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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.

Mabel

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.

Water glasses

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.

Water Mamas -4

Photograph, Bryan Woolston

Water Mamas -9

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. 

Water Mamas -15

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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Art 101 in Akramaman. By Bruce Neumann

Painting palms for caterpillar

Painting palms for caterpillar

Art for reading camp has changed! Last year I did a structured art project each day for the reading camp. This year I am to do some preset items and use my imagination to fill the time. At the 2014 camp, I had some boys who seemed to have a knack for painting, so I gave them leftover tempura paint. I commented to Becki that I would like to bring them each a set of water color paints for 2015.

Bruce's  Art Room Wall

Bruce’s Art Room Wall

Between those donated at the Christ Church VBS, and those we purchased, we packed up over 65 sets to bring with us. I also dreamily suggested that they would also love spin art, but Becki said that it would be too expensive. (Thank you Ollie’s for three $5.00 spin art toys!)

Camp day 1-25

Monday we did “Be My Friend” crowns, making faces on the crown points and adding “gem stones” to make them sparkle (thanks Oriental Trading Company).

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Tuesday was brown bear lunch bag puppets, with precut facial features and wiggle eyes. This did not take all the time up, so I introduced them to water colors. I was just a basic introduction: dip your brush in water, shake most of it out, brush over a color, and brush over the paper. The kids were fascinated. One group crowded around me, pressing in closer and closer to see what I was doing.

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Wednesday we did Very Hungry Caterpillar palm print paintings. I have four associates (helpers), who made samples before any of the three classes showed up. Agbi and Ebenezer, two of the associates were the two boys I had given the tempura paint to last year. The students wrote their name on a sheet of construction paper and brought up to the tall table. We placed a round sponge in red paint and transferred it to the edge of the paper. Agbi painted the student palm green, and Ebenezer painted their fingers blue. I then pressed the hand to the paper three times to make caterpillar body and legs. When we were done this exercise, I passed out water paint sets. None of the children had ever seen one before my demo on Tuesday, and they did not know what to do. Each student got two pieces of white bristol board and I showed them basic painting. I told them they could paint anything they wanted to, a tree, house, and flag; there was no wrong picture or color combination. Some of the children, just copied brush strokes I made, some made Ghana flags, w/ correct colors. They all made something and were reluctant to leave when class was over, the last class kept working into their lunch. By far the biggest art hit was the water colors!

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We will have to wait for the spin art results….. but I can’t wait to see their faces!!

So why did I come to Ghana this year? By Rev. Becki Neumann+, AKA Aunti Becki

Sabina peeks out

Sabina peeks out

There is no team to speak of… no teens to supervise, no breakfast orders to tabulate, no group of people to hang out with and hear the ooo’s and aaahhh’s of the day… in other words, none of the routine things that make our work here “fun” for me. That’s right, FOR ME. Wow! When that realization popped into my head it was an eye opener! Who do I come to Ghana to serve, myself, or the people and specifically, the children? Who is this work about? Where is Jesus in my attitude?

Before the transformation

Before the transformation

Though he had some entertaining moments, Jesus’ life’s work was not about what was fun for him. While turning water into wine had to be entertaining (I mean, can’t you just see the twinkle in his eye as people took the first sips?) Jesus’s work was about bringing hope and healing and life to people, empowering people to live more the way God intended. And, team or no team, there is plenty of that to do here among the poorest of the poor.

Opening Prayer

Opening Prayer

With little team, I began asking God what we were to do. And God answered very clearly. Don’t you just love when God is clear in his response? His response came in the form of this question: “What are you doing to bring the GMH motto to pass?” In other words, what are we doing to empower future leaders of Africa? Clearly we were empowering the children as they grew to love reading more and more. Certainly the Ghanaian teachers were gaining in understanding of better teaching methods. But could we do more in terms of the reading camp?

Training Day

Training Da

And so… this year’s training was born. After spending last Friday teaching about how children move from speaking to reading, after taking the Ghanaian teachers through the curriculum for reading camp, for the first time, they are running each classroom and overseeing the operation of the camp. Debi and I have little to do!

