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.

Feb 26, 2012

Thank You

This will probably be my last post for a while. Usually we post about a once a month, when we have news, but this time I decided to more or less chronicle my visit. I’m back at home in Mount Vernon. Thanks for reading. I hope these news items gave you a glimpse of life in Axim, Ghana and of our efforts there.

If you have been receiving these posts by email, you may wish to know you can go to our website at and click on “News” where they are archived. Anyone can “subscribe” to receive occasional email versions of our News articles as they are posted.
I had a rewarding and successful visit to Axim. Our efforts are bearing fruit on several fronts, which is very satisfying. We look forward to working with our Ghanaian friends going forward.

I want to thank our Ghana Together Board for their continuing support: Tom Castor, Louise Wilkinson, Sue Pederson, Jerome Chandler, Rich Ward, and myself. Years have gone by, and they have stuck with it for the long-haul through “thick and thin.”
I especially thank the Ghanaian WHH Board Chair James Kainyiah and his wife Beatrice for their unfailing hospitality. Their home in Sekondi is always welcoming to me. I also thank his kids---Heidi, Mary, James Jr, Godwin, and Elfriede---for doubling up on their mattresses so I can have a bedroom all to myself! I especially thank James and Beatrice for taking Godwin, one of the WHH Scholars, into their own home, provide schooling, and all his care. He and James Jr are becoming good brothers. Godwin is learning American Sign Language, and is teaching his new little sister Mary who is deaf from having meningitis when she was just a baby.

James, Beatrice, Heidi, and Mary

Godwin and I renewing our friendship
I thank Kathryn Roe for hosting me in her home. Kathryn is a friend from Bellingham, WA, who runs a wonderful program to fund high school students called Anansi ( Located in the Cape Coast area, Kathryn and her organization have put more than 100 impoverished students through senior high school. High school is not free in Ghana. There is tuition, and usually room and board, because most communities don’t have their own school. Kathryn is also an expert in African art, and a visit to her home is a fascinating experience. Thank you, Kathryn, for your service in Ghana, and especially for providing a brief respite on my way from Axim to the airport in Accra.

Two experienced "Ghana hands", Kathryn and Jerome Chandler, share views (Summer 2011, in Mount Vernon)
I thank Elijah, my main taxi driver in Axim, for his promptness, courtesy, clean vehicle, working seat belts, SAFE driving, and cheerfulness! He is a generous man, dedicated to his community. He unfailingly delivered me to spots beyond walking distance. Why he habitually wears a woolen cap in this climate, I have NO idea! But, he even arranged to drive me through the streets of Axim to show off his dear little Elijahlina (2 years old about) who sat on my lap---an honor! J

Elijah, daughter Elijahlina, and taxi also named "Elijah-lina!!
I thank Frank and Anita Cudjoe for hosting me the first night of my arrival in Accra.
Thank you to Awulae Attibrukusu III for hosting me in his personal home and by his acceptance, paving the way for Ghana Together to work in Axim.

Awulae and Brian Cladoosby, Swinomish Tribe Community Chairman (taken in LaConner, WA, Summer 2011)
And last, thanks to the WHH Board of Directors who remain faithful to the cause after seven’s a privilege for me to serve as an advisory member of their board. They are the best!

Maryanne, Fr. Paul Awuah (priest Catholic Church), Nana Adjow Sika II (Queen Mother Upper Axim Traditional Council), James Kainyiah (Board Chair), Hajara Yakubu (Director Axim Community Development Vocational Institute), Isaac Bentil (local businessman), and Frances Polley (retired senior high school math teacher)
 I invite you who are reading this and other posts to check out the "Milestones" section of our Ghana Together website:( We are proud of what we have accomplished. We have ideas for 2012 that we will share as plans firm up.

Thanks for your interest.

Maryanne 'Nana Ama Awuranke' Ward
Nkosohema of Axim Traditional Areas

Feb 25, 2012

How are things with the WHH Scholars?

Most of our readers know that the residential program at the WHH Children’s Home was phased out in Sept 2011. WHH operated it for about four years, with Ghana Together’s financial support. We shared the details about that transition in our October 2011 news item. I also shared some updated info in my Feb 5 and 6 posts.

I have debated with myself about how to handle this News item, because I know many of you are very interested in individual children, but I also need to protect their privacy. So, I am posting information and also photos without much detail, because I think they tell a rich story. I tried to gather enough information to satisfy myself that things were OK without being intrusive.
Over the course of my stay, I saw most of the children multiple times. I visited most homes, met with the Manye headmaster, some teachers including at both Manye and Brawire/Akyinim, and the accountant at Manye, and in general checked up on each child.  In general, I think they are doing well (i.e., as expected based on prior performance in school, especially).

