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 tells our story.

Aug 12, 2015

Thank you Katie Henderson (and Dad Jeff)

We thank Katie Henderson and her father, Jeff Henderson, of Columbus, Ohio for giving the students at Axim Girls Senior High School (AGSHS) and also children at the Axim Public Library a HUGE BOOST in their Internet-in-a-Box (IIAB) and computing skills.

Katie, a student at Columbus School for Girls, is an expert in IIAB, One Laptop per Child computers, and Scratch, a beginning computer programming language that students use to create animated stories, games, interactive art, and simulations.

Katie took her skills and her Dad to Axim this July, and went to work.
From left to right: Jerry Kwofie, ICT teacher at AGSHS; Headmistress Theodora Appiah; Katie Henderson; Jeff Henderson

Katie held workshops at AGSHS in beginning computer coding/programming skills, and also worked with the many resources on the IIAB.

Katie working with senior high school girls at Axim Girls Senior High School

Adam Holt of Unleash Kids coached her mightily across the Atlantic via text, email, voice, WhatsApp, and who knows what else? You remember Adam…we wrote about this wonderful guy installing and training Internet-in-a-Box at Axim Girls Senior High School back in March 2015 (

Not wanting to waste any of Katie and Jeff's skills, Ghana Together found funds to buy another server and other apparatus to set up a second IIAB at the Axim Public Library (thank you, thank you…generous friends).
So, Katie not only held workshops at AGSHS in beginning computer coding and IIAB skills. She also set up the second IIAB at the Axim Public Library, and held about a week of workshops. She worked with the children on Wikipedia, especially, using the 30 or so OLPC XO computers in the Children’s Computing Lab we helped set up in … was it two years ago? (So much happening, we can’t keep track.)

Katie working at the Children's Computing Lab/Axim Public Library on the One Laptop per Child XO laptops, teaching them how to use them to access the IIAB and to work with the many learning activities built into these computers

First let's get the basics under our belts!!

Katie was assisted big-time by Jerry Kwofie, ICT teacher at AGSHS, and Evans Arloo, Operations Manager for Western Heritage Home, our NGO partner in Axim. During the Axim Library installations and workshops, Gaddiel Eyison and James Amrado, staff members, helped out and were themselves trained. AGSHS Headmistress Theodora Appiah and Regional Library Director Mercy Ackah were supportive at every turn.

The on-the-ground team: Katie, Jerry Kwofie, Evans Arloo, James Amrado, and Gaddiel Eyison

And of course, Dad Jeff discovered perhaps somewhat rusty skills as he helped to get all the components working! Thanks, Jeff, for making this all happen.

"I just KNOW we can make this work!!!"

Katie summarized her achievements in an email to Ghana Together:

My experience in Axim was a wonderful one. With great support from Jerry and Arloo (and Adam and team back in North America), we have accomplished a great deal, including:
  • Internet-in-a-Box system is installed and fully operational at the Axim Library site

  • 30+ XO-1 laptops have been updated with the latest firmware and software

  • 12 desktop PCs now have new wireless capability at AGSHS, allowing them to connect to the IIAB system in the computer lab

  • 24 fourth and fifth grade students have had a week of training on the use of the IIAB, particularly Wikipedia 

  • 22 high school students at AGSHS have had a week of training on the various tools within IIAB, including Wikipedia, RACHEL, Power Typing, Open Street Maps, and others.

Ghana Together loved facilitating this visit! On behalf of Ghana Together, Western Heritage Home, Axim Girls Senior High School, and Axim Public Library we can only say THANK YOU to the Henderson duo and also to Unleash Kids!

Katie created a fascinating blog for friends and family documenting her experience...neat to hear from her first-hand:

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Jul 20, 2015

UDDT Project Update – Methodist Government School

We are delighted to report that the urine diversification/dehydration toilet (UDDT) project at Methodist-Government school is moving right along. The contractor, Mr. Emmanuel Appiah, sends photos every few days via the miracle of "Whatsapp!"

