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.

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





Dec 12, 2015

THANKS FOR A REALLY GREAT YEAR!!!

Dear Friends---both American and Ghanaian,
We of Ghana Together and our Ghanaian partners of Western Heritage Home thank you from our hearts for your help with our projects in Axim, Ghana during 2015---especially for financial donations, generously-offered expertise, and logistical assistance.
We sincerely thank all the Axim adult leaders who put these resources to work. The "elbow grease" is theirs!

WHAT DID WE ACCOMPLISH IN 2015?
-Supported 75 students in various ways --- tuition, room & board, textbooks, personal supplies, uniforms, shoes, underwear, notebooks, pens. In most cases, families helped with some costs, but without our help, these students would not be in school.
-Completed the renovation of the dining/assembly/study building at Axim Girls Senior High School.

-Coordinated on-site visits for Adam Holt of Unleash Kids, and Katelyn Henderson and her Dad Jeff. Adam installed the first Internet-in-a-Box in Ghana at the AGSHS, giving access to Wikipedia, hundreds of science/math videos, maps, and other resources. Katelyn taught beginning coding, installed another Internet-in-a-Box at Axim Library, and trained students to search Wikipedia using the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) computer. Absolutely thrilling for the Ghanaian kids (and maybe the Americans, too!)

-Enhanced the Axim Girls Senior High School’s Jerome Chandler Science Room with a ½ size, scientifically accurate, plastic human skeleton, dog & sheep teeth (!), chemicals, science posters, and back issues of Science News Magazine.
-Completed a second Urine Diversion/Dehydration Toilet (UDDT) at the Methodist-Government School, serving 750+ students. We trained the teachers in its concept, use, and maintenance. Imagine knowing your child has a clean, non-smelling, sanitary toilet at school! Imagine your daughter having a private, clean facility during her menstrual cycle!

-Delivered about 1500 children’s books to the Axim Library. Funded the launch of the new Axim Library’s Mobile Library Tricycle Program, which now visits 11 primary/JHS schools weekly. Delivered 98 technical books to the Community Development Vocational Technical Institute--electrical, plumbing, carpentry, etc.
-Provided electricity to charge about 40 OLPCs for the entire year. And then, were amazed at the big news!! Maybe our years of supporting the Library and the Children’s Computing Lab (OLPCs) had something to do with the Ghana Library Authority & the Ghana Investment Fund for Electronic Communication selecting Axim Library as the perfect spot to create a Community Information Center? Ten new desktop computers, internet access, solar power, and best of all, a National Service computer specialist to manage the whole computer shebang!

-Delivered 50+ lbs. of pre-school learning materials and purchased a DVD player for the Anglican Crèche.
-Conducted---by Board Member Louise Wilkinson and friend Susan Hirst--- Leadership Workshops for 75 senior high students. The leaders of tomorrow!
-Loved seeing Gifty Essien’s new fashion business, one of our Western Heritage Scholars, who graduated senior high this spring—the first in her family to do so. With her $300 Leif Pederson Graduation Award, she has traveled by tro-tro to Takoradi several times, purchasing fashionable bras, cosmetics, and jewelry, and selling them in Axim Town. She can’t quite afford her own “stand” as yet and so is using a small table in front of her friend’s stand. She has her bell to attract customers. She is realizing her dream to have her own fashion business, as she calls it. Her Mom, a subsistence farmer, is so proud! WE are so proud!!

WHAT ABOUT 2016?
-Continue the scholarships---and maybe expand them.
-Renovate the young men’s dormitory at the Community Development Vocational Technical Institute--enable about 30 guys to get technical training.

-Keep those Internet-in-a-Boxes running!

-Explore introducing the “Days for Girls” menstrual kits. We don’t want a single girl to miss school ever again.

-Continue to ship children’s books, pre-school educational materials, and science-oriented/technical magazines. Purchase a few science supplies.
Who knows what else? When Ghanaians and American put their minds together…WATCH OUT! (We dream of more toilets...)

Thank you for your partnership in these projects that have such a positive effect on individual lives and on the community of Axim.
We again assure you that we use 100% of your donations toward our projects.  We on the Ghana Together Board handle all administrative, travel, and other such costs ourselves.

We ask for your financial support, either by mail or credit card via the PayPal link on our website. We try as much as possible to buy locally in Ghana, in support of business and workers there. We ourselves consider our efforts in Axim a good investment in youth, education, sanitation, and community development.