I found the children eager to take my hand and guide me over the rough paths to their homes. I timed my visits for when I thought at least some family members would be home, and I found a very warm welcome without exception. I was thanked over and over for making school possible by these “guardians”, as Nzema people call any adult who has major responsibility for an individual child, whether biologically connected or not. The older girls, especially, wanted me to see inside their little modest homes, because they had put up some decorations, and wanted me to see where they sleep. They also wanted me to meet their “Aunties” and other family members.

On the path to some of the homes
We found a way for Eric to get back in school. He’ll live in the Manye Academy student hostel, usually reserved for children who live in far-flung villages, but have exceptional academy ability. He'll have a sleeping area and food, plus school is right there. His computer teacher will be his “mentor”. A call yesterday informed me that Manye Headmaster says he can start Monday (Feb 27) and doesn’t have to wait for the next term (bless you Mr. Kofi).
Manye Student Hostel where Eric will Live

In summary, I feel really relieved that we are on the other side of this transition. I feel I know these children pretty well and it is my assessment that in general all is well, thanks to their new families and our continuing support, without which they would not be in school. Most pass by Mr. Bentil's office every day, and he does keep rapport with them.

I asked each one, semi-privately, how things were “going at home”, etc. Without exception, they were positive.  All answered "yes" to whether they were getting enough "chop" (food). I asked them what they missed about living at Heritage, and they mostly referred to the short walk to school, tables and lights at night to do homework, and their OLPCs!

Several said they liked how they now lived “in the neighborhood” with their friends. They said they now have to work harder. When I asked what work, they said carrying water, cooking, and helping their “Aunties”. They obviously are still very close to each other. Dorothy is still the “senior sister”, more or less taking charge when they’re together. I think they have a feeling of belonging and feeling "normal" --- worth a lot!

Here are some photos: enjoy. I will post a subsequent item about Emmanuella, our blind student who is now at the "Deaf/Blind" School in Cape Coast.

WHH Scholars are school...not all are pictured
Dorothy writing the "lesson" on the board, for has classmates to copy into their exercise books. She is copying from the one textbook which the teacher has.

Johnson and Elijah the taxi driver. Elijah has been the regular driver for WHH and considers himself "part of the team." He himself lives in the neighborhood where several of the children live. He is an informal mentor to these children---an all-around great guy. HIs taxi is named "Elijahlina" and his daughter is called by the same name! His taxi is also the taxi used in the "Mobile Library by Taxi" program of the Axim Public Library.
Olivia and her family
Dorothy, Ernestina, and Gifty all live here in adjacet homes
One of the boys and his "brother"
B and G with their biological Grandma. Her leg has healed pretty well, and she manages with the help of a neighbor woman. All three are happy to be together. Her typical traditional welcome to me could not have been more gracious: "Akwaaba. You are welcome here."
Isaac and Stephen, near their home. Still "brothers".
Philo and "Grandma"
George and family
Peter and his "brother", Mr. Bentil's Son

I stopped by Charlotte's home--which looked rather substantial---but she was on the other side of town at a friend's house and I didn't get back there. I also missed Lamie's family. The children told me he is one of the best footballers in Axim!

These children are on their way. For their North American friends who have faithfully supported them over the years, and continue to do so, I can only say thank you on behalf of the children and their new families.  Without you, they would not be in school, for sure.

For the WHH staff who cared for them and their new families, a big thank you. They are "doing well", as Barbara Davis the Home's former "Mother" told me when I visited her family in Takoradi.

They are the faces of Ghana---living humbly, enough food most days, struggling for drinkable water, determined in all things educational. Polite, well-mannered, calm, warm and welcoming, proud of their Nzema culture and to be Ghanaians!

Feb 24, 2012

What about Those One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) Computers?

As many of you know, Ghana Together has been collecting, repairing, and deploying donated OLPCs (XO-1) in Axim for some time now. Initially, we managed to provide each child of school age living in the Children’s Home with his/her own computer. With a little training from Tom Castor and me, they quickly caught on and enjoyed them so much that the Home “Mother” had to lay down a firm rule that they could not be taken to bed!

WHH Scholars with their OLPCs in 2009
But, as you know, the WHH Board has transitioned the children out of the Home into family homes. After some discussion, they decided not to let the children take them to their new homes because of electrical charging difficulties, problems within the families if one child had one and others did not, and the possibility that they’d be stolen or sold. Ideally, the idea is "one laptop for every child", but Axim is a sizeable town with hundreds of children, and only so many OLPCs!

