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 1, 2012

A Day for Librarians

I leave my hotel room which, although it’s a super-modest volunteer quarters, is untold luxury with shower, toilet, small TV, fan. Actually, this hotel is really very nice, outside of town some, and serves mostly Europeans and some Ghanaian officials, etc. So far, I’m the lone American. I couldn’t stay in the Volunteer Quarters at the WHH facility this year so here I am.

Breakfast is koko (sour corn cereal, kind of like cream of wheat, but taste of buttermilk), Spanish egg (sort of very flat omelet with some veggies), small roll, FRESH PINEAPPLE JUICE, and my special drink of coffee, milo (coca), sugar, and condensed milk. And oh, tropical fruit plate of fresh pineapple, watermelon, mango or whatever they have...yes, to get good tropical fruit, you must go to the fruit, rather than bring the fruit to you.


I walk to Axim Town, taking the short-cut trail from the hotel that local folks take---about a half hour walk. Part of it is a bit scary---just pure jungle---but often there are women hauling wood or something on it. Then, we get into a more populated area. Past the fishing canoes, crowded walkways, little stands, little kids yelling “obroni, how are you?” (white lady...), women sorting out the fish, men making/mending nets, every present radio blaring by loudspeaker...

I arrive at the Axim Public Library on the 2nd floor of the Community Center, a sort of open air building that is being improved. I am just in time to meet Mercy Ackah, the Librarian. We are walking to Akyinim (pronounced approximately Acheeum) JHS school. There are fifty JHS students (out of about 100) there who have paid 50 cedis (about 35 US cents) for a library registration envelope. The school has no library, so, with the influx of about 1500 books that have been received by Western Heritage Home from Ghana Together and others and in turn given to the library, Mercy runs a sort of “book mobile” service. We walked about halfway up hill with 25 books each, and just when I wondered if I was going to pass out, Elijah appeared! He is a taxi driver who is sort of part of the Western Heritage “team.” He loves helping out and is their regular driver, on top of his regular taxi driving. So, we bundled in and off we went up the hills away from the beach to the school.

He dropped us off and off we went on a small jungle path, across a stream, and finally the school appeared. (And oh, for you Engineers Without Borders folks reading this, there is a genuine KVIP toilet there! More later).

There, the 50 kids were ushered into a classroom. We spread about the books on a small table. Mercy has a Library Teacher Coordinator in every school. This teacher took each child’s registration card, called out the name, and the child came forward and selected his/her book. A few kids signed up for the first time and everyone clapped. They may swap books during the week, but next week on the same day, the library staff arrives to collect all the books, and move them on to another school.

Meanwhile, Elijah scooted back and helped Mercy’s two “boys”---young men on her staff---deliver about 500 books to the Methodist P4-P6. The primary school has 630 students, but only 400 have library cards, because the library doesn’t currently have enough simple, basic books for the P1-P3 age group. However, 400 students have paid about 35 US cents each for their registration (as compared to less than 20 a year ago). This was a much bigger operation. Multiple Library Teachers and library staff helped most of the 400 children find a book. The excitement of the children was terrific! This is brand new for them. They love these new books. Mercy has now begun mixing in older books, and the kids don’t seem to distinguish, so it’s working. They immediately began reading their books out loud. A wonderful din.

Assistants and Elijah and taxi driver in yellow shirt

Meanwhile, the books they’d been using were boxed up and taken to Beamish School and Life International. Thus, a rotating library, by taxi. When we got to the Methodist school, several girls ran out, excited by seeing the book boxes. They took what I thought were extremely large boxes of books on their heads and up the hill they went to the classrooms!

They do this “books by taxi” every Mon-Thursday, hitting three schools every day! None of the schools have libraries in them, and no books generally. Mercy herself goes to a different school every Monday, to connect with the staff and make sure all is going OK. The other days she usually runs two “storytimes” a day for children from nearby schools who walk over with their class teacher. Fridays they work in the library itself organizing for the next week.

All of this is new and has been made possible since about 1.5 years ago, when St Philips Episcopal Church in the Detroit area started sending children's books, with the help of Ebby M, who grew up in Axim and now lives in Maryland. And friends of Ghana Together in the Skagit Valley have helped a lot, too.

The District Assembly here has designated a room next to the current three-room library for a “Children’s Library.” They are also installing ELECTRICITY! Ghana Together funded a local carpenter to build shelving, a table, and a guy to paint everything. A local Ghanaian donated the paint. It’s part of a larger effort to improve the Axim downtown Community Center. The Children’s Library will soon be ready. There are many books still not unpacked waiting for a home because there’s no room in the existing space. Mercy wants a new library, which I can understand. We yell “Librarians Rule the World” once in a while just to mystify people! Mercy says we are “missionaries of the mind.”
Thanks you all from Mercy and from the teachers who asked me to convey to you their thanks! Sometimes things work. (ps...think “board books”. If you don’t know what they are, ask....)

Mercy looking down from her second story library veranda