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.

Oct 21, 2016

Engineers Without Borders Evaluate UDDT-style Toilets in Axim, Ghana

Yes, we're into toilets again!! Bear with us...:)
Thank you, Pacific Northwest Chapter of Engineers Without Borders, for revisiting Axim to evaluate the “urine diversification/dehydration (dry) toilets” (UDDTs) and generally taking an in-depth look at all things “toilets.”
Colleen Mitchell (you’ve met her before in prior News Updates) and Evan Dahl traveled to Axim this Sept, primarily to evaluate the first UDDT in the Axim/Nzema East area.

Colleen Mitchell, Evan Dahl with sunglasses, and one of UDDT contractor's staff in Axim, Ghana. They are examining the growing area behind one of the UDDTs, which has been fertilized for nearly three years by urine.
They were hosted by our Western Heritage Home affiliates in Axim: James Kainyiah, Chair, and Evans Arloo, Operations Manager. Thank you!

In 2013-2014, this EWB chapter designed, funded, traveled to Axim to initiate, oversaw building, and trained students and staff for a new-design UDDT-type toilet at the Axim Catholic-Government Junior High School.

Colleen Mitchell in 2013 just prior to building a new toilet. This was the sole toilet at the Catholic-Government JHS School, for about 200 students

Current toilet at the Catholic-Gov't JHS, thanks to the Pacific Northwest Chapter of Engineers Without Borders. In Sept 2016, having been in use for about three years, Colleen and Evan evaluated this toilet thoroughly as to use, maintenance, design considerations, etc.
We, with our Western Heritage Home affiliates based in Axim, helped a bit by finding a potential school, introducing the concept to school leaders, staff, and parents, and generally using our experience in Axim to pave the way.
And, based on the success and improvements we saw at the EWB’s initial project, we of Ghana Together funded and built two more prototype UDDTs at the Methodist-Government Primary/JHS School, and a smaller one for the young male students at the Community Development Vocational Technical Institute.

Toilet at the Methodist-Gov't School for primary students in early 2015

New UDDT type toilet funded by Ghana Together at the Methodist Government School, in March 2016. We used EWB's design, with some changes based on input from local experience, and the same contractor
But, it was time for the expert EWB engineers to evaluate the viability of the UDDT installations in Axim.
Certainly, these toilets are not the highly-desired, WC-flush-type---we understand that--- but given Axim's current infrastructure development, this concept is a big step forward, and makes sense,especially for children and youth in schools. (Note that about half of Ghana’s 20.000 public schools are entirely without toilets, as are thousands of private schools.)

Evan and Colleen found that, generally, the UDDT concept is working out well.
Some positives:

·         good support and promise of protection while visiting in the area from the Municipal Chief Executive

·         no discharge of untreated waste that can contaminate water sources

·         students clean their UDDT once/week

·         paper and cloth/paper menstrual supplies can go right with waste and it don’t have to be burned or buried separately

·         best toilets students have, so they “hold it” until they get to school

·         soap hanging from a rope is very good—encouraging kids to wash hands after every use

·         urinal size is ok

·         no odor present in inactive chambers

·         compost was high-quality, dry, soil-like

·         students and teachers are catching on to the use of red/green plugs to signal which chambers are in use and which are sealed for a year

·         teachers who had no toilet at their schools for themselves really appreciate the dedicated “teacher stall”
Colleen and Evan met with community leaders, school staffs, and students. They GOT a lot of feedback---they GAVE a lot of feedback!

They left detailed notes/report for each school for recommended changes and improvements.

They and Western Heritage Home representatives also visited the local rubber plantation, which also uses the “dry toilet” concept, along with the fertilizer produced, in the villages located on their lands. There are others in the Axim area, such as coconut farmers, who have expressed tentative interest in the fertilizer produced by these toilets.

It is our hope that the three prototype UDDTs now in Axim, used by students from kindergarten through young adult vocational students, will provide local leaders sufficient information to use this design in future toilet construction.
This is NOT just about providing toilets, although we'd love to build more!!

MOSTLY, it's about bringing to folks in Axim this workable concept to build better toilets, requiring only local materials, labor, and expertise.
 Axim area leaders now have detailed information from the local contractors who actually did the construction; technical drawings and details from EWB; evaluations from meeting with Colleen and Evan; extensive published technical literature we’ve supplied about UDDTs worldwide; and ample feedback from the actual day-to-day teachers and students who use the UDDTs.
Sure, there can be ongoing improvements to the concept—but these 3 toilets set a new benchmark.

