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 http://ghanatogether.org tells our story.

Dec 10, 2013

2013 Ghana Together Wrap-Up

Most of you have by now received our Annual Update Letter, either by US postal mail or by email. If not, you can access it here.

A few comments:

First, we apologize to Jerome Chandler, whose name was inadvertently left off the "Directors" list at the bottom of the letter that was mailed earlier. One of those complete mysteries---Jerome has actually been on our Board since the get-go and of course, has been the driving force behind all things "science." And such a vital force he is!!

Second, we want especially to thank all who have done the hard work of collecting, packing, and shipping children's books (3035 now, by exact count). Some sixty of you have donated One Laptop Per Child Computers (OLPCs). Some of you have helped refurbish those computers. Others have given scientific calculators, science and other educational materials, lightly used laptops, and, of course, money.

And on the Ghanaian side, we thank James Kainyiah for his many visits to Axim and his constant oversight of all the projects; the Axim community volunteers who helped process the books at the Children's Library; the headmistresses and other school leaders who found rooms, security arrangements, supervised contractors, and generally put the resources to work.

We thank Francis, who for five years or more has been the faithful watchman, protecting the property and seeing to the safety of both people and materials at the Heritage Home in Axim. 

The parents of Apewosika School and the central area JHS, through their PTA associations, supported their scholarship children, and helped at the JHS construction site.

We especially thank Chief Awulae Attibrukusi and the Nzema East District Assembly and District Chief Executive for their ongoing support.

You'll see in our letter our plans for next year. Of course, after eight years, we have learned that working in Africa, one can expect surprises! Our model is to work mostly through leaders in Axim. What a lot we have all---Ghanaians and Americans---learned from each other!

We wish you all a really good 2014!


Directors Maryanne Ward, Tom Castor, Louise Wilkinson, Jerome Chandler, Sue Pederson, and Rich Ward





Nov 21, 2013

Engineers Without Borders Builds New UDDT Type Toilet in Axim, Ghana

More than two hundred students in one of Axim's Junior High Schools have been using this toilet for some years. It was built by parents with what they could muster.


Enter the Northwest Washington Professional Chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB), located in Bellingham, WA.

Some of members had been in Axim on a water assessment project in 2009, and they couldn’t help but notice that lack of TOILETS is a major deficiency, especially at schools.

So, they researched, wrote proposals, made drawings, convened meeting after meeting, applied for funding…

And, finally---SUCCESS. EWB members Paul A Randall-Gutter and Jennifer Mueller travelled to Axim in late October 2013 to start construction.  They brought back some great photos!

Paul Randall-Gutter, Contractor Emmanuel Appiah,  Jennifer Mueller, and James Kainyiah, Chair of Ghanaian host organization, Western Heritage Home
 

Fr. Paul Awuah Leading the Groundbreaking Ceremony
 
After about two years of very hard work by the EWB chapter, a new low-impact, urine-diversion-dry-toilet (UDDT) is being built right this minute at a Junior High School in Central Axim, thanks to these extraordinary engineers.
 
 




They also trained students and teachers in the concepts behind this UDDT toilet, which is a new design for the Ghanaians in Axim and perhaps in Ghana.



Students with their new raised garden bed. A Ghanaian National Service worker is coming to help them with a seed nursery and compost pile (Note: Ghanaian university students do a year of national service after graduation)
 

Students creating posters that explain the concept of the UDDT type of toilet

This EWB chapter is doing an absolutely wonderful job on this project---not only seeing to the construction, but keeping costs within "Ghanaian parameters" for future locally-funded applications. They searched the world's best practices for a design that works without water or electricity, and has been tested in several similar countries, including several hundred schools in Kenya. They paid special attention to  accommodate the needs of girls of junior high age.

Also, the team went to a lot of effort to include training and lots of involvement and input from the local folks who will actually use the new toilet. (You can read more about the team here).

We of Ghana Together (US) and Western Heritage Home (Ghanaian associates) are proud that we helped mid-wife the project.