Thomas Reading to Class 2

Thomas Reading to Class 2

It is hard to capture in words how I felt when I sawThomas the teacher doing a picture walk through a new book exactly as I had taught, or how proud Debi and I were when Kate and Seth took over the more administrative responsibilities, or how exciting it is to see the classroom teachers being animated and positive with the children. We are so proud of our “junior staff,” children now too old for camp who have returned in the role of helpers. They have done much of what our American teens have done in the past. Everyone involved is gaining much practical experience in teaching reading.

Camp day 1-9

By passing on the camp baton in Akramaman we are strengthening the teachers there, and those from Odouman and Twreeboo as well. By empowering teachers their lives are enriched, and instruction for their students changed, multiplying the result of our labors. And, though some material support will still be needed at this site, it frees us to take a team to a new site next year to begin the process again.

Nora's response to an animated teacher

Nora’s response to an animated teacher

This is the process of empowerment at it’s best! Thanks be to God for his good word to us, and for permitting us to see transformation before our very eyes!

Art Helpers

Art Helpers

Training the helpers

Training the helpers

Teachers trained from 6 different schools and two regions.

Teachers trained from 6 different schools and two regions.

Rev. Becki Neumann+

AKA Auntie Becki+

Seat or Feet?

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All across America people sit in churches week by week, singing and listening and learning what it means to follow God, to follow Jesus who leads us into the heart of God. And for many, the journey to God ends there, in the pew, or in the chair; but for some, the pew or the chair is not the end of the journey toward God, but the beginning.

When my family prepares for any journey we readDSC_0116 everything we can about our destination, we try to learn about the exciting things in store. Following Jesus leads us into the heart of God. What is it like there? What does God say about religion? God, through James, says this, “[23] For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. [24] For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like… [27] Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world (James 1:23-27 ESV, emphasis mine).

The heart of God is filled with His love for the world, the whole world; and, I am convinced it also holds sadness that so many who have so much are so clueless about real need, true joy, and faith that has feet and not just a seat.

DSC_0929For 50+ years my faith had a seat, but no feet. I was convicted of being a fan, but not a follower. And then Ghanaian Mother’s Hope happened. Through the quiet wooing of the Holy Spirit I found myself on a plane bound for Ghana, and my faith, and my life have never been the same.

Is your faith “true religion?” Does your faith have feet? Have you been hearing… and ignoring the still small voice of God? Notice James doesn’t say, “send money.” He says, “visit orphans and widows in their affliction.” V.I.S.I.T.

Visit. Your life will never be the same. Your faith will never be the same. Your understanding of God will never be the same. Visit. And, you will have stepped more deeply into the heart of God.

 

 

Becki Neumann+, Board Member,  Rector, Christ Church

So, What is a TED talk?

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Four  years ago, friends began sharing TED talks with me. They were all very interesting and I began to wonder just what started all of this? How do these people, who come from all walks of life, find their way onto the TED stage?

First what is TED? TED began as a conference in 1984 about Technology, Entertainment and Design, to share ideas worth spreading. Over the years the topics have broadened but speakers still need an invitation to speak. There are now TEDx events, independent community events which follow the parameters around TED. If you go to TED.com you will find thousands of talks on almost any subject from education to the universerse. The overall thread running through each talk, which are from 6-24 minutes long, is “What is the idea worth sharing?”

I have watched hours of talks on Africa, health care, education, preschools and so many other subjects. I could only imagine an opportunity to give a talk like these talks. Then, it happened. I received an email that rocked my life. I was being recommended to participate in TEDx Sarasota to be held on October 6, 2014.

I have told the story of how Ghanaian Mothers’ Hope came to life many, many times. In fact I love sharing the story. I’ve shared it in Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Florida, North Carolina, New Jersey, South Carolina, Wisconsin, Michigan, Hawaii, Texas, South Korea, Italy–you get the picture. I share Ghanaian Mothers’ Hope wherever I go. But it quickly became obvious that sharing the Ghanaian Mothers’ Hope Story was not exactly where TEDx wanted me to go. I needed to search deep inside to see what was my idea worth sharing. It was a long struggle, almost four months of writing, rewriting, changing ideas, wondering it I would ever find the right idea.

I talked with my  speech coach, Judy Winslow, every week, even when I was in Ghana.  She encouraged me but also challenged me to go deeper. In mid-August the whole team of speakers, nine in all, began weekly audio conferences where we would present our talk and critique one another. It was very insightful. My idea became clear after I received comments from the group. My 5-6 photos by powerpoint changed with my ideas.

