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While the rest of the team left last Sunday, I stayed an extra week to work at theReading Camp in Akramaman . It was quite a difference from teaching in Boate.  At the latter school, children had never before experienced Reading Camp.  At first, they were very shy and quiet.  It took nearly the full week for their enthusiasm to show.  I had wished for another week with them.

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On the other hand, Reading Camp finished its ninth year in Akramaman this summer.  The children entered my class with all the enthusiasm that took nearly a week to develop at Boate.

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Debi had known a number of children since they were infants.  Kate Annim, a Ghanaian teacher, acted as head mistress, very confident and capable in her duties.  I grew to like her very much.  She is also from Accra and took the tro-tro and then a taxi, a two hour ride each way every day.

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The curriculum was the same as that we used last week.  My class had the highest-level readers.  One of the highlights of my week was discovering that some of my flightier students could actually read quite well.  Focus is a learning skill that we try to develop.  One moment I will give my “look and listen” signal (Da dada Da Da-Da Da to the tune of Shave and a Haircut) and get the children’s’ attention, and as soon as I start giving direction, the attention is gone!  I have learned that a rousing game of Simon Says works wonders to release energy and restore focus.

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Another of my weekly highlights was witnessing the development of critical thinking skills.  Two of the books we read (children received all five of their books to keep and take home) had comprehension puzzles at the end of the story that involved sequencing, true and false, what’s wrong with this picture, etc.  After working the first puzzle, the children tried to do the next in the same way.  With a little coaxing, they began to rethink as needed.  By the end of the week of the week we did not need to refer at all to the story pages.

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Of course, we had our games as well.  It was when playing Around the World with our vocabulary words that I discovered that one little girl was much quicker than I imagined.  I also taught the class Red Rover, Red Rover which they loved so much that I believe they could do nothing but play that game all day.

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In the camp closing, each child received a GMH t-shirt and a bag filled with books, their exercise books and coloring and writing utensils.  In addition each boy was given a new pair of shorts and each girl a sun dress, all made with loving hands by the ladies of the Ladies Freedom Project, Columbia, South Carolina.

 

It was with great pleasure that as I said goodbye to each of my children I said, “I’ll see you next year!”

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DSC_0016I came to the GMH Summer Reading Camp, 2018, wondering exactly how it is going to be like.

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I was expecting it’s just going to be lots of reading. To be candid, the GMH Reading Camp is a lot more than I expected.

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It’s got lots of fun filled activities, that arouse and sustain the children’s interest in reading. I see the children showing appreciable love for reading by reason of a variety of activities, materials, books, positive reinforcement and lots of multi-sensory activities infused in the entire program.

 

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The children who have much difficulty reading not only show much interest in reading now but are wonderfully picking up in reading.

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The creative activities are interesting and reveal the children’s creative prowess. As a teacher, I have learnt much more to improving my classroom practices, especially reading instruction.

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I must acknowledge Auntie Joanna and Auntie Debi are great, hardworking teachers. I am really privileged to have been a part of this Reading Camp at Akramaman and I teaching here next summer.

 

Solomon Worlako Amesimeku

KG-2 teacher, St. Paul’s Anglican Preschool, Akramaman

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Today at Akramaman, where we are sponsoring a reading camp this week, the local mothers brought their babies and toddlers to the Health Clinic for check ups. There are no doctors in residence but public health nurses run the show. New mothers are given baby weighing cards, told about immunizations, and given other helpful heath information.

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This day happens once a month, every month. Women arrive all day long. They come by foot, taxi, or moto.

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One thing that is evident, the moms got up early. They gathered water, no one has running water. They heated the water and bathed themselves and the children. They ironed their clothes. Most do not have electricity, so no electric irons. The arrived looking beautiful.

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Most of the babies were not happy about being weighed. Notice the beads on the baby’s neck, waist, and wrists. These are to assure that the baby is growing. When the beads get tight, you know your baby has been growing.

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Thanks to this duplex, two nurses are able to stay with their families right at the village. They can deliver babies, take on medical emergencies, inoculate children, and give medical advice.

Thank you Dr. Elizabeth Park, Jason and Katey Weaver, St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church, Norman Luktefedder, and many others who have donated to construct the nurses quarters. From the nurses, the mothers, and Ghanaian Mothers’ Hope Board we say 

Oyi wala don!

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Tana, Maria, Zach, Haley, Ian, Sara and Gail

In August of 2010, six teens, a photographer, and two teachers embarked on a mission to create a Reading Camp at a small village named Akramaman. Little did we know that this was the beginning of something spectacular.

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Ghanaian Mothers’ Hope invited forty children to that reading camp. The next year it was sixty children, ten adults, and seven teens. Each year our teams and camp children grew bigger.

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And then there was 2014, the year with Ebola in all the headlines while we were in Ghana with a team of seven teens. Parents were frantically sending me emails and facebook messages. Everyone was perfectly safe. No Ebola, just Cholera. I am a hand washing fanatic so no one was getting sick on my watch. Oh, and we had 100 children in camp that year.