The trick, we well understand, is usually not the lack of sincere desire on the part of leaders, but the persistent lack of funds.
New UDDT toilet funded by Ghana Together at the Community Development Vocational Technical Institute and newly opened about two weeks ago. This is for 40-50 male students only, and therefore is smaller. The guys had no toilet at all prior to this one.
Just a little backstory here:
Ghana is having a national election, too, as a firmly democratic country. What struck us about THEIR election is the pledge (the “Manifesto”) by one of the Presidential candidates, made at the Banquet of the State House on Sept 14, 2016 that, if elected, he will end the “age-old menace of open defecation” by 2021!

Great goal, but tempered by the Ghana Demographic and Health Survey 2014, which found twenty-one percent of Ghanaians have no access to a toilet and still use the bush or open field for defecation. And this is even worse in rural areas, such as Axim, where it reported at least thirty-four percent of the population still practice open defecation.
This is a call to action for Ghana’s leaders. We hope the efforts of EWB, to share knowledge that is being used successfully in many parts of the developing world, and with help from us, will help improve the situation for folks in at least one town in Ghana.
NOW, we ask you to click on the Ashley-Vance Engineering website link below.

Then make sure to click at the end of the brief article, where it says “click HERE to see the video…”  

(Evan is employed by the Ashley & Vance Engineering Company.)
NOTE: Readers, especially Ghanaians, interested in more details can contact us at info@Ghana and we’ll get you connected.
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Sep 27, 2016

Way to go Emmanuella and George--Western Heritage Home Scholar Graduates!!

Graduating Junior High School when your home town is Axim, Ghana is no small accomplishment!
Just this month, Emmanuella graduated from the School for the Deaf and Blind in Cape Coast and George graduated from Manye Academy in Axim.

And they not only graduated, but they found out just yesterday they did so well on their final “BECE” exam that they qualify for Senior High School! No mean feat in Ghana, where the slots for Senior High are limited. A high level of scholastic achievement and strong test scores are required to qualify.

New JHS graduates Emmanuella and George, Sept 29, 2016

Queen Mother Nana Adjow Sika II has taken special interest in all the Western Heritage Home scholars, and especially in Emmanuella.

She has supported Emmanuella emotionally, and has encouraged her at every step.
Nana is a founding member of the Western Heritage Board and continues to serve.
Queen Mother Nana Adjow Sika II congratulating her protégé (Sept 2016)

In her early childhood, Emmanuella was given the opportunity to live at the Western Heritage Children's Home. She needed special care due to her early onset of Stargardt Disease, a juvenile form of macular degeneration. At this point she is legally blind.

George also spent his early years at the Western Heritage Children's Home, due to difficult home circumstances.

Emmanuella and George both attended Manye Academy in Axim early on. George continued there, but about five years ago, Emmanuella had to be transferred to the Cape Coast School for the Deaf and Blind.

Emmanuella and George, both Western Heritage Home Scholars, and also age-mates and school-mates. George is showing her how to use the magnifier we brought from the US so she could work with an XO children's computer.

George in 2007

Saturday chores at the Western Heritage Home

George the scholar and also a guy who loves sports!

When Western Heritage Home phased out their residential program, George moved into the Manye Academy Dormitory.

We have provided for his tuition, room, board, and personal supplies during his entire school years and will continue to do so.

Meanwhile, Emmanuella transferred to the Cape Coast School for the Deaf and Blind. The school supports her tuition, room and board, but we help out with clothing, personal supplies, traveling back and forth to Axim during vacations, etc.

Emmanuella and Maryanne Ward at the Cape Coast School for the Deaf and Blind
Emmanuella is well-known in Axim for her musical talents, especially singing! She sings at special services in her church and at community events.
At her school in Cape Coast, she sang the Ghanaian National Anthem during the March 6 Independence Day celebrations (with a microphone she said!). And she told us that since the blind students can hear her sing, they dance with her; the deaf students can see the blind students dance and join in. This celebration was actually featured on Ghana TV!
Emmanuella singing at the dedication of the Chief's donation of a television to the Community Center. Western Heritage Home's James Kainyiah is offering a little support!
His motto is "Making leaders of the least!" and so he has.

Emmnanuella managed in August to take her final exams by reading some of the test at very close range, especially the math, and also by having some of the test read to her and she could answer orally. She can read Braille.
So what's next for these two scholars?

George’s dream is to attend a vocational high school and learn welding.

Emmanuella's dream is to return to her Cape Coast School and earn her SHS high school degree.

We're going to love helping them do just that!!

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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 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
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
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May 11, 2016

Axim Public Library Update


…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
Brawire Akymim
Life International
Roman Catholic

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!

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,
Our website is:
Contact us at
We are a 501c3 non-profit, ID 26-2182965