Ghana Together News Updates

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 21, 2020

Determination wins out and a new roof is in place!

 Yes, the work goes on, in spite of COVID-19!

 As of today, Dec 21, 2020, the roof on the new purpose-built Axim Public Library is FINISHED!! Wow!! Just in time for the “rainy season”, which in this tropical place, just 4 degrees from the equator, is no small thing! First, in January or so, comes “harmattan”---the sandy dust blowing from the East, over the Sahara Desert and over West Africa. Hot and dry and dusty from until late Nov to mid-March or so in Ghana. Then the wind does a “180”, and in comes the rain from West from the Atlantic Ocean! Yes, it clears the dust, and cools the temperature, but it pretty much soaks everything, too. 


So…good to have the new roof in place so work on the side walls and the interior of the building can commence in the New Year.

 

We documented the start of the project back on Jan. 17 with this News Update:

 

Ghana Together News Updates: Libation Is Poured! New Library Is Launched!

 

Hopes were high! The "elders" formed a group to show their support. The Ghana Library Authority's Regional Director gave the OK to the project. The Methodist Church donated the land. Western Heritage Home was elated to start their number one project for 2020. 


And then…yes we all know what 2020 has been, for us in the United States, for Ghanaians, and for the world! But work had commenced and as the pandemic reached Ghana, they kept going. Work slowed but didn’t stop. They had to use fewer workers who had to distance, and take extra care, but they kept going.

 

They were determined to get at least the roofing complete before the rain comes, if not the walls. Not finishing would have delayed the project by some months! And they did it!!! Time to take a bit of Christmas/New Year break and they’ll be at it and finish the project---maybe in time for Kundum Festival in September 2021! Just in time for Chief Awulae himself to pour his blessing!!










And, in other news, we are so happy to report that our three nursing graduates---Philo, Charlotte, and Dorothy---all now have jobs as nursing assistants, as of this November. Not an easy time to start their careers, but they are very happy to be employed and are well-trained. We are so proud of these three young women who became Western Heritage Scholars because they were designated by Ghana’s government as OVC’s---orphaned or vulnerable children---14 years ago and now are adults starting their careers! 


Not much news on our Western Heritage Home students. Most are not in class, and most schools are closed. Our university level students did do online classes first term---not sure what the plans are going to be for 2021---they typically take a break this time of year. We will continue our support as needed going forward.

 

And how can we thank all our “investors”---especially Americans who have donated funds for so many projects and now for this new library? It will finally be a home for the almost 16,000 books you gave us, computers, a hub for the mobile tricycle to get those books to those kids in schools all over Nzema, a meeting space for all those Axim folks who support their community as best they can…and a place to hang the beautiful artistic West African quilts made by our own absolutely amazing Jerome Chandler to honor their rich tradition of beautiful textiles!

 

Not an easy Holiday Season, here or there. But our hearts are thankful and the work goes on. We are together in this work and also reminded how this is one world and we’re all here together. 


Take care of yourselves and each other, all of you!


 Website: http://ghanatogether.org
Email: info@ghanatogether.org
808 Addison Place, Mount Vernon, WA 98273













 


Jun 20, 2020

Ghana Together News Update

We haven’t posted News Updates for quite a while…because frankly, things in Ghana, as here in the US, are changing very rapidly due to the Covid-19 virus.



We were kind of surprised and yes, a bit proud, to see members of our own US Congress wearing kente cloth stoles in the past week...truly Ghanaian artistic cultural expression. 

Yes, Ghana is struggling with Covid-19. They experienced it somewhat later than we did here in the US, and closed down schools, group gatherings, etc. very quickly, which has helped to contain the spread. They have instituted social/physical distancing, masks, hand-washing, cleaning in the markets, and general precautions against crowds, etc. Folks there have had experience with pandemics, due to HIV-AIDS and Ebola. But it’s very difficult in their environment with open markets, close living quarters, inadequate sanitation, etc.