We are a registered US-based 501c3 non-profit. Your donations are tax-deductible.
Ghanaians who wish to help can deposit funds into the Western Heritage Home account at Ghana Commercial Bank. Contact James Kainyiah at 024-407-2638.
With our sincere thanks…
Ghana Together Directors:  Maryanne Ward, Jerome Chandler, Rich Ward, Louise Wilkinson, and Nathan Ward
_________________________________________________________________________________
Mailing Address: Ghana Together, 808 Addison Place, Mount Vernon, WA 98273
Phone: 1-360-848-6568

Oct 31, 2015

What about that Jerome Chandler Science Room at Axim Girls Senior High School (AGSHS)?

Happy Halloween! A perfect day to inquire about that Jerome Chandler Science Room at AGSHS you’ve heard so much about …perfect, because one of this year’s additions is just so darned appropriate to highlight TODAY OF ALL DAYS!!!

Plus, on our recent visit to Axim, we had firm instructions from Jerome to learn all we could about what’s happening to his precious Science Room! 

They were moving the Science Room to the new classroom building, and classes hadn’t begun, but we talked with the teachers, and this week --about a month into the school term -- we received photos via the magic of “Whatsapp.”


A scientifically accurate 1/2 size plastic human skeleton
Science teachers opening the skeleton. Dept. Head Eric Jim is second from the left. The five AGSHS science teachers – integrated science, chemistry, biology, physics, and agriculture – use the Science Room about once/week or as needed for practicums.


What the heck????








Three junior high schools – Life International, Morning Star, and Catholic Government School – regularly send students to the Science Room for practicums.  Akyimen-Brawere JHS has asked to join occasionally. Ahlesunna has been invited and hopefully will accept. All of these schools are within walking distance---within about 30-45 minutes. Teacher Jim schedules these schools for end of the day, so students can walk straight home after the practicums.

If you want to know what they're looking at, call Jerome!!

In addition, during the one-month school holidays in 2015, science vacation classes were held every day for junior high students.




This year, thanks to our ever-generous science fans back home in America, we supplied a scientifically accurate human skeleton, and also a little more than $1000 worth of chemicals, dry cell batteries, dessicator, and teeth and jaws of sheep and dog (!). 

We thank Evans Arloo, Western Heritage Home Operations Manager, who traveled via tro-tro the nearly 300 km to Kumasi to purchase these supplies from the same business that supplies the science department and medical school at Kwame Nkrumah Science and Technology University.




The AGSHS Science Room is equipped with both computer and overhead projectors, tables, stools, shelving, 50 scientific calculators, numerous posters, stethoscopes, and all the materials needed to support hands-on teaching of the JHS/SHS Ghana Education Science curriculum.




Jerome also wrote a definitive manual of experiments to demonstrate all the major concepts in the curriculum (reviewed by Rich Ward, who pretended to be a junior high student!). We bring Science News Magazines, for the science teachers, who have few intellectual resources. (Hint: if you subscribe to a science-oriented magazine, we can help recycle your back issues!)





We thank AGSHS Science Dept Head & Teacher Mr. Eric Jim who has worked with us from the beginning, and also Headmistress Theodora Appiah, who well understands the importance of science education (and happens to be married to a university chemistry professor!). 

Madame Theodora took leadership of AGSHS in January 2015, and she, Eric, and the teachers have put the science program into high gear! It's been fun to help them with their goals! And so we thank YOU, dear Reader!



For more News Updates, see http://ghanatogether.blogspot.com/
To contact us, email Ghana Together
For more info, see http://ghanatogether.org
We are a US-registered 501c3, EIN 26-2182965

Oct 21, 2015

Ghana 2015 – Fun


Four of us went to Ghana in September of 2015.  The group consisted of Maryanne Ward, Susan Hirst, Louise Wilkinson and her 18 year-old granddaughter, Alexis.  All of us but Alexis had been to Ghana before.  We have written about the Leadership Workshops we did.  This is about the experiences and fun we had there as tourists! We recommend it!!

Alexis, Susan Hirst, Maryanne Ward, and Louise Wilkinson

Ghana is, as usual, friendly, colorful, and chaotic.  Because of the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, there were very few visitors in Ghana last year.  Although Ebola never reached Ghana, it still is influencing tourism this year, we were told.  We were almost the only people in the hotels where we stayed in both Accra and Axim.  Perhaps that’s why internet was unavailable which made contact with families at home much more difficult.

Axim Beach Hotel with its wonderful ocean view and clean beach. It's a bit rough for swimming, but perfect for walking, enjoyiing sunsets, and just overall sheer beauty.

However, there has been a tremendous improvement in the main road from Accra to Axim.  Those bumps and potholes are mostly a thing of the past and the travel time has been cut almost by half!  But the dirt roads in Axim have not improved and getting to the Axim Beach Hotel (with its beautiful beach and comfortable thatched-roof huts) was always a wildly bumpy adventure. So was the beach road we took to the Ankroba Beach Hotel.  We were stopped by young men pulling in a long net - a boat’s catch, and Alexis was able to help them.

