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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+

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 thought I had been exposed to everything. . . by Elizabeth Werbiskis

Eliz babyOne of the things I requested of Debi Frock, founder of Ghanaian Mothers’ Hope, on this Ghana trip was that I get the opportunity to do more than just help with Reading Camp, sight-see and shop. She granted my wish and then some! Tuesday, Debi and I went to Denchira, a new village, to deliver treated mosquito nets to families. The visit was pre-arranged by Auntie Sarah and Auntie Elizabeth, nurses at who do medical outreach for the Anglican Diocese of Accra. They made sure all the women and children from Denchira were gathered and Debi was able to talk to them about Malaria and ways it can be prevented. Debi asked the women and children to raise their hands if they had had malaria…everyone raised their hands. I know when we visit Ghana, we’re required to take either a daily or weekly malaria preventative but I never thought about what the locals actually do to prevent contracting malaria.
Someone else had been thinking about that too.owen 1 Debi told us about an 8 year old boy in Lake Worth, Florida named Owen who decided to forego receiving birthday presents this year and have everyone donate money to GMH because he didn’t want kids to die from malaria anymore. The money donated allowed GMH to buy 85 malaria nets, 50 of which we delivered in Denchira. Helping Owen’s vision reach the final stage was an extremely rewarding opportunity to be a part of. I was so excited to get out to the new village and help these families. We also brought toothbrushes and toothpaste to hand out to the families as well as flip flops, pillow case dresses and GMH bracelets for the young boys and girls.
After my experiences in Akramaman both this year and last, I thought I had been exposed to everything – the extreme living conditions, the poverty and need everywhere, the kids with such promise and little hope of more. What struck me in this new village was the urgency that the people felt about “getting” the things we were providing.

As I stood with Debi, Auntie Sarah and Auntie Elizabeth handing out the bracelets and flip flops, I was nervous because I didn’t know who to choose to give them to and I didn’t have enough for everyone. I was also intimidated by the need of these people in front of me. I know they have nothing and all I had to offer was a little rubber bracelet. As soon as I started handing out a couple bracelets to kids near us I was swarmed and it became overwhelming. Even harder than managing the mob in front of me was understanding why some kids were grabbing more than one bracelet when there were others that had none.bracelets
I had expected a sense of gratitude, which was certainly there, but because these kids live with constant need, there was also a sense of “still wanting”. That was hard for me to understand because when we “want” something it’s not nearly to the same scale as their “want”. It made me realize the difference between my wants and needs and theirs. When you have everything you need, your wants become material and almost unnecessary. When you have nothing, you want everything because you can’t distinguish the difference between a want and a need.Malaria nets for twins

Elizabeth helping at Reading Camp

Elizabeth helping at Reading Camp

 

Elizabeth donated 80+ pair of flip flops for children at the camp and in the village

Elizabeth donated 80+ pair of flip flops for children at the camp and in the village

 

Created to Read

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Preparations – by Debra Gustin

We all had breakfast out on the patio and watchedKids at school while Accra bustled around us. The bus came to pick us up and we finally headed to the school.  The bus was packed to the roof with suitcases and supplies for camp.  It took us just over 1 ½ hours to get to the school.  Most of the roads were now paved, although we heard that was not true when the school was first built.  We turned on the road to the school and the first thing we saw was the playground.  As we pulled into the yard the director, Anastasia, and all of her teachers poured out of the doors and ran to the bus to greet us.  Each person was hugged and greeted as they got off the bus, what a wonderful welcome!  The first order of business was to empty the bus, unpack all of the supplies and then start sorting everything.

            The bus seemed to be a bit of a pied piper.  As soon as we drove through the local villages, people knew that we would be at the school and children started arriving.  At first they were very shy and curious but curiosity won out in the end and they came closer and closer.  Kimberly was a natural with her infectious laugh and they came to sit next to her and then sit on her lap.  The three teen girls were on the playground pushing children on the swings.  Adriana, Zach and Elizabeth were surrounded by children who they met last year and now were admiring how much they had grown. Unpacking