Not our “baby" but we helped:

…find from the many schools with not-so-good toilets, one that held good chance of success, including leaders and students open to the idea, and also just the right slope of land for this first "test" toilet. (The slope...we hope! The engineers said “think urine DIVERSION…” yikes!)
… took the EWB initial proposal with us to Axim, convened meetings there with key leaders we have built relationships with over the years, and got agreements signed by responsible persons for their share of the proposed project


JHS Toilet Leadership meeting convened by Maryanne Ward of Ghana Together and James Kainyiah in Jan 2012. James and Fr. Paul Awuah at far left. Mrs. Yawson, the Headmistress, center. Others include teacher and parent representatives.

…tucked in drawings on a subsequent trip and worked with James Kainyiah, the Chair of Western Heritage Home (local NGO and host organization), to find contractor Emmanuel Appiah
... tried our best to explain the UDDT concept and the drawings to Mr. Appiah (we are far from engineers here…), and get his buy-in to take on the project


Contractor Emmanuel Appiah on left with associates, James Kainyiah in blue shirt in center. They are holding copies of drawings and technical details (Feb 2013)

…worked with Mr. Kainyiah to keep key leaders in Axim informed and involved, like Mrs. Yawson, the school’s Headmistress, and Fr. Paul Awuah, who is not only a Catholic priest but a dedicated community leader
…and generally helped facilitate communication overall. Along the way, after eight years of working together, we have built relationships with the Axim community, and also have become minor experts in understanding Ghanaian accents (English, but combination of African and British...), phoning Ghana, texting Ghana, emailing Ghana, wiring funds to Ghana...and just plain talking things out. 

James Kainyiah is especially to be thanked for tirelessly seeing to most of the details on the Ghanaian side...not an easy job.


James Kainyiah on his cellphone, maybe talking with us!  

Our mission statement includes this item:
to link Ghanaians with charitable, educational, non-governmental, and non-profit organizations and resourceful individuals that foster personal independence and self-sustaining solutions for community social, health, and educational improvement.

A mouthful, but we mean it. We are absolutely delighted that this EWB project is coming to fruition and we were able to give it a boost!

Stay tuned for the news update about the completed toilet!!
For more information about Ghana Together see http://ghanatogether.org
To contact us, email info@ghanatogether.org

Oct 26, 2013

PTA Starts the Moving-In Process in Axim, Ghana JHS Public (Government) School

We thought we would post a progress update on the JHS school renovation project in Axim, Ghana, that we featured in our last News Update of August 29.
You may remember that before work started, back in August, the building looked like this---it was completely unusable.

JHS Building, August 2013

Work has been ongoing since then. The exterior, as you can see below, is finished.
As you can imagine, both students and parents are very excited about this renovation. In fact, last week, as a work project, the PTA moved school desks and benches into one room of the building, even though it is really not yet ready for use. Then, they held their meeting there, too.

PTA Members Gathering for Work Project and Meeting in Renovated School Building. Looks Good!!!



PTA Members with some Students After their Monthly Meeting in Front of Building. The PTA Chairman is shown in white caftan in the foreground
 
At their monthly meetings, the PTA members who can donate small amounts of cedis to help pay for various school improvements. While this is a hardship on some, it also increases parental commitment to their children's education.

PTA Parents Contributing Small Donations of Cedis in the New Classroom. They had just moved in these desks and held their meeting here.
 

With the exterior finished, carpenters are finishing up work on the interior. They removed the broken ceiling tiles, and are installing a new ceiling. The entire  building, inside and out, is being painted.


Broken Ceiling Tiles


Ready for New Ceiling


When all the skilled work is done, the PTA will be back to give the place a good cleaning, move in all furnishings, and make sure everything is in order for their "wards" and their teachers.

With energy and good luck the building will be ready for students on November 1!

Ghana Together's friend, partner, and basically the brains behind this project is James Kainyiah  (who is becoming an AWESOME photographer). He sent this picture which he titled, "Students Anxious To See Their School Building Completed!" And so they are.


Thanks, you all.
 
