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One Child at a Time by Janet Neumann, US Volunteer

DSC_0108Day one of reading camp for me was both familiar and yet, new.  In past years, as the bus with Ghanaian Mothers’ Hope volunteers drives up to a school, smiling children would come running.  I love seeing the children waving and calling out “Auntie Janet, Auntie Janet.”

This year my greeting was much quieter, which was to be expected since this is a brand-new camp in a different Region of Ghana, the Eastern Region. This region is quite long reaching from the Volta river area to the Central Region. It is very agricultural. I loved seeing lush green vegetation. Most of the families in this part of the region are farmers.

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Some children from the Botae village came to our camp in Twerebo last year so I was ecstatic to see three familiar faces. As we began getting situated, we could see many eager, smiling and happy children.  You could tell they were so excited about us being there and camp to start.

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The team began by assessing our space for the week; this school was unlike the schools we had been to before.  The camp we were in two years ago at Twerebo consisted of four, dusty walls, and NO roof.  This was a change! A school that was in good condition.  It was dingy looking but you could tell that this building was cared for.  How we treat things shows how we value them. This building was treated with love so education and learning was valued and respected here.  The teachers from the village that were there to teach with us were smiling and ready to lend a helping hand.

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As we started picking classrooms, I found a room that was perfect except it was filled with buckets, dust, roofing tins, “stuff”, that honestly would appear as trash to us in the U.S.  I asked some teachers for help and before I knew it, little children came rushing in and began taking out things piece by piece. The teachers helped navigate and the children did the moving, it appeared as an assembly line. Soon, all the extra “stuff” was gone, and in its place was a beautiful classroom, full of potential.

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Anything could become possible in this space. I thought to myself, it isn’t that I come here to do, I come to create possibilities.  As I saw these children so willing to learn and help, my heart was filled with joy, these little children understood.  They understood that school was important.

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This is my 5th year and I keep coming back because I know the time I spend here makes a difference.  Anything is possible with the right intentions. Understanding that education will open up avenues and whole new world, creates incredible possibilities.  I love that I get to share my love of learning with these children and simultaneously empower them, one child at a time.

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P.S.  This is our first year at Botae. We have 40 children, five US volunteers, one Ghanaian, and nine Ghanaian Teachers.

There is another camp at Twerebo being running by a team of nine Ghanaian teachers. They also have 40 children.

Our third camp will run at Akramaman next week. That camp will have 100 children, two U.S. volunteers, seven Ghanaian teen assistants, and eight Ghanaian teachers.

Please send us a comment about this post to encourage us.

Simon Says . . . . . . by Debi Frock

Have you ever moved and had to endure that first day in a new school? Do you remember the butterflies jumping around in your stomach?

DSC_0001I am sure that is the feeling many of these teachers had on Friday as we facilitated the teacher training here in Ghana. Each year as we prepare for our reading camps we invite the Ghanaian teachers to a day long training session. Part of the day is spent going over the reading camp materials so everyone will be ready, but most of the day is spent in talking about teaching young children.

Becki Neumann, former teacher and teacher trainer, facilitated most of the day giving helpful suggestions on how to handle early learners, ways of encouraging reading, things a teacher should never do, and many other topics. The group was engaged though a little shy about opening up.

DSC_0009I have recently been trained as a Mind in the Making facilitator. Mind in the Making is a program by Ellen Galinsky designed to teach the seven essential life skills that children need to succeed in learning. Skill #1 is focus and self-control. The game Simon Says is used as a teaching tool. You need to stay focused to determine if Simon Says the command and you need self-control not to do something if Simon did not say it.

I learned that game as a child and you probably learned it too. Well, not one Ghanaian teacher had ever played Simon Says. What ever the command I gave, even if Simon did not say it, was obeyed. Then we would all laugh. It took many, many tries before most of the teachers caught on.

DSC_0034This is our ninth year of reading camps and teacher training. I expected this year’s training to be good, no actually, I expected it to be excellent. I often worry about being disappointed about expectations, especially when working in Ghana, but there was no disappointment in this day.

Reading Camps at Twerebo and Boteah start on Monday. The following week we will host camp at Akramaman for over 100 children.  Stay tuned for updates.

Happy Birthday, Auntie Becki. A little gift from Herbitina. Welcome Joanna Haslem from Sarsota, FL. Joanna will be helping at Boteah and Akramaman.

This says it all by Debi Frock

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Fourteen years ago I prayed that I could help to empower a few girls in small villages, like Akramaman, to go to school. At that time, only 40% of girls finished third grade. 2015 statistics show that 95% of girls finished 6th grade. What a difference. This shirt is now the Junior High School Uniform for girls in Ga West, the area of Akramaman.

