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Posts tagged ‘Education’

One Child at a Time by Janet Neumann, US Volunteer

DSC_0108Day one of reading camp for me was both familiar and yet, new.  In past years, as the bus with Ghanaian Mothers’ Hope volunteers drives up to a school, smiling children would come running.  I love seeing the children waving and calling out “Auntie Janet, Auntie Janet.”

This year my greeting was much quieter, which was to be expected since this is a brand-new camp in a different Region of Ghana, the Eastern Region. This region is quite long reaching from the Volta river area to the Central Region. It is very agricultural. I loved seeing lush green vegetation. Most of the families in this part of the region are farmers.

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Some children from the Botae village came to our camp in Twerebo last year so I was ecstatic to see three familiar faces. As we began getting situated, we could see many eager, smiling and happy children.  You could tell they were so excited about us being there and camp to start.

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The team began by assessing our space for the week; this school was unlike the schools we had been to before.  The camp we were in two years ago at Twerebo consisted of four, dusty walls, and NO roof.  This was a change! A school that was in good condition.  It was dingy looking but you could tell that this building was cared for.  How we treat things shows how we value them. This building was treated with love so education and learning was valued and respected here.  The teachers from the village that were there to teach with us were smiling and ready to lend a helping hand.

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As we started picking classrooms, I found a room that was perfect except it was filled with buckets, dust, roofing tins, “stuff”, that honestly would appear as trash to us in the U.S.  I asked some teachers for help and before I knew it, little children came rushing in and began taking out things piece by piece. The teachers helped navigate and the children did the moving, it appeared as an assembly line. Soon, all the extra “stuff” was gone, and in its place was a beautiful classroom, full of potential.

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Anything could become possible in this space. I thought to myself, it isn’t that I come here to do, I come to create possibilities.  As I saw these children so willing to learn and help, my heart was filled with joy, these little children understood.  They understood that school was important.

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This is my 5th year and I keep coming back because I know the time I spend here makes a difference.  Anything is possible with the right intentions. Understanding that education will open up avenues and whole new world, creates incredible possibilities.  I love that I get to share my love of learning with these children and simultaneously empower them, one child at a time.

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P.S.  This is our first year at Botae. We have 40 children, five US volunteers, one Ghanaian, and nine Ghanaian Teachers.

There is another camp at Twerebo being running by a team of nine Ghanaian teachers. They also have 40 children.

Our third camp will run at Akramaman next week. That camp will have 100 children, two U.S. volunteers, seven Ghanaian teen assistants, and eight Ghanaian teachers.

Please send us a comment about this post to encourage us.

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Simon Says . . . . . . by Debi Frock

Have you ever moved and had to endure that first day in a new school? Do you remember the butterflies jumping around in your stomach?

DSC_0001I am sure that is the feeling many of these teachers had on Friday as we facilitated the teacher training here in Ghana. Each year as we prepare for our reading camps we invite the Ghanaian teachers to a day long training session. Part of the day is spent going over the reading camp materials so everyone will be ready, but most of the day is spent in talking about teaching young children.

Becki Neumann, former teacher and teacher trainer, facilitated most of the day giving helpful suggestions on how to handle early learners, ways of encouraging reading, things a teacher should never do, and many other topics. The group was engaged though a little shy about opening up.

DSC_0009I have recently been trained as a Mind in the Making facilitator. Mind in the Making is a program by Ellen Galinsky designed to teach the seven essential life skills that children need to succeed in learning. Skill #1 is focus and self-control. The game Simon Says is used as a teaching tool. You need to stay focused to determine if Simon Says the command and you need self-control not to do something if Simon did not say it.

I learned that game as a child and you probably learned it too. Well, not one Ghanaian teacher had ever played Simon Says. What ever the command I gave, even if Simon did not say it, was obeyed. Then we would all laugh. It took many, many tries before most of the teachers caught on.

DSC_0034This is our ninth year of reading camps and teacher training. I expected this year’s training to be good, no actually, I expected it to be excellent. I often worry about being disappointed about expectations, especially when working in Ghana, but there was no disappointment in this day.

Reading Camps at Twerebo and Boteah start on Monday. The following week we will host camp at Akramaman for over 100 children.  Stay tuned for updates.

Happy Birthday, Auntie Becki. A little gift from Herbitina. Welcome Joanna Haslem from Sarsota, FL. Joanna will be helping at Boteah and Akramaman.

This says it all by Debi Frock

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Fourteen years ago I prayed that I could help to empower a few girls in small villages, like Akramaman, to go to school. At that time, only 40% of girls finished third grade. 2015 statistics show that 95% of girls finished 6th grade. What a difference. This shirt is now the Junior High School Uniform for girls in Ga West, the area of Akramaman.

As Mercia drove us to St. Paul’s Preschool for their Graduation ceremony on the incredibly bumpy, dusty road, I wondered if I would still be welcomed by the children. My visits are only once per year and now that I work in other villages, Akramaman children only see me three or four days each summer.

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As we drove through the village women and girls began to wave at our car and shout with affection “Naa Aku”, part of my name as a Queen Mother in this village. Holding back the tears, I smiled and waved to them, not quite like Queen Elizabeth’s slight side to side wave but rather a full arm out the window hand wave.

The school grounds were filled with children, all of whom came rushing towards the car. The teachers had to hold them back so we could drive into the compound. My smile increased as the intensity of the crowd escalated, all waiting for me to step from the car.

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Many of preschooler had never met me, but they were eager to touch my hand and offer a smile. My heart raced as I saw so many of the former students who had already graduated to the primary school. They are growing up so quickly and they are all in school.

