Ghana Team Journal

Friday Morning

Friday, January 22, 2010

Friday, January 22, 2010
by Bonnie

My last day in Africa! I awoke after the best night sleep I’ve had since I arrived and joined the team for our standard breakfast, with good food and a lot of laughter. We walked to the village and dropped the “teachers” off at their classes – with the kids eagerly waiting. On to the library – the progress in this two weeks should make Deb proud (she raised the $ for this project). We did have to veto the 3rd bathroom that someone worked its way into