Ghana Together News

Ghana Together works with our Ghanaian friends of Western Heritage Home, a Ghanaian-registered and managed non-profit, to improve social, educational, and health conditions in Axim, Ghana. Together we accomplish projects, connect WHH to resourceful individuals and organizations, and create sustainable programs. We make a real difference to real people in a local, grassroots effort. Our website at http://ghanatogether.org tells our story.

Aug 12, 2014

Project(s) Update

A little more than half a year has gone by. What about those projects Western Heritage Home and Ghana Together so bravely launched in January this year?

...many ups and downs, BUT two projects---the new Mobile Library Van and the Children’s Computing Lab---were dedicated just last week.


Community Leaders at the Dedication Ceremony held in the Community Center for the Children's Computing Lab and the Mobile Library Van
 
 
Thanks to the support of Mr. James Baidoe, the Municipal Chief Executive, and the District Assembly, WHH (under the leadership of James Kainyiah), has been given a room in the centrally located Community Center for both the Children’s Computing Lab and the Leif Pederson Internet Café for adults.
 
One Laptop Per Child Computing Lab, just for kids. Mostly boys in this photo, but we'll work on getting the girls involved, too.! The Leif Pederson Internet Café (for adults) has also been moved to this location, and can be seen in the background

Peter, who learned OLPCs when he was living at the WHH Children's Home (now a high school student) is the part-time "teacher" during his school break. Here he uses a projector to demonstrate the many educational activities geared to young children

The Mobile Library Van is getting limited use during the school break, but will deliver books to area schools when school resumes on Sept 9. The van will deliver books to area schools, especially to the "P4" students (our 4th grade) when students typically transition from "learning to read" to "reading to learn."
The schools have few to no textbooks or libraries so this is a crucial service to improve literacy.
 

Mr. Baidoe handing the keys to the Library Van to Librarian Gadiel Eyison, Acting Director of the Axim Public Library

 

WOW!!! It's absolutely BEAUTIFUL!!!
 
"Mr. Gad" starts her up!! Luckily he has been riding motorcycles for some time, since the library used an ordinary motorcycle for a couple of years before it died and now has been replaced with this van. He looks happy!!


This effort creates a centrally-located “Learning Center” linking the public library, the children’s library nook/story hour space, the children’s computing lab, and the adult internet café...more reliable electricity/internet signals, serves business community as well, and just more efficient.

 
One of our scholarship students from the Apowosika Village School speaks her thanks before the crowd on behalf of her fellow students from the Axim Primary Schools
 
Children can hear a good story! Check out book! Use a computer! Take the book home and show off reading skills to Mom and Dad! Brag about computer skills to their siblings! Who cares if it’s a mile or two walk???  

 
Students joining in a prayer of thanksgiving to close the dedication ceremony

We extend our heartfelt thanks to those who helped us create the Children's Computing Lab. All of the OLPCS have been donated over the years (if you have one, you know who to contact!!). Thank you,

Thanks

---to those who donated funds to create the lab (paint, tables, electrical connections, etc.)

---to the original creators of the OLPCs who mostly donated their time and incredible technical expertise and continue to do so

---to those who have donated children's books (some 5,000 now)

---to Ebby who helps us ship books

---to folks in Ghana who deliver the books from the port to Axim

---to Librarian Mercy Ackah whose leadership in Axim really launched this project. Mercy is now directing the Takoradi Library, of which the Axim Library is a branch.

---to the devoted, creative, energetic leaders of Western Heritage Home who have ideas and when helped, get them DONE!!!

 
NOTE: we thank Evans Arloo, Western Heritage Home Manager, for the photos
 
---------------------------------------

Meanwhile, due to the ebola outbreak, our Ghana Together team has postponed our travel Axim. We hoped to enjoy the Kundum Festival, review projects, and help launch the new school year, but we'll save that for next time.

Our friends in Axim are well aware of the threat and are taking what steps they can, given limited resources. The Ghana Ministry of Health has declared a “Red Alert” and is disseminating information.
 
Axim leaders are setting up information sessions at this same Community Center. They are finding every hand washing station they can and making sure they are operable. Pastors and other leaders are informing the people about the disease and specific hygienic practices.

We feel helpless here in the US, but we are with them in spirit and in our prayers.


For more info see ghanatogether.org. Click on "News" to see earlier news updates.
Contact us at info@ghanatogether.org

Jun 23, 2014

Update on WHH Scholars


We thought our readers would like an update on those original Western Heritage Home Scholars. As “orphaned or vulnerable children” (a Ghanaian government classification) they spent their early years in the WHH Children’s Home in Axim. In fact, their care was WHH’s first substantial community project and our first collaboration with WHH.
 