As Mercia drove us to St. Paul’s Preschool for their Graduation ceremony on the incredibly bumpy, dusty road, I wondered if I would still be welcomed by the children. My visits are only once per year and now that I work in other villages, Akramaman children only see me three or four days each summer.

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As we drove through the village women and girls began to wave at our car and shout with affection “Naa Aku”, part of my name as a Queen Mother in this village. Holding back the tears, I smiled and waved to them, not quite like Queen Elizabeth’s slight side to side wave but rather a full arm out the window hand wave.

The school grounds were filled with children, all of whom came rushing towards the car. The teachers had to hold them back so we could drive into the compound. My smile increased as the intensity of the crowd escalated, all waiting for me to step from the car.

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Many of preschooler had never met me, but they were eager to touch my hand and offer a smile. My heart raced as I saw so many of the former students who had already graduated to the primary school. They are growing up so quickly and they are all in school.

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Christiana

Not only are they in school but they are, for the most part, healthy. Christiana is a twin and has always been the smaller of the two. She is bright eyed, meaning less malaria, and her English has improved 200%.

There are now over 550 children enrolled in the Akramaman school system going from nursery to middle school, which has three years. There is a new Headmaster and a new male Kindergarten teacher. The classrooms are filled with posters and artwork.

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This is a big deal. Recently there have been articles in the Ghana news about the ineffectiveness of preschools, but the system at Akramaman is thriving. Many other school system teachers were at the Graduation to see just what are they doing at this school to make it so successful.

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During the festivities, the little ones sang songs and the older ones recited poems and bible verses. There were two fabulous skits. The first one involved Mama Africa and the regions of Ghana. Each child represented one of the ten regions in costume and dance. The second skit was two reports at the Anglican Television Station reporting on the success of the school with a local reporter giving the audience a look at the festivities. Pretty innovative for a village preschool.

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Forty-five children put on their caps and gowns and walked across the platform to receive a certificate, new school bag, new uniform for primary school, and new socks and shoes. Most were smiling. One threw up and I cried, but all of them will go to school in the fall. 

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As I left, I thought about the last eleven years since we first handed over the keys to the school for public education. There have been many challenges in finding ways to “empower” the school, the teachers, and eventually the girls, but today, I can walk away knowing they are moving forward.

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And someday, she may even be The President of Ghana.

Sixty Water Mamas and So Many Babies

DSC_0385By Deborah Albert

So far, so good! The experience so far has been way beyond my expectations. I came as a newcomer to West Africa, and what better country to first visit. As expected, I was a bit nervous when I first arrived in Accra, and my biggest hope was that I didn’t get sick from any of the food or water. My focus, however, quickly shifted to the work I’d be doing as part of the GMHope Team.

After the initial team briefing at Aunty Mercia’s house, I felt very at ease and excited for what and who I’d meet at each village.

DSC_0066One highlight of the journey to the first village has to be the lovely and relaxing boat journey. Well, I was a bit reluctant to get in the boat as I have a fear of deep water and countless past experiences that testify to that! More the less, the calm and stillness of the nature around me filled me with peace and serenity.

DSC_0245After meeting, interacting with and teaching the mothers, I knew that all the planning, preparation, saving-up, fundraising and excitement of the trip was well worth it.

The mothers were very delighted that we came, as were the chiefs and assembly men. The sing-a-longs that broke out during the program were heart warming and allowed me to witness the sense of unity which glues many of these villages together.

DSC_0418DSC_0437Overall, I am having the time of my life but if there is something that I must say I’m not pleased about, it is the long bus journeys. None the less, these journeys are not a problem when I see the smile I bring to the mothers’ and babies’ faces

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Ellen Baffour-Arhin is center and Deborah to her right.

Deborah Albert is  a 19 year-old British -Nigerian Medical Physiology student at the University of Leicester. Her understanding of the socio-economic determinants of good health has made her very passionate about providing high-quality care where possible.

DSC_0275Deborah is the first team member that we have accepted from outside of the United States. Working with small children poses problems is we cannot get a solid background check on each team member. Most team members have been referred by previous members and clergy. Deborah’s youth pastor and college professors convinced me that Deborah would be a good fit for our Water Mamas program. They were right. Deborah is a strong, confident young woman and excellent trainer.

Many thanks to Water With Blessings for their program.

THEN A MIRACLE HAPPENED!

By Debi Frock, Founder/Executive Director

My good friends in Ghana

My good friends in Ghana

I just landed in Ghana yesterday. The sights, sounds and smells brought back a flood of beautiful memories as soon as I stepped off the plane into the sunlit sky. Each year when I return it feels like I never left.