So, they stayed at the Heritage facility. Meanwhile, wonderfully generous people donated more OLPCs. The Marysville, WA Arts and Technology High School computer repair club got interested and I was able to mentor them some (and in a very short while, they were the mentors and I the “mentee”). All in all, WHH now has 50 working OLPCs in Axim.
Some of the Marysville Computer Repair Club---I'm supposed to be the "mentor", but they're way ahead of me!!
Then, in 2011 the Methodist School was suddenly given 30 OLPCs from the government of Ghana. But they were just dropped off, with no orientation and the teachers didn’t really understand what they were. They thought they looked liked toys, not realizing that they are actually very sophisticated “learning machines” for primary school children. The headmistress found out that I was coming to Axim, and asked me to come and do an impromptu two-hour workshop with six teachers and herself, which I was glad to do.

Methodist School Teachers at Impromptu OLPC Workshop. They have 30 at their School.
Consequently, teachers Eric Jim, of the Science Center and Mykeal Ackah-Menlab worked with me to test and update those at WHH and to try to figure out how to use them there and also those in their own Methodist School. I engaged Peter Asuah, one of the original WHH scholars, to help test all the OLPCs, chargers, etc. I left a very complete manual, most of which was downloaded from sites that would be easily available to them, if they had reasonable internet service.  These guys are computer sophisticated, and I’m sure they will do a good job orienting the children.

Peter and I test chargers. The machines themselves are very robust and stand up to tropical conditions, inexperienced children, etc. But, the chargers are the weak link.
Later in my visit, when the science teachers came up for the brainstorming session, I spent the first hour as they were arriving on another impromptu workshop, introducing them to the basic workings of the OLPC. They were fascinated.
JHS Science Teachers Trying out the OLPCs at the WHH Heritage Facility prior to the JHS Science Meeting
The plan now is that when the JHS children come to the Science Center for practicums, there are usually more than 36, the maximum number to allow each child an individual hands-on experience. So, the rest of the students will use the OLPCs. Although they are not really targeted at JHS level, since these students have not had hands-on computer experience, and will have ICT questions on their JHS-3 test which determines if they go to senior high school, the teachers have decided to focus on deploying them at the JHS level, at least for a year or so.

Since the machines are designed to be “self-exploratory”, it’s been my experience that once children understand the basic way the computer functions, they do very well on their own. In fact, this hands-on, exploration approach is perfect for these children, because they have been so immersed in rote learning from blackboard and exercise books. The science teachers told me they are trying to get away from that kind of teaching, but up to now, they didn’t have materials to work with. They understand where they need to go and now they have materials and machines to work with.
Meanwhile, if anyone reading this has an OLPC you’d like to donate, we’d like to have it, in working condition or not. The Marysville Club is very skilled---they repair them, or if need be, cannibalize them. Also, I spent quite a bit of time training Eric and Mykeal, the two Axim teachers involved, on how to take them apart, use parts from one to fix another, do clean software installs, etc.

So, this kind of hands-on program with these laptops designed specifically for children in this environment is in its infancy in Ghana, but at least in Axim, it’s got a toehold.

Feb 21, 2012

Jerome Chandler JHS Science Resource Center – Part 2

James Kainyiah introducing some of the group to the Heritage facility, including the Science Center
On Tuesday, Feb 14, twenty-eight JHS science teachers and headmasters/mistresses---all but two in the District---came to the Science Resource Center to review how the JHS practicum program is going and to brainstorm ideas for using the Center effectively.
Eric Jim
Jerome Chandler and Eric Jim (Jimpetey), a JHS science teacher at the Methodist/Government School, worked together in September 2011 to get the Center ready. It opened in October, the first term of the school year. Eric is assigned by the Education Service to be the Science Center Supervisor. By the end of the first term in Dec 2011, a total of 524 students and their teachers had experienced the Center---some several times---from 8 different schools.

With the start of the second term in January 2012, three schools have started to send their students regularly. Axim Methodist is coming weekly with approximately 100 JHS-1 students every Thursday, and 50 JHS-3 students every Saturday. They split this large class into two groups---half study in the “big room” and half do science. Life International, a smaller school, is coming with 9 JHS-3 students on Thursdays, and 19 JHS-2 students, also on Thursdays. Brawire/Akyinim School, which is at least a 45-minute walk from the Center, is bringing 26 JHS 3 students biweekly. All students and teachers walk to the Center, as there is no bus transportation. So about 200 students are now coming regularly to the Center every week. 
A few days before, Sarfo Hayford, the Science Curriculum Supervisor, James Kainyiah, and I met to review the progress of the hands-on science program. It seemed they are off to a good start, but Sarfo wants more students to come regularly, so he sent written invitations to every headmaster inviting them and their science teachers to a brainstorming session.
We started with a tour of the upper floor of the “Heritage”, as the WHH facility is called. James showed off the One Laptop per Child computers and the big study room with about 100 arm-desks.
The big study/meeting room with nice chairs the students love
Then, Eric took us all into the science storeroom. He explained the wonderful organizational system Jerome devised, keying each plastic container of needed materials to the specific section of the JHS Science Syllabus.

