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 11, 2016

1st Term 2016-2017 Scholarhips



Yes, we know. The chart below is barely readable…but we wanted to show it to you anyway. It shows the 1st term, 2016-2017 school year, scholarship costs for 69 Axim students, sponsored by Ghana Together.

In most cases, these costs are shared with the extended families, as with the CTK Academy students where parents supply uniforms, underwear, notebooks, shoes...and we pay tuition...for students living in this remote area, where the only reasonably available school is a private school.
We also list WHH staff salaries for three months and Internet-In-A-Box internet support, so the North American team can troubleshoot this incredible resource at Axim Girls High School and the Axim Public Library, which most Axim children frequent. 

Note that "CDVTI" stands for Community Development Vocational Technical Institute, a government vocational training school. Note that secondary schools in Ghana are NOT tuition-free at this point.

Payee Beneficiary Item CEDIS USD (3.9)
Axim Girls Sr High  Ernestina tuition, textbooks, math tutorial (Term One) 769 $197
Manye Academy Ben, Gladys, Johnson  Tuition, boarding, fees, notebooks, textbooks, uniforms, sandals… 2942 $754
Various vendors 6 WHH Scholars Personal supplies: health/hygiene, snacks, pocket money, etc. 1560 $400
CDVTI Kingsley Tuition, room, board 380 $97
CDVTI 10 women, 2 men Tuition, room, board 2860 $733
Nsein SHS Peter Extra Classes, student council, sci club, debate/drama, practicals 970 $249
Midwifery/Nursing School Dorothy Nursing-midwifery tuition, room, board, texts, etc. (one semester) 2175 $558
Christ the King Academy 50 primary students tuition, 1st term 5850 $1,500
WHH Staff Arloo, and 2 watchmen salaries July-Sept (three month) 1500 $385
Azim Girls SHS Computer lab support Cellphone subscription for internet-in-a-box support 400 $103
TOTAL 19406 $4,976


Maybe you can’t quite make out the small print, but the bottom line is almost exactly $5,000 for most of the school costs for 69 students, averaging about $73 each. And some of those costs are "once/year" only, like uniforms, sandals, and textbooks.
Some of you have asked how we get such accurate, detailed info from our friends in Axim, esp. when it comes to school costs.

Well, we won’t burden you (J) with the incredibly detailed 16 sheets of statements/invoices that our guy in Axim, Evans Arloo, collected from the schools and forwarded to us.

Every detail is in these statements!
Did you know, for example, that Dorothy’s “obstetrics textbook” for her 2nd year will cost exactly 30 Ghana cedis? That’s about $8.00. Or that Peter will pay 10 cedis (about $2.50) for his Science Club dues…the Club of which he, as an outstanding student, is the “Executive.” Or that Kingsley will pay 270 cedis (about $70) for food for Sept-Dec (quite a bargain for 16-year old guy!)? Or that Ernestina’s “bed user fee” will be 2 cedis (about 50 US cents) for her 1st term, along with 399 cedis ($102) for her tuition?

The schools’ administrative offices prepare these  statements and give them to parents, or in our case, scholarship sponsor. The sheets are stamped and signed with the name of the school and the accountant/preparer.

And, I'm sure you are DYING to know...how exactly does Arloo get these 16 typed or handwritten sheets to us 10,000 or so miles away?
Why, of course, by the magic of “Camscanner”, the cellphone app. With it, he photographs the statements and saves them as PDF files. He then forwards them using “Whatsapp”, another nice little free tool, using the nice signals pouring out from the cell tower in Axim Town. And we use Whatsapp too, to "receive" the files, and also for follow-up communication. Our Ghanaian friends are total whizzes when it comes to cellphone use, seriously! They've taught us all we know!!
So, friends, these are children we’ve been supporting for some years. Knowing the needs of local families well, Queen Mom Nana Adjow Sika II and James Kainyiah have chosen these students, along with input from Headmaster David and Director Seidu, and have overseen their progress. Evans Arloo helps the scholars with their day-to-day needs and challenges.

And yes, we would appreciate your financial help in launching the new school year, 1st term, for these 69 youngsters, beginning mid-September. Thank you.


Ghana Together
808 Addison Place
Mount Vernon, WA 98273
360-848-6568
info@ghanatogether.org
We are a 501c3, Fed ID 26-2182965


Aug 4, 2016

Congratulations to Charlotte & Philomena, Senior High School Graduates!