Each speaker would have 12 minutes in front of a live audience (about 150-200 people) and be video taped for the world to see. Cynthia Parker spoke on racism, Seth Smith talked about movments creating books and one of my favorite speakers, Dr. Gordon Chiu spoke about graphene, a 22nd century product. These are just a few of the offerings. We were a very diverse group who would not meet until the day before the event.

There was one rehearsal on stage with a microphone and our powerpoint slides. My clothing had to be carefully chosen, no black or white. I would be at the event all day, so comfortable yet stylish shoes were essential.  I had given my speech at several Toastmasters meetings. I thought I was ready but on stage at rehearsal, uncharistic of me, I stumbled over simple things. Even my powerpoint slides were wrong. They were using slides I had submitted months ago for a previous version. Did I really want to do a TED talk?  Thank God for rehearsals.

On October 6th, I was speaker #6. I stepped out on stage, took a deep breath and began to speak. Unfortuntaely my mic did not want to work that day so I stepped off stage, put on a new mic and was introduced again. Whew! Then I delivered the speech of my life.

I invite you to watch my TEDx talk.  I believe in my  “idea worth sharing,” anyone, regardless of age, can empower others and change the world.  I hope you agree and will share this talk with all of your family and friends.

Blessings, Debi Frock

P.S. I am available for speaking engagements

 

 

Guess who’s going to Ghana?

Baltimore SOG Stars

Michael and Elizabeth Winn, Kyle and Evan Trouland, Cheryl Vecera

For the last 5 summers the core team of Becki Neumann+, Bruce Neumann and Zach Neumann have been traveling to Ghana with adult and teen volunteers to run a Reading Camp. The camp targets children who are struggling to learn to read in English–not their native language. Not only is learning English a struggle but learning to read without books is also a struggle. Ghanaian Mothers’ Hope provides books, learning materials, lots of love, and encouragement. We work with Ghanaian teachers to be sure that the children understand and get the most out of the program.

At first we questioned the choice to take 14 year olds with us to Ghana but during the last five year we have seen amazing transformations not only in Ghana but in our teens when they return. Most of the teen have been recruited from the Virginia Beach area thanks to Zach Neumann and Lark Spur Middle school. These young students go on to high school and make a difference in the world. Last summer two of the teens took it upon themselves to sponsor preschoolers in St. Paul’s Preschool, giving a gift that will live on forever.

In an effort to know them better before traveling all the way to Ghana, I ask each teen to answer the following three questions:

  •  Why are you going to Ghana?
  •  What do you hope to learn from your work in Ghana?
  •  Tell me about your family.
  •  What do you do for fun?
  •  What school will you attend in Sept. or what is your profession?

Meet Three of our teens for 2014

Jasmyn

JASMYN ALLEN–Virginia Beach, VA

Jasmyn is traveling with her mother, Althea, to work in the Reading Camp.

  • I am going to Ghana on a missions trip to help children at a reading camp.  I’ll be able to help kids in more ways than one…Plus, I’ve never been out of the country.
  • I hope to be more appreciative of what I have.
  • I have an older brother who will be going to college this fall, a younger sister and two parents.
  • For fun I like to read books, play video games, talk and hang out with my friends and watch You Tube videos.
  •  I will attend Salem High School Visual Arts Academy in Virginia Beach with a concentration in Theater.

Evan

EVAN TROULAND — Bel Air, MD

Evan is my nephew who has listened to my stories for the last 10 years. Last fall when he turned 14, Evan decided it was to time to go to Ghana.

  • I am going to Ghana because I’ve always wanted to go and help kids strive to learn.
  • I want to learn to be thankful for what I have and how to speak a new language.
  • I love my family. I have a sister named Avery. My mom is named Lara and I can’t live without her. I have a dad named Kyle that I love very much. I look up to him and appreciate all the things he does for his business and for our family.  I also have a pet dog named CC and my cat Bayley I love her so much even though she is not with me any more.
  • I play four sports: ice hockey, basketball, soccer and baseball.
  • I will attend The Highlands School in September 2014.