In Axim they have in the past few weeks installed many “Veronica buckets” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Veronica_Bucket). These hand-washing stations were invented some years ago by Ghanaian biological scientist Veronica Bekoe during the HIV-AIDs epidemic. She spent her career working for the Ghana Health Service and has been honored for this contribution to public health. Veronica buckets are widely used worldwide where “running water” is not readily available. About ten years ago, Jeanie Birchall, a nurse from Bellingham, WA, facilitated a connection with generous employees from the Whatcom County Health Department in Bellingham, WA. They enabled Ghana Together to help  Axim leaders install 64 of these hand-washing stations in Axim schools. So, in this pandemic, Axim folks are familiar with this resource.

An Veronica bucket in use---photo taken in 2010
Meanwhile, schools are closed. Our university scholars are trying to study online, but it’s tough with not very good internet and with neither faculty nor students having had prior experience at this. The other scholars we support are not in school. In a country that has so recently made such outstanding progress in providing tuition-free education to every child, even through senior high school, this is very tough.

MEANWHILE, in the midst of all this, work on the new Axim Library building, which was launched in January 2020, continues! Construction work is allowed with certain precautions. They sent a few wonderful new pictures late this week. They are making good progress, understandably slowed by the virus, with fewer working simultaneously, etc.

The "uprights" are installed and they've been working on the upper level.

Work commences on the top of the future building. It's good also to keep these workers on the job!

We are really proud of Frederick J, in blue shirt.. He's one of our WHH Scholars who is getting his technical education in electrical work. And he's contributing his knowledge to the new library project!

And this is the "dream" we and our Ghanaian Western Home and Ghana Library Authority colleagues keep in our minds and hearts! One day...before too long...
The project is managed by the Axim "team"---James Kainyiah, Overall Manager; Evans Arloo, Site Manager; Mr. Cobbinah, Community Leader; Madame Mercy Ackah, Regional Librarian; and the community support of the “CodeLibrary” group. They are a group of “elders” who have supported and encouraged this project from the start and made their enthusiasm well-known! We love this! In Ghana, “elders” have a certain authority and respect in the community! If you have elders on your side, your chances of success are very high. Thank you!! 

We are so grateful and inspired by these local Ghanaian leaders. And by YOU, our faithful “investors”, who we thank from the bottom of our hearts! With your help, we will see this project to fruition. You do so much good! And yes, we could use a bit more help…We're starting to look at the interior furnishings, including shelving, staff workspaces, community room seating, mosquito screening, internet access, etc.

Until next time...please take care, all of you...wherever you may be at this moment...


Email: info@ghanatogether.org


808 Addison Place, Mount Vernon, WA 98273



Jan 17, 2020

Libation Is Poured! New Library Is Launched!

But...first... the "elders" had to meet and decide whether or not the idea of a new purpose-built library in Axim makes good sense! Thank you!


And then...the official paperwork! 

Here we see Madame Mercy Ackah, former Librarian in Axim and now Regional Library Director, along with Mr. Isaac Bentil, an official Axim "elder" and church leader. Between them, they represented the Ghana Library Authority, the land owner, the Methodist Church, and the Axim community. They are officially signing the paperwork, transferring the  land title and the old Methodist Church building to the Ghana National Library Authority. 


Mercy Ackah and Isaac Bentil sign land and building transfer
But, although official signatures are required for land, that's not quite the final act! We are grateful to the Chief of Upper Axim. This land is traditionally his "tribal" land. And so, he came to pour a libation on the land, honoring the centuries of ancestors who had used that very land for so many purposes.

He poured a bit of "spirits" on this very land, asking all those who have gone before to bless this new enterprise for their "children" of today. And by doing so, he also signified to the whole community of Axim that, in his official role as traditional leader of his people, he has declared the land is now dedicated to a new purpose-built library for the whole community. Wow!
  