You may recall that in mid-2011 the WHH Board moved the children into kinship/foster homes, both out of their own concern about the long-term effects of institutionalizing children, and also because of some governmental policy changes.
 
Maryanne visited with most of these children in February this year. She was told by Manye Academy staff that due to the extra tutoring and care in early years at the Children’s Home, they have done well in their studies, considering they had few to no academic skills when they started at Manye at various ages.
 
So here’s an update.
 
Ben (P5) and Gladys (P2) attend in Brawie/Akyminim Primary School, in north Axim, near the Community Development Vocational Institute. They live with their Grandma. It’s a tough go, but the school headmaster says as long as we provide uniforms and fees which cover exercise books, pens, daily lunch, etc. they’re ok. We’re grateful to generous neighbors who help out Grandma as best they can.
 
Philomena (Form 1 SHS) and Charlotte (Form 1 SHS) are on Tullow Oil Company scholarships at Nsein Senior High School. They are both outstanding students, and the oil company pays all of their expenses, so they require no support from us as this time. Way to go girls!!! Way to go Tullow!!
 
Peter has just graduated JHS, took his BECE exams, and is awaiting results. He will attend High School in the Nzema East area, starting September, either with our help or, because his academic work is tops, he is hoping for a scholarship.  He likes math, science, business, and computers, he says. Peter has moved from Mr. Bentil’s home (how can we thank you for your years of generosity to this boy??) and is now living in the Heritage Volunteer Quarters. He is helping Evans Arloo, the Manager, esp. with the One Laptop Per Child Computers (he’s an early expert!). Peter not only lost his parents as a young boy, but recently both his biological sister (sickle cell) and his brother (typhoid).
 
Frederic is in P6 at Manye Academy and living in a kinship/foster home in Axim.
 
Francis (JHS Form1) and Lamin (JHS Form 2) are living in kinship homes and attend Manye Academy. Lamin still loves soccer and has become an outstanding athlete.
 
Olivia, George, Isaac, and Eric are in JHS Form 1 at Manye.
 
Isaac dropped out for a couple of years to join his older brother in traditional medicine work, but he has been counselled by WHH board member Nana Adjow Sika (Queen Mother) to finish high school before he makes career decisions and he has decided to accept her wise counsel.
 
Eric also dropped out and joined a fishing crew in Ivory Coast, but he decided he wanted to be back in Axim, and learn driving or electrician work. But, to do that, he needs to finish JHS first, so he has decided to resume his studies at Manye. (Thank you, Manye staff, for being so flexible---you are true educators!)
 
George, Olivia, Ernestina, Isaac, and Eric are boarding at Manye Hostel. As they got older, between helping their families with fetching of water, cooking, etc., and lack of electricity so no lights, they had too little time for homework during daylight hours. In the hostel, they have regular food, water, and a generator. It is crucial, in Ghana, for students to finish junior high. Eligibility for senior high school is based on junior high test results. Without JHS training, one simply doesn’t have the skills to work in Ghana’s economy.
 
Gifty is in SHS in Beyim.
 
Joanna is with her biological grandmother/auntie in the Takoradi area.
 
Mary is with family in Accra.
 
Wahab and Adiza are in Tarkwa in kinship homes.
 
Emmanuela is at the Blind/Deaf School in Cape Coast. She is doing well. Maryanne didn’t visit her because she has adjusted well, per the teachers, and a visit would perhaps disturb that. We pay for some of her expenses—all of her menstrual supplies, clothing, toiletries, etc.
 
Godwin has been taken into James Kainyiah’s family in Takoradi and is growing up with the Kainyiah children. He still loves his OLPC and told Maryanne he is tops in his class in ICT (computer studies).
 
We save Dorothy Armoo for last! She has graduated senior high school and is teaching at a small private primary school just south of Axim. She loves teaching---English and ICT. She is earning her own living. We are so proud! WAY TO GO DOROTHY!!!
 
Dorothy, second from left, with fellow teachers


One of Dorothy's classes in their "bamboo school"

These WHH Scholars are still a primary responsibility for WHH and for Ghana Together. We jointly continue to support them financially, on an individual, as-needed basis. Our goal is to make sure that one way or another, all who have the academic ability will finish senior high school, a high achievement in Ghana. We’d like to do more for those who are academically capable
 
They see each other as "extended family" and do look after each other. We are proud of them. Dorothy, the "senior sister" called at 2:00 am on Mother's Day to wish all the "Mums" on Ghana Together's Board a Happy Mother's Day from all the scholars.
 