The most organized science room in all of West Africa!!!
At one point, Eric asked the “strongest man” in the room to raise his hand. Of course, every man did, to much laughter! So, Eric gave the magnet to one of them and asked him to pull it apart, which was impossible. Then he deftly twisted it and it easily came apart. A scientific principle had just been conveyed that no one there had thought about before, I’m sure! I tried to call Jerome, just now, to see what principle it was, but he wasn’t there, so I’ll leave you all guessing.

Then we all settled into the Science Center room, and seriously brainstormed JHS science teaching. James Kainyiah led the discussion. He is not only the Chair of WHH, which, with our help, built and owns the Heritage facility, but is also the Development Chief of Axim Traditional area, going by the stool name of Nana Kaku Bullu II. James had spent many Saturdays in 2011 in a special program in Accra, learning to be a “conflict resolution specialist”...the only person so-trained in the Nzema East/West area. So, he is now a skilled facilitator. He said we would use the “GHOST” process: Gentle, Honest, Open, Specific, Talk Now (not gossip later!).
It was a wonderful, open, active discussion. Many ideas were shared, but the bottom line is that I’m now very hopeful that all but the most distant schools will find a way to have their students experience the first hands-on science ever available in Axim, at least biweekly, in spite of the long walk involved for some. This is remarkable.

The teachers decided to form a science resource team under Eric’s leadership to generate ideas and to try out developing new materials themselves. James emphasized that the facility is their facility. He suggested organizing a “science durbar” ---a whole community event---at the end of the 2011-2012 school year to demonstrate to parents and younger students how exciting science is and let the JHS students show off their abilities.
It was so great to see the excitement of these teachers. A key observation: no one left the meeting, even though it lasted from 10:30 2:30, although it was scheduled to end at noon. And they turned their mobile phones off. (Ghana has at least 81% mobile phone penetration--most of these teachers probably have at least two for different networks. Ghana had 19,893,191 subscribers in a population of 24,722,485 in Aug 2011! It’s cheap, convenient, and sophisticated.)

I cautiously believe (fervently hope) with the boost of this meeting, the Science Center may have reached the magic tipping point, where it will be incorporated into the regular science teaching of at least the majority of schools. Certainly the students themselves are completely enthusiastic. They love to come to the Heritage---in fact, many come on Saturday morning or gather after church on Sunday afternoon and make the 20-30 minute walk/run, just to have a quiet place to lay out their notes, study, do homework, and I think, being junior high students, just to be together! And their teachers come, too, and help them with these informal study sessions. One girl told me she loves to come because “it’s almost like university”. They love the chairs with the flip-up arms, the whiteboards and blackboard, the cleanliness, the grown-up feeling about the place. YES!!

A round of applause for Jerome and Eric!!

Feb 13, 2012

Sunday Reflections on a Community Leader

Today was Sunday and I treated myself to a whole morning on the beach here at the Axim Beach Hotel. As you can see, it was not a tough assignment! There just two Ghanaian honeymooners, three Germans and me! This afternoon I’ll be meeting with Mr. Bentil to work out finances for Feb/March. But this morning is for me.

My mind, though, went back to last week’s service at the Catholic Church with Father Paul Awuah presiding. I attended the early English language service, aka the “youth service.” As usual, the music was lovely---although more subdued and “liturgical” than in the Anglican or Methodist churches.

Fr. Paul started his remarks by recounting the very long lives of some Bible characters---900 years or more! Where is he going, was my thought, particularly since the congregation that morning consisted of at least 200 primary school age children all sitting together, squished into about half the church, plus teens sitting here and there with their friends, young families with very young children who want their kids to learn English and so attend the English language service.

But Fr. Paul is a smart guy. He speculated in absolutely clear simple English before his audience of 100% “English-is-my second/third language” folks that perhaps these ancient folks took better care of their environment and therefore enjoyed lives with less disease than we do now!

He went on. Disease is not punishment from God (thereby quashing the “fatalism” that sometimes creeps in among folks here). God does not want us to suffer. God gave us this beautiful earth in a CLEAN condition. We must honor God by not throwing our trash on the street. We need to pick up all our trash, not just on the beach but throughout Axim. We must compost our food/toilet waste, throw plastic in the dumpster (provided only in the last year or two by Zoomlion, a Ghanaian waste management company). We need to waste less water and drink only clean water. We need to get our vaccinations.
The Father did not mince words. We need to go to the toilet in the toilet and not on the beach or in the bush (there aren't many toilets, but...anyway...). We need to wash our hands before preparing food/eating, changing diapers, after using the toilet, etc. And if we must “go in the bush”, we need to dig a hole and cover it up! Sort of half priest and half National Park Forest ranger!