The traditional chief pours a libation, with Library staff, community leaders, and Western Heritage Home Chairman James Kainyiah (far right) serving as witnesses
So, now that the paperwork is in place and the libation has been poured, we know FOR SURE that the new Axim Library building project is officially launched!



The land for the new Axim Public Library has been acquired! Right in the middle of downtown! Very near 4 primary schools, with literally several hundred kids within walking distance. Perfect!


But...there is a very old, unused, and, given the earthquake potential in this area, unsafe building owned by the Methodist Church on the land. So, thank you (!) Methodist Church for generously handing over the old building to the Ghana Library Authority for a very modest sum, and adding their own "blessing" to the project. 

 

And so the teardown and site preparation began as of a couple of weeks ago!




Mercy Ackah, James Kainyiah, one of the elders, Library staffer Gaddiel, and Assembly member Mr. Afull oversee the demolition



We are grateful to the local neighbors who are supporting the project in spite of the disruptions caused by the noise, dust, machinery, etc. We especially thank the woman in this picture (center background), whose highly-decorated "cooking station" will have to be removed in order to make way for the machinery. It will be replaced. She supports the library because she herself has young children and she wants them to have this resource.



As we write this article, we can report good progress is being made. Here are pictures from earlier this week.



As our readers are well aware, we of Ghana Together have been working with Western Heritage Home on public library projects for about ten years now. 




---shipped about 18,000 children's books and bought many there

---installed three dozen or so One Laptop per Child computers and a half dozen adult type

--outfitted a children's room with benches, tables, etc.

 ---helped WHH procure a large "tricycle" to serve as a mobile library that now serves 17 schools. 

---have about 30-40 newly refurbished computers waiting to outfit a new computer lab in the new library when it opens, thanks to Legacy SHS in Marysville, Washington

...And more...



SO...this project to build a new library is a continuation of many years of effort. 


We are inspired by the Ghana National Library Authority, a national level governmental department that owns, staffs, and supervises public libraries in Ghana, with support from locally-elected District Assemblies. 

Leaders like Madame Ackah, her superior the GHLA Director Hayford Siaw, and the local leaders pictured here are mounting an all-out campaign to put Ghana's public libraries in the forefront. 

Ghana now has tuition-free education, K-12---quite a miracle in itself, which we have personally experienced on our visits, culminating in senior high about 3-4 years ago. They see public libraries as undergirding that effort, providing early learning for pre-school level, continuing education and educational resources for all students, and finally offering lifelong learning for everyone including grandmas and grandpas reading for themselves and their families.




We in America are so familiar with public library services, that we sometimes forget how blessed we are!


And yes, we know the traditional "giving" season is over, and we are totally grateful to our "investors" but...yes! we could use some extra help to put this very special, one-time "legacy project" over the top!





808 Addison Place, Mount Vernon, WA 98273





Email: info@ghanatogether.org






Dec 19, 2019

Can You Hear The Clapping?


Two amazing young women! Do you two hear a weird sound there, in good old Axim Town, coming from the Atlantic Ocean, just feet away from where you right now? Believe it or not, that is clapping and cheering from your longtime American friends!

Yes, Charlotte and Philomena, YOU HAVE DONE IT! You have graduated from Asanta Nursing School, and we are proud of you! We were delighted to forward to each of you the $300 Graduation Award, set up by our Board Member Leif Pederson before his passing. He intended this gift to be used by graduates to open a bank account, learn to manage money, and pay for transition costs after graduation. How proud he would be of both of you! 

What an accomplishment for two young women who, at age ten---in early 2007--- were both taken into the Western Heritage Children's Home as residents. You are somewhere in this first photo, part of a group of children who, for various reasons, had been identified by local leaders as OVCs---orphaned or vulnerable children. You became Western Heritage Home Scholars.