Good friends and classmates Philomena (left) and Charlotte at their Nsein Senior High School in March 2016, ready to start their last term before graduation

We’re really proud! Charlotte Armah and Philomena Mensah graduated from Nsein Senior High School in Axim, Ghana this June!

For this outstanding achievement, Philo and Charlotte each received Leif Pederson Graduation Awards of $300—enough to launch them into their adult lives.
(Note: Ghana Together presents this award to our Western Heritage Scholars upon graduation from senior high school, in memory of founding Board member and good friend, Leif Pederson.)



We've known (and supported) Charlotte and Philo for about ten years now!


Charlotte Armah, 2007

Philomena Mensah, 2007

The girls used some of their Award funds to buy clothing that is not a school uniform(!), and set themselves up to sell earrings, bathroom slippers, gari (cassava), sugar…and some other items in “the Axim market.” This is a temporary move to support themselves as they prepare for the next step. They reported just this morning that their sales are going well.
They are in the process of applying for jobs teaching primary level students. In Ghana, if one graduates senior high with a good record, it’s pretty common that you will be called upon to teach the youngest primary students.

Photo from last week, as they launch their business in the  market in Axim. One of the wonderful things for girls who are no longer students is that they now can grow and style their hair! Fun!!

Achieving a senior high graduate level is no small accomplishment for these two young women. They spent their early primary and junior high school years living at the Western Heritage Children’s Home due to very difficult family circumstances. Ghana Together, in conjunction with Western Heritage Home, supported them entirely in those years.
At the Children’s Home they were helped greatly by Barbara Davis who, as the “senior sister”, as the children called her, ensured their school attendance at Manye Academy every day, saw to their homework, made sure their uniforms were clean and pressed, managed meals, and made sure they got enough sleep every night. Thank you, Barbara!


Barbara Davis, their "senior sister". Thank you, Barbara!!

Senior high school is not tuition-free in Ghana. Thanks to their academic excellence in primary and junior high, their obvious financial need, and to the efforts of their Paramount Chief Awulae Attibrukusu III, they were each awarded Ghana National Petroleum Corporation senior high school scholarships covering their tuition and boarding at Nsein Senior High School. We of Ghana Together provided funds for the “supplies”---uniforms, textbooks, lab materials, photocopies, health/hygiene supplies, snack money, etc.
You may wonder why graduation from senior high school is such a big deal!

We did a little research. According to the Ghana Statistical Service’s 2010 Census data for the Nzema East Municipality, of 8375 females 3 years and older who had attended any school at any level in the past, only 550, or 6.4% of had attended senior high school. And of the entire female population, only 32.5% had ever attended any school at any level. Of the female population over 11 years of age, 46% were classified as literate in 2010, meaning they could read and write a simple sentence in some language, maybe not learned in school, but somehow picked up.
That’s why this is such an achievement! With the establishment of the new Axim Girls Senior High School, which had 191 students enrolled at end of March, 2016, when we last visited, this picture is changing!
Philo and Charlotte are the 3rd and 4th Western Heritage Home Scholars to graduate Senior High, having been preceded by Gifty Essien and Dorothy Armoo. They are indebted to James Kainyiah, founder and chair of Western Heritage Home (our associate organization), who established this local Axim-based NGO to support children exactly like these four.

And they are indebted to YOU, dear friends, who have supported these two beautiful Western Heritage Home Scholars for 10 years, and so many other children (73 at present, in one way or another)! Thank you.

For prior News Updates, see http://ghanatogether.blogspot.com
Contact us at: info@ghanatogether.org

May 11, 2016

Axim Public Library Update

14,823

…that’s the total number of book checkouts recorded by the Axim Library staff in 2015! That’s probably about 14,000 more than recorded before the advent of the Mobile Library! As one Ghanaian put it to Maryanne Ward on a recent visit: “They have done well, by God’s grace.” And, we might add, by determined human effort!

Beginning early Dec 2014, the library staff---Gaddiel Eyison and James Kwesi Armado, led by their Regional Director Mercy Ackah---initiated a successful Mobile Library Service, powered by a motor-tricycle, which serves 15 Primary/Junior High schools in Axim proper and surrounding villages. We worked with our partner, Western Heritage Home, to put that over the top.

Regional Director Mercy Ackah meeting with staff

For the benefit of our Ghanaian readers, the schools (apologies for spelling errors…) are:

Morning Star
Saint Augustinos
Christ the King
Methodist
Anglican
SDAS
Brawire Akymim
Ahlesunna
Life International
Roman Catholic
Nsein
Ankyimin
Dadwen
Manye
Kegymia


2,384 children paid the 1 cedi fee (about 25 cents US) for their once-per-year library registration fee in 2015. First term 2016 is coming along nicely, too. (Actually their parents did...)