For more info about Ghana Together, go to http://ghanatogether.org
To contact us, email info@ghanatogether.org
 

Aug 29, 2013

First Ever Video: Renovating the JHS building in Axim, Ghana

We realize we’re in danger of overloading you with emails but since this is the first-ever video we’ve ever received from anyone in Axim, we just have to share it! 

(And this may not work...we're probably more clueless than the Ghanaians on this stuff. You can always go to http://ghanatogether.blogspot.com if the email version of the video doesn't work...)

It’s a mystery! Did someone actually get a cell phone that takes videos? (They do have 70% or so “cell phone penetration”, but still…) Maybe a wandering British or Ghanaian ex-pat visitor was trying out a new camera? James sent the video as a big “surprise” with no explanation, probably trying to amaze us! (We are amazed, James, really we are! Now to get the darned thing to play!)

Remember about two weeks ago we reported on the project to renovate a JHS school to provide three more classrooms and a small office?

You can see the workers in action! So nice to know we’re helping on the job front! When the skilled guys are done, the PTA will move in with paint brushes, brooms...

You’ll see in the video background a couple of nicer buildings, but also a very large one with no roof at all. We’re hoping to tackle that roof next, as funds allow.



video


The additional really good news is that WHH is also replacing the roof on the Heritage Building because the short spans just could not stand up to the torrential tropical rains on that very large, flat roof. But, they’ll work fine on this smaller JHS building with pitched roof, so WHH is donating those materials to this project...recycling, saving cedis, community effort...

Step at a time.

To contact us: info@ghanatogether.org
For more info: http://ghanatogether.org

Aug 26, 2013

Laptop Hand-Over to Axim All-Girls High School


As a follow-up to moving the Jerome Chandler Science Resource Center to the newly-certified Axim All-Girls High School, Headmistress Stella Adjei was presented with a laptop computer. It is outfitted with a satellite modem, which provides internet access, as well as open-source office type software.

The laptop will be used for research, email, and administrative purposes by Madame Stella and teachers.

Ghana Together thanks PACCAR Technical Center for the generous gift of several laptops. These laptops make excellent “internet machines.” Another of the laptops was presented earlier to Madame Mercy Ackah, the Director of the Axim Public Library.

In the photo, James Kainyiah, Chairman of our partner organization Western Heritage Home, conducts the “hand-over” to Madame Stella, while the school’s accountant (whose name we unfortunately didn’t catch) witnesses the ceremony.





We note that this formal procedure of “handing over” items, responsibilities, etc. is an important part of the local culture. Even rather simple transactions, such as this one, are customarily accompanied by a simple but important and not casual ceremony marking the occasion. 

Formal expressions by both the giver and receiver are exchanged, culminating in a handshake. It indicates publicly, with witness, that responsibility has been formally passed from one person or entity to another.

We have had the pleasure of meeting Madame Stella, who started her tenure with the AAGHS in January 2013. She has served the Ghana Education Service in several administrative positions in the Western Region. She expressed to us her excitement and energy for putting this new high school "on the map," as she put it. And so she will!


To contact us, email info@ghanatogether.org
For more information, see http://ghanatogether.org

Aug 16, 2013

Axim JHS Renovation Project Begins



This un-used building sits on a multi-building Primary-JHS public school campus in the heart of Lower Axim, in one of its most-crowded neighborhoods. Because the Ghana Education Service now funds K-JHS education, the school has experienced a large increase in student population in the past few years. The school’s viable classrooms are on double session, with 45-55 kids in the morning and another 45-55 in the afternoon.
PTA Leaders with James Kainyiah, WHH Board Chair, in maroon shirt

The PTA had the idea that if they could get this building into usable condition, it could accommodate JHS students plus a small office for Headmistress Esther Abbey, relieving the over-crowding somewhat.

PTA members cleaned up the site, and  are bringing in cement blocks, sand, etc.

So PTA members took action to get this building into usable condition. They have cleaned up the site, brought in blocks, sand, and are volunteering the lower skilled work, such as preparing the work site, small repairs, painting, and clean-up. They are trying to raise funds locally for the window frames with mosquito screening.