Thanks to the Engineers Without Borders team that trained Mr. Appiah’s crew in 2014 on the first UDDT project, the Ghanaians now know how to construct this type of toilet.

Students helping carry materials to the building site

In keeping with their traditional way of handling this, they are building urinals on each end---one for boys and one for girls. Above, you see the girls' urinal, with a separate, semi-private compartment on the right for handling their menstrual needs. A container capturing rain water will also be installed in that compartment, so girls can rinse out their "cloths", wash their hands, etc. The center section (colored bricks) is private "stalls"---each one can handle both urine and feces and provides privacy..
 We have been forwarding Mr. Appiah’s photos to the EWB leadership in Bellingham, WA who have helped out by noticing some details that needed to be remedied. Thanks!

This is international teamwork at the local level! For those of us of a certain age, we can only say “Who would have thought?”

Workmen installing the "doors" to the feces compartments. Each "stall" has two such "cisterns", as  the compartments are called. The students use one cistern for an entire year. Then it is capped and the other cistern is used. After another year, the first cistern is simply shoveled out, and the dried feces is hauled away as fertilizer (probably to a nearby rubber plantation). EWB-Bellingham is developing an easy way to test feces toxicity, to ensure safe handling.

While these are sanitation projects, they also are science education projects.
Students are gaining a better understanding of their own bodies and how they work. They are understanding the chemistry of urine, the toxicity of feces, and how to handle both in healthful ways.
They are learning how human waste can provide precious fertilizer to crops, if handled properly. Girls can handle their menstrual periods at school, without having to miss precious days, through the special accommodation built into the girls’ urinal.

This photo shows the inside arrangement. Students plant their feet on the "foot blocks." One hole will be capped and not used while the other will be used for an entire year. Feces goes down the hole....urine goes forward into the small hole in the center of the basin. The "urine hole" is connected to a pipe, and the urine is diverted to the planted area behind the toilet.

Toilet tissue, newsprint, leaves, menstrual pads, cloth, etc. can go into the feces hole. Anything of plastic cannot. We teach the students to remember that our bodies separate our waste, automatically, and with this type of toilet, we just continue what our bodies already do!

With this second toilet project, about 1000 more children and their teachers are learning about this advanced, low-impact, no-water-no-electricity toilet design.

PVC pipe provides ventilation. One of the big advantages of this toilet design is the lack of odor often found in the more common pit toilets. This is especially a problem when one is only 4 degrees from the equator!! The plants shown will be supplemented by many others---avocados, fruit trees, tomatoes, etc. The urine drains through pipes with holes to fertilize the "garden" behind the toilet.

Pipes will be added to the roof to collect rain water, which flows into secure hand-washing containers.
Maybe a bit more than you wanted to know!!
Of course, other schools in Axim are finding out about these toilets and they want one, too. Mr. Appiah has offered to donate his own labor costs completely, and his workers have agreed to donate some of their labor, too, for any additional UDDTs. They want to help their community.
With Mr. Appiah’s generous offer, each UDDT costs about $12,000-$15,000, depending on the exchange rate, terrain, etc. (about a $5000 discount over the original quote). (Note: per James Kainyiah, who does construction himself and is Chair of WHH, our partner organization, this is an honest contractor with honest quote).
So, hey, if you would like a toilet of your very own, you know who to call! We could name it after you. We know an artist in Axim who we are sure can make a truly beautiful plaque… J

Seriously, we have a dream where no one has to use the bush!

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May 26, 2015

Another UDDT Toilet Going Up in Axim, Ghana! Thank you Axim Youth Alliance!!

You all remember the famous toilet that the Pacific Northwest Engineers Without Borders Chapter (based in Bellingham, WA) built in Axim at a Junior High, in coordination with Western Heritage Home (our Axim-based partner NGO there) with a little facilitating from Ghana Together. It was dedicated and open for use in Feb 2014.

