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Posts tagged ‘Reading Camp’

So why did I come to Ghana this year? By Rev. Becki Neumann+, AKA Aunti Becki

Sabina peeks out

Sabina peeks out

There is no team to speak of… no teens to supervise, no breakfast orders to tabulate, no group of people to hang out with and hear the ooo’s and aaahhh’s of the day… in other words, none of the routine things that make our work here “fun” for me. That’s right, FOR ME. Wow! When that realization popped into my head it was an eye opener! Who do I come to Ghana to serve, myself, or the people and specifically, the children? Who is this work about? Where is Jesus in my attitude?

Before the transformation

Before the transformation

Though he had some entertaining moments, Jesus’ life’s work was not about what was fun for him. While turning water into wine had to be entertaining (I mean, can’t you just see the twinkle in his eye as people took the first sips?) Jesus’s work was about bringing hope and healing and life to people, empowering people to live more the way God intended. And, team or no team, there is plenty of that to do here among the poorest of the poor.

Opening Prayer

Opening Prayer

With little team, I began asking God what we were to do. And God answered very clearly. Don’t you just love when God is clear in his response? His response came in the form of this question: “What are you doing to bring the GMH motto to pass?” In other words, what are we doing to empower future leaders of Africa? Clearly we were empowering the children as they grew to love reading more and more. Certainly the Ghanaian teachers were gaining in understanding of better teaching methods. But could we do more in terms of the reading camp?

Training Day

Training Da

And so… this year’s training was born. After spending last Friday teaching about how children move from speaking to reading, after taking the Ghanaian teachers through the curriculum for reading camp, for the first time, they are running each classroom and overseeing the operation of the camp. Debi and I have little to do!

Thomas Reading to Class 2

Thomas Reading to Class 2

It is hard to capture in words how I felt when I sawThomas the teacher doing a picture walk through a new book exactly as I had taught, or how proud Debi and I were when Kate and Seth took over the more administrative responsibilities, or how exciting it is to see the classroom teachers being animated and positive with the children. We are so proud of our “junior staff,” children now too old for camp who have returned in the role of helpers. They have done much of what our American teens have done in the past. Everyone involved is gaining much practical experience in teaching reading.

Camp day 1-9

By passing on the camp baton in Akramaman we are strengthening the teachers there, and those from Odouman and Twreeboo as well. By empowering teachers their lives are enriched, and instruction for their students changed, multiplying the result of our labors. And, though some material support will still be needed at this site, it frees us to take a team to a new site next year to begin the process again.

Nora's response to an animated teacher

Nora’s response to an animated teacher

This is the process of empowerment at it’s best! Thanks be to God for his good word to us, and for permitting us to see transformation before our very eyes!

Art Helpers

Art Helpers

Training the helpers

Training the helpers

Teachers trained from 6 different schools and two regions.

Teachers trained from 6 different schools and two regions.

Rev. Becki Neumann+

AKA Auntie Becki+

Guess who’s going to Ghana?

Baltimore SOG Stars

Michael and Elizabeth Winn, Kyle and Evan Trouland, Cheryl Vecera

For the last 5 summers the core team of Becki Neumann+, Bruce Neumann and Zach Neumann have been traveling to Ghana with adult and teen volunteers to run a Reading Camp. The camp targets children who are struggling to learn to read in English–not their native language. Not only is learning English a struggle but learning to read without books is also a struggle. Ghanaian Mothers’ Hope provides books, learning materials, lots of love, and encouragement. We work with Ghanaian teachers to be sure that the children understand and get the most out of the program.

At first we questioned the choice to take 14 year olds with us to Ghana but during the last five year we have seen amazing transformations not only in Ghana but in our teens when they return. Most of the teen have been recruited from the Virginia Beach area thanks to Zach Neumann and Lark Spur Middle school. These young students go on to high school and make a difference in the world. Last summer two of the teens took it upon themselves to sponsor preschoolers in St. Paul’s Preschool, giving a gift that will live on forever.

In an effort to know them better before traveling all the way to Ghana, I ask each teen to answer the following three questions:

  •  Why are you going to Ghana?
  •  What do you hope to learn from your work in Ghana?
  •  Tell me about your family.
  •  What do you do for fun?
  •  What school will you attend in Sept. or what is your profession?

Meet Three of our teens for 2014

Jasmyn

JASMYN ALLEN–Virginia Beach, VA

Jasmyn is traveling with her mother, Althea, to work in the Reading Camp.