2007 photo of all the Scholars living in Western Heritage Home


Charlotte in her early school years,in her Manye Academy uniform

Philomena as a young student. She also attended Manye Academy

You have both worked hard and thanks to Western Heritage Home, the local Ghanaian NGO, founded and led by James Kainyiah and other local leaders, and with help from Ghana Together, you had financial support all these years. We owe a big thanks to ALL who helped fund your education. And a thank you to Manye Academy, especially Teacher and Headmistress Felicia Ackah. And to the new Axim Girls Senior High, which was established just in time for you to attend! Miraculous!!

As students at Axim Girls Senior High, with Maryanne Ward of Ghana Together

And, after graduating SHS, you made your way for one year selling water sachets and other goods in the local Axim market 

You were encouraged to follow your dream---nursing school. You applied and were accepted! And here you are in 2017 as students at Asanta Nursing School. just west of Axim  

And now, just last week, these two Scholars have graduated! Having done their practicums in the hospital in Takoradi, they are applying for hospital jobs anywhere in Ghana. We congratulation them and wish them well. 


Charlotte 



Philomena
WHH’s motto is “Making Leaders of the Least”...

...and with a lot of help from us, they are doing just that! On their behalf, and especially on Philomena and Charlotte's behalf, we of Ghana Together thank so much all who helped make this possible!! 

And yes, we have more students currently enrolled in various levels, including eight in college, nine in vocational school, and forty-seven in primary school. So, yes, we appreciate help!



 808 Addison Place
Mount Vernon, WA 98273


Email: info@ghanatogether.org



Nov 26, 2019

SOMETIMES IT TAKES A TEAM!

Just TODAY we got the greatest news!

A few months ago we got a call from Paul LaGrange, a computer teacher at the Marysville, WA Mountain View Arts and Technology High School. He had a “gift”---more than 100 refurbished computer towers that had been donated by a local hospital!

Frankly, we were kind of skeptical! A “gift”?? Really? Should we even consider sending “junk computers” to AFRICA?? But we knew Paul! After all, he and his students had refurbished children’s computers for us in the past, and they are still working in what passes for the Axim, Ghana Children’s Library.


So…SURE, we’d take 110 refurbished computer towers with updated Microsoft Windows, newest open source office-type software, 220 volt electrical power capacity, and more. And since Paul is a genius teacher, he and his wonderful students got 110 of the towers to work perfectly. 








BUT, how to get them to Ghana? It was amazing! Wonderful Marysville FedEx folks taught us how to pack them in boxes properly. The School District had shipping pallets. Thanks to Dave A., FedEx’s social responsibility program kicked in to have them picked up at the high school and shipped to Maryland at no charge to us!


Students hauled in very large FedEx boxes

The towers had to be wrapped just so...
And there, Ebby Mienza., our Ghanaian ex-pat friend, worked with Prince & Sons Shipping who squished them into their container going across the Atlantic to Ghana at a very reasonable charge. And Prince managed to convince the good folks at the Port in Tema that computers for schools should be customs-free…


And from there James Kainyiah, our Western Heritage Home partner in Ghana, got them all the way to Axim. He sold some of them to buy screens and worked with Director Madame Safiatu Seidu and staff at the Community Development Vocational Technical School (CDVTI) in Axim to set up a newly-equipped computer lab, and…well, it's taken a long time to get all of this accomplished, but AS OF TODAY...


HERE WE ARE! 

CDVTI now has a beautiful new computer technology lab with updated computers! 


Oh the places he'll go....!!







We've been proud to help Western Heritage Home support CDVTI for many years. We fund tuition for about ten students a year. We've renovated both girls and boys dorms. We worked with local carpenters to provide beds, for the boys dorm.

We funded a urine diversification/dehydration toilet for the guys. We’ve hosted two workshops---one by Days for Girls and the other on leadership. We provided a set of about a hundred books on construction, electrical work, etc.


It’s been a good partnership and we see this computer lab as vital to preparing these students for their vocational training. Ghana is rapidly modernizing, and computer tech training is essential! 

Thank you so much to all who helped make this possible!! 






 808 Addison Place

Mount Vernon, WA 98273


Email: info@ghanatogether.org