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 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!!!