Major thanks to:

-Parents, who pay the registration fee, encourage their child’s education, see to their uniforms and notebooks, and listen to them read aloud. Not so easy with probably no electricity for lights in the home. The library staff admonishes the children: “take this book to the house and read it to your mother!” Mom learns to read a bit better, too, and enjoys seeing her child’s progress.

-The elected Axim Municipal Assembly, led by Mr. James Baidoe, Municipal Chief Executive, which budgets 90 cedis/month (about $25) for fuel for the tricycle, provides the rooms in the Axim Community Center to house the library, and tries to fund basic supplies such as tape, pens, book card/pocket paper, etc.

Check-out time!

-Headmistresses and Headmasters and teachers who work around the weekly disruptions---the Mobile Library is here!  (Not perfectly scheduled---the tricycle is not very speedy!) And support the library staff by encouraging the students, monitoring the care of these precious books (do you know how scarce they are??), urging the children to ask their parents for the registration fee.

The Mobile Library is here! TERRIFICALLY EXCITING!!!

-Friends who donate books---wonderful books---the kind of books they’d be happy to give their own children or grandchildren---no 40-year-old encyclopedias for our world-class students in Axim!

-Ebby Mienza and his family who pack up the books that have been shipped to them in Maryland and get them to the container. And the shipper who gets the container onto the ship, and takes it across the Atlantic.

Ebby Mienza and his daughter re-packing books into standard-sized boxes for the shipping container. They have processed thousands of books in this manner. Ebby grew up in Axim.

-Friends in Accra who meet the ship at the port, off-load the books, do the import paperwork, and deliver them to the Axim Library.

Two very good guys. Ishmael Baidoe (left) lived for years in Finland, George Hayford in Atlanta. They are back "home" in Ghana and help by collecting books from the port at Tema and delivering to Axim. No easy task!
THANK YOU!!

Most recent shipment, delivered to the Axim Library and still being unpacked as we write. 19 boxes!

-The Ghana Library Authority (the national government department that oversees libraries) that pays the staff, provides accession numbers, a National Service worker to help, tries its best with minimal resources to champion public libraries country-wide, and nourishes intellectual freedom.

There are challenges:

-In rural areas like Axim, this is the first generation where many students finish junior high to say nothing of senior high. Leaders are trying to instill the reading habit, but schools generally have few textbooks and no library books, so the public library is IT!

Students with their library books in their classroom. With these books, they can actually use their reading skills. Without these books, they basically have only the teacher's writing on the blackboard, and their own copying of the teacher's writing in their exercise books.

-Books don’t hold up well in the tropical climate. Also, these children are the first generation to actually handle books. They are taught to be careful, but…the staff uses a lot of book repair tape!

Kind of chaotic, but he's READING his book no matter what!

-Some parents feel the one-cedi library registration fee, mandated by the Ghana Library Authority, contradicts the principle of tuition-free school and free public libraries and are reluctant to pay, although it is affordable.

When parents are late or can't pay school fees, students are not allowed to attend school. So, they come on their own initiative to the library to read on their own. 

-Understandably, the school staffs would prefer libraries in their individual schools---all but impossible with current national resources.

-The cost of shipping physical books from the US is high, even with our cost-saving system. And books are simply not available to purchase there. Some recommend skipping physical books and going to digital readers, but that introduces whole new challenges with sporadic (and expensive) electrical and internet services for charging/downloading, care, distribution, etc.

-Some recommend using buses as mobile libraries, with built-in shelving, computer terminals, etc. that go from school to school. They are being used in some cities. But that brings the problem of the high cost of fuel and vehicle maintenance. We feel Western Heritage Home leadership (our Axim-based partner organization) made a wise choice by going to the thrifty mobile tricycle. Clunkier, but affordable, and works fine in this semi-rural area.

More than you all wanted to know…we tend to get carried away with this library stuff!! Ha!

Thanks for all 

When you’re cruising summer yard sales and farmers’ markets, if you spy some great children’s books, you know what to do!


For more News Updates, http://ghanatogether.blogspot.com
Our website is: http://ghanatogether.org
Contact us at info@ghanatogether.org
We are a 501c3 non-profit, ID 26-2182965


Apr 28, 2016

DAYS FOR GIRLS INTERNATIONAL COMES TO AXIM, GHANA!