We are especially grateful to local leaders, especially James Kainyiah, Isaac Bentil, Queen Mother Nana Adjow Sika, and the various teachers and administrators at Manye Academy, especially Felicia Atta, former assistant headmistress and current teacher.
 
And you have helped support these children over the years. They and we thank you.
 
The WHH motto is “Making Leaders of the Least” and so they are…
 
For more info see http://ghanatogether.org
Contact us at info@ghanatogether.org
 

Jun 4, 2014

We say goodbye to Tom


This past Saturday we of Ghana Together gathered with family and friends at the East Shore Unitarian Church in Bellevue, Washington State, to say goodbye to Tom Castor.
Both Tom and his beloved wife Louise were among Ghana Together’s founding members. He was an active board member until the day of his death on May 16, 2014.
Tom put his heart and soul into the all the work we did with the people, and especially the children, of Axim, Ghana.

In our early years, we supported a children’s home. He and Louise traveled with us to dedicate the building and launch that effort.


Tom and his wife, Louise Wilkinson, in Ghana
 
He delighted in interacting with the children. They loved to touch Tom’s skin, gently pulling the hair on his arms and beard, completely unafraid of this gentle white man!

 He was with them when the lights went out and when it was time to get up with the sun to get ready for school!

 
Tom showing off his fancy camera to his enraptured audience!
 
He helped set up a science room at Manye Primary School.



Tom receiving a traditional stole from Felicia Atta, Assistant Headmistress, in appreciation for his contributions to the Manye Academy Science Room
 
He raised funds to build a water tower.
 
He used his technical background to help rebuild about 50 One Laptop Per Child computers and took delight in teaching the children how to use them.


This One Laptop Per Child stuff is REALLY fun. girls!!
 Tom helped walk the entire town of Axim, recording longitude and latitude coordinates for every water spigot.
 
He faithfully served behind the scenes as our Vice President and Secretary, approving bank wires, writing minutes, and giving his best candid counsel.

We are grateful to have known and worked with this skilled, kindly, generous friend.
 
 
For more information, see http://ghanatogether.org
Contact us at info@ghanatogether.org
 

Mar 22, 2014

Western Heritage Home (Axim, Ghana) and Ghana Together (US) Finalize Plans for 2014


When Maryanne Ward, President of Ghana Together, visited Axim, Ghana recently, our Western Heritage Home associates discussed with her their project priorities for 2014.

This past weekend our Ghana Together Board met to discuss those priorities and finalize our own goals for this year.

We will continue to sustain these ongoing programs:

-Fund school tuition/fees/boarding and other costs for the original Western Heritage Home scholars who still need our help. We are so proud of Dorothy, who has graduated high school and has a teaching job (!), and Gifty, Philomena, and Charlotte who received full senior high scholarships from one of the oil companies working in Ghana.

-Fund 47 tuition scholarships to Apewosika Village Primary School, targeting the poorest families. We are grateful to Nana Adjow Sika, the Queen Mother, for working with Headmaster David to select and monitor these students.

-Continue to collect and ship books to the children’s library.

-Fund minor ongoing support for the soon-to-open children's computing laboratory (using the One Laptop Per Child machines), located next to the Children’s Room at the Library
-Help with some minor expenses as they arise on Heritage Building, now a hostel for senior high girls.

In addition, we will try to muster funding for this new project

...which looks a lot like our 2013 renovation project we are so proud of!

Remember this school building from Jan 2013?

 

...and how the WHH and the PTA with our help totally renovated it?

And how in Jan 2014, 80+ JHS students go to their classrooms in this very beautiful building?

 
Maryanne took this photo just a few weeks ago and happily received the heartfelt thanks of students, teachers, and parents

Built on that success, we plan a similar project at the Axim All-Girls High School.

WHH and local school leaders will renovate this old building that is structurally sound, per the Axim Municipality District Engineer, Mr. Hadden, himself...
 


 
 ...taking into consideration that the inside is in pretty good shape, not having been exposed to tropical rains, heat, and humidity...

 
 


...putting those same carpenters/masons/PTA members/very capable high school young women to work to clean it up, replace the roof, fix the masonry, replace windows, add mosquito netting, paint...

...mixing in about $11,000 help from Ghana Together...(yes, we can use some help with this)

...and give those high school girls...

  • who eat all three meals at school
  • study there
  • basically live at school except for sleeping 
  • and who ARE, after all, the future women leaders of Ghana...

A nice, clean, dry study/eating/assembly hall.
 
 
 
For more info about Ghana Together see http://www.ghanatogether.org
To contact us: info@ghanatogether.org
 .
 