  • I am going to Ghana on a missions trip to help children at a reading camp.  I’ll be able to help kids in more ways than one…Plus, I’ve never been out of the country.
  • I hope to be more appreciative of what I have.
  • I have an older brother who will be going to college this fall, a younger sister and two parents.
  • For fun I like to read books, play video games, talk and hang out with my friends and watch You Tube videos.
  •  I will attend Salem High School Visual Arts Academy in Virginia Beach with a concentration in Theater.

Evan

EVAN TROULAND — Bel Air, MD

Evan is my nephew who has listened to my stories for the last 10 years. Last fall when he turned 14, Evan decided it was to time to go to Ghana.

  • I am going to Ghana because I’ve always wanted to go and help kids strive to learn.
  • I want to learn to be thankful for what I have and how to speak a new language.
  • I love my family. I have a sister named Avery. My mom is named Lara and I can’t live without her. I have a dad named Kyle that I love very much. I look up to him and appreciate all the things he does for his business and for our family.  I also have a pet dog named CC and my cat Bayley I love her so much even though she is not with me any more.
  • I play four sports: ice hockey, basketball, soccer and baseball.
  • I will attend The Highlands School in September 2014.

Jackie

JACKIE COATES–South Riding, VA

Jackie is one of our two returning teens. She traveled with us in 2011 and has decided to go back.

  • It’s easy to stay in a place where you’re used to, but by doing that you don’t gain a worldly perspective. Going to Ghana challenges me to see an experience that I don’t see often.
  • Since this is my 2nd time going I want to see the progress that has been made in the villages and catch up on some people.
  • My parents got married right out of college in their very early 20s. I am the first of five kids and  I’ll tell you it’s never boring. My four younger brothers have very different personalities, but all come together for the passion of video games. My parents have been married for 18 years and hope to have many more to come.
  • For fun I mainly write and think about the world around me.
  • I will be attending Freedom High in September and wish to get a technical engineering degree.

These are just 3 of the 7 teens traveling with us. What a priviledge for me and the other adults traveling to Ghana. We will watch 7 teens mature and change right before our eyes. Be sure to read the blogs and watch them with us.

I will be in Ghana on Tuesday next week.

Blessings, Debi

 

 

If I had grown up in Akramaman Village – by Rev. Rebekah Neumann

Becki-graduationIf I had grown up in Akramaman Village where we run reading camp, at my preschool graduation I would have stood on the open air stage and in my biggest big girl voice and announced to the world, “MY NAME IS REBEKAH AND I AM 5 YEARS OLD!” My family would be in the audience and would be so very proud. Here I am, a little village girl, at graduation. It may be the only graduation I ever attend.

Growing up in a village where my parents must eek out a living, there is little time or energy for channeling an inquisitive mind. Books are almost non-existent. I will go on to primary school, and if I do well and do not get discouraged, I may even go on to junior secondary school. This year only four students graduated from class eight at Akramaman Junior Secondary School, junior high. No one passed the entrance exam for high school. It is very hard to pass the exam on technology when our only instruction has been done with a drawing the teacher made on the black board. Sciences are difficult, too, as we have only the teacher’s book and no student books, no test tubes, no beakers, no supplies of any kind.

In the face of such desperate poverty and need, what good does it do for a team of American teens and adults to sweep in for five days of reading camp? What fruit is produced in the 60+ children who participate, and for those who can only watch from the outside and wish?Becki-team

We come not to bring reading skills so much as a mind set that says, “You have a future and a hope; you are precious and we love you; you matter to God so you matter to us.” We come to love and laugh and share the joy that God has placed within us. We come to elicit shy smiles and giggles, waving hands and cheers, to cultivate a love for learning, and yes, success in reading. We come because Christ calls us to live outside ourselves, to be his light in the darker, sadder, harder places of the world. And we do succeed. We see it in the eyes of the children, and in their smiles. We see it when their faces light up at success, and as they experience the joy of learning and creating and just being children who, for the moment, can trust that their needs will be met.

As this year’s reading camp team left camp on the last day, many eyes were shining; some glistening with tears, some with unshed tears, some with the hope that we will return, all with the knowledge that this has been a blessed time when heaven came down and touched the earth, where hearts and hands were joined in a bridge that spans oceans and continents.Becki-Elizabeth

“Oh Jesus friend of sinners, Open our eyes to a world at the end of our pointing fingers.
Let our hearts be led by mercy. Help us reach with open hearts and open doors. Oh Jesus friend of sinners break our hearts for what breaks yours.” (Casting Crowns)

Jesus has broken my heart for these beautiful children. I pray that he breaks yours for them as well. The Rev. Becki Neumann+ Rector, South Riding Church, Anglican

Becki and Bruce with John, the child they sponsor

Becki and Bruce with John, the child they sponsor

Reading and love – by Zach Neumann

ZachToday is the final day of reading camp. This was my fifth reading camp in Ghana and each year, the final day brings a swath of thoughts and emotions as we say goodbye to our children in our village.