On Friday, March 18, Ghana Together happily sponsored the first Days for Girls International Workshop at the Community Development Vocational Technical Institute (CDVTI) in Axim, Ghana!

CDVTI is a vocational high school, offering courses in hairdressing, fashion design, sewing/jewelry making, catering/baking, electrical, plumbing, auto mechanics, welding/fabrication, computer science, and general subjects such as English, math, health, home management, bookkeeping, entrepreneurship, etc.
What is Days for Girls International?

DFG is a US-based 501c3 non-profit whose mission is to create a more dignified, free, and educated world through access to lasting feminine hygiene solutions and to see every girl and woman in the world with ready feasible access to quality sustainable feminine hygiene & women’s health education by 2022.

A worthy goal backed by VERY large amounts of hard work!

We were introduced to DFG upon an invitation to visit the Anacortes, WA DFG Chapter. A group of women volunteer one day per month to sew Days for Girls menstrual kits. They are motivated by the plight of girls worldwide who miss school during their monthly periods because of lack of workable menstrual products. They generously offered 72 kits for us to take to Axim on our March visit, as samples.

And so on Friday March 18, Madame Bernice Ankrah, the Days for Girls Country Director for Ghana, and her husband Prince, traveled to Axim, Ghana from their businesses/home in Accra. Bernice conducted a DFG Workshop at the CDVTI. Maryanne Ward of Ghana Together was privileged to be present.


Madame Bernice Ankrah, Days for Girls International--Ghana Country Director
Madame Bernice first spent about an hour with both male and female students—about 55 students in all---plus half a dozen teachers. She shared how, because of her own early pregnancy and motherhood, she missed out on formal education, but has managed to catch up through personal effort. She mentioned that her own beloved children are about the same age as the students at CDVTI and she felt especially blessed to be able to be share her life experience with these Axim students.
She now owns her own fashion business with 16 seamstresses on her staff. Not only does she design, sew, and market clothing, but she also runs a “Days for Girls Enterprise”. As Country Director, Bernice travels to many parts of Ghana giving DFG informational workshops and also training seamstresses to sew DFG kits as a business enterprise.

Then she plunged enthusiastically into the subject at hand: reproductive health.

Pinning charts to the blackboard

She went over both male and female reproductive systems in great detail for about an hour! She has the natural Ghanaian oratorical ability, and had us all mesmerized! 

Suffice it to say that all the ladies (as she called them) learned more about the guy’s side of the topic, esp. the basic body parts involved in reproduction and how they work, and the guys about the ladies, than any of them had ever imagined! They gave absolutely rapt attention!


Simple charts but effective.This is Ghana---can't trust electricity for PowerPoint slides or keeping a laptop charged. She used the tools she had wonderfully.


Bernice finished the first session by imploring the guys to respect women and themselves when it comes to sex.
Then she excused the guys. Or let’s say she TRIED to excuse them. They were enjoying it so much, they wouldn’t leave! Director Seidu had to step in and assert her authority, and not only ordered them to leave, but told them they could NOT hang around the door and try to listen! She had to station a teacher outside to enforce her order! J


Come on guys---we love you, really we do, but it's time to GO!

Now it was “ladies time.” 

Bernice explained the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, and women's reproductive health in detail using her charts and vivid examples. 

Then she explained how the DFG-designed menstrual hygiene kits have so many advantages: they are washable, reusable, and last for probably two years. They have been redesigned/improved many times, depending on actual feedback, and work much better than the “rags”, as she put it---homemade solutions. 

Since most of the girls present were taking sewing classes, it is entirely possible for them to make their own. The girls discussed the problem of having to dispose of sanitary napkins. And they pointed out the substantial cost savings over purchased sanitary napkins, which most said they could not afford.



One of the fun activities was when a girl came up with an excellent comment or idea, Bernice would look at her intently, then choose an under-panty from her stash in about the girl’s size and throw it at her! Even Madame Seidu was treated to her very own under-panty after she made a comment, much to everyone’s enjoyment!

Director Safiatu Seidu gleefully showing off her "prize"!

Bernice donned a DFG kit over the top of her shorts---and strutted around a bit! A natural teacher, she made it fun as well as informative and broke down inhibitions with her humor but also sincere attitude.

Hey, Bernice, the kit fits!!

She conducted a sewing session, where she sewed some kits from materials she had brought---with everyone watching intently.

CDVTI sewing machines. Remember, with sporadic electricity, hand-driven machines can keep going no matter what!

