Tuesday, July 1, 2008


After months of planning, my Ghana trip has come and gone! It was an amazing experience that I will never forget. With so many experiences and adventures over a months time, I will not be able to talk about it all at once. But hopefully I can add things in here and there.

We arrived in Ghana on June 1, after 48 hours of travelling (12 of which were spent in the Dubai airport). It was a relief to finally be on the ground and running. Luckily jet lag didn't seem to bother me much (I'm crossing my fingers that this doesn't change when it's time for London)! After another day of travelling, this time by van, we reached Cape Coast where we would spend most of our time while in Ghana.

Kandis in front of School for Classes 1, 2, and 3.

Once we got settled in we began working with a school/orphanage called Sankofa Mbofra Fie, which means "return to your roots." Although the school has over 250 children, our group of volunteers decided to focus on classes 1, 2, and 3, which are roughly equivalent to 1st through 3rd grades. Since we were only going to be in Ghana for a short time we also made the decision to focus on two things which we could really help these children with: English and self discovery. When we first began many of the children could recite their ABCs as well as write them, however, they could not identify a letter by itself. It was a big project but we began working on letter recognition and phonics as soon as we were able. By the time we left most of the children could identify their letters and tell us what sounds each letter made, some were even able to sound out words!

Along with English we worked on self discovery with the children. Sankofa is located in a small village about an hour outside of Cape Coast, so for the most part the children are unfamiliar with the ability to take an active role in their lives. The program director, David, explained to us that if these children end up doing anything other than subsistence farming in their lives, which we are hoping for with the education they are receiving, it is often the parents who will tell them what to do. I remember the first day that we began this self discovery class we passed out crayons and paper and asked each student to draw: 1) a picture of themselves, 2) their family, 3) their home, and 4) what they wanted to be in the future. It was difficult enough to get the children to understand the concept behind drawing the tangible things they had, like a self portrait, but it was even more difficult for them to understand the concept of the future and that they had a choice. We began listing things to help them out, a shop keeper, a driver, a footballer, etc. I just remember watching one little boy as the light bulb went on over his head and he bent over his paper and began drawing furiously. I wandered over to his little desk and asked him what he was drawing and he pointed to a picture of an airplane, he wanted to be a pilot! As the weeks went by the children really flourished creatively, they loved drawing and telling us about who they were, which they had never done before. It was great!

My Class 1 group coloring (from left to right): Mohammad, Ruth, Linda, Patience, Deborah, and Ivy.

When we weren't teaching the children we were working with David and the teachers to set up a sustainable program at Sankofa. We helped purchase good English and Math books, with teacher manuals to guide lessons, we set up a schedule, which was rather difficult for the teachers to stick to because they were used to doing what they wanted when they wanted, and we also made it possible for volunteers to come to the school and be able to jump right in and help without disrupting the school every time. Like everything else good in life, it was a lot of work but we feel like we accomplished a lot in the time that we had!

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