I am sometimes asked why I come to Ghana to do a reading camp in a village in the middle of nowhere. Does it make a difference? Do the children who attend really get anything from it? I can say wholeheartedly and unabashedly yes. The children we work with crave love and affection. Poverty robs them of their childhood innocence and carefree being. While we are with them, they know they will be taken care of and fed. They know we will play with them and sing with them and read to them and just be their friend. They know they will be loved. Is that not at the center of every one of us…….to be loved?

Cate was in my class last year. She is around 9 years old Cateand when I first met her, she could identify her letters and read a few simple words. At the start of reading camp, we give a reading assessment to determine which group the children needed to be in. I tested Cate. She came in, sat down, and smiled shyly at me and said “Uncle Zach”. We hugged and began the reading assessment. The growth in her reading ability blew be away. She reads beautifully!!! Such growth from last year, when she struggled with words like “the, bear, down”. Participating in reading camp, even for just a short time, gave her a chance she would never have had. She loves to read and she knows that reading holds the key to her future. Cate can read. Cate has a future. Cate has hope.Star

Children love to sing, no matter where in the world they live. Our village children are no exception. My first time in Akramaman was in 2008. I sang a few silly songs and made a silly noise with my throat (think club mix beat box). The children loved it and tried to imitate it. Every year since 2008, children have run up to me when I arrive in the village and they do our sound. They remember the songs we share with them. And when they sing, the joy on their faces tells of a deeper joy and love that they know. Someone came to be just with them and to love them. After we are gone, the will have those songs, those books, and those memories to remind them of our love for them. They will remember and know that they are loved and cherished. Likewise, we will remember they giggles, their smilies, their hands seeking ours and it will fuel the flame within us and draw us back to this place.Camp

Reading and love. We teach them to read while loving on them and instill in them a love for reading. We give more than just books and crayons. We give them hope. We strive to give them a chance, an opportunity and a future that they would otherwise not have. Love motivates and moves us. Our love embraces, uplifts, and encourages them. And God’s love empowers us all.

P.S.  At the end of the Reading Camp Ghanaian Mothers’ Hope and all the volunteers were presented with this plaque from the teachers at St. Paul’s Preschool/Kindergarten.  Congratulations

Created to Read

Banner

Preparations – by Debra Gustin

We all had breakfast out on the patio and watchedKids at school while Accra bustled around us. The bus came to pick us up and we finally headed to the school.  The bus was packed to the roof with suitcases and supplies for camp.  It took us just over 1 ½ hours to get to the school.  Most of the roads were now paved, although we heard that was not true when the school was first built.  We turned on the road to the school and the first thing we saw was the playground.  As we pulled into the yard the director, Anastasia, and all of her teachers poured out of the doors and ran to the bus to greet us.  Each person was hugged and greeted as they got off the bus, what a wonderful welcome!  The first order of business was to empty the bus, unpack all of the supplies and then start sorting everything.

            The bus seemed to be a bit of a pied piper.  As soon as we drove through the local villages, people knew that we would be at the school and children started arriving.  At first they were very shy and curious but curiosity won out in the end and they came closer and closer.  Kimberly was a natural with her infectious laugh and they came to sit next to her and then sit on her lap.  The three teen girls were on the playground pushing children on the swings.  Adriana, Zach and Elizabeth were surrounded by children who they met last year and now were admiring how much they had grown. Unpacking

We were called back to work.  One group of people assembled supply bags for each child so they would have everything they needed for the week.  I headed to the library to level the books that were there and all of the books that we brought with us so that all of the books that were out were camp level.  When I emerged from the library people were scattered all over the place.  Bruce & Scott were working on the playground, Maggie got a soccer game going, Raegan, Elizabeth, and Adriana were on the playground and Debi & Kimberly were singing and playing with children on the porch and there were children everywhere.  If there was any doubt why we were all here in Ghana, here was the reason:  all of those beautiful, hopeful faces.Debra

After a delicious lunch, we gathered as an entire group to go over the curriculum for the all of reading camp so everyone would know what to do.  Each teacher had a Ghanaian counterpart and one of our teenagers to support them in the classroom.  We learned new songs (will the “Beaver song” ever leave my head?!) and poems and finally decided we were ready for the week to come!  Everyone is now anxious for Monday to arrive.

