Sunday, June 29, 2008

Tales from the Trip-- Sankofa School

As already mentioned, our trip to Ghana was incredible. I'll start with a little bit of info about Sankofa Children's Home, where we spent most of our time. There were a total of 6 people in our group, and there was plenty to do! Sankofa has only been around for about a year and a half, so there is a lot they still need. The orphanage itself currently only houses 5 kids. We were able to help paint the rooms while we were there, and saw the coming of actual beds (they had been sleeping on mattresses on the floor). We were also able to help prepare some of the bamboo to build a new schoolhouse.Danny and Patrick, two of our volunteers, helping the kids prepare the bamboo for building.

The school is for kids from preschool to third grade-- preschool and kindergarten kids have school in a rented church, the others in a bamboo schoolhouse built by the director and teachers. Many of the kids still have a rough time in school, since they may not have attended school previously. The age ranges in the classes are a lot wider than they are in the US (i.e. 8-12 year olds in third grade). We were able to work out a system with the teachers where we took the children struggling in English and taught them phonics and basic English each day during their English periods. We were also able to buy some great new English books that the Ghana Education Department has put out. It was so incredible to see how the kids progressed. Some started to grasp the concept that each letter actually has certain sounds associated with it. Some of them went from not being able to read at all to being able to sound out words. And some, of course, didn't seem to make much improvement at all...but I suppose that's how it goes.
Class 2 hard at work in their classroom.

Sankofa is really an incredible place. David, the director, is only in his 20's, and is amazing! He lived on the streets a lot as a kid, and though he did attend school, he paid little attention. He finished the ninth grade at age 18 being unable to read and write. When he realized how much this could affect his life, he did the incredible-- he went back to the fifth grade at age 18, and went back through the ninth grade again. He now speaks, reads, and writes English very well. His desire was to ensure that other children would have this opportunity, and that is when Sankofa began. The teachers who work there are just as amazing-- they live on a salary of $20 a month and some walk miles to be there everyday to offer free education to impoverished children. Shallee and her husband Danny with David.

We had such an amazing time there, and felt so privileged to meet the children and the incredible people who run Sankofa.

McKenzie, one of our volunteers, playing a game with Monica (in the green) and another child.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Return from Ghana-- Photos of New Life and Sankofa

Our second team of volunteers has returned from Ghana! We had an incredible time, and were able to do a lot. Stories and information will be forthcoming; in the meantime, here are a few pictures! For even more pictures, see
Shallee teaching piano at New Life to Belinda and Elizabeth.

Abigail, Monica, and Philomena at Sankofa.

Katie, a volunteer, learning to play Ampe at Sankofa.

Painting the orphanage at Sankofa.

Shallee playing on the new playground with the kids at New Life.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Updates from Sankofa and New Life

Things have been wonderfully busy here in Ghana! The work at Sankofa is going well. Each day, we take the slower children from each English class to work on catching them up with their peers. Each volunteer takes 2 to 4 children, so they can get more specialized attention. The hope is that they will be able to grasp concepts like phonics while we're here, so that their English reading skills will be closer to where the rest of the class is when we leave. So far, the children have shown amazing progress. Some just needed a little bit more understanding of basic concepts and have really taken off. Others are still a little slower, but hopefully after we leave other volunteers will be able to do the same with the things we're leaving behind.

The teachers at Sankofa are truly wonderful. They give up so much of their own time for very little pay to help these children who would otherwise have no education at all. Though they learn under a bamboo roof with a dirt floor, the key is that they are learning.

New Life has grown in leaps and bounds since my last trip three years ago! The new building is nearly complete, and a new classroom is being built for the nursery children. At the moment, nursery, KG (kindergarten) 1, and KG 2, and class 1 are all in the same classroom-- this is obviously chaotic. There is not enough room for the children to properly learn, and there is far too much noise. The new classroom is going up quickly, however! It's a joy to watch the children play on the playground and to see the progression of those who are now three years ahead of when I last taught them.

We will be coming home in a week, and what a trip it has been! Pictures and video will be up when I get some time after coming home, and I'll post snippets and stories about the children and volunteers as well!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

We're in Ghana!

Our second group is here in Ghana! We arrived in Cape Coast on Monday night, and things have gone well so far.

Yesterday, we went out to Eguafo to meet David, Sankofa's director. We waited for him for a while, and played with some of the children. Today was the start of our project. We were able to observe the teachers for classes 1, 2, and 3 and spoke with another volunteer named Sara who has been arranging for assessments to be given to the children. Our volunteers will take the slower learners and help them get up to speed as much as possible while we're here. Tomorrow we will help paint the orphanage while the assessments are given. The children are adorable, as all Ghanaian children are. As we get to know them we will post more about them.

We have not made it to New Life yet, but hope to do that tomorrow! I will update when I can, though internet is very slow here in Ghana. Even so, it's great to be here!