We were called back to work.  One group of people assembled supply bags for each child so they would have everything they needed for the week.  I headed to the library to level the books that were there and all of the books that we brought with us so that all of the books that were out were camp level.  When I emerged from the library people were scattered all over the place.  Bruce & Scott were working on the playground, Maggie got a soccer game going, Raegan, Elizabeth, and Adriana were on the playground and Debi & Kimberly were singing and playing with children on the porch and there were children everywhere.  If there was any doubt why we were all here in Ghana, here was the reason:  all of those beautiful, hopeful faces.Debra

After a delicious lunch, we gathered as an entire group to go over the curriculum for the all of reading camp so everyone would know what to do.  Each teacher had a Ghanaian counterpart and one of our teenagers to support them in the classroom.  We learned new songs (will the “Beaver song” ever leave my head?!) and poems and finally decided we were ready for the week to come!  Everyone is now anxious for Monday to arrive.

Day One-Reading Camp- By Janet Mall

Today marked the beginning of our reading camp.  We have been preparing for a few days and execution went rather smoothly. As soon as we arrived in our bus, we were greeted by all of the village kids.  The playground and the porch were full of smiling faces and bright beautiful eyes that lit up when they saw that we were here to spend time with them.  Janet 1

After assessing the reading skill of the children, they were sorted into one of three classrooms.  I went to collect my kiddos.  They came in with very serious faces and were surprised to see the way the classroom was set up.  They were instantly excited to see the groups of fours that the tables made.

We distributed their book bags, which were filled with school supplies and they opened those bags, as if it was Christmas. Their class day began with reading a poem together. They enjoyed reading it together and then individually.  When they read, it was in unison and there was almost a song-like quality to the sound of their voices.  I couldn’t help but smile widely while listening to their voices, with me occasionally chiming in to reassure them that they were on the right track.Janet 2

Before we knew it, reading time was over and it was time to head to the library. We formed two lines and we headed to the library.  When the children entered the library, they caught a glimpse of the books and I could instantly hear soft-spoken chatter.  There were about 70 books in this library that’s hardly a library in the United States, that’s actually a book display at a Barnes & Noble.  The children saw the books and were astonished to realize that they could touch and read the books.  Every child got a book and comfortably stretched onto the floor and began looking at the books.

I sat down on the floor and before I knew it, I had a crowd Janet 3of students sitting near me.  One of my students, Caroline sat down with me and pulled out a book about the food pyramid.  She looked at me and said, “Madame, can I read to you.” When a little girl as adorable as her asks you such a question, there is no response except a very definite yes.  We began and I glanced over the first page and thought to myself, this book is beyond her level.  She struggled with the first page and then she paused. I thought to myself, she is probably not going to finish this book.  She flipped forward to the end of the page and then softly said, “Twenty one pages.” I work with middle schoolers in the United States and many times when something demands a little extra work, students give up.  I was touched to see her willingness to work hard and her desire to learn more, to be better.  We finished that book and I was so proud of her.  I thought to myself, this is why I came to Ghana. I came to help and to lift spirits.  People always overestimate how much is necessary to make a child smile.  They just want someone who listens, who cares, and who loves them.  Needless, to say it was a great first day. Now on to the next one. J

My first Ghanaian Anglican Church experience. . . – by Linda Rines

linda mercia debiI expected the service to be long since I had heard they often last 3 hours.  Since it was the first Sunday in the month on Aug 4th, it was 4 hours!

The 13 of us on the Ghanaian Mothers’ Hope Reading Camp Team sat together in the front and were recognized as visitors from “the States”.  Debi provided us with white handkerchiefs with Ghanaian Mothers’s Hope logo printed in blue in the corner which we often held up and twirled like the other parishioners.hankies

The words to most songs and scriptures, even the Nicene Creed, were displayed in English with PowerPoint on an overhead screen.  The women in the parish were all dressed in their finest dresses of all colors, shapes and sizes  in the Ghanaian style,   all very proud of how well they looked in church.

Most of the hymns were sung with the organ except during the offerings which were a totally unique experience.  When it is time for the collection, every one in church walks or dances to the front and puts their offering in a wooden box.  During this time the music is led by a female vocalist accompanied by guitar and drums.  The music is loud and lively praise music and the whole congregation really gets into the singing and dancing.  After the monthly collection is gathered and taken away for counting, the priest calls for donations for each of the parish guilds.  I don’t remember all their names, there were at least 8 or 10 and the collection was put into a separate bucket for each.  I didn’t realize until the end that there is a competion each month with trophies (and bragging rights) for the guilds that collect the most money.  I guess that is why they really get into the music and dancing to encourage others to donate to their favorite cause.