Day One-Reading Camp- By Janet Mall

Today marked the beginning of our reading camp.  We have been preparing for a few days and execution went rather smoothly. As soon as we arrived in our bus, we were greeted by all of the village kids.  The playground and the porch were full of smiling faces and bright beautiful eyes that lit up when they saw that we were here to spend time with them.  Janet 1

After assessing the reading skill of the children, they were sorted into one of three classrooms.  I went to collect my kiddos.  They came in with very serious faces and were surprised to see the way the classroom was set up.  They were instantly excited to see the groups of fours that the tables made.

We distributed their book bags, which were filled with school supplies and they opened those bags, as if it was Christmas. Their class day began with reading a poem together. They enjoyed reading it together and then individually.  When they read, it was in unison and there was almost a song-like quality to the sound of their voices.  I couldn’t help but smile widely while listening to their voices, with me occasionally chiming in to reassure them that they were on the right track.Janet 2

Before we knew it, reading time was over and it was time to head to the library. We formed two lines and we headed to the library.  When the children entered the library, they caught a glimpse of the books and I could instantly hear soft-spoken chatter.  There were about 70 books in this library that’s hardly a library in the United States, that’s actually a book display at a Barnes & Noble.  The children saw the books and were astonished to realize that they could touch and read the books.  Every child got a book and comfortably stretched onto the floor and began looking at the books.

I sat down on the floor and before I knew it, I had a crowd Janet 3of students sitting near me.  One of my students, Caroline sat down with me and pulled out a book about the food pyramid.  She looked at me and said, “Madame, can I read to you.” When a little girl as adorable as her asks you such a question, there is no response except a very definite yes.  We began and I glanced over the first page and thought to myself, this book is beyond her level.  She struggled with the first page and then she paused. I thought to myself, she is probably not going to finish this book.  She flipped forward to the end of the page and then softly said, “Twenty one pages.” I work with middle schoolers in the United States and many times when something demands a little extra work, students give up.  I was touched to see her willingness to work hard and her desire to learn more, to be better.  We finished that book and I was so proud of her.  I thought to myself, this is why I came to Ghana. I came to help and to lift spirits.  People always overestimate how much is necessary to make a child smile.  They just want someone who listens, who cares, and who loves them.  Needless, to say it was a great first day. Now on to the next one. J

HEALTH CARE, A MAJOR ISSUE-READING CAMP DAY 2

Saying "The Lord's Prayer"

As ususal, our day begins very early.  We leave the hotel by 6:30 and arrive at the Preschool by 8:30.  Yes, it really does take that long to get from Accra to our destination.  Morning traffic is always hectic and the roads are very bad.

Here is Haley Wilson’s view of Day 1:

“How to explain the first day at the village? Well for one, the trip was rough. Very rough. You know its crazy when you have to drive into a potholes!   I have to admit the bumps and bruises were worth it!   Seeing the looks on those little kids faces when they saw the color of our skin was amazing.   If you think you don’t like little kids, you haven’t been mobbed by them with complete affection!   They may not understand to well, or speak english at all, but teaching them and helping them so they CAN understand would put a smile on anyones face.    And we all know everyone understand smiles & hugs, no matter what language they speak! ♥”

Zach and Haley teach class 3

Yes, we really do have to drive the van into the valley of the potholes in the dirt roads.  We have a very good driver.

Victoria with Okailey and Joseph--puzzle time

It know it is strange to post two days of “Reading Camp” and yet focus on the health of the children.  I think it has been a great shock to our teens to realize how hard life can be for these little children.  I talked about Victoria and her malaria yesterday.  I am happy to report that her fever was down most of the day.  Today she complained of hunger.  I am sure when her parents realized she had a whole sardine yesterday they felt she would get fed again at camp today.  And they were right.  We gave the kids a wonderful meal of wache–rice and beans with macarel.  I also bought some porridge for Victoria–she is quite thin.  I even got a smile out of her today.

Our classes are moving along nicely.  This morning Maria taught a song to the whole school.  The children sang the Ghana National Anthem (which is sung in English).  They also said the pledge of allegiance.  I think I’ll ask our team to sing the Star Spangled Banner.  Think they’ll know it?