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Of course when September came and Ebola was still in the news, no one was going to send their teen on a mission trip to Ghana in 2015. What if Ebola was to spread to Ghana? The GMH board began to question if we should even plan a reading camp for 2015. The children would be so sad but there were only three of us willing to travel: Bruce Neumann, Rev. Becki Neumann, and moi.

This was actually a blessing for Akramaman and the Ghanaian teachers. The teachers had been working with us for five years. Surely they could run the reading camp on their own. We identified two strong leaders, Kate Okine and Seth Tum and turned the camp over to them.

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It was a fabulous decision. Because of Kate and Seth, GMH was able to begin another reading camp in a far away village in 2016 and this year, 2018, we added a third reading camp. All of this while maintaining our original camp at Akramaman.

There are some new teachers. Solomon and Millicent are excellent.

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Kate still runs the show. Seth had to teach middle school last year, but has returned as a teacher this year.

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Joanna Haslim came from Sarasota to help as we expected 100 children at camp this year. Only 50 children came today. There were new faces and a few familiar ones.

Four more days to go and fifty excited children. This is a great way to spend two weeks. This has al been possible because of many of you who have volunteered and others who have donated. I thank each of you.

Here, I ask for your prayers for one of our volunteers, Bruce Neumann, who has come to Ghana 13 times. Eleven times to help in reading camp.

Bruce just left Ghana on Sunday night. He arrived in DC with a critical case of cellulitis and is septic. He is in the intensive care unit. He is a servant of the Lord in every way. Please pray for healing.

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On Thursday afternoon as the children of Boate village were leaving Reading Camp, they called out, “See you tomorrow,” and we Americans were calling back, “See you tomorrow!” And then it hit me, I would not be saying that tomorrow, or the next day, or the next. At best, I will get to say it next year. And the tears started. And even as I type these words, the tears gather in my eyes. Why?

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It is because I will miss the bright, shy smiles, and the quiet and somber voices that grow through the week to giggles and sparkling eyes. I will miss seeing the reluctant readers who are fearful becoming excited and enthusiastic as they try. I will miss the seeing the teachers who use archaic methods that teach the mechanics of reading trying modern, scientifically proven methods that encourage the love of reading. I will miss hearing the strict tones being transformed into encouraging voices. In other words, I will miss seeing visible and real… TRANSFORMATION!

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But even all of that is not why I’m writing this on my birthday, the day after the closing of two of our three reading camps for 2018, from Ghana. At Debi’s invitation 10 trips go, I came to Ghana for the first time, and I came reluctantly.

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So, why do I return? Because the love of Christ compels me… and you, to love and bless and care for those whom he loves, which is everyone in the WHOLE WORLD, including those who are often forgotten, who have no voice, who live in remote places with minimal resources. What does the love of God look like? It looks like sharing our resources, our knowledge and material wealth. It looks like loving a village child and helping them to understand that they matter, that to God there is no such thing as being “just a village child.” The gospel mandate is to incarnate the love of God, just as Jesus became the incarnate Word of God for us.

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Our incarnate word is HOPE. Jesus never gives up hope on us. We never give up hope of his love transforming lives, ours and those of the people he calls us to serve. What difference do five books make? They give hope, hope that all children can learn, that all teachers want to grow and learn, hope that these children we serve matter, they really matter, to us and to God. Five books and an American team willing to put God and others first translate into hope… and love. Is it possible that Jesus wants to speak hope and love through you to the children and teachers of Ghana? Never say never, I did that in 2006, and in the last decade I’ve had more birthdays in Ghana than in the US.

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Becki and Bruce have traveled to Ghana more than twenty times to help children

”So now faith… HOPE… and LOVE abide, these three…” (1 Corinthians 13:13a)

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What a remarkable experience my first summer reading camp in Ghana has been.  I find it enriching to my soul to find a world so different from my own, yet so the same.  Ghanaians have the same needs, the same emotions, joys and hardships as we do. Children behave as children all over the world, playing and laughing, and at this camp practicing their reading in English.  There are many languages in Ghana, so English is a universal language that binds the nation.

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We begin our morning at 9:00 AM with a hymn of the blessed trinity, the Lord’s prayer, and singing for fun. The children are always eager to learn new songs and sing with gusto! One girl is able to attend the camp only if she brings her toddler cousin.  Hannah is much the camp mascot, joining in song, coloring in the art room, and lunching with the children. She is a future reading camp member!

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After opening exercises, the three classes return to their classrooms. I teach class 2, a group of children who are already readers, knowing letters and sounds, capable of reading the lower level books. I begin our opening activities with reading and singing the songs and poems that we have already learned. Then I teach the song of the day, which today is “Five Little Ducks”.  Children take turns being the teacher and pointing to the words on the chart as we sing. The children find and underline vocabulary words, look at words with the same beginning sound, make rhyming word families, and more reading activities.

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The children return to their seats and receive a personal copy of the day’s song to glue into their exercise book. They write and draw words and pictures that relate to the song. One of the challenges for the camp teachers is to instill confidence in the children about their drawing abilities. In Ghanaian schools, perfection is required, so I find that the children will draw and erase, draw and erase, draw again, and erase again!  If I model how to draw a duck, they will strive to make their ducks look exactly like mine, and continually drawing and erasing! I want this to be fun! So I have learned not to show them how, and to let them discover on their own.