Looks like this PTA member is removing the old door frame 
The PTA asked Western Heritage Home, our partner organization in Axim, for some financial help. WHH in turn presented a project plan to Ghana Together, which we approved at our August 8 Board Meeting.

Having visited this campus many times, we know this school's population challenges. The plan calls for about $10,000 US, which we, by some miracle, have on hand!  :)
The contractor begins work next Tuesday, August 20.  Hopefully, when school opens in mid-Sept, the building will be ready!! When it's finished, we think it will look a lot like this nice primary school building, on the same campus.




Contact us at info@ghanatogether.org

Jul 25, 2013

Jerome Chandler Science Resource Center Transferred to Axim All-Girls High School


Readers will remember from our earlier post (Apr 30,2012) that Ghana Together (USA) and Western Heritage Home (Ghana) — with Jerome Chandler as Project Lead — worked with local Axim-Nzema District educationists to create the Jerome Chandler Science Resource Center. By January 2012 term, junior high students and teachers were walking from nearby schools to the Center for their practicums.
Originally, this Center was geared to JHS students. Jerome specified materials and wrote many model experiments to support the Ghanaian Education Service’s (GES) JHS curriculum.  The GES assigned teacher Eric Jim to supervise the Center full-time, a position in which he excelled.

Teacher Eric Jim
Meanwhile, the town of Axim had been working for at least a decade to set up a new all-girls high school. As we reported in our May 21, 2012 posting, that dream has been realized, with the first senior class graduating from Axim All-Girls High School (AAGHS) with full accreditation in May, 2013.

Recognizing Teacher Eric’s outstanding talents, the GES assigned him to lead the science department at the new AAGHS. But, the new high school had no science lab. So, in Feb 2013, community leaders— the Science Curriculum Director for the GES; the District Chief Executive; the Chair of Western Heritage Home; the President of Ghana Together (Maryanne Ward); and others—met to figure out a solution.

The group agreed that because the Center was located in the Western Heritage building, it was not within easy walking distance to some of the junior high schools, and was underutilized. Because the AAGHS is more centrally located, the JHS schools could continue to use the Center in a new location within the AAGHS building.
Therefore, they agreed that the Science Resource Center should “follow” Teacher Eric to the AAGHS, giving more JHS and SHS science teachers better access to hands-on science resources and making the best use of his talent.

Outgoing Headmistress Cecelia Bonku and incoming Headmistress Stella Adjei assigned a room, installed security bars on the windows, and built lockable storage cabinets. All materials and furnishings were moved to the AAGHS.
Today teachers and students are using the Science Resource Center daily. It works because the curriculum for JHS and SHS are in fact the same, but with increasing complexity. In addition, these girls have had little, if any, prior hands-on science instruction.



We think the Center is possibly the best in the Western Region. In fact, AAGHS leaders use it in their recruiting efforts. Thank you all.

The disappointment amidst all this good news is that, with a newly-accredited all-girls high school, a substantial influx of new high school students from other regions will arrive in Sept 2013. The Center may no longer be able to serve JHS students, the very group for which it was initially created!

Maybe fixing that problem can be our mutual focus in 2014!



To learn more, http://ghanatogether.org
Contact us at 360-848-6568 or info@ghanatogether.org

Apr 10, 2013

Done! Scratch The Dormitory Renovation Off the List!!

Readers may remember we highlighted the renovation of the Community Development Vocational Institute’s women’s dormitory as a top priority for 2013. Well, we can strike that one off the list!! Mission accomplished!


The sign...more or less! Zak IS getting the hang of photography, we're sure!
 
A top priority of Axim leaders is to increase vocational training for youth, especially females, many who live beyond reasonable walking distance from the Institute, which is the only such facility in the Nzema East District. But that requires a boarding facility that is clean, safe, and reasonably attractive.