Cottage at the Axim Beach Hotel. Comfortable, clean, safe, good food...:)

Pull, Lexy, pull!! The guys certainly appreciated the "help" of their American friend who just happpened on the scene as we drove the coast road from Axim to Ankobra. Fun!!

We went to a Kundum festival in Nsein, a neighboring village.  It was much smaller than the Kundum in Axim but the procession and dancing were again wonderful.  The chief was carried on a palanquin on the heads of four men who were all dancing, and Alexis caught the attention of numerous handsome young men.

Nsein Villagers marching to their Kundum Festival. Can you hear the drums?



D
The "Dignity Ladies" dancing in their colorful blue hats and beautiful dresses.The theme of the festival was "Women Empowerment"
Finally the Chief arrives in his palanquin, to the acclaim of his people, and with a small royal princess leading the way before him. We were honored to be invited to a private meeting with the Chief, just prior to the start of the festivities.

The slave castle in Axim is 500 years old, as of this very year—2015!  We took a tour there and learned about a hidden tunnel to the island of slave embarkation and about the commandant who fell to his death while watching the ocean for the ship carrying his fiancée into port. Involvement in the slave trade makes the castle a depressing place, but there are terrific views of Axim town and the colorful fleet of boats.

The slave castle in Axim, built by the Portuguese in 1515, owned also by both the Dutch and the British, over its long history, and looking today much as it did then. We've been told the Dutch Embassy sees to its painting every so often.

Sunday we dressed for church and walked through Apewosika, the east end of town extending from the hillside down to the sea.  The hill is lined with wood and corrugated steel huts, many fish smokers, and women, children, chickens and goats.  The children and some adults were greeting us with “obroni” meaning “white person,” and “Hello how are you I am fine” in one string of words.

Typical Axim street scene while walking from the hotel to church


Mostly people are friendly, welcoming. Few "obronis" visit Axim, especially in the town center. T

The Methodist Church was full of women dressed in bright print dresses and colorful headdresses or carefully done hair with weaves.  The men look stunning in white or colorful shirts and pants and often wear shoes with long points.  We tried to slip into the church but were spotted (we do stand out) and ushered to the front and after the sermon, Maryanne was called upon to speak.  She is well-known here since she comes every year.  She did a great job of speaking and pointing out people in the congregation who had helped with many of our education and sanitation efforts in town.  Then the best part – the offering.  Row by row people danced to the front of the church to put their offerings in the basket.  There is such joy in the dancing.  Of course when it was our turn we joined them – but we can’t move like they can despite the compelling music. 

Our friend, Miss Frances Polley, a retired math teacher, dances her faith at the Axim Methodist Church. 

We were invited to the King Awulae’s home for dinner.  We were ushered into a dark living room with huge leather couches and a massive TV which was turned on for our entertainment, showing what must have been a Nigerian soap opera.  After a time we were invited to a table and served a wonderful fish soup with rice.  During this time Awulae had spoken to us only briefly which, it turns out, is customary here. 

Louise and Paramount Chief "King" Awulae Attibruskusi at her home near Seattle in 2011. He is the hereditary chief of Lower Axim and manages land and resources from Axim to Ivory Coast on behalf of his people. We were honored to have him in our midst here in NW Washington after his business trip to California. He serves on the Ghana National Petroleum Council, and in the past few months has launched a Foundation to support needy students.

However after dinner we had an interesting conversation with King Awulae and Mr. Bentil, a Ghanaian and a good friend of ours.  Awulae spoke vehemently against President Obama visiting and saying that Ghana and other African nations should legalize gay marriage.  It is very much against their culture and the law.  He spoke positively about women leaders and thinks they are not as corruptible as men.  However, when they are corrupted, they can do more damage because people have trusted them. The corruption of 30 plus justices in their court has been the big public topic of discussion here.  That is only about 10% of the justices, but Awulae is outraged that they could be corrupt when they are the keepers of justice for the people.  The head of their court of justice is a woman.  He didn’t seem to be blaming her, although he said she should take responsibility.

We spent time visiting the children formerly in the Heritage Home, catching up with them and seeing how they’d grown.  Some are at Nsein High School and others at Manye Academy.  It was wonderful to see how lovely and smart they had become.  We took toys to a preschool, and visited the Apewosika elementary school where Ghana Together is sponsoring a number of students. The children were full of energy and joy, fascinated to see these white foreigners, and swamped the delighted Alexis. 