The flight was longer than usual; going from Washington, DC, to Dubai, laying over in Dubai for 23 hours than an 8 hour flight to Ghana. I think I am caught up on all of the latest movies and the trip in Dubai was very interesting. Have you ever seen a 7 star hotel?Dubai 3

I arrived around noon and I was tired but I needed to stay awake to acclimate my body to the time change (four hours later than on the east coast of the U.S.) On top of that was the 86 degree temperature with no air conditioning. It was a long day but I made it to midnight when the electricity died, no lights, no fan. But I knew that my next day, Friday, July 8th would be a day to celebrate.children

In 2010 the United Thank Offering of the Episcopal Church, U.S.A., gave Ghanaian Mothers’ Hope $40,000 to build a primary school. Notice the small building with the taxi in front of it. That was serving as their primary and junior secondary school at the time. About 100 children attended school. After opening the preschool/kindergarten more children wanted schooling. Now with the new primary school the old building became the secondary school and over 400 children attend the two schools.

Unfortunately, the government does not provide funding for materials, like text books or science materials or computers. After finishing Junior Secondary School (junior high school), you must pass the government exam to enter high school. The exam is exactly the same for village school as it is for private or more prosperous city schools. No one from Akramaman has been able to pass the exam and the teachers are so frustrated.

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Mable’s parents encouraged her to attend school in Accra

Several years ago I met Seth Owusu. He is a Ghanaian living in Maryland working for Best Buy and a computer geek. Seth began restoring old computers to take to Ghana and build computer labs in villages though his nonprofit, evcoafrica.org. Seth and I have been planning to add a computer lab to Akramaman for about 5 years. As with most small nonprofits, funding is the major issue. In April Seth made me a deal I couldn’t refuse but I still needed funding.

Seth had his team in Ghana go to St. Paul’s, Akramaman, to check out the proposed lab site. It was perfect. The PTA rounded up funding to help get tables and chairs. Unfortunately, we still did not have funding and Seth was leaving for Ghana. I had applied for a grant but it was too soon for an answer. I told our Ghana directors that it would probably by October, Seth’s next visit, before we could have a computer lab.

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Then a miracle happened! Church of the Redeemer in Sarasota, Florida, approved our grant funding the day before I was leaving for Ghana. I contacted Seth on Facebook to say that we had the funding and on his next trip he could include our 15 computers. To my delight and surprise, Seth informed me that he had already shipped the computers and was ready to install them. I was arriving on the 7th and he was leaving on the 9th. July 8th would be our magic day! At 10 am the fun began!

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The children bring in the equipment

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Sabina learns her letters by finding the letter on the keyboard so the lizard can eat his leaves.

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Seth and his team helping the children

THANK YOU SETH OWUSU, EVCO STAFF, CHURCH OF THE REDEEMER, SARASOTA, AND THE PTA OF ST. PAUL’S ,AKRAMAMAN.  WHO WILL BE THE FIRST STUDENT TO QUALIFY FOR HIGH SCHOOL IN 2017?

 

In Search of Clean Water by Debi Frock

DSC_0042I love to take photos, especially photos of water falls. Unfortunately, the most beautiful falls are not easily accessible from a car window. This week Scott, my husband, and I are in the UP- Upper Peninsula of Michigan. This part of the state is on Lake Superior and gets 30 feet of snow a year. It also has 11,000 lakes and many, many water falls. Since I had never visited the UP I wanted to take some good water photos.

Today, I wanted to visit Hungarian Falls in Tamarac City. We were told it was a short 15 minute hike from the road. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find the trail head. A few others were also looking for the trail so we followed them up this really steep trail for more than an hour. We could hear the falls but we couldn’t see them. Finally we found a small stream and stopped for a photo.

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Do not be fooled, this is filtered water, not stream water.

But I still wanted to find the falls. With a little more hunting, Scott and I found another trail. It was also heading up the mountain side and was a much easier trail. Thirty minutes later we were at the top of the 40′ high falls standing next to a stream feeding the falls. I dipped my glass into the stream and looked at the water-Ugh. It was just like the water from the stream in Ghana,West Africa! It was yellow with stuff floating in it. Time to pull out my trusty filter, just like the one we give to women in Ghana.

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Stream water on the left. Filtered water on the right.

1,800 African children die EVERY day due to contaminated water. Diarrhea and dehydration due to contamination cause 85% of deaths of children under the age of 5. Children and mothers hike to streams and lug back 5 gallon jugs of water several times a day. Then mom might boil it for drinking but what about washing vegetables and fruits or bathing the baby or washing your breasts before nursing the baby? Using contaminated water for these tasks is just as dangerous.