About half the student body. Madame Hajara is on the left in yellow dress
 
Madame Hajara Yakubu, Headmistress of the Institute, drew up a detailed project proposal to renovate the dormitory, which was built in 1973 and was in dire need of attention. Designed to accommodate about 80 young women, by 2013 only 10-12 were crowded into the two viable rooms.  Enrollment is declining, due to lack of reasonable boarding accommodation, but the need for training is only increasing.
Western Heritage Home leaders forwarded Hajara’s proposal to our Ghana Together Board, which agreed to a grant of $5,500 (thanks).

By the time Maryanne Ward arrived in Axim on Jan 21, work had already commenced.
First step: repair that leaking roof.  

 
 
Next, rip out the water-damaged old ceiling, install new 2x6’s, and new ceiling.
 
See the little wire hanging down? ELECTRIC LIGHTS!! Next will come ceiling fans!
 
Repair the window frames, replace glass louvers where needed, and put new, high-quality mosquito screen on every window (malaria….).

 
Paint the whole darned place!

 
Some plumbing work is still needed. The students themselves promised to thoroughly clean up after construction, including scrubbing the floors. They are excited!

 
Most students attend this Vocational Institute for four years, learning multiple trades and specializing in a few: dressmaking, cookery/catering, home management, needlework and craft, hairdressing, computer literacy, entrepreneurship, basic mathematics, and English language.
 
Sewing---including their own clothing, uniforms, etc. Mom brings little one to class.


 Catering class---there is much demand for these skills in Ghana
 

At the end of their training, most go into small-scale businesses; some continue to higher institutions such as the Takoradi Polytechnic (like our community college) for further studies.

 
Most of the 45 current students are women, but young men are welcome. The school is working on expanding its curriculum to help students learn trades needed by emerging industries in the area.
Shortly before Maryanne arrived—surprise—the Government of Ghana arrived completely unannounced and installed a new desktop computer lab with internet-capable satellite dish and common business-level software! Now to hope for reliable electricity...


 
Student cost? For a full time student, the cost is about $275/year, including tuition, room, and food! NOTE: Since this is a vocational institute, costs are somewhat less than half than for Ghana's academic senior high schools. Students in this vocational school normally either have not qualified for academic studies or have chosen to go into "local trades."  
We have invested in this project on faith that these improvements will enable more students to receive training in these trades that are in demand and will improve their lives. We have confidence that local leaders will do all they can. We will stay in touch with Hajara and other leaders. Stay tuned!

Yes, scholarships are welcome.

Contact us at info@ghanatogether.org
Our website is http://ghanatogether.org (click on "News" to see more articles about on the ground happenings)

Mar 18, 2013

Parent-Teacher Association at Apewosika School in Axim, Ghana


So many parents, so many children! Such enthusiasm!
Madame Ackah Welcomes the PTA
When Maryanne Ward, of Ghana Together, visited Axim in Jan-Feb 2013, she was thrilled to be invited to a PTA meeting at Apewosika “Christ the King” School in Axim, Ghana where, with our affiliate Western Heritage Home, we sponsor 43 scholarship students (see our news update of Nov 12, 2012).
 
James Kainyiah, Chair of Western Heritage Home, Maryanne Ward of Ghana Together, and David Ackah, Headmaster of Apewosika School meet in the school yard.
What a pleasure to meet so many parents! Many announced they were representing not only their own children, but the children of other families whose parents were working. All in all, it was an impressive and enthusiastic showing!

The meeting was held on a Tuesday morning, a good choice by Headmaster David Ackah, since it allowed lots of Dads to attend (as well as Moms, of course), being that Tuesday is the day that the Axim fishermen bring in their canoes from the ocean and spend a day at home.

It was just great to see Dads exhibit such enthusiasm for education. Until recently, most folks in this community didn’t feel much need for education, because they assumed their kids (at least the boys) would go into fishing. But the fish are dwindling and reality is that many of the children will not be able to “grow up to be fisher folks” (and even if they do, a little education won’t hurt!!).