Engineers Without Border UDDT Toilet Built at an Axim Junior High School

We visited this new design urine diversification/dehydration toilet in Feb. 2015—literally. Maryanne can vouch for the fact that IT WORKS, even for senior American females!! She was skeptical, but Colleen Mitchell, EWB engineer extraordinaire, kept reassuring her…
Anyway, Axim is the kind of place where word gets around, and Headmistress Esther Abbey is the kind of woman who goes after new good things for “her students." So, she requested Western Heritage Home to replace the “old” toilet at her Methodist “Government” Primary/JHS school, with nearly 1000 students.
Headmistress Esther Abbey, with two of the Axim Library Staff. Her school was also one of the first to adopt the Axim Public Library's Mobile Library to Schools service
"Old Toilet"---VERY, VERY Old!!
We of Ghana Together loved the idea of building another UDDT, having seen for ourselves how much of an improvement the first one has been for the students (and teachers).
This low impact---no electricity/no water---design is so much better than the old “ventilated pit” type commonly built there. We want the knowledge of this worldwide engineering effort to be spread. What better way than to get another 1000 kids familiar with the concept??
So, we informed James Kainyiah, the WHH Chair, that somehow we’d find the funds, but we requested that the folks there provide volunteer help as possible, keeping in mind that few people there actually have tools like sledgehammers, wheelbarrows, work gloves, saws, hammers, etc. And with the power out a lot, most days are just twelve hours of daylight to do everything, but still…
Indomitable James engaged the help of the AXIM YOUTH ALLIANCE (AYA).
Just this past Saturday (May 23) members of the AYA managed to tear down the old toilet. Wow!!!
Somehow these guys found a truck...and got to work!
What shall we do with all this concrete?
Haul it into town...

...and use it to fill potholes!!

Founded in Sept, 2014, this organization of the under-35 age group in Axim has as its mission to work towards the advancement of Axim and its environs in terms of infrastructure, capacity building, and human resource.

We don’t know much about them at this point, but we are very grateful for their efforts.

And we think it’s REALLY great that such a group has formed!! Possibilities here…

Now the new building can commence in the next few weeks. We asked about what the kids are supposed to do with no toilet for perhaps the rest of this term, but we were told that they were not using the old toilet anyway, but were opting for the bush…

Stay tuned...

And if you’d like to help top off the toilet fund…we are:
Ghana Together (
808 Addison Place, Mount Vernon, WA 98273

Mar 30, 2015

Please, Books with More Words, Mum...

Our readers know we’ve been focusing on the Public Library (APL) in Axim, Ghana, for some time now---since Feb 2010, in fact, when Maryanne Ward and Regina Lawler---personal friends, intrepid travelers, professional librarians, and Ghana Together volunteers---noticed a distinct lack of children’s books in the APL.

We met with Library Director Mercy Ackah and Western Heritage Home Chair James Kainyiah, who asked for help with the APL children's program. They set up a children's room with help from us and the District Assembly.  But, we needed BOOKS---lots of books!

By 2012 we had a network of dedicated people in place and were shipping children’s books.

By 2014, we had hundreds (thousands?) of books, but the motorcycle they were using to deliver to a few very nearby schools had failed beyond repair. More schools were asking for help. So Western Heritage Home and Ghana Together decided to buy a motor tricycle and outfit it as a mobile library. It was dedicated fall of 2014.

Mobile Library Ready to Launch!!
By Jan 2015, the APL was ready to launch a Mobile Library Service to schools.
Maryanne Ward visited in Jan-Feb 2015 and got a first-hand project update.

Library staffers Gaddiel Eyison (right) and James Amrado pack up boxes of books to deliver to schools, via the Mobile Library
The Mobile Library visits seven government primary schools in Axim: Anglican, Catholic, Methodist, Beamish, Akyinim, Apewosika, and AhleSunna. (Yes, we know it's a bit confusing to Americans. The schools with religious names were founded by Christian missionaries or local Muslims in the early to mid-20th century, and although they are now "government" (public) schools, they retain their original names.)

The Mobile Library also serves five private schools: Morning Star, Augustino, Manye, SADA, and CTK.