Jackie

JACKIE COATES–South Riding, VA

Jackie is one of our two returning teens. She traveled with us in 2011 and has decided to go back.

  • It’s easy to stay in a place where you’re used to, but by doing that you don’t gain a worldly perspective. Going to Ghana challenges me to see an experience that I don’t see often.
  • Since this is my 2nd time going I want to see the progress that has been made in the villages and catch up on some people.
  • My parents got married right out of college in their very early 20s. I am the first of five kids and  I’ll tell you it’s never boring. My four younger brothers have very different personalities, but all come together for the passion of video games. My parents have been married for 18 years and hope to have many more to come.
  • For fun I mainly write and think about the world around me.
  • I will be attending Freedom High in September and wish to get a technical engineering degree.

These are just 3 of the 7 teens traveling with us. What a priviledge for me and the other adults traveling to Ghana. We will watch 7 teens mature and change right before our eyes. Be sure to read the blogs and watch them with us.

I will be in Ghana on Tuesday next week.

Blessings, Debi

 

 

What happens in Ghana – by Scott Lyons and Bruce Neumann

Scott LyonsMen 7 I am on a mission trip to Ghana with Ghanaian Mothers’ Hope and my job is to replace dangerously cracked plastic beams of a playground set. My teammate, Bruce Neumann and I are using a heavy, dense wood for the replacement. We are also painting St. Paul’s preschool in Akramaman. Bruce painted it in 2007 but the wear and tear along with the African sun has taken it’s toll. Day 1 Challenge: All screws on the jungle gym require a square drive crew driver. No square screw driver available. No Ace Hardware, no Walmart! Solution: make your own square driver by filing a screw driver to fit the hole.Men 4
Day 2 Challenge: Buying paint and painting supplies. There are paint stores in a not too far village. Paint, check, paint brushes, check, rollers, check, roller pans—ahh, not in Ghana. Solution: A cardboard box with a plastic bag. We are having our friend, Carpe—the carpenter, make us two roller pans out of wood. Another carpenter cut down 2 pieces of bamboo to make us extension poles.Men 1
Day 3 Challenge: Keeping the children off the playground equipment while it is being repaired. Solution: Constantly telling the children to get down.
Another huge challenge was finding paint to match the color of the school. We were not successful so we improvised. Then we realized we needed to get the bosses approval—there are 3 bosses-Debi, Mercia and Francesca (the new Head Mistress). They have yet to agree on the color—colour—British spelling.

Not again –Bruce NeumannMen 5

At the end of our 2012 mission trip, the playground at Akramaman was nearly restored. When preparing for GM Hope’s summer, 2013 mission trip, Debi reminded me that there would be a little work needed to complete the repair to the slide unit, but it turned out to be a major deal. When Scott and I looked at it, of the two posts we put in two years ago, one had cracked just like the original with the BAD mix of plastic, and the other one was split top to bottom. The cross braces under the deck were broken and the number roller supports had cracked away. While we where there Monday the cracked one broke off at deck level so we remove it. Of course the screws were 1/8″ square drive, with no tools locally available. We were able to fabricate a driver to take some of it apart.We had the village carpenter order wood for this year’s repair project and it arrived late Monday.Men 2

While waiting for the wood, we filled cracks in the the school walls in preparation for painting it. When we went paint shopping, they did not have a gray colour paint, so we were instructed to get something cream and some blue to tint it some. In the bucket it looked bright yellow; and when we mixed the blue in it was a terrible shade of green! Luckily, it dried to a much more mellow-yellow with a twinge of green, so we said lets not waste it and painted the Library porch with it. The colour turned out very nice. The debate as to what colour to paint the exterior walls was opened. Someone said blue with white tint, another said the yellow with green, another suggestion was white with blue tint, the last heard was just the plain yellow. The jury is still out.Men 3

Tuesday the carpenter cut the wood to sizes we needed, and Scott and I planned how to begin fixing the slide. On Wednesday, we figured we would lower the slide platform and remove the cross pieces, and install new wood braces, and then do the posts on Thursday. The wood, being green, required prefitting and predrilling all the screw and lag holes with a hand (not powered) drill. All went well during this process, even chasing children off the slide unit while we were working on it. Tomorrow, we start on the posts. We have arranged a pick axe to dig out the out old concrete, a bag of cement to be delivered, sand, course and fine aggregate and sand for new concrete bases.Men 6 1

The children love the playground so it is worth the time and trouble to maintain it. The frustration is due to having bought a brand name with a life time guarantee, and having the product fail not once, but twice within a few short years.