Maria helps Gail with Class 2

Gail with a few of her students

Sara with Victoria, Okailey and Joseph

Now, back to the health of the children.  There are always things that are disturbing.  Parents here really do want the same things for their children that you and I want for our children, but cersomtances are different here.  Every day it is about survival.  That is hard for me after working here for six years.  It can be easy to judge how people behave, but until you can walk in their shoes, you cannot understand.

Ian came face to face with that struggle today.  Before I share his story, I want to assure you of several facts.  No one on the team is at risk for any major health issue.  We think one of the children might be at risk for a Buruli ulcer which is caused by the a bacteria in the same family as leprosy and TB.  It is treatable but is often ignored leading to serious problems including death.  We did speak to the child’s mother.  She claims the injury was due to a fall and that he punctured his leg.  He has not been treated at a clinic.  Our clinic has not opened because we have not raised the money to build a residence for the nursing staff.  It is too far for a nurse to travel each day and a resident nurse would be available 24 hours a day.  I have given money to Moses’ mother to take him to Amasaman for treatment.

I was right there when he notice the wound.  He brought the child to me and then went to get his own medical kit.  I donned gloves and dressed the wound.  You can read more about Buruli Ulcer on my post from July 16.  Also refer to the American Leprosy Mission which has helped with treament here in Ghana.

Here is Ian Mueller’s story about Moses.

Moses' wound

“Today we went to the village again, and I was shocked with the lack of medical attention to the kids.   I was playing soccer with all the young boys when I noticed one of the kids, Moses, had a wound on his leg.   I stopped playing and brought him to Debi and she said it could be a kind of  leprosey.  She told me that he needed to go to the hospital or he could loose his leg and most likely his parents would not take him.  Debi called his parents and had them come.  His mother didn’t seem conserned at all.   I thought that the lack of attention was disturbing because Moses will eventually die from this and no one will help him, not even his parents.”

We are praying that Moses’ mom will take him to the hospital.  Here, when you get sick enough to go to the hospital, it often means you will never return.  This is another reason people are reluctant to seek health care.  We hope in the future, our health post will change the health here and around Akramaman.

Ian in the classroom

By 2 pm we all settled into the van for the long ride back. After devouring several delicious pineapples–the best and sweetest in the world, most of us closed our eyes are let the rocking of the van put us to sleep.

To donate to Ghanaian Mothers’ Hope’s efforts to build a nurses residence and help children receive health care visit http://www.gmhope.org.

This bowl was full just a few minutes ago

MALARIA KILLS A CHILD EVERY 30 SECONDS-READING CAMP DAY 1

Today has been a marvelous day and later tonight Haley will be sharing her account. I know the title seems shocking when our reading camp is going so well but the truth is that most of these children suffer from Malaria. Some are suffering right now.

Victoria

Her name is Victoria. She is 6 years old. As we tested each child for reading placement, she would barely speak. She couldn’t recognize letter and could hardly say the alphabet.  I know she did not attend our preschool.   She doesn’t understand English and looks really sad. Her sadness is the kind that makes you want to cry with her.

She and two other children were chosen to be individually tutored.  I would take Victoria. As we sat on the floor, I realized her eyes showed the tell-tale sign of Malaria–yellowing of the pupils.  Then she crawled onto my lap.  Her skin was moist and hot.  She could barely whisper.  I realized that she was definitely suffering from Malaria but I am sure she did not want to miss the opportunity to start learning.  We brought her some water and began to work.

I want to see her smile

A,B,C,D,E,F,G,H–that is as far as we could go but after a while she became more confident in naming her letters.  These are the times when I realize why I gave up a good job, have hardly seen your new husband of 6 months for more than a few days at a time, and why working far into the night to find support, is not nearly enough to sacrifice.  These children are often called to sacrifice their life.

Uncle Ian plans a great game of soccer

Today was only the beginning for this week of reading.  The teens are doing an excellent job.  They are teaching and playing and most of all loving the children.  In return, they can hardly take a step without a child holding their hand or touching their hair.  Many young girls are already in love with Ian and the boys are having a blast learning about paper airplanes.  These may be 14 and 15 year olds in the van but in the classroom they are very capable teachers.  They are changing lives–including their own.  Moms, dads, grandmas, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, teachers–everyone be proud of this team.

Lunch-Kenkey and sardines--an incredible feast for these children

It goes with out saying that having Gail, a reading specialist, and Zach as our teaching leadership is an honor.  I do need to post more photos of Gail and promise to do so tomorrow. Today my battery died.  If you are on facebook, check out Tana Lopez Younger.  Her photos of our mission are incredible.

Gail and kids by Tana Younger

Blessings, Debi

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