 


 
 

 

 
 

 

Mar 6, 2014

Axim Community Development Vocational Institute (CDVI)

You may remember that Western Heritage Home, our partners in Axim, Ghana, renovated the CDVI Women’s Dormitory with our financial help back in 2013. We wrote about it about a year ago:



Newly renovated women's dormitory
So, it was Maryanne Ward’s pleasure to tour the dormitory building and to meet our 12 scholarship students, eight of whom are living in the dormitory, with 16 in residence total.
The young women reported they LOVE living in the nice, clean dormitory, and promised to use their marketing skills (one of their classes is marketing) to spread the word to friends that there is a good place to live, now, for those who want to attend but live beyond walking distance.


Resident shows off her room, demonstrating her bednet (malaria prevention)

Students typically have few possessions.
 
 
 
 
The courtyard provides space for getting together, doing laundry, drying clothes...


Inner courtyard showing area for relaxing together, laundry, clothes drying, etc.
 Ghana Together sponsored scholarship students because we wanted to kickstart the dormitory and also help a few with major financial barriers. We awarded funds to Western Heritage Home, which in turn granted the funds to the CDVI Parent Teacher Association.

Eleven of the 12 scholarship students with a teacher
The CDVI staff traveled to outlying towns and villages in the municipality of Axim, and distributed brochures describing CDVI’s programs.
Many students applied. Staff and the Headmistress interviewed all of them and their families, short-listing those who had major financial problems—not an easy job.

They awarded 12 candidates two-year bursaries, including 3 young men. Eight women receive boarding and three meals at day for two years, or about $500 each. Four “day” scholars, one woman and three men, receive lunch for about $150 each for six terms (two years).

The parents had to commit to pay 60 cedis in tuition plus incidental expenses per term for six terms as their share (about $200 total). To put this in perspective, the official minimum wage in Ghana is 5.25 cedis or about $2.10/day based on a 27- day month (about $700/yr).

What happens at the end of the two years?  The families will have to pay all costs for the third and fourth year, if the student decides to continue. Most do, because they want to acquire skills in multiple trades, ensuring greater economic security. Some leave after two years to apprentice or go into small-scale businesses. Four-year graduates are eligible for polytechnic schools.


CDVI Women Strut Their Stuff at the Annual 6 March Celebration (Independence Day!)
CDVI is a trade school, with classes in catering/cookery, hairdressing, computer science, sewing/tailoring/fashion, entrepreneurship, marketing, basic mathematics/bookkeeping, English, home management, and women’s health. These trades are in demand in this region.
Cooking/catering class.

The government of Ghana supports these students. For example, students specializing in sewing/tailoring receive a “kit” upon graduation, containing sewing machine, scissors, measuring tapes, thread, and other items necessary to start a business or enter an apprenticeship.
Since our last visit in 2013, the government of Ghana has also completed a new classroom building that had been years in the making! Ghana is investing strongly in education at all levels.


New classroom buildings at CDVI, completed in 2013
 
And, Maryanne and James Kainyiah, her Western Heritage Home counterpart, were delighted to attend and speak briefly at the retirement celebration of Madame Hajara Yakubu, who served as Director of CDVI for 38 years. She will be missed. We wish her and her successor, Madame Safiatu Seidu, well.


Hajara Yakubu, giving her farewell speech to her beloved students.

Hajara is a dedicated educationist, and a lay leader in the St James Methodist church.. She is a skilled manager and orator. She has served on the Western Heritage Board since its inception, and has provided exceptional leadership to the community of Axim.
 
In her remarks, Hajara fulsomely expressed her thanks to Ghana Together and Western Heritage Home for our contributions to the school. And we, in turn, thank all of you.
 
To learn more, see http://ghanatogether.org
To contact us, email info@ghanatogether.org 

Feb 8, 2014

Dedication of the New Urine Diversion DehydrationToilet (UDDT)

Another wonderful day in Axim!

You may recall the news article we sent out a few months back about Jennifer and Paul of the Pacific Northwest Chapter of Engineers Without Borders traveling to Axim to launch the construction of a new low-impact toilet at one of Axim’s Junior High Schools.

EWB partnered with the local Axim-based NGO Western Heritage Home on the project. Ghana Together facilitated communication, shared knowledge of the town, and helped establish the relationship with Western Heritage Home, the local NGO.
Mr. Emmanuel Appiah, the local contractor, his foreman Alex, and his workmen have been working steadily on the project for about 5-6 months.
 
Now, since Colleen Mitchell of EWB and Maryanne Ward of Ghana Together were both in Axim, it was time to celebrate even though the toilet is not yet quite ready for use!

What a transformation!
You may remember the toilet currently used by about 250 students.



And this is the new toilet, swathed in ribbon, ready to be dedicated.




