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Posts tagged ‘Ghana’

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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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.

We Found Her!

Helpers resizeTwo years ago Ghanaian Mothers’ Hope installed a computer lab at St. Paul’s Junior High School in an effort to help the students pass the B.E.C.E., Basic Education Certification Examination. All students in Ghana must pass this exam in order to enroll in High School.

Since its inception in 2004, St. Paul’s has not had any student pass this exam. The new computer lab, installed by Every Village Computer Organization, is equipped to help Ghanaian children learn skills needed for this exam.

The girl wearing the red t-shirt is Susanna Aryeetey. This photo is several years ago. Susanna is now 15 and will be taking the exam next month. The Head Master at St. Paul’s recently called to tell me that Susanna is certain to pass this test with flying colors. Way to go Susanna.

Susanna, her mom, dad, three sisters, aunt, and grandmother live in the village of Akramaman. Their house is a small three room structure made from mud bricks, similar to this one.

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They grow cassava, own a few goats and chickens, cook outside, and her dad is a tailor.

All of the girls attended St. Paul’s Preschool. Mr. Aryeetey has been very involved with the P.T.A. at the school and has been instrumental in seeing that his girls have a good education.

Susanna attended Ghanaian Mothers’ Hope Reading Camps and has even returned to Reading Camp to become a classroom aid. She is currently in eighth grade.

I am so excited. This news is HUGE for this village and for Ghanaian Mothers’ Hope.

Thanks to donors who participated in the 2016 Giving Challenge sponsored by The Community Foundation of Sarasota County and strengthened by The Patterson Foundation, GMH will be able to offer Susanna The Beacon of Hope Scholarship for her high school years. This $400 per year scholarship will enable Susanna’s family to buy her uniforms, pay for her books and school supplies, as well as any other items she may need. Susanna will be the first but we are ready with more scholarships as girls continue to make headway in education. I will be sure to keep everyone posted on Susanna progress.

Our deepest gratitude goes to The Community Foundation of Sarasota County for sponsoring the 2016 Giving Challenge and The Patterson Foundation for matching your gift. Their bounteousness is boundless in offering hope to those in need.

JOIN ME MAY 1-2 NOON TO NOON

All donations of $25-100 will be doubled

#Be The One

Give Girls a Foundation to Stand on

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 #Giving Challenge 18 is presented by the Community Foundation of Sarasota County with giving strengthened by The Patterson Foundation.

A link will be sent to you

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Online vs In Line Shopping

While talking with my husband the other night he questioned why I needed to be in Ghana two weeks before my team arrives to run the Reading Camp. Well, a lot has to do with online vs in line shopping. There is no online shopping here in Ghana, so everything is in line or the queue. With a list of things to do and purchase as long as my arm, traffic jams that make New York City look like a country road, and crowded, maze-like markets, it is a wonder that I only need two weeks.

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Today Mercia and I needed to purchase eight dozen t-shirts. We use 12 dozen for Reading Camp but thankfully Ascension Episcopal Church, Westminster, MD, sent four dozen with me. The t-shirt shop is deep in Makola Market in Accra. This is the market for locals, however, after 13 years of shopping there, everybody knows my name.

The queue at the shop consists of a long bench and two plastic chairs. I waited for 90 minutes, moving along the bench to the chairs to get closer to being served. Finally, it was my turn. I chose red, orange, yellow and lime green shirts for the children. Of course the ones I wanted were on the top shelf so the shopkeeper had to get a long ladder, climb to the top and throw them down. Once the eight dozen t-shirts were packed in a large plastic bag, I couldn’t even lift it. We employed Gladys, one of the market porters who couldn’t weigh 90 pounds soaking wet, to carry the load: 30 umbrellas, my eight dozen t-shits, two dozen t-shirts Mercia bought and I think a pot or two. The 30 umbrellas belong to a totally different story.

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I truly am in awe at what these girls can carry. Once those items were safely in our car, we turned our attention to fabric. One of the reasons I shop online at home is so I am not tempted to buy more than I need. Fabrics are both mine and Mercia’s weakness. How can I choose just one? Luckily for me I was buying for a friend and I needed to pick out four fabrics. Plus I needed one for the team, maybe one or two more? Imagine miles of fabrics.

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Okay, ten fabrics, a coconut, some pineapple, grilled plantains and small bag of ground nuts later, we had spent four hours shopping for fabric. Since it was now after 5 o’clock, our drive home would test our nerves, but for sure, we will be returning to the market tomorrow and many other days. If only amazon could deliver the 200 pounds of rice we need to buy directly to the villages.

BE THE ONE!

Lighthouse searchlight beam through marine air at night.

Have you ever watch the beacon of a lighthouse shine into the darkness? As it guides ships to safety offering hope to anyone in its path. I feel our donors are like those lighthouses, offering beacons of hope to the children of Ghana.

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We received very good news this summer. The District Assembly in Amasaman, the regional  government, is building this high school only a quarter of a mile from St. Paul’s Primary and Junior Secondary schools. I was shocked and delighted at the same time. When we opened the preschool in 2007, I never imagined that 9 years later this village would have a Preschool, Kindergarten, Primary, Secondary and now High School! It is truly a miracle.

