Friday, March 02, 2007

Oh Ghana...

Hello Y’all (in honor of my good friend Miss Stacy Kinsell)!

Well I am finally in Uganda, starting the second to last leg of my journey. It has been a bit emotional and definitely harder than many of the other transitions due to feeling satisfied with my time in Ghana. But you have no idea about my second month there as I have yet to update, so here goes…

My sincerest apologies for being so slack about updating. I can only say that I got wrapped up in life in Ghana. This past month was really excellent. It was filled with frustrations, of course, but also a good feeling of accomplishment. I’ve come to the conclusion that the frustrations are part of being here, they’re what make it challenging, what make it good. It’s a different culture, a new, often slower, way of doing things, and all emotions are heightened as a result of the situation you are in here.

The frustrations I faced were mainly a result of things at the school not going well: teachers just not showing up, tutoring feeling useless as most kids don’t know how to read, people not showing up to meetings, etc. My friend Stacy and I spent a lot of our time at the school and we able to organize some things which I think (if followed through with) will be extremely helpful. We found that there was absolutely no continuity in tutoring. It almost felt like no one had ever tutored these kids before which is absolutely not the case as the tutoring program has been in place for at least 2 years. So we came up with a general lesson plan, based on phonics, covering the consonants first in sets of 3 and then the vowels, then moving on to consonant blends and so on. This should take a good 6 months at least if it’s done right and should make the transition from old volunteers to new volunteers much smoother. We also talked to one teacher, Younis (one of the two people I was most impressed by on camp), who ran a phonics workshop for teachers some time ago that seemed not to accomplish anything. We organized another one for teachers of preprimary and primary (nursery through 3rd grade) in order to enforce the idea that phonics is important and give the teachers more confidence in teaching something they never learned themselves. We also implemented a Scholarship Program, made possible by your donations. There is a 3 month certificate program in Accra which we will be funding 6 teachers to go to. The certificate will allow teachers to get jobs in Liberia when and if they go back, would also make it possible for them to get jobs in Ghana sometime in the future, and will benefit the kids now as their education will greatly improve. The certificate program was attended by Younis and another teacher who both spoke very highly of it. It covers phonics extensively which will also be excellent. Stacy and I announced two teachers who will receive the scholarship before we left. The teachers were chosen based on our own observations of who was showing up to school, doing their best, wanted to learn, etc. I felt it important to announce two before we left to make it tangible. It seems that the teachers have been screwed over a bit in the past and I’m not sure I would believe us if we came and announced this program and then left without anything definite. The remaining 4 teachers will be chosen by a friend who has 2 months left, and although we already have a pretty good idea of who deserves it, will be based on whether or not the teachers comply with some of the things we have asked of them. This includes the following: seating charts, detention, recess duty, showing up to school on time, attendance to school, meetings, workshops, and a number of other things that were implemented by a previous volunteer and are designed to help them but that they seem reluctant to try. The total of this project is $1380, $240 per person which covers tuition, materials, accommodation, and food. It has been worked out so that the teachers will not miss Children Better Way School and are contracted to come back and work there rather than taking another job in Ghana. So I am excited about this and have taken the necessary steps to make sure that there are no problems on the end of CBW.

There were a number of frustrations regarding CBW and there being a procedure to starting a project. They are adamant that all money goes through CBW and then gets requested back rather than just buying materials or giving the money directly to the school. I have decided that I will go through CBW for the Scholarship Program as I do not want CBW to intervene and create a problem that I cannot be there to fix. I have a number of people who have made it a priority to make sure that there are no problems regarding money and that it actually happens. There will be a GVN (Global Volunteer Network) representative coming at the end of March who will be there for 6 months and I will be in touch with him to make sure that he is aware of the project and can help see it through. There were problems regarding the water filter project having not gone through the correct procedure and I donated about $45 to that and then pulled out and put my money towards other things as I didn’t feel that the suggested pilot project would work. There are currently two volunteers now who are hoping to carry on the project. Many of frustrations with CBW were felt more strongly by other volunteers than by me. I think I often tend to be able to look past or ignore certain things which others cannot in order to do what I want. There have been numerous problems with Semeh, the director of CBW, but I found that unless he wants something to get done, it won’t get done, so I decided that being friends with him was the best way to go about things. I spoke with him numerous times about accountability and there being none and it seemed that steps were being taken in the right direction to correct the problem. I firmly believe that you can get things done there, you just have to figure out how to work within the system and I think I was able to do that. I found, that at times I was more frustrated by other volunteers’ pessimism than by CBW.

I have also decided to give the two guys I was most impressed with, the teacher Younis, and the CBW volunteer coordinator, Anthony, money to go to school. Younis will receive $220 to complete a 2 year program which he has already begun and Anthony will receive $400 which covers 2/3 of his tuition to take classes in NGO management. They are examples to me and their communities of hard work and dedication and believing in what you are doing and I felt they deserved this and was thrilled to be able to help in this way.

So that about sums up this past month. Made some amazing friends, Stacy in particular, who were extremely difficult to leave. Found that while sitting in the airport waiting to leave, I kind of wanted to come home, a feeling I had not had before and I think a result of feeling satisfied with the things I accomplished and the friends I made in a way that other stops did not. So it’s been an emotional few days of feeling like I don’t want to be here and not liking that feeling and fighting it. Things are getting better as I settle in here and I think my time here will be rewarding and challenging in new ways.

I hope everyone is well. My apologies but updating pictures at the moment seems rather impossible, so you’ll just have to hold tight. Again, still looking for something in South Africa so if anyone comes across anything, PLEASE let me know!

And also, a quick thanks to HM for giving me an impossible standard of education that allows me to believe that it's possible to improve a place and trust that education is the way forward.

Thanks everyone.


Anonymous Nic (english nic with silly hair) said...

hey molly, i can't believe all the stuff you're doing - haha! it sounds fantastic, i really think you're making a big difference. you should be really pleased with yourself, most people go through their whole lives and never get as much done as you have to benefit the world. anyways hope amongst all the work you're having a good time, i can't wait to see you this summer (my couch is still definitely available for borrowing!) hope everything's good! x x N

PS oh yeah my phone was stolen so i need your number again, please. :p

9:01 PM  

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