Philo, Peter, and Charlotte---our WHH senior high scholars. They sent a message that they needed scientific calculators for their classes, which we brought for them. They are thriving at Nsein SHS.

We are proud of Kingsley, who just graduated junior high, and received a scientific calculator to celebrate! Kingsley will attend a school for welding and fabrication, and maybe some automotive mechanics training. Ernestina also graduated JHS, but was with extended family in Accra during our visit. She also received a calculator as her graduation gift.

Some of the WHH Scholars with their mentor, Evans Arloo. They attend Manye Academy, and live in the dormitory there.

Lexy with students from Apewosika Village School. Ghana Together provides tuition for 50 students from this very impoverished neighborhood. The extended family must provide uniforms, shoes, underwear, exercise book, and pencil.

Lexy and Maryanne show the new learning materials to children at the Anglican Creche in Axim. The materials are a gift from Crossroads Preschool in Burlington, WA---THANKS!!! 

We visited the Axim Library with Mercy Ackah, the former Axim librarian who is now head of the region for the Ghana Library Authority.  We have been sending books for the last several years to the Axim Library and it seems to be the only one of her five with any significant holding. While we were in Axim, 16 more boxes of books (about 2000 volumes) arrived, given by Americans, to the library. Thank you!!

Mercy Ackah, Regional Library Director for Ghana Library Authority; Gaddiel Eyisson, Axim Public Library Director; and Maryanne

We hung a picture of Tom Castor, Louise’s late husband, in the One Laptop Per Child computer room to honor his work renovating the small computers and lovingly teaching the children of Axim how to use them. 




On our last night in Axim we went to a lovely resort at the end of the point east of Axim, Lou Moon.  We were able to swim there (the lovely beach at the Axim Beach Hotel has an undertow and so swimming is not safe).  We watched a spectacular sunset and had dinner there.


Sunset with fishing canoes at Lou Moon Hotel/Restaurant---Wow!!

We met Gifty Baaba Asmah in Takoradi for lunch.  She is still working hard to improve Ghanaian life through her non-profit.  She is currently collaborating with the University of Rhode Island on ways to recycle the plastic ever-present in the Ghanaian landscape.  We spent the next few days at Kathryn Roe’s house near Cape Coast.  Kathryn has a program to provide scholarships to poor students who pass their high school exams but otherwise would not be able to continue their education.  It was a very comfortable house and we hardly noticed the 12-hour loss of electricity.  

A very nice lunch place in Takoradi with long-time friend Gifty.

Some of us did the Canopy Walk in Kakum National Forest, toured the Cape Coast Castle and “petted” the crocodiles at Han’s Botel.  And we were able to walk through the little village where Kathryn lives, Mpeasem.  

Children, children. Ghana's population is young! Ghana now provides tuition-free education through junior high school, but it's a challenge for many parents to provide the uniforms, etc. and the schools are crowded. But the difference is striking from our first visit, nine years ago.
The people were friendly and children followed us everywhere.  We bought bananas and took pictures.  It is dirt and huts, chickens and goats, and seemingly a lot of family warmth and play.

Typical family scene---Mom is a fish seller. Kids "help"!!


Kakum Forest Canopy Walk. A wonderful way to experience tropical Africa!

We spent two days in Accra, taking in some key sights - Osu to shop, Kwame Nkrumah’s tomb and museum, a workshop for coffins in shapes related to the dead person’s activities (a truck, a pineapple, a camera) and the Makola market.  We walked to the Cultural Arts Center and saw how much of the craft work is actually done.  We had dinner with Frank Cudjoe and his family – Anita and children Sue and Leif.  And we stayed at the Afia Hotel, which is charming, but has a tremendous amount of trash on the beach.

Yes, these are coffins---made after the interests of the family member who has died and will be laid to rest in them. One of Ghana's interesting traditions!


Another coffin. No doubt the family member had a love of photography and cameras! He or she will be buried in this coffin, which probably closely matches the actual camera owned by the deceased.
We recommend the Afia Hotel in Accra as a great place to stay. But, this beach, near the hotel, highlights the huge challenge Ghana faces with keeping trash off the beaches and struggling with sanitation generally.


The trip was wonderful.  We spent a lot of time working hard and interacting with high school students, and were able to relax and enjoy some amazing places.

Our all-time favorite photo, taken by Susan Hirst, photographer extraordinaire! The three children are "students" at the Anglican Creche. We LOVE the hairdo!!!


So much pure fun with wonderful friends. We are grateful, especially for the wonderful care given us by the staffs of the various hotels, the many drivers who transported us safely---esp. Quamie Annan, to Kathryn Roe for her hospitality in Cape Coast, and to the friendly, welcoming people of Ghana!



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