The Apewosika Scholarship Students and their Parents
Lasting about two hours, the meeting was lively, with lots of exchanges among the parents, the PTA President, and Headmaster David---all in Nzema or Fante languages, with a smattering of English (school instruction is in English, except for youngest students).

None of the 43 scholarship students was enrolled in the school year prior to Sept 2012 (Ghana school year runs Sep - Aug). Some had never started school; others had dropped out as parents made the financial decision to enroll younger siblings after their older children had learned “the basics” of reading and math.

Children were chosen for scholarships after families were interviewed by school and WHH representatives.
At first, in September, attendance was somewhat irregular, as both parents and children adjusted to the discipline of going to school, rather than spending their days playing on the Atlantic Ocean beach! But, when January 2013 term started, all but three were back!  Headmaster David and a representative of our affiliate, Western Heritage Home, visited those homes, and soon thereafter, all 43 were fully present!
 
Apewosika School Stresses Handwashing. It's  very simple--just a headpan with water--but it's a BIG step forward and is instilling the habit in the lives of the children.

The tuition for these primary school students ranges from about $60 USD for the youngest students to about $90 for the “Primary 6” level--per year! Ghana Together invests an average of about $75 per student for an entire year of school (thank you, dear friends!!).

The parents commit to providing a uniform (often a ‘hand me down’ from an older friend or sibling), shoes or sandals, underwear, exercise book, pencil, and near-perfect attendance. Our goal is to get every child through Primary 6. Headmaster David has launched a basic textbook program---trying to get enough basic math and reading texts for the upper levels. We have contributed a small amount to that effort, as well.
 
A typical cluster of homes in the Apewosika neighborhood

Ghana Together has noticed the growing popularity and influence of the individual schools’ Parent-Teacher Associations in Axim. Meetings are well-attended. Parents help out with the school. Dads, especially, volunteer to help maintain the school buildings. This is just one more indication that Ghanaians are putting top priority on education.

Education is our NGO affiliate Western Heritage Home’s top priority, too, and we are delighted to help them achieve their mission! And we were gratified by the many “thank you’s” from the Dads and Moms, teachers, and administrators at Apewosika Village School.
 
Kindergarten Classroom at Apewosika School
 
Contact us at info@ghanatogether.org
Our website is http://ghanatogether.org (from there, click on "News" to see more articles like this one!)
 

Feb 17, 2013

Thank you from Ghana (2nd try!)

(Note: We wanted to post James' thank you letter with letterhead, etc., but since it's essentially not very readable, here is another "readable" try!! Maryanne just returned from Ghana, and James surprised her with this letter on the last day of her stay.)
 
 
Ghana Together
808 Addison Place
Mount Vernon,
WA 98273
USA

Dear President,

On behalf of the Board members of Western Heritage home, Chiefs and people of Lower Axim Traditional Council, Nzema East Municipal Assembly, and all the direct beneficiaries of the many projects you have done through us in Axim since we started this partnership date as far back as 2005/6.

Through our God given donor and contributors in the USA and other part of the world, we were able to clothe and shelter 22 orphans and needy kids, provided roofing on School Buildings for kids, placed mattresses on all beds in Axim Government Hospital, established science laboratory for JHS Students, help Axim library with benches and Books and a motor bike. We also tried to establish Remedial classes for Student and a Bakery which we could not succeed.

The 43 kids we are currently paying their fees at Christ The King Academy in Apewosika is a great sign of relief to their poor mothers let alone the fathers who's fishing business is collapsing due to the oil find in our sea.

You Madam President, coming to Ghana to see the girls hostel at the Axim Community Development Institution being fixed and meeting with the staff and students at the Institute was kind of inspiration and promotion for this school.

We shall forever be grateful to you and your team for your partnership and pray that Our Dear Lord will guide us ALL to find good and useful projects which will be within our means to support.

We ask for Gods guidance and blessing to you, the entire members of Ghana Together and your wonderful sponsors in the coming years.

Yours Sincerely,

 Nana Kaku Bullu III (Development Chief, Lower Axim Traditional Council)

(aka James Kainyiah, Chair of Western Heritage Home Board)