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Christiana

Not only are they in school but they are, for the most part, healthy. Christiana is a twin and has always been the smaller of the two. She is bright eyed, meaning less malaria, and her English has improved 200%.

There are now over 550 children enrolled in the Akramaman school system going from nursery to middle school, which has three years. There is a new Headmaster and a new male Kindergarten teacher. The classrooms are filled with posters and artwork.

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This is a big deal. Recently there have been articles in the Ghana news about the ineffectiveness of preschools, but the system at Akramaman is thriving. Many other school system teachers were at the Graduation to see just what are they doing at this school to make it so successful.

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During the festivities, the little ones sang songs and the older ones recited poems and bible verses. There were two fabulous skits. The first one involved Mama Africa and the regions of Ghana. Each child represented one of the ten regions in costume and dance. The second skit was two reports at the Anglican Television Station reporting on the success of the school with a local reporter giving the audience a look at the festivities. Pretty innovative for a village preschool.

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Forty-five children put on their caps and gowns and walked across the platform to receive a certificate, new school bag, new uniform for primary school, and new socks and shoes. Most were smiling. One threw up and I cried, but all of them will go to school in the fall. 

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As I left, I thought about the last eleven years since we first handed over the keys to the school for public education. There have been many challenges in finding ways to “empower” the school, the teachers, and eventually the girls, but today, I can walk away knowing they are moving forward.

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And someday, she may even be The President of Ghana.

Art 101 in Akramaman. By Bruce Neumann

Painting palms for caterpillar

Painting palms for caterpillar

Art for reading camp has changed! Last year I did a structured art project each day for the reading camp. This year I am to do some preset items and use my imagination to fill the time. At the 2014 camp, I had some boys who seemed to have a knack for painting, so I gave them leftover tempura paint. I commented to Becki that I would like to bring them each a set of water color paints for 2015.

Bruce's  Art Room Wall

Bruce’s Art Room Wall

Between those donated at the Christ Church VBS, and those we purchased, we packed up over 65 sets to bring with us. I also dreamily suggested that they would also love spin art, but Becki said that it would be too expensive. (Thank you Ollie’s for three $5.00 spin art toys!)

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Monday we did “Be My Friend” crowns, making faces on the crown points and adding “gem stones” to make them sparkle (thanks Oriental Trading Company).

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Tuesday was brown bear lunch bag puppets, with precut facial features and wiggle eyes. This did not take all the time up, so I introduced them to water colors. I was just a basic introduction: dip your brush in water, shake most of it out, brush over a color, and brush over the paper. The kids were fascinated. One group crowded around me, pressing in closer and closer to see what I was doing.

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Wednesday we did Very Hungry Caterpillar palm print paintings. I have four associates (helpers), who made samples before any of the three classes showed up. Agbi and Ebenezer, two of the associates were the two boys I had given the tempura paint to last year. The students wrote their name on a sheet of construction paper and brought up to the tall table. We placed a round sponge in red paint and transferred it to the edge of the paper. Agbi painted the student palm green, and Ebenezer painted their fingers blue. I then pressed the hand to the paper three times to make caterpillar body and legs. When we were done this exercise, I passed out water paint sets. None of the children had ever seen one before my demo on Tuesday, and they did not know what to do. Each student got two pieces of white bristol board and I showed them basic painting. I told them they could paint anything they wanted to, a tree, house, and flag; there was no wrong picture or color combination. Some of the children, just copied brush strokes I made, some made Ghana flags, w/ correct colors. They all made something and were reluctant to leave when class was over, the last class kept working into their lunch. By far the biggest art hit was the water colors!

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We will have to wait for the spin art results….. but I can’t wait to see their faces!!

Hip, Hip, Hooray!

2015 St. Paul's Akramaman

2015 St. Paul’s Akramaman

In 2007 Pastor Becki Neumann, Bruce Neumann, Judy Chaney, Mercia Laryea, The Mother’s Union and I open St. Paul’s preschool to 87 children and 45 parents who were not sure about this idea of putting children into a classroom. Here we are eight years later with more than 180 children in the school, which now includes a creche and proper preschool for K1 and K2 (In the U.S. we would say K4 and K5). Last Friday 34 children graduated from K2 and will enter Class 1 in September. Many of these children have been in St. Paul’s since the age of 2.

Nora 2009/2015

Nora 2009/2015

John 2009/2015

John 2009/2015

Christiana 2009/2015

Christiana 2009/2015

Christian 2009/2015

Christian 2009/2015

These four precious children have been followed closely because they were the first of our Child Sponsorship program. In 2009 when Ellie Deane saw the photo of Nora she siad “I have to help this little one. What can I do?” and our Child Sponsorship program began. Thanks to Ellie, Bruce and Becki + Neumann and Trinity Episcopal Church, Waterloo, these four children have been in the program since the age on 1 year. They have received free tuition, health insurance, uniforms, vitamins, shoes, books, toys and help for the family when needed. We have about 15-20 children who need sponsorship every year. For $35 per month, you can provide HOPE to leave a life of proverty. Contact me at info@gmhope.org or check out our website.

There were many educational dignitaries at the graduation. St. Paul’s have become a model preschool and a child may not enter St. Paul’s primary until they have graduated from the preschool. Mr. Daniel Budu Asiedu, Municipal Director of Education, stated “Whether we like it or not, these children will be our future leaders so I plead with parents to take an interest in your child’s education.” Mr. Michael Daniel Narh of Obeyie School also stated “I predict in the future we will trace the education of our Nation’s Leaders to this school.” Wow, I feel like a proud Mama! Enjoy the photos.

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