I could tell that the service had the same basic elements as at home.  The scripture lessons were read in English, and the tribal languages, Ga and Twi, the last two being read by beautiful young girls that read very well, since it was “youth” Sunday.church 1

Before communion, women from the Guild of the Good Shepard brought forward food and other donations (like toilet paper) and placed them in front of the altar.  I’m guessing these were equivalent to our food bank.  The donations were blessed with a lot of incense.

The communion was very familiar.  At least half of the men and women took communion bare foot.  We guessed that this is because the altar is considered sacred ground however the real reason has more to do with the sound that sandals and flip flops make as you walk up the isle.

After communion, the priest blessed our team as well as Zack and Janet for their engagement.  Since it was Becki Neuman’s birthday, she joined the others with birthdays for blessings while we all sang Happy Birthday to them.birthday stole

It was a long service but there was so much going on and changes in style and presentation that I didn’t get restless at all.  I’m looking forward to doing it all again next Sunday!

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.

TO MARKET TO MARKET TO BE HIT BY A FAT PIG, by Debi Frock

ImageI can’t believe that I have been in Ghana almost two weeks and Drew Davidsen has been here over a week.  At times it seems that it was only yesterday that I was packing, weighing and repacking four suitcases but time has flown by as we have done several weeks worth of work in the last week. I was so exhausted yesterday that I fell asleep at 5 pm and slept until 7 this morning.

Anyone who has followed my blogs for the Imagelast few years knows that I love going to  Makola Market in Accra. It is where locals shop for just about anything you need or want. It is a veritable sea of African humanity. Imagine several miles of buildings 4-5 stories high, old and crumbling. Each floor has rows of stalls filled with goods. Now add several rows of stalls surrounding each building. Then there are roads coming and going in all directions. Many of the roads are impassible because people have set up stalls in the middle of the road. Of course this does not stop the taxis, trucks or cars from trying to pass down each road.  Then add 50,000+ Africans to the mix. Now you have a picture.

Of course Drew and I cannot hide our very white complexion in this sea. We listen to “O bruni buy from me”—local for white person, being shouted as we walk by. We smile and wave. They wave back.

ImageOn this journey we have purchased 1,200 boxes of crayons to give out with our Germs and Worms Coloring books health mission. They are small boxes but the two cartons weight 35 pounds each. Our carrier, Fostina, a small girl of about 15 years old, places both cartons on her head and proceeds to cross through the Sea without missing a beat. At times she hardly had room for a piece of paper between her and the person in front of her. I gave her 10 Ghana cedis; the going rate is 2 cedis.

My grandmother, bless her heart, was a waitress for 55 years. She received awards of service from The Lord Baltimore and Hilton Hotel’s in Baltimore. She could enter a room with 4 plates on each arm, zigzag between tables and never spill a drop. She like the Africans, had a keen sense of spatial relationship. As people weave in and out of this African Sea they are a hair’s breath from the person in front of them and they never bump into the goods piled 3 feet high on the edges of each stall. I, on the other hand, trip over the uneven stones; my purse snags a large group of pumice stones and sends them everywhere. In the meantime I have to stop to apologize to the stall owner who is scolding me. I have backed up the line of 20 Ghanaians who want to pass me, lost sight of my group since I was bringing up the rear and am nearly decapitated by a large bowl of pig’s feet. I did not inherit grace from my grandmother but nevertheless, I did inherit her perseverance so I will be back in the market in a day or so!Image

True Drew from Ghana

Drew Josh NiiI woke up this morning around 6 am. We were  to leave around 7:30 am to visit 4 schools that serve rural villages. My roommate, Joshua, was already up and getting ready for school. I took my vitamins and got set to workout but was soon greeted by the power going out. Next thing I knew, Joshua, brought me a battery operated  lamp so I could see. The sunlight was just starting to come in but it was still a bit dark. Wow! Rather than grumble about the loss of power he’s serving my needs. He may only be 8 years old but I have the best roommate! They really get what it means to be a family unit in Ghana.  Everyone knows their roles and they work well together daily. This is how Africans survive.