Of course, being a Ghanaian pastor, he had at his disposal a working wireless microphone, and he’s a gifted orator (who isn’t around here?), so he roamed the church a bit in the aisles among the 8-10 pews packed with children and was quite dramatic. They listened quietly and attentively.

Fr Paul is also on the Western Heritage Home Board. He is working with James and me as we try to help coordinate his church’s JHS School KVIP Toilet Project with the Engineers Without Borders team in Bellingham, who will build it.

He convened a meeting earlier this week with the school’s headmistress Mrs. Yawson, two PTA leaders, a member of the District Assembly (representing the community), two teachers, two representatives of the Parent/Teachers Association, himself representing the Catholic Church which owns the land, James Kainyiah (Western Heritage Home board chairman), and myself. He was perfectly prepared, having read all the documents I’d brought with me. The meeting started on time. We had a thorough discussion, and under his leadership all signatures were obtained---his being first to signal his support---specifying who is responsible for what.

A few years ago, some friends of Jerome Chandler (Ghana Together hadn’t incorporated yet) helped gather funds to fix the roof on the Catholic Primary School, thereby opening up I think 3 more classrooms. At 40-50 kids per class, double sessions, this means about 250 or so children were impacted.

Fr. Paul runs a large church and two schools---a primary and JHS. Although they are government schools, the church owns the physical building. He is personally determined to get his church on stronger financial footing and he and a young assistant have planted several acres of rubber trees, which will start bearing in about four years. It's really been a privilege to get to know this dedicated man over the years.
Maryanne Ward from Axim, Ghana

Ps: And yes, I have a lot of KVIP info...but I'll spare my general readers and save it for the engineering team!!!

Feb 11, 2012

PTA Ghana Style

I was walking to town about ten in the morning. A woman fell in with me---a teacher from Methodist Primary School. Did I want to join her at the Parent-Teacher Association Meeting (PTA)? Well sure.
A little background. When we first came to Axim in late 2006, schools collected tuition from every student and it was out of reach for many. When we rolled into town at mid-day---15 obronis (white people) on a bus---it was definitely not an everyday happening—more like the circus come to town. We were mobbed by dozens of children---children who were obviously NOT in school

Not long after that, Ghana started providing tuition-free education in its “government schools” from kindergarten through sixth grade and then later junior high. Parents still have expenses---uniforms, exercise books, shoes, pens, perhaps a bookbag, etc. But now the majority of children are in school, albeit over-crowded to the point of running double sessions with 40-60 kids/class. There are not many kids on the streets during the day anymore, except in the poorest neighborhoods.
It’s always a little confusing to explain the Ghanaian school organization. The Methodist School, for example, was established by Methodist missionaries in the early 20th century, and is physically owned by the town’s Methodists, but the school is a “government” school, with teachers paid by the Ghana Education Service, and using the GES curriculum. The students are from all over town, and are not necessarily Methodists. The Anglican and Catholic schools have similar arrangements. There are also several private schools in town, but most are not church-related, and they still require tuition payments.

But to get to the point. As a result of so many children now enrolled in school, each school has formed a PTA. This particular PTA meeting was held in the Methodist Church, in Axim Center---the only venue for the very large number of parents present---mostly Moms, but Dads too.

As we arrived, the leader was urging parents to buy library cards, to participate in the Axim Library’s “mobile library by taxi” program that I wrote about in a prior post. He didn’t know I was going to be there, but I had met him earlier and he introduced me.

He asked me to speak. I asked how many had children with library cards---almost all raised their hands, and I clapped and they clapped. The leader asked me to say a few words. I asked them to ask their children to read to them every day in the house, because they would be so proud of their children’s reading ability. (I also had in mind that the children will actually teach the Moms by doing this). The leader translated and asked how many would do that, and they all raised their hands. So we all clapped again. He urged those without cards to find the 50 pesewas soon. Then I left and they went on to other topics.
The fancy tablecloth says how important this meeting is!

Feb 10, 2012

Loving "Hands-On": The Anglican Creche Update

Wow! You’ll LOVE these photos! They were not staged---this is just what I saw when I strolled unannounced into the St. Mary’s crèche today.

First some background.
We seem to be focusing on the “hands-on” front right now---hands-on science for the JHS and hands-on Montessori-style for the little guys. Ghana’s education “style” is very rote---maybe we’re inserting a little variety into the mix. As Eric Jimpetey-Dyan, the science room supervisor says, “Use your hands and brains.”