The new computer lab at the Primary and Middle School (Junior Secondary School) is the other miracle. Thanks to Redeemer Episcopal Church in Sarasota and Every Village Computer Organization, St. Paul’s received 15 computers and a laptop all equipped with educational software suitable for grades K1 to 12. With this addition to the curriculum, St. Paul’s will finally have the tools they need to prepare junior secondary students to pass the high school entrance exam.

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Mabel was one of the first three-year olds to attend St. Paul’s Preschool, our first building project. Every time I met her she had a huge smile. Several summers as I would say my last good-bye, she would turn her head to hide the tears rolling down her sweet little face. I would end up running over to give her another big hug and tell her I would see her again soon.

Mabel is now 12 going into the seventh grade. In 2018 she will finish middle school just as the new high school is ready to open but Mabel’s parents cannot afford the $250 – $400 associated fees for school. This situation will be repeated over and over for girls in the village. Many girls will become carriers, carrying heavy loads on their heads at a market. Some will sell water or other goods hoping to earn money for school. Too often, these girls find themselves taken advantage of and pregnant.

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The Beacon of Hope Scholarship is being created to give two to four girls the opportunity to attend high school each year. Our goal is $25,000. SAVE THE DATE.

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Thanks to the Sarasota Community Foundation’s giving partners: The Patterson Foundation, The Knight Foundation, The Manatee Community Foundation, The William G. and Marie Selby Foundation and The Herald Tribune, YOU CAN BE THE ONE TO OFFER HOPE IN THE DARKNESS.

Donate at www.givingpartnerchallenge.org/npo/ghanaian-mothers-hope-inc on Tuesday, September 20 noon to noon on Wednesday, Sept 21 and the Patterson Foundation will match all donations of $25-100. If you did not donate in this campaign in 2015, your donation will be tripled. Donors from 2015, you donation will be doubled.

Ghanaian Mothers’ Hope needs your help in spreading the word. Please tell your friends about this incredible opportunity to Be The One to change Mabel’s life from school dropout to school teacher! Click Here to see the Trailer.

 

 

The Results Are In!

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I can remember my excitement when the Sarasota Community Foundation announced the 2015 Giving Challenge. This was an opportunity for all Ghanaian Mothers’ Hope board members and volunteers to get involved and create a campaign for our newest collaboration to help mothers in Ghana called Water Mamas. Everyone was eager to participate. Our goal was to raise $1,250 which would be doubled with the Patterson Foundation matching program. We would be able to train 25 women as Water Mamas and provide 100 families with 25 gallons of water a day for 25 years.

Adoley and James Proser created a marvelous video highlighting the need that the Water Mama’s program could fill. Thanks to our donors, the campaign raised $5,000 before the match! With the extra $5,000 match from the Patterson Foundation and a $500 win for our video, we more than doubled our Water Mamas training. The extra funding allowed us to reach very remote villages during July 2016.

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The team, Deborah Albert-Water Mama trainer, Ellen Baffour-Arhin, nurse practitioner and diabetes lecturer, Mercia Laryea, GMHope Ghana Director and I traveled for four hours to our first district, Ada, in Greater Accra on the eastern coast of Ghana. In the morning we boarded a boat to the Island of Pediatorkope to train our first 30 Water Mamas. Women from 14 different communities attended the training with their babies and toddlers. Several women came from the other four islands along the river.

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Each woman was given two buckets. One bucket for the dirty water to be filtered and one for the clean water. The clean water bucket contains a tap so water may be accessed easily. Esther, pictured above, was taught to use a Sawyer filter and will teach three other moms in her community of Aabom to use the filter. Many families will bring water to be filtered and share in the clean water. Women will learn that clean water is a gift for everyone to use for drinking, bathing, cooking and any other water contact for themselves and their children.

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Thirty women left with filters and buckets and many others watched closely so they could learn how to use the system. Training occurred at the health center and the public health nurses will continue with follow-up training on the use of clean water.

Our next adventure took the team nine hours by bus on a very bumpy dirt road to the Upper Volta only minutes from the Togo border in the mountains.

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Here, thanks to a woman named Perfection Ofori, the team was able to train another 30 women from three communities in Sabram. Perfect works in Accra, a two-day trip by local transportation, while her five small children live with her mother. Perfect brought the lack of clean water in her village to the attention of our Ghana director, Mercia. Thanks to our many donors at the Giving Challenge, we could travel to Sabram to deliver training, filters, buckets, a good lunch, and even some medical supplies and dresses for little girls.

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It rained so hard and so loud on the tin roof of the community building that we had to suspend the training for one hour. Even with water dripping and deafening noise, the women were delighted to stay and wait.

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The end result is hundreds of families with thousands of children will share clean water for many years because YOU cared! Many thanks to YOU, the Sarasota Community Foundation, and the Patterson Foundation.

Debi Frock, Executive Director, Ghanaian Mothers’ Hope.

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Be sure to check out The Giving Challenge 2016 , September 20 noon to September 21 noon. We hope you will help us reach our goal of $25,000 for girls high school education, breaking the cycle of childhood maternity in villages.

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