When the Mobile Library arrives at a school, the Headmaster/Mistress commandeers some strong JHS students to help carry in the boxes
Students pay one Ghana cedi to register for one year (about 30 cents). This is affordable by all, although we’ve let the library staff know if even this is too much for a specific family, we will help.

Students giving their one-cedi bills to Mr. Eyison to register as library members for one year
The registration fee helps the library pay for the cards, envelopes,  pens, glue markers, and other supplies.

Students who are registered check out one book per Mobile Library visit. Students are allowed to swap books with other students who are registered (a little pressure here!).

By end of Feb 2015, 2,465 students had registered!!

Students gather round to select their book for the week---big decision!!
Library members are instructed to “take your book to the house and read it to your mother.” In this way, Moms not only can proudly see their child’s reading ability, but also may learn a little literacy themselves and be able to help younger children not yet in school.

What could be better than this???!!!
So far, we have focused on the lower primary grades through about 4th grade, with “easy readers.” Remember, schools have no or very limited libraries. Kids mostly only read what their teacher writes on the board and what they copy into their notebooks.

Girls read...

Boys read too...

But Maryanne heard over and over from students that they want “books with more words.” The older children have pretty good reading skills now, and they want something besides “Picture Books.”

If you have children/youth books around, you know who to contact!

The guidelines?
If you would buy the book today for your child or grandchild, you hit the jackpot! It’s good to go! Think ANY good children's books, but especially story books or children's non-fiction.


...textbooks, computer books, old encyclopedias, overtly culturally “American”---zombies, religious tracts, American holidays, cookbooks, Disney, Superman, American literary “classics” (Emerson, Hawthorne, Mark Twain…)---you get the idea! Nothing but the BEST for our kids in Axim!! Fiction or non-fiction, both OK.


--Book donors---every one of you!!

--Ebeneezer Mienza who lives in Maryland, receives our US Postal mailed books, knows a shipper...

--Shipper, whoever you are...

--Ghanaians George Hayford and Ismael Baidoo who live in Accra and go to the port at Tema to pick up the books and drive them in their van to their own hometown, Axim...

--Ghana Library Authority Regional Director Mercy Ackah who launched the project in Axim in 2010 and continues to lead the effort...

--Gaddiel Eyison, James Amrado, and National Service worker Frederick Aman who staff the library, ride the motor tricycle, do all the hard work of packing and unpacking and checking in and checking out...

--Axim Municipal Assembly for fuel for the motor tricycle...

--James Kainyiah and Western Heritage Home for having the Mobile Library idea in the first place and staying on top of everything month by month...

--All the headmistresses/masters and teachers who make it work at the schools!

And, if you are reading this and have connections with other Ghanaian Nzema East/Western Region towns that have libraries, you know who to contact for some ideas on how you can replicate this model. They are asking for some help, but we can’t really expand to their areas.
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Mar 4, 2015


As of 2014, The Axim Girls Senior High School (AGSHS) has computers---lots of computers---thanks to the Ghana Education Service! AND, they have an ICT (information/computer technology) lab! This is no small miracle and is testimony to Ghana’s commitment to education, especially girls’ education.

BUT, in spite of all that, Axim is still woefully short on internet access, especially to an entire high school computer lab. And now they have all these nice shiny new desktops and laptops with wireless capability. What to do??

Enter Adam Holt and the computer wizards of Unleash Kids ( They knew about Ghana Together, because in their earlier days they were the folks who helped create the One Laptop Per Child XO computers. We have a nice XO collection in the Children’s Lab in Axim, right next the Public Library.

Adam asked if we’d like them to set up the first “Internet-In-A-Box” in Ghana! Well, YES, we certainly would!

And so, we learned that IIAB is a very small “server”, about 6” square, which contains:   

--all of Wikipedia through 2013, plus simpler versions in English, French, Arabic, and Swahili

--hundreds of Khan Academy math and science videos

--dictionaries, maps, books, medical info

--and much more…  

How could so much fit into such a small box??? (We read recently that Wikipedia, printed out, would take at least 1000 volumes!)