In the 2009 timeframe, St. Philip’s Episcopal Church in Rochester, Michigan partnered with the St. Mary the Virgin Anglican Church in Axim to create a crèche---as it’s called here---similar to our pre-schools/daycare in the US. Ghana Together and Western Heritage Home fostered the relationship along, and provided some communication and coordination.
St. Philips worked with the Axim church to renovate one building and build a second. They now have two nice classrooms and one small room for eating lunch, storing the water basin, changing clothes, etc.

St. Philip’s not only provided the buildings, but provided a substantial assortment of Montessori-style learning materials. Regina Lawler of St. Philips visited Axim and gave a workshop to teachers in 2010, and also provided for one of the teachers to get some training. But the concepts were just too new. When I visited the crèche two weeks ago, I saw little understanding of the hands-on style of learning that works best with these small children, ages about 2-4. Most of the materials, puzzles, games, etc. were still carefully stored in their plastic wraps---common here where any materials are scarce and people hardly dare touch them for fear of “spoiling” them. I’ve tried to give them confidence that it’s OK to use them.
So, I’ve been giving brief on-the-spot training on most days. FUN! Not that I know much about it! Not having been there for a couple of days, today I saw clearly the fruits of all the hard work of the crèche teachers, Philo and Grace, to incorporate these new ideas into their work. I think they’ve got the concept! They are excited; I am excited! This is downright exciting!

The parents pay 5 cedis (about $3.00) for admission and 20 cedis (about $14) for a three-month term. Seems like a small amount, but it is out of reach of most. 35 students are now enrolled---split between the two classrooms. They could comfortably handle about 10-15 more. It’s open to all children, not just Anglican folks. Most of the Moms are “market women.” They say it’s easier for them to work in the market without these little ones under foot. A few Dads have stopped to pick up their children, too.

St Mary’s is slowly taking more ownership of the program. They fixed 2 of the fans. They are planning better storage for the materials. The priest, Father Ghartey---new to Axim---is trying to figure out why the DVD player in the crèche won’t play the great instructional DVD’s St. Philips provided, when his own plays them just fine. He is amazed by them and wants the children to see them and to share them with the Axim Library. Today he brought over his own player and said they can use that until he figures it out or buys a new one for them. A committee was formed in early 2011, headed by Fr. G himself and Madame Hagar, a laywoman. We have challenged them to support maybe 2-3 children whose parents can’t afford the program.
They saw a TV program about a pre-school in Accra, and painted their wall just like the one in the program! With letters of the alphabet, etc.

And so it goes...also worked on KVIP toilets today, but that’s another subject altogether!! Also lucked out food-wise, because the Adamus Gold Mining guys from Australia came HERE, an the Ghanaian staff prepared a huge tuna just pulled in "from the sea" today!!  Maryanne Ward from Axim, Ghana

Feb 9, 2012

Ashesi University Visits Axim!

How many high-schoolers can fit into one assembly hall!! At least 1,500 in this photo. Maria Bankas, Admissions Officer from Ashesi University (the one waving her arms!!) visited Axim today. All the students from both Nsein High School (nearby town) and the one high school in Axim, the Girls High School heard Maria give a rousing presentation on why they should aim for a tertiary education. She and her partner Admissions Officer Fred (not shown) brought sophisticated equipment that wowed the students: a video with a screen and powerpoint slides!

The teachers told me this is the first visit by a university to this part of Ghana. In my earlier post, I described the visit James Kainyiah and I made to Ashesi. We are so pleased that they accepted our invitation to visit this area and connect with these students! Ashesi is very competitive, but maybe a few students will qualify.

Looking Good at Manye Academy & Axim Girls HS

I reported a bit on the WHH scholars in an earlier post---here's a photo of many of them, looking good after school at Manye Academy.

Dorothy wants you to know she's FIRST in her class at Axim Girls High School. She loves her  colorfull gift from her friend and will hang it in her house, she says. Her headmistress told me she's doing very well, is disciplined, and studies hard. She seems to be having quite a lot of fun, too. Way to go, Dorothy!!

