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.

Apr 21, 2011

Wow! Look At All Those Books!!

Mercy Ackah, Axim Librarian, unpacking the treasure trove of books for young children
Regina Lawler, Michigan Librarian, with books and learning materials she brought to Axim in 2010
Gaddiel E, Library Assistant, looking out from his library on top floor of the Community Center
Finally, thanks to a long chain of absolutely wonderful people---a dedicated church group led by a public service librarian with an energetic engineer husband, a gifted and generous young opera singer, a library assistant in Accra, a native Aximite now living in the US, a friend of a friend of a friend with a Ford Van, and a gifted librarian in Axim---there are approximately enough books in the Axim Library for one for each child from the “pre-school to first grade” age level. We don't know exactly how many children that is, but we're hoping we hit it about right.
Here’s the story! It’s a little long, but we think you’ll enjoy it!

In February 2010, Michigan librarian Regina Lawler visited Axim, along with her friend Maryanne Ward, also a librarian, and current President of Ghana Together. They visited the Axim Public Library and noticed how much improved it was, but also how incredibly few books there were for very young children---those just being introduced to reading—crucial in Axim where literacy is a top community goal.

The Axim Public Library has recently been moved into the upper floors of the Axim Community Center, thanks to major efforts of Axim’s District Assembly to repair the roof, set up shelving, clean and repair, etc. Also, the Ghana Library Board has staffed the Axim Library with a professionally trained librarian and two assistants. This dedication of local and national leaders to library services impressed us.

Regina was visiting Axim to see for herself the pre-school she, her husband Barry, and her church, St. Philip’s Episcopal in Rochester, MI had successfully completed. St. Philip’s worked with St. Mary’s Anglican Church in Axim to convert an old, unfinished storage shed into two lovely classrooms with plans for a third (now completed). But, although Regina and her team had also contributed books and learning materials to the Anglican pre-school, it became immediately apparent to her that, when told there are probably between 1200 and 1500 or so children in Axim in the pre-school to first grade levels, there was an acute shortage of reading materials for these children. We don’t know whether that estimate is true, but 1500 made a great target!

When she returned to Michigan, she and her church decided to fill the “reading material gap” in our favorite Ghanaian town! They turned to music, working with friends Sian and Mark Davis. Sian is a young lyric soprano on operatic and oratorio stages, having performed with the Chicago Opera Theatre, Santa Fe Opera, the Roma Festival Orchestra, Michigan State Opera, and many universities. Luckily, Sian has family ties to St. Philip’s church. Wow! What a concert she put on for family and friends at St. Philips! She called it “Songs for Stories” and treated her audience to songs from traditional Welsh to American Musicals and Italian opera. (Sian, are you reading this? Thanks a whole heap!!)

So, more folks donated funds. Books were acquired and shipped, and now at long last, have arrived in Axim! Arrangements have been made with Mercy Ackah, the professional librarian assigned by the Ghana Library Board to manage the public library in Axim. The Library will offer a “Story Hour” program, and also will provide a service to the local schools so that the children will be able to access the books at their schools. Access to books at that age is such a novelty that the library and schools will be teaching the children how to turn pages and handle the books including the children washing their hands before touching the books. Regina’s husband Barry has prepared temporary library cards so the books can be used immediately, while the more formal cataloging is done by the Ghana Library Board.

At the end of November, Isaac Bentil, the Western Heritage Home manager, traveled to the Osu Children’s Library in Accra and purchased, on St. Philip’s behalf, 150 books featuring Ghanaian children and stories. The goal was to buy multiple copies of every children's book we could find with a Ghanaian setting. Many more special books were bought from Rochester, MI merchants. Visits to book sales, second hand stores, and donations from personal libraries completed the project. All were carefully chosen by librarians or teachers of young children. They are culturally sensitive, new or almost new, and most are in English, with a few in French and Arabic. Ebby Mienza, a Ghanaian-American born and raised in Axim and who as a boy actually used the Axim Public Library himself, arranged the shipping. Ebby’s friend Ishmael met the container at the port in Tema, and a third friend—also from Axim but now living in Accra—generously hauled the books to Axim via his Ford van.

This project continues St Philip’s support of the Millennium Development Goal to address extreme poverty. The educational opportunities these books provide will make a significant long term impact on the lives of these children, especially girls, by enabling them to overcome their handicaps from impoverished uneducated homes, take advantage of the limited educational opportunities and break the cycle of poverty by providing better opportunities for their children. Regardless of their own educational background, parents in Axim are dedicated to educating their children, with the Ghana Education Board joining in by targeting 2015 as the year every Ghanaian child will be attending primary school.

Ghana Together, a US 501c3,  works with our Ghanaian counterparts in Axim---Western Heritage Home--- to coordinate projects like this. We know the town well, assess the needs, connect US organizations to the appropriate partners in Axim, and in general leverage our own skills and resources with links to other organizations. Contact us for more information.

Apr 19, 2011

Internet Orientation Day at WHH

Students and teachers from Nsein High School, and from Manye Academy and Augustina Junior High recently visited the WHH facility for their first taste of the internet (and of computers)! We love the concentration on their faces! These students have heard about email, social networking, and internet research. They want with all their young hearts to join their peers around the world.

The students are using One Laptop Per Child computers donated by North Americans who participated in the Give One/Get One program. Ghana Together receives them, does a "clean build", and repairs if needed.

These computers will be used for regular Junior High ICT (information/computing technology) classes beginning May 2011, the third term of the school year. Several of the junior high schools will use the WHH OLPC/ICT learning room. It is vital, because the students must pass ICT exams to qualify for Senior High.

The OLPCs are great for this purpose. Not only do the students learn basic computing "facts", such as keyboards, back spaces, screens, and what a computer actually is, but the machines have about two dozen "activities" loaded on them. The students learn math, writing, measurement, research--and yes internet use--- and so much more while using these machines. These "Activities" are the real strength of these computers---creative uses are endless!

Ghana Together's OLPC efforts fall in the "community program" category. Around the world, OLPCs are purchased by government education departments. We are pleased that we've introduced OLPCs to the Axim community. One school in Axim recently acquired about 30 OLPCs from their own Ghana Education Service, and we were delighted to provide that teacher with various guides, manuals, websites, etc. to help him use them to the maximum benefit.

A very special thank you goes to all the wonderful folks who donated OLPCs. You've made the day for a lot of youngsters!