Adam's team took over Maryanne's internet connection for about twelve hours and "loaded" the server from Toronto...
See the little square silver-colored "box" on the small table? That's it!! Impossibly small.
We contacted James Kainyiah, our Western Heritage Home associate and, conveniently (!), current Chair of the AAGHS Board, and also Headmistress Stella Adjei, who has been transferred.  They were enthusiastic, and current Headmistress Theodora Appiah was no less so.

They connected us with Jerry Kwofie, ICT teacher, who gave us enough technical information about computers and had the technical savvy to give us confidence to go forward.

So Adam and Maryanne Ward were off to Ghana with about 35 lbs. of cables and connectors and lots of other “stuff”. With the help of our wonderful friends George Hayford and Ishmael Baidoo in Accra, found the right solar panels and a 12-volt battery. In Axim, we found the all-important soldering iron.
Ishmael Baidoo, George Hayford, and Adam Holt, at an electronics store in Accra, Ghana

And so, with about $2000 worth of equipment, we were ALL SET!

Maryanne with about 35 lbs of components
At the AGSHS, with the total support of Western Heritage Home leaders, and wonderful help of Headmistress Appiah, Jerry Kwofie, Eric Jim (science teacher), and Evans Arloo (WHH Operations Mgr), plus the other teachers and the students themselves, somehow we got it all to work!!

The President of the Nzema Youth Association (left), James Kainyiah, and Headmistress Theodora Appiah discussing the IIAB project
We used solar power technology as part of the girls’ science training. They can see, on the computers, a screen that graphs the solar power.

They helped set it up and have at least a rudimentary understanding of how it works. Because of the frequent power outages from the grid, we had to have solar power to make it work.

Eric Jim (science), Evans Arloo (WHH Operations Mgr), Adam Holt, Jerry Kwofie (computer teacher) and Maryanne Ward with the solar panels
The science class sets up the panels
Adam helps them verify that the panels are working!
Another class checks...YES, WE DID IT!!!
Thanks to the Vodafone staff in Axim who helped set up a minimal internet connection to one computer (plus the amazing skills of Adam and Jerry), we were able to connect with Unleash Kids experts Tim and George. From the East Coast of the United States, these two guys could “see” (literally with Skype) what was going on at the AGSHS and give technical support at every juncture.
Teachers were trained

Over two weeks, we tried to train every teacher and all 120 students. The girls were amazed to read about the history of Axim! One girl learned what menstruation really is. The literature teacher found the biographies of the African authors she was teaching. The Social Studies teacher had a class on “gender” the very next day, and got more information than she knew what to do with. One girl looked up her friend’s town on the map application....just a few examples...

The computers access the Internet-In-A-Box in much the same way that they access the actual internet---wirelessly, and with protocols common to typical internet use. This is an educational project, for study, and research. One interesting feature is the ability of teachers to post their handouts on the server.

Teacher Jerry Kwofie and Adam train the students

The school staff will move the ICT lab with the IIAB into the new two-story classroom building probably in mid-April. They will mount the solar panels on the south side of the roof, where the sun shines the most and where they'll be the safest.
New classroom building thanks to the efforts of Chief Awulae Attibrukusu III and the Ghana National Petroleum Council

Adam and his team will continue to give technical support, from the US via a real internet connection on one of the computers, if needed. Ghana Together will stay in contact with Headmistress Appiah and others.

It will take time for this resource to be fully integrated into the school's normal operations, both for teachers and for students. It’s hard to imagine the vast amount of information in this little box.

In 2003, a survey found that only about 7% of women in Nzema East District had a senior high school education. The Axim community founded the AGSHS as a direct response. Started in 2007, the school now has 120 students and is growing rapidly with girls attending from various parts of the country.
This is our 4th project at the school in the past few years. At their request, we provided about 50 scientific non-graphing calculators (we always need more!). We installed a hands-on science room. This year we renovated and furnished a run-down building on campus that is now an assembly/dining/study hall.

And no, Ghanaians don't speak Swahili, but since it was the ONLY African language offered, we took it just for fun!!!

