take your children to the doctor?


Today at Akramaman, where we are sponsoring a reading camp this week, the local mothers brought their babies and toddlers to the Health Clinic for check ups. There are no doctors in residence but public health nurses run the show. New mothers are given baby weighing cards, told about immunizations, and given other helpful heath information.


This day happens once a month, every month. Women arrive all day long. They come by foot, taxi, or moto.




One thing that is evident, the moms got up early. They gathered water, no one has running water. They heated the water and bathed themselves and the children. They ironed their clothes. Most do not have electricity, so no electric irons. The arrived looking beautiful.


Most of the babies were not happy about being weighed. Notice the beads on the baby’s neck, waist, and wrists. These are to assure that the baby is growing. When the beads get tight, you know your baby has been growing.


Thanks to this duplex, two nurses are able to stay with their families right at the village. They can deliver babies, take on medical emergencies, inoculate children, and give medical advice.

Thank you Dr. Elizabeth Park, Jason and Katey Weaver, St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church, Norman Luktefedder, and many others who have donated to construct the nurses quarters. From the nurses, the mothers, and Ghanaian Mothers’ Hope Board we say 

Oyi wala don!

Was it only yesterday ?. . . . By Debi Frock


Tana, Maria, Zach, Haley, Ian, Sara and Gail

In August of 2010, six teens, a photographer, and two teachers embarked on a mission to create a Reading Camp at a small village named Akramaman. Little did we know that this was the beginning of something spectacular.


Ghanaian Mothers’ Hope invited forty children to that reading camp. The next year it was sixty children, ten adults, and seven teens. Each year our teams and camp children grew bigger.


And then there was 2014, the year with Ebola in all the headlines while we were in Ghana with a team of seven teens. Parents were frantically sending me emails and facebook messages. Everyone was perfectly safe. No Ebola, just Cholera. I am a hand washing fanatic so no one was getting sick on my watch. Oh, and we had 100 children in camp that year.


Of course when September came and Ebola was still in the news, no one was going to send their teen on a mission trip to Ghana in 2015. What if Ebola was to spread to Ghana? The GMH board began to question if we should even plan a reading camp for 2015. The children would be so sad but there were only three of us willing to travel: Bruce Neumann, Rev. Becki Neumann, and moi.

This was actually a blessing for Akramaman and the Ghanaian teachers. The teachers had been working with us for five years. Surely they could run the reading camp on their own. We identified two strong leaders, Kate Okine and Seth Tum and turned the camp over to them.

Camp day 1-9

It was a fabulous decision. Because of Kate and Seth, GMH was able to begin another reading camp in a far away village in 2016 and this year, 2018, we added a third reading camp. All of this while maintaining our original camp at Akramaman.

There are some new teachers. Solomon and Millicent are excellent.


Kate still runs the show. Seth had to teach middle school last year, but has returned as a teacher this year.


Joanna Haslim came from Sarasota to help as we expected 100 children at camp this year. Only 50 children came today. There were new faces and a few familiar ones.

Four more days to go and fifty excited children. This is a great way to spend two weeks. This has al been possible because of many of you who have volunteered and others who have donated. I thank each of you.

Here, I ask for your prayers for one of our volunteers, Bruce Neumann, who has come to Ghana 13 times. Eleven times to help in reading camp.

Bruce just left Ghana on Sunday night. He arrived in DC with a critical case of cellulitis and is septic. He is in the intensive care unit. He is a servant of the Lord in every way. Please pray for healing.


Five Books Do Make a Difference by Rev. Becki Neumann


On Thursday afternoon as the children of Boate village were leaving Reading Camp, they called out, “See you tomorrow,” and we Americans were calling back, “See you tomorrow!” And then it hit me, I would not be saying that tomorrow, or the next day, or the next. At best, I will get to say it next year. And the tears started. And even as I type these words, the tears gather in my eyes. Why?


It is because I will miss the bright, shy smiles, and the quiet and somber voices that grow through the week to giggles and sparkling eyes. I will miss seeing the reluctant readers who are fearful becoming excited and enthusiastic as they try. I will miss the seeing the teachers who use archaic methods that teach the mechanics of reading trying modern, scientifically proven methods that encourage the love of reading. I will miss hearing the strict tones being transformed into encouraging voices. In other words, I will miss seeing visible and real… TRANSFORMATION!




But even all of that is not why I’m writing this on my birthday, the day after the closing of two of our three reading camps for 2018, from Ghana. At Debi’s invitation 10 trips go, I came to Ghana for the first time, and I came reluctantly.


So, why do I return? Because the love of Christ compels me… and you, to love and bless and care for those whom he loves, which is everyone in the WHOLE WORLD, including those who are often forgotten, who have no voice, who live in remote places with minimal resources. What does the love of God look like? It looks like sharing our resources, our knowledge and material wealth. It looks like loving a village child and helping them to understand that they matter, that to God there is no such thing as being “just a village child.” The gospel mandate is to incarnate the love of God, just as Jesus became the incarnate Word of God for us.


Our incarnate word is HOPE. Jesus never gives up hope on us. We never give up hope of his love transforming lives, ours and those of the people he calls us to serve. What difference do five books make? They give hope, hope that all children can learn, that all teachers want to grow and learn, hope that these children we serve matter, they really matter, to us and to God. Five books and an American team willing to put God and others first translate into hope… and love. Is it possible that Jesus wants to speak hope and love through you to the children and teachers of Ghana? Never say never, I did that in 2006, and in the last decade I’ve had more birthdays in Ghana than in the US.


Becki and Bruce have traveled to Ghana more than twenty times to help children

”So now faith… HOPE… and LOVE abide, these three…” (1 Corinthians 13:13a)

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