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.

Aug 25, 2012

First-ever "Vacation Camp" in Axim, Ghana

We are absolutely delighted to report that 117 upper primary students are taking advantage of the first-ever Western Heritage Home/Ghana Together sponsored “Vacation Enrichment/Remedial School” held in the WHH Heritage Building in Axim, Ghana.
It’s a sort of Ghana-style “summer camp,” with students working on English, math, science, and One Laptop Per Child computers (OLPCs).
A couple of months ago, the Western Heritage Home Board came up with a plan to run 3-week vacation enrichment classes for upper primary students in their Heritage Community Learning Center. They singled out upper primary, because, although Ghana now provides tuition-free education through Junior High, many students drop out after primary school.

WHH Board members believe vacation classes will inspire the children to continue with their education beyond primary school, study hard for the tests to qualify them to continue on to junior high, and encourage families to continue to provide the uniforms, underwear, shoes/sandals, exercise books and pencils required for all students, often at substantial sacrifice to the family.
Maureen Kainyiah, a young WHH Board member, and Ussif Mariko Zakari, WHH Manager-in-Training wrote a proposal. The WHH Board approved it and, in turn, requested funding assistance from Ghana Together, which we agreed to do, after reading the proposal ourselves and discussing with James Kainyiah (Chair of the WHH Board).

Fast forward to the first week of August. Children walk either to the Heritage or to the Axim Town Center Junction from various points---at least 30-60 minute walk for many. At the junction, they are met by a bus which transports them to the stop near the Heritage. Actually, the bus makes three runs due to the number of students.
The first week not many students showed up, but word spread quickly and now, Zak says, they have the problem of “overpopulation”with 111 attending the cost-free program. The families must provide water, food, and some sort of clothing to enable their child to attend.

Zak reported this morning, chuckling, that the children are “very, very happy”, especially with the chance to use the OLPCs---this is exciting beyond words!!
We strongly are encouraging them to use Jerome Chandler’s “Science Experiments for Junior High,” venturing just a bit outside the rote curriculum (this is “camp” after all!) to have a little fun adventuring with science as exploration and experimentation rather than just memorizing facts.
We requested that the English classes include, at the end, an essay about what the students like about the program and “how they would improve it.” It will be interesting to read their comments! They are pioneers, after all.

We’d love some photos. Patience. There is one camera in town, as far as we know, owned by WHH, thanks to us. Zak is learning how to use it.
The first task was for Zak and the other young teachers to figure out how to take out the chip which was “full,” and download the photos onto one of the laptops (thank you, “big company,” that donates laptops now and then). That done, they are now taking photos. Next comes the challenge of figuring out how to select and upload pics to internet and send to us, not easy in out-of-the-way Axim with very poor internet service. Did we mention how proud we are of these young adults learning all these new skills?

We thought maybe you’d like to see the budget Zak and Maureen prepared (in estimated US dollars) for the 5-week program:
$400 for 4 teachers (1/2 days for 17 days)
$200 for radio announcements and banner at the junction
$125 for bus (six trips/day, for 17 days)
$250 for exercise books, pencils, erasers, chalk, magic markers, etc.(expensive in Axim!!)
$ 50 for "contingency"
$1025 TOTAL
We'll post photos when we get them!

Aug 15, 2012

Condolences on President Mills' Passing

We Ghana Together Directors and friends offer our heartfelt condolences to our friends in Axim on the sad passing of your President John Evans Atta-Mills.
We know something about how ordinary folks such as you, feel about such a sad event, because most of us are of the age to remember well the death of our own President John Kennedy, many years ago, who died while in office, also. (Note that President Mills died of natural causes.)

Although we are not very familiar with Ghana’s governmental or political life, we know Ghana is a democracy and to lose an elected President while he is serving in office is a shock and great loss to the entire nation, regardless of individual political affiliations. 
I thought you might like to read our President Obama’s statement of July 24, when he heard that Ghana had lost their President.

” It was with great regret that I learned of the passing of President John Evans Atta Mills of Ghana. I will always remember my trip to Ghana in 2009, and the hospitality that President Mills and the people of Ghana showed to me, Michelle, Malia, Sasha and our entire delegation. I was also pleased to host President Mills in the Oval Office earlier this year.
President Mills tirelessly worked to improve the lives of the Ghanaian people. He helped promote economic growth in Ghana in the midst of challenging global circumstances and strengthened Ghana’s strong tradition of democracy. Under his leadership, the United States and Ghana deepened our partnership in the promotion of good governance and economic development.
He was also a strong advocate for human rights and for the fair treatment of all Ghanaians. On behalf of the American people, I would like to offer my deepest condolences to the people of Ghana, and reaffirm the deep and enduring bonds between our democracies that President Mills helped to strengthen.”
We join our own President in these sentiments.

And, we wish Mr. John Dramani Mahama, Ghana’s new President, well. Some of us have read his recent book, My First Coup D’Etat and other True Stories from the Lost Decades of Africa.  It is a really interesting and well-written account of his early life and also the early life of Ghana as an independent nation.

Aug 2, 2012

Introducing Ussif Mariko Zakaria

Zak putting up a poster designed by Axim Public Library Story Hour students. We provided poster paper and pens, and the kids did the rest. The "me" refers to the little drawing of a book---yes, use ME daily! Zak is standing in the new Children's Library Room, created by the District Assembly.

Zak, as he prefers to be called, joined Western Heritage Home this spring as a Manager-in-Training. His job is to carry out all the tasks necessary to keep projects going. Since almost all of the WHH Board members work during the day, and have limited personal time, Zak is their right-hand man. Zak and Francis, the night watchman/cleaner are the two WHH employees. The Board members serve without compensation.

We asked Zak to write a short article to introduce himself...
"My name is Ussif Mariko Zakaria. I am 25 years of age. I was born and lived in Axim until 2003 when I completed my junior high school at St. Augustinus preparatory school.

I live with my mom and 2 of my siblings in Axim. I am the first boy and second born of a family of six. I graduated my senior high school at Ghana Secondary Technical School in 2006. I offered science as program and passed out with first class grades. I have been teaching mathematics at my formal [former] junior school.

I have had the opportunity to enter into the university but could not afford the fees. My dad died three month after I graduated my senior high school in 2006. I understand and speak English, Arabic, Nzema, Fante, and Hausa.
I am very humble, intelligent, respectful and hardworking and above all God-fearing Muslim. These qualities have earned me fame among the old and young in my community.

It is my dream to be a philanthropist one day in future so it is a great opportunity to be at WHH as a stepping stones to bring my dream into reality.
At my leisure time I do reading of Holy Quran, story books and searching of information. Being a philanthropist is my future dream after university."

Note: we think by "philanthropist", Zak perhaps means "humanitarian." But, maybe he will be a philanthropist one day! Would that we all were this articulate in our 2nd or 3rd languages!