Girls intently watching the sewing demonstration
At the end, she handed out a sample DFG kit to every lady in the room, including teachers, in each one's approximate size, from those Maryanne had brought. About 30 were left over and are being saved for September’s incoming class.

Director Seidu and student handing out the kits

The teachers told Maryanne they thought the kits were a very good idea. Teacher Flora, who teaches sewing and fashion design, was especially positive.


Teacher Flora captured the entire session on her tablet---for future instructional use, she said


Madame Bernice has promised to return to Axim to train students to sew kits themselves. She has introduced the concept to this one school in the community, but these young women, trained in sewing and eager to start their own businesses, can spread the idea. Maryanne also will follow up with Director Seidu in the coming months.

Every CDVTI female student has a DFG menstrual kit and new knowledge about their lives as women

We give our heartfelt thanks to the women of the Anacortes DFG Chapter for providing the introductory kits, and for their workshop that Maryanne attended before introducing DFG to Axim.

For earlier News Updates, go to http://ghanatogether.blogspot.com/
Contact us: info@ghanatogether.org
Our website is: http://ghanatogether.org

Our mailing address is: Ghana Together, 808 Addison Place, Mount Vernon, WA 98273

Feb 22, 2016

LET THERE BE WATER!


It’s a new year and in addition to ongoing projects, Ghana Together, with our associates of Western Heritage Home, are busy working on some new mutually-agreed-upon projects.

First to completion is a new polytank at the Heritage Building!

The Heritage has seen heavy and multiple uses over the years---as an orphanage/children’s home; as space for science classes, computer classes, community gatherings, exam preparation classes; a dormitory for senior high school girls; and a couple of rooms as the residence of Western Heritage Home's Operations Manager.

And now our beloved Heritage has a new mission as the dormitory for young men and women from the recently-established Manye Academy Government Senior High School.


The original tank was installed and hooked up to the Axim piped water system, on the expert advice of the Pacific Northwest Chapter of Engineers Without Borders team. The Bellingham-based group traveled to Axim in 2009 and advised that this approach was the best way to ensure a clean, steady water supply to the Heritage Building.

Leif Pederson, of Ghana Together, added his engineering expertise, and with local Axim workers, connected the tank to the building to provide water to showers, toilets, kitchen, and outside spigot.

Leif Pederson (the guy with the cap) and Axim workers figuring out how to get the water from the Axim water system up into the polytank back in 2009...


First they had to hook up the pipes


But that polytank just plain wore out, so our first priority project for 2016 was replace it, and provide ongoing clean water for the nearly 30 residents from Manye Academy Senior High School and their House Supervisors.



You get some VERY strong guys...to take down the old one and hoist up the new one...


And you get LOTS of expert advice from the ground level!!

And  you climb up there to hook everything up, and hope against hope...

Mission accomplished thanks to you, our fellow “investors”, and the Axim workers and supervision that pulled it off! The boarding students now have...SHOWERS, TOILETS, OUTSIDE WATER SPIGOT... 

And just so you know, the cost was about 2000 Ghana cedis, or about $550 US.



Boys' shower...girls have one on the second floor...

This kind of project is not flashy, but fills our mission of supporting mutually identified and agreed upon local needs.



A little background

The Manye Academy Senior High School is a new program offered by the long-time private Primary-Junior High School. It was established by Professor K. S. Nokoe, who has a PhD from the University of British Columbia! 

Years ago, to "give back" to his hometown of Axim, he established the Manye Academy. Professor Nokoe is now retired as Professor and Acting Dean of the School of Graduate Studies at the Ghanaian University of Energy and Natural Resources. He specializes in mathematics and statistics. 

Because the government of Ghana now provides tuition-free education through junior high, the number of students qualifying for senior high is growing rapidly. There are not enough slots. And so Prof. Nokoe moved to add slots!

Manye Academy Senior High is not private, but government-owned, and with classroom space and management provided by Manye Academy. For Ghana Education Department certification they had to have a dormitory for boarding students, and the Heritage Building is the perfect solution, being within easy walking distance of the classrooms! But a dormitory needs WATER---and so now they have it!!

MUCH THANKS TO ALL WHO MADE THIS HAPPEN!



For earlier News Updates, go to http://ghanatogether.blogspot.com/
Contact us: info@ghanatogether.org
Our website is: http://ghanatogether.org
Our mailing address is: Ghana Together, 808 Addison Place, Mount Vernon, WA 98273