The PTA outdid itself by working with the School District to paint the classroom buildings and also the individual stones white to make the paths and welcome the guests.
 



The guests assembled. The school choir sang.



The school’s best dancers showed off their Ghanaian cultural heritage.



Colleen spoke about the toilet and the concepts behind the design, aiming her comments especially at the parents. Speakers included Mrs.Yawson, the Headmistress; James Kainyiah, Chair of Western Heritage Home; Fr. Paul Awuah of the nearby Catholic church; a student leader, and others.

Colleen Mitchell, of the EWB Pacific Northwest Chapter, Bellingham, Washington

The students gave a wonderful, real-life demonstration of “how to use the toilet,” which is markedly (!) different from their experience with their current toilet. They had received a lot of information and training, made posters, had class discussions, and now the time had come to show off their knowledge.



They carried two desks into the center of the school yard, and while a teacher asked the “troupe” questions, one of the boys (the “sitter”) leaped up on the desks (simulating one of the toilets) and acted out the answers--- how to squat (we’ll spare the details!) and actually use this new toilet! It was both informational and hilarious. The crowd loved it and he pulled it off perfectly.

Then to cut the ribbon...



Inspect the facility inside and out...

Clearly, Fr Paul Awuah approves!

Receive a new dress as a thank-you gift...
 

And dance!

We didn’t catch a good photo, but at the end the students danced joyously for at least a half hour before Mrs. Yawson -- the energetic, talented Headmistress -- called it a day!
So far as we know, this is the first UDDT toilet built in Ghana. It is an experiment and the EWB team will be talking monthly with Mrs. Yawson and also Mr. Appiah during the first year of operation.

Colleen spent two weeks working daily with the contractors, fixing some design details on the spot. Mr. Appiah will be getting a new set of the most up-to-date engineering drawings with all changes incorporated. Already we have had inquiries from District Engineers and others about using the concept elsewhere.

Madame Stella Adjei, Headmistress of the Axim Girls High School invited Colleen to speak to her students on engineering as a profession.

Ghana Together has been involved in this project from inception, and we are very proud that we were able to “midwife” it.
We’ve asked Colleen to write a semi-technical article which we will post on these pages, especially for others in Ghana who are interested in this UDDT design.

It was such  joy to experience the excitement and gratitude of the students, teachers, local leaders, and especially the parents.
Now there is a lot of joking about the day (maybe next week?) when the toilet actually opens for business! Who will get to do the first "pee?"
We ourselves vote for Mrs. Yawson who richly deserves the honor for her dedication to the project, working with her students on the science underlying the design, and her obvious enthusiasm for her job!
 
http://ghanatogether.org (click on "News" and scroll down for the prior article)
Contact us at: info@ghanatogether.org 

Feb 4, 2014

Dedicating the Renovated JHS Building

Our last news update featured the Junior High School classroom building Western Heritage Home renovated with help from Ghana Together and the school's PTA.

With Ghana Together’s Maryanne Ward actually in Axim, and the building finished and ready for students, it was time for a dedication!
We all gathered  to celebrate in front of the be-ribboned building.


 
The PTA members were seated on the left. The dignitaries at the head table included James Kainyiah, Chair of Western Heritage Home; Mrs. Abby, the Headmistress of the school; Mr. Baidoo, the Municipal Chief Executive;, Queen Mother of Upper Axim; The Rev. George Abraham, pastor of the St. James Methodist Church; Maryanne Ward of Ghana Together, and others. The students gathered on the right.  All were seated and shaded by canopies.
 
 
The students sang.
 
 
James spoke about the project, the crucial importance of education, and the role Western Heritage Home is playing in the Axim community.


 
 
Maryanne spoke briefly, somewhat at a disadvantage because the electricity failed at the very moment she reached for the microphone. (This is Ghana where the “lights” are on a lot more than they used to be, but are still erratic.) That plus the American accent...

Maryanne in one of her dresses received as a gift from local folks.
 
The guests walked over to the building where Rev. Abrahas held a scissors. James put his hand on Rev Abraham’s hand, Maryanne’s came next, and then came the hand of Nana Adjow Sika II and together we cut the ribbon!

The entire crowd filed in to admire the completed classrooms. They really do look just splendid! By next morning, the students were moved in and having classes.

 
Mrs. Abby will move her office to the renovated building, leaving her current office/storage area as a much-needed staff room. They have been sitting under trees to meet, eat their lunch, etc.

The two classrooms house the entire JHS Form 2 class---82 students---who up to now were meeting halfdays only in split shift. Now they will put in a full school days! Shown here are most of the students who took a break from their studies a couple of days after the dedication
A great day!!