We can’t think of a better investment! We give all our thanks to all you “investors”, both here in the US and in Ghana. Good work!
For more info and prior News Updates, see
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Dec 12, 2014

Project Summary for Axim All-Girls High School (AAGHS)

We’ve done quite a few projects with our associates of Western Heritage Home and local school leaders to help AAGHS thrive. Thanks, "investors"!

What would be nice...

...a cleared, safe trail through the jungle between the Heritage Hostel (dormitory) and the school so the girls can walk the half mile 

 ...a couple of tables and benches in the Heritage dormitory where girls board

...and especially a toilet---a really nice toilet, for these lovely young the kind the Engineers Without Borders built at the Axim junior high earlier this year.

Another "urine diversification/dry toilet" in Axim would serve two causes:

1)  the 100 or so high school young women will have a toilet that works! The little two-seater flush type they have doesn't really work. It's often clogged up... and always needs a bucket of water on hand since the flush mechanism...(you get the picture)
2)  and, the girls will spread the knowledge of this toilet design---so much improved over other low-impact toilets, thanks to wizardry of Colleen Mitchell and the others at PNW EWB team!
These AAGHS girls come from various parts of Ghana. When they graduate they will be high-school graduates, with a certain status and respect. Their school is putting much emphasis on science. They can put their improved "toilet knowledge" to work in other communities. They aren't going to want to go back to what they came from!

We've done some great projects at AAGHS!

Thanks to Jerome Chandler, our Science Project Manager, we created an entire science resource center, with tables, benches, posters, storage shelves, lot of materials... And Jerome wrote 60 science experiments that fit the Ghana Education Science curriculum "practicums."

Jerome Chandler Science Resource Center at Axim All-Girls High School
Secure Science Materials Storage Area
AAGHS Students doing Science Practicum

Maryanne Ward and Colleen Mitchell with Eric (Jimpetey Djan) Jim, Science Instructor and students taking science materials inventory, Feb 2014
Teacher Eric(blue shirt) showing a teacher how the stethoscope works---thanks to the Skagit County, WA docs...

For math, we provided about 60 non-graphing, scientific, solar-powered calculators (not available at any reasonable cost in Ghana).

Teachers and students opening a shipment of calculators

We sent along an overhead projector for the science transparencies Jerome created, as well as a laptop and computer projector

Opening the overhead projector transported by Jennifer Mueller, EWB, along with school officials

 We helped them take this old building on the campus....

And with a lot of help from the girls themselves and the teachers...and local workers...

Cleaning up the site
Workers Preparing Floor

 ...Renovated it into a Dining/Study/Assembly Hall
AAGHS Students outside newly renovated Dining/Assembly/Study Building. Tables and Benches are on the way

We put a new roof on the Heritage Building (formerly the Children's Home) and ...
Roofers at work. Roofs take a beating in this tropical climate with torrential seasonal rains

...created a high school women's dormitory for those from more than walking distance or other parts of the country!

AAGHS Students who Board at the Heritage, thereby enabling them to attend high school

We have been working with Unleash Kids to equip this AAGHS Information/Computing Center (provided by Ghana Education Service) with Internet-In-A-Box, a learning resource with internet-based resources connecting wireless from the "box" to laptops, much like actual internet service.

IIAB includes Wikipedia, Khan Academy videos, reference e-books, global maps, etc. for environments with little to no internet access. It will be installed at AAGHS in Jan 2015.
AAGHS Computing Lab---what's missing is Internet Access. Service is sporadic, or non-existent and very expensive

Maryanne Ward and Adam Holt (Unleash Kids) setting up Internet-in-a-Box in Maryanne and Rich Ward's home

What is missing? We think a toilet like this one EWB built in Axim in 2014...and by all accounts, working beautifully at a Junior High School...would fit in just perfectly!

Urine Diversification/Dry Toilet Building by Bellingham, WA Engineers Without Borders

We thank so many who have invested in one way or another in this effort, on both sides of the Atlantic. It is amazing to us what has been accomplished!!
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