After my workout and a nice cold shower, Debi asks what I would like to eat. We recently got some good bread and cheese so I suggest a cheese sandwich. Next thing I know Mercia is bringing out a breakfast fit for a King. Eggs, fried spam, fried onion, plus a grilled cheese sandwhich…I’m always so grateful for every meal I eat here in a different way then I am back home. Most times I don’t know what or when the next meal will be.

Not long after breakfast a driver arrived in a Road4-wheel-drive pick up truck on loan from the Anglican Diocese of Accra. Many of the roads to the schools we visited today are not paved or even flat. There is the threat of rain so my guitar rides in the front seat with me strattling it between my legs. The roads are very slippery and muddy as the rain falls. Quite a few roads had little streams running across them. Traffic is very slow, about 10 miles per hour. We bounce and bounce across the many bumps and potholes.  Debi told me to stay loose, like jello, as we bounce along to keep from getting sore. My bones rattle along with the truck.

The first school we visited was a little tough to find because of road construction. Finally the driver doubled back and found a way around the construction.  In Ghana it is best to have a driver on a long trip like this one. There are lots of little taxis all around too. Every tro-tro (small vans used as local busses) is packed twice over. I’m glad God provided a 4-wheel-drive vehicle for today’s adventure. Being on the road is always an adventure.

At each school, the kids were excited when we pulled in. Debi is on fire teaching… the children are really getting it too. They are learning the importance of wearing shoes, eating good food, washing hands, etc. The coloring book is a BIG hit. This means they can share the message with all their friends.

Abossey Okai Public SchoolThe word that kept coming to my mind all day today was “resolve.” They are very good at going with the flow here! Two schools we visited had classrooms that are outside. What I mean is they had open walls. So you could be teaching a lesson and all of the sudden hear a goat!  At another, the children were piled onto the veranda. Desks are different over here. Three children share a desk. And I didn’t see them fighting over space for their coloring books either. They helped each other see whatever page Debi was teaching from. There were always children from other classrooms lurking about as well. I mean how often does a blond haired blue-eyed American with Norwegian heritage visit their school flexing his muscles and playing guitar!

The kids did such a great job singing and flexing their muscles. Being StrongWe did some jumping and dancing as well. I have an acoustic guitar so I have to strum very loud to cut through all the excess noises. There was not one school where you had an enclosed classroom cut off from all the noise of other classrooms or street sounds.

At one school a little girl got sick at her desk. Her friends helped to clean her coloring book off. When ever we would leave a school they would keep singing the words “Being Strong” as we pulled out. The children waved and smiled too. Such joy!! We left a few CD’s at every school so the teachers could continue to teach the song I wrote..

When we got home, I was exhausted and took a short nap. I awoke to another amazing meal. This time Debi and Mercia had made some fried potatoes and chicken stew. We had vegetables as well. I am blessed every day to be here.

Nii Marty

We learned that Mecria’s grand baby, Victor—we call him Nii Marty, has malaria. He is only 7 months old. He sleeps in a room with windows and screens. They spray for mosquitos frequently.  This is very dangerous for anyone in the sub-tropics but especially for a baby in Ghana. Mercia is keeping him cool and trying to get him to take the medicine. Joshua is helping. The first 24 hrs are crucial and watching his listless body is heart wrenching.

Fortunately Mercia has experience with this and living in the city Nii Marty’s parents could get to a doctor fairly quickly.  This is a big contrast to the the rural villages where we work. Mothers walk miles and miles with their baby strapped to their back to find a clinic. Many babies die on the way to the clinic. Seeing Nii Marty sick like this really brings this health message close to home. Malaria is very real and very serious! I’m praying right now…

As I sit  on the couch, I am thankful to God for another day of life. Soon it will be time for bed. Tomorrow we will visit more schools and I’m sure I will be treated to much more Ghanaian resolve.

Thanks to everyone for your support and a special thanks to Owen Levine, the 8 year old boy in Lake Worth, Florida, who gave up his birthday to provide Being Strong Coloring Books and crayons along with 85 Malaria Nets that will be given out next week.

DREW

PS. So far we have taught 700+ children the “Secret” and given out over 600 coloring books. Many thanks to JAMSBooks and Jean MacKay Vinson for this great health care tool.

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