Feb 8, 2012

WHH Board of Directors Meet

Today the Western Heritage Home Board of Directors held a meeting in Fr. Paul Awuah’s living room. James Kainyiah (aka Nana Kaku Bullu II, Development Chief of Axim and local businessman) chaired the meeting. This NGO (as non-profits are called here) was founded by James in 2005 to help the children in Axim.
As Advisory Member, I attended the meeting, along with Isaac Bentil, owner of a local printing business and leader of the Methodist laity in this region of Ghana; Ms. Frances Polley, retired senior high school mathematics teacher; Madame Hajara Yakubu, Director Community Development Vocational Institute; Fr. Paul Awuah, lead priest in St. Anthony’s Catholic Church; and Nana Adjow Sika II, Upper Axim Queen Mother. Sarfo Hayford, Science Curriculum Supervisor, was unable to attend.
Those present are respected community leaders who have served WHH since its inception. It has not been easy. This “United Way” type of locally-led NGO is not common in Ghana; in fact, we know of no other. This is completely new to this community. They’ve had successes and disappointments, but they don’t give up. They are remarkable people.
They decided to expand their Board to include younger local leaders with a broader range of expertise and have issued invitations.
At this meeting, they laid out their main priorities for 2012. 1) to work with the Ghana Education Service to make sure the JHS Science Center housed in their building is well-launched and running smoothly; 2) to move their internet café from the their building to the Axim Town Center and create a first-rate service for local businesses and people in general; 3) to employ an instructor to develop a computer learning program based on the One Laptop Per Child computers to complement the JHS Science program; 4) to thoroughly research and hopefully establish an eye clinic in their building, as people are now traveling all the way to Cape Coast (about three hours minimum by tro-tro) to get eye treatment.
In addition, they work as a trusted umbrella organization with Ghana Together to receive and re-direct funds and/or to facilitate communication and provide local coordination for other projects such as supporting the Axim Public Library, the EWB KVIP toilet project, or the Anglican Creche.
It’s a pleasure for me, as the President of Ghana Together, to work with these warm, friendly, and dedicated friends. Who knows what we can accomplish by joining forces for good in this community?

Feb 6, 2012

Three More WHH Scholars...

Still no photos possible---weak internet tonight, but...I want to finish this off. I'm experimenting with a satellite modem tonight and it seems to be bit better.

I finally connected with Ernestina who is her usual serious, intelligent self. She seemed somehow older, more relaxed, more confident, less "worried" about grades, etc. I didn't get much time, because she wanted to walk home with her friends---a good idea. I was pleased she had a group of friends to walk home with and was "too busy" to spend much time with me. All good.

I told the other children to find McC. He found me today, bless him. Those who know the children know this boy. Unfortunately, he is the one child who is not in school and for whom things aren't going too well at home. We are having a WHH Board meeting Wednesday, and that will be one item on my agenda. He told me a lot, but I'll preserve his privacy, here. He seemed really glad to see me, and was very forthright about his situation. One of things we'll work together to try to fix. He was with two older friends who said help him get "chop" (food). He said he just turned 15.

Meanwhile, Godwin is with James' family---along with James three other younger children. He is in school and told me he likes living in Uncle James' house and his new "brother" James Jr., two little sisters, and a best friend at school named Emmanuel. I gave him his OLPC to keep. I had taken it back to the US to rebuild and replace some parts. He was very very happy to have it. Remember the children called him the "Little Professor" because he did so well in school.

I'll get up to Akynimin (sp?) to see Gloria and Ben later this week, but Bentil says they are OK, thanks to a neighbor who helps out grandma with cooking. And Ben is old enough to be a big help.

Many Ghanaian children live in multiple homes before they're on their own. In fact, I asked at a WHH Board meeting how many of them had lived in multiple homes, hostels, etc. in their youth, and every one of them raised his/her hand!

Now I just learned (haven't verified)  a new organization is working with the Ghana Social Welfare Dept to identify and get background on every child living in children's homes/orphanages in Ghana over a 3-year period. Ghana is trying to phase out, except for the most desperate---those with AIDS, severe development problems, etc. Not easy for anyone.

That's it for now. I'll bring some photos back. Maryanne from Axim, Ghana

Feb 5, 2012

WHH Scholars---Brief Update

I know some of you are wondering: what about the children who were sheltered in the WHH Children's Home, either long-term or on a short-term basis. I met all of those who attend Manye Academy except Gifty, who was studying at a special class for her JHS exams.

In general, I spent about 45 minutes with them after school and walked to towards town with those who live in that direction. I would say they seem just fine. They saw me waiting for them in the Manye school yard, and ran to greet me and many hugs. Overall, they looked and seemed just great! Healthy, robust, and just so full of life and enthusiasm. I asked each, semi-privately, how things were going "at home with their families." Without exception they had positive comments---I'm not sure what I expected, but having spent so much time with most of them over 4-5 years time, I think I could have picked up negative signals.

They all have opted to stay at Manye, in spite of the fact that some, like Isaac, walks probably at least 45 minutes both ways and has a school nearer him he could attend. But he said he still wants to be an engineer, and they have "good maths" at Manye. Olivia is her bubbly self, says school is hard. She just kind of bounced up to me, doing a little dance on the way, esp. when I clapped for her! Philo still has her eye on flight attendant, but is also learning Home Ec, to help her "grandmother" more. Peter worked for me all day yesterday, testing chargers, OLPCs, etc. He is loving living with the Bentils---what a wonderful gift to him from that family. George and Johnson are both still their quiet intelligent selves.