I know a secret I’ll share with you! by Debi Frock

I love my bookI remember teaching this song to from Junior Choir at Epiphany Episcopal Church, Timonium, MD, in the 1980’s.  Of course the secret is the Love of Jesus.  How true that song has been for Drew Davidsen and me during the last two weeks as we have been sharing “The Secret to Being Strong” with close to 1,000 children and teachers in Ghana.

For those of you who are new to our Coloring Book project, Ghanaian Mothers’ Hope has collaborated with Jean MacKay Vinson and JAMS Books, to recreate one of Jean’s health care stories to reflect African culture. GMH has been given the opportunity to share this coloring book in Ghana.  Most children suffer from repeated incidences of worms. They can destroy a child’s health and mind. It is hard to lean in school when you are suffering. Ghana Public Health deworms entire schools on a regular basis but the children need to learn why they get sick and how to stop the cycle.  “The Secret to Being Strong” gives them the tools they need.Teaching the song

Drew has written a catchy tune for the project. Africans love song and dance and the guitar is a big hit. Last summer we gave out more than 1,800 books. This summer we could afford to do another 1,000.

Armed with books, crayons, CD’s of the songShoes and our voices we set off. Sometimes we traveled by pick-up across the very bumpy, dusty, pothole filled dirt roads. Several times we borrowed a car from my host family. The cars are very old. With no air- conditioning; often no working windows—I thought I would pass out in the back seat. There are no shock absorbers and most of the roads, yes even in Accra, are rocky, hilly, unpaved, dirt roads.

The schools were very different. We taught “The Secret” to class one and class two. Some classes understood English very well and our discussions were great. In other schools I needed an interpreter. The children were hesitant to give me the answers but soon we were all laughing. The number one secret is,  “Wear your shoes, all the time”.  I would ask the kids to show me their shoes. That always produced a good laugh as they put their feet in the air.

Ruth's schoolOne school is in a very poor area. Mercia’s friend, Ruth, started the school because she saw so many children staying home. We visited this school in 2007. It had dirt floors and no uniforms. Now she has found a church that uses the school on Sundays. In return they have given her money for uniforms and flooring. The children were so well educated and polite.  Ruth has done a wonderful work.

At Ruth’s school we told the children about Owen’s Birthday project. Owen raised enough funds to buy the coloring books and crayons for Ruth’s school. The children were shocked!  To think that a little boy in the U.S. would give up his birthday presents to help them.  They were so thankful.  Next week we will distribute 85 malaria nets in Owen’s honor at a village.owen 1

Obstacles for teaching are so unique. At one school the children had desks crowded onto the veranda. I barely had room to move. Plus there was the noise and distraction of all the people going by. Half of the school stood on the sidelines. Though we only had enough books for class one, we ended up teaching about 200 children.Debi teaches

Most of the schools are so dark. There is no lighting and they have a block patterning filling in half of the window space or shutters that keep banging shut.  At our last school it began to rain. I am talking down pour. The noise on the tin roof was deafening. We had to stop teaching and just sit and sit and sit. I asked the teacher, “What do you do when it rains?” She replied, “We cannot teach so we just tell them to be quiet at their desks.”  The rain lasted almost an hour!

Now about my partner, Drew, he has worked veryDrew's muscles hard in the last year to make himself healthy and strong. The children loved his muscles and wanted to be strong like Drew.  They also loved the music. Many would play their air guitars as soon as we walked into a room.  His energy was addictive. The children would clap and show their muscles. Near the end of each song Drew would get them jumping. It was rewarding to see the children so happy and engaged.  We are having a contest for each school that we have taught at—21 all together.  If they can teach the song to the whole school—after all they are supposed to share this secret—and can sing it for us next year, we will award the school a cash prize.

I can’t wait for next year! Drew and I are an awesome team. We hope to return to Ghana and go to at least one other African country to share “The Secret to Being Strong.”Drew guitar

Here is the link to Drew’s song.  This is the link to JAMS Books.

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