Every day each student receives a story book of their own. Five books in five days to keep. They will also take home pencils, crayons, glue sticks, and a sharpener in a brand new bag while wearing a brand new t-shirt.

For each story I do a picture walk first, using the pictures to find out what the story is about.  Then I read the story aloud together, then in small groups. The children hunt for vocabulary words in the stories.

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Today I taught my class the game of “Around the World” using all of the vocabulary words we’ve had over the last four days.  This was definitely a highlight of the day.  Once the children caught on to trying to be the first to say the word and so continue around the world, they were full of laughter and pride. I was pleased to note that every child at one time or another was a winner, though of course some do better than others. It didn’t take long for me to step aside a sleader and have that role filled by some of the children.

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Every day includes library time for children to read for fun and complete word puzzles and games. We have an art period where we draw, color, cut and paint. Some of the children want to leave their art projects at school so little brothers or sisters don’t get their hands on them!

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My name is Joanna Haslem, a joyful first-timer reading camp teacher. My heart is filled with gratitude that the Lord has led me to this mission and has given me the gifts needed to bring a love of reading to the Ghanaian children

DSC_0198My name is Julianna Akrong. I was a classroom teacher in Ghana for twenty-two years. I taught at all levels from basic class one to high school. I became a Headmaster of a school and then Director in Charge of School Management and Supervision for Basic and Secondary Schools in Ghana. This is my first year as a volunteer here in Ghana for Ghanaian Mothers’ Hope.

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On the first day of GMH Reading Camp at Boate, I was assigned to class one. I had eighteen children in my class from the ages of 5-13. Since I am a Ghanaian and can speak Twi as well as the local language for Boate, the children did not feel as shy with me as they might have with the Americans on the team. Class one children are non-readers, some don’t know the letter names or the sounds. It’s like being a Grandma to 18 children.

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Two local teachers were assigned to help in my class. Dorcas is new to this village school and will be starting as a teacher in September. She has had some experience with kindergarten children and is very comfortable with the little ones. She is young and very pleasant.

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Samuel is also young and a teacher at the school. He is very tall. I hear that he was one of the teachers who helped teach Reading Camp at Twerebo last summer. He teaches class six and was uncomfortable with the little ones at first but now he is having fun.

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Today’s book was “How the zebra got it’s stripes.” When I was packing to come on this reading adventure, I read through the materials and saw the name of this book. I thought “Ah, I have just the right dress. It has stripes, like a zebra but they are black, brown, and red so it will be a good example of stripes.” The children loved it.

Each book has a poem the class learns to read before even knowing what the book will be. The poem helps to give children a clue about the story. We can also use the words in the poem to help the students to recognize letters. I have a large copy of the poem taped on the board and point to each word as we read.

 

Zebra

I’m a little zebra white and black

With a bushy tail going down my back.

I like to gallop, run, and play

Out on the African plains all day.

I could hear other classes singing the poem but I am not familiar with the tune. I asked Auntie Debi to come sing the song with the class. She says the tune is from “I’m a little teapot,” but we don’t sing that song here in Ghana.

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I then had the children paste the poem in their notebook. I asked the children to draw what they think the Zebra looks like. A zebra is like a horse with stripes like my dress. The children just could not imagine this zebra so we brought out a few of the storybooks to help them.

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Dorcas had the children sit on the floor as she read the story. The children grew very excited. The story has a baboon, a giraffe, an elephant, and a zebra. These children have never seen any of these animals. They have never even seen a picture of these animals. We do have elephants and baboons here in Ghana but not near where the children live.

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In art, everyone drew animals and painted them with watercolors.

After lunch we had library time. I was so happy to see the matching game. I would show a child a card with a picture of an object and ask them to find the word for that object. For some it was a challenge but helping them recognize the sound for the first letter of the word helped. I could see as each child made the connection between the sound and the letter and then to the word. The children loved playing this game. The two Ghanaian teachers who help Bruce in the art class were now helping in the library. They became just as excited about this game as the children. The children are learning when they are playing.

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The day ended with Auntie Becki teaching the class to play a game called Red Rover. Dorcas and Samuel helped with the fun. Tomorrow we will give each child a letter of the alphabet and use that to play the game.

If you were to ask me why these Reading Camps should continue, I would tell you the this. It is a change in the life of the children. They learn a different way of doing things, making learning fun. It changes of attitude of the teachers in many ways including knowing that every child has the potential to learn. It show us that there are many methods to help each type of learner become a reader.

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Most of all, I would tell you that it builds strong relationships in learning. Often teachers distance themselves from the children, making the children frightened and shy. In the GMH Reading Camps the children are not afraid and want to come and share a book with the teachers or read for them.

All of these children are now like my grandchildren and I want them to learn to love to read.

P.S. Every night Julie takes any food we cannot eat and saves it for the children who don’t get breakfast. We each give her our sausages and bread from breakfast as well. She asks each child “who has not eaten breakfast?” Julie then escorts them outside and feeds them the left overs. Thank you, Auntie Julie for helping us.

 

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