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Photograph, Bryan Woolston

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Photograph, Bryan Woolston

This summer I had the privilege of showing 40 mothers how to filter water. The filters will provide them with 25 gallons of clean water EVERY day for 25 years. Through a new partnership with Water With Blessings , we provided 10 filters for the village, Gontay, near Aburi in Ghana. We trained 10 women on the use of the filters, provided them with new buckets and taught them how of care for their filters. In turn, each woman will train 3 other women on the use of the filter and give them new buckets. The group will meet once a month with a mentor to discuss the use of the filter and to learn why it is important to use clean water for every aspect of a child’s life. This program provides enough clean water for the whole village and helps build community.

The women were so attentive and really wanted to know about this miracle. After Sylvia, our local mentor, explained all the reasons to use clean, filtered water, it was time to have the women asemble their buckets for filtering. Once everyone  was comfortable with the filter and how to backwash it after each use, we brought in water from the local stream, similar to my stream this morning. It was brownish yellow and had lots of things floating in it. I noticed a lot of bugs at the stream. So now was the time to see if it really worked. Well it sure looked clean and clear.

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Photograph, Bryan Woolston

So, I took a deep breath. . . . .

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Photograph, Bryan Woolston

Ah, clean, clear beautiful water. The women were ecstatic. Everyone wanted to try their filter. The head master of the school we were using for the training wanted us to provide a filter for the school (that filter will be going to Ghana in October). It is amazing!! $25 gives a family 25 gallons of water EVERY day for 25 years. 

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Photograph, Bryan Woolston

I can’t wait to go back next summer and bring clean, filtered water to 5 more villages. That equals 200 families getting clean water. What a blessing from the Lord! Visit our website www.gmhope.org for more information. In the mean time, my husband caught me in a big nap!

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One Little Mosquito By Debi Frock, Founder

me and kids

My favorite time of year is the first week of August when GMHope runs their annual a reading Camp at Akramaman in Ghana,West Africa. Seeing the adorable faces of the excited 65-100 children brings me to tears. Life is not easy in the village.

We constructed two fine schools in Akramaman; St. Paul’s nursery/kindergarten and St. Paul’s Primary. Both were given to Ghana Education Service as public schools. We built a Public Health Clinic. We teach good hygiene to mom’s and children but it only takes a small mosquito to disrupt everything. This week was no exception.

Hand washing at the Preschool

Hand washing at the Preschool

Day 1. Edith, throws up at camp and her fever is high. We send her to the clinic. She has malaria. They give her drugs. I pay 12 cedis –$3.75 for the visit and drugs. She waits til camp is done for the day and takes the grueling 40 minute Tro-Tro ride home (think old 20 passenger bus with broken seats, no shocks and no air conditioning on a very dusty, pot hole filled, dirt road). She does not return until Wednesday.

Day 2. Nora spikes a fever during Reading but does not want to go home. She has malaria but has already been to the clinic and has melds at home. She is finally sent home and returns the next day.

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Joseph

Day 3. Joseph spikes a fever and asks to go home. He has malaria. Joseph has spent many days at the clinic for malaria and worms. He has trouble learning due to repeatedly being infected. He is the dearest and sweetest boy and my heart breaks for him.

Day 4. Another boy, Daniel, is taken to the clinic for malaria. This time the bill is 10 cedis.

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Health Clinic

Day 5, Friday. It was the epic day. Patience got sick, off to the clinic. Malaria! Again! Anna, one of the cooks has de-hydrated from malaria. She needs IV fluids, 61 cedis, I pay the bill. She spends the day at the clinic. As I am visiting the clinic a man comes running from the village carrying a limp child who is foaming at the mouth. The distressed mother is screaming and crying, running barefoot along the dirt path. Bryan Woolston, our photographer drops his equipment to rush to the aid of the man. I run to the mother to offer comfort. The child, A boy age 3, has malaria. His mom did not seek treatment but chose traditional treatment of herbs and sponge bath. The baby’s temperature rose so high he began having convulsions. In the arms of the nurse he is comforted and treated. His life has been spared. One little mosquito causes so much pain, especially to the little one.

According to UNICEF in Ghana

  • 3.5 million people contract malaria every year
  • Approximately, 20,000 children die from malaria every year (25% of the death of children under the age of 5)
  • Even if a child survives, the consequences from malaria such as convulsions or brain dysfunction can hamper long-term development and schooling.
  • The estimated economic burden of malaria is 1-2 percent of the Gross National Product of Ghana.
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Unfinished Nurses Residence

I am so thankful to so many who have faithfully donated as we built the clinic and are now building the nurses residence. The two bedroom apartments are roofed and have fine windows. We are working on the electrical system, then the finishing and a water tank. When we are able to finish this residence two public health nurses will be on call 24/7. Lives are being saved every day but even more will be saved when the nurses are there full time.. What a blessing for more than 15,000 people thanks to all of you who have helped. Donate today and save a life.

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