Who else? Charlotte may or may not have a boyfriend---lots of giggling and teasing when a certain someone walked by.

I asked more or less semi-privately how things were going "at home with the family." All were positive---I didn't expect a lot of information and I didn't feel it right to pry but I didn't catch negative reaction. They told me they miss the tables at the Home for their homework, and they miss their OLPCs. But it was obvious they are still very close, arms around each other, etc. etc.

I just feel relieved and happy about this. I do believe the WHH Board (and we by extension by giving them our full confidence) made the right decisious and handled things very very well. They are moving forward and they are paving the way.

The internet is not "photo-capable" tonight, so next time...


JHS Science Resource Center (probably part 1—this could turn into a book...)

Well, I’ve seen a few JHS Science Resource Center classes in action now. How I wish I could just transport the many scientific types among our friends for an hour or two!

Here’s what happened Thursday. Seventy-four JHS students (one class from the Methodist School) walked up the hill to the WHH facility at about 9:00 in the morning.


Thirty-six went to the Science Resource Center, with its storeroom filled with creative and interesting materials for them to do their experiments with---their “science practicum.”

They gathered, six to a table, to learn about measuring “mass.” The classroom teacher tried to explain mass, but it kind of went by them (and me). So, they had a rock and they were supposed to estimate the “mass” of the rock and then weigh (?) the rock to determine its mass in grams. I asked one guy if mass were the pull of gravity on the rock. He said “No, that is weight. Mass is what is inside the rock.” OK, maybe it is. Darned if I know. Personally, I am not so good on science definitions!

But, the fun part came when they started to weigh the rock. (Jerome, HELP---do you “weigh” mass? Yikes, I’ve probably screwed them up already). Anyway they put the rock on the nice scales Jerome provided. I went up to one table with a seemingly solid, durable, unfinished wood top. I pulled out my camera pouch and asked them to estimate the mass in grams. They all passed it around and solemnly made what sounded like wild guesses to me. So, we weighed that. They were way off. But then we tried a bunch of items---a ruler, a notebook, a plastic beaker type thing, a basin of water...they got closer and closer to a reasonable estimate. They were very excited---remember this is absolutely new to a third year junior high class! Much giggling, teasing, clapping for the person who got the closest estimation. By the end they were “getting” the idea of estimating and then least on that day. This class has been coming since Jerome left in September and it’s obvious they are really “into” it.
I loved it that Science Room Supervisor Eric ordered everyone to put down their exercise books, put down their pens. Then, he held up his hands and said, “You may use only your hands and your minds.” They actually had a hard time doing it---they are so engrained to take incredibly detailed notes from what the teacher says and what is written on the blackboard. We carefully piled the exercise books on the end of the table, neatly, so that quelled their anxiety about losing their exercise book, which, because they have nothing much else in the way of textbooks or reference books, is their educational lifeline, literally.

One child's well-used and worn exercise book---her ticket to her future
But meanwhile, what about the other thirty-eight? They went into the “big classroom” and their Information & Computer Technology (ICT) teacher wrote down on the whiteboard what they were to learn and they copied into their exercise books: “Microsoft XP”, “Microsoft Excel Spreadsheet”, “Microsoft Word”, “Power Point”... etc. There was no computer in sight. Just these words on the whiteboard. I doubt if few if any had the faintest idea what these terms meant. Probably most have not really seen a computer except in passing and certainly haven’t touched or used one. Sigh. But, by writing the words down and being able to memorize them, they will be able to write them in their JHS exam that will be the ticket to senior high school. And once there....  After sometime, they all switched and the ICT children got to do science.

Some things need fixing. On this project, we are not at the tipping point yet, in my estimation, but we’re getting closer, thanks to the enthusiasm of the children themselves in no small part and the incredible dedication of Eric Jim, and a few other teachers. A few schools are committed, and their students just bound up the road. They are fairly large, strong children physically. Some bring food---rice mostly---in little containers and take a break to eat. But some of the schools feel the walk is too much---transportation is the ever-present challenge. James and I will be “making the rounds” as he puts it next week to the various school administrators, etc. to see what can be done. Stay tuned...I have much to learn.

There was a similar class yesterday---Saturday. Yes they come up on Saturdays, their day off, for science, and so does Eric. Give him the “Science Prize”, please someone!

Meanwhile—a correction. I was informed by a Ghanaian that the World Cup reference should have been the Africa Cup. Tonight is the game between Tunisia and Ghana for something or other in the Africa Cup. And for you Ghanaians who keep reminding me: I am WELL AWARE that Ghana beat the US in the World Cup in the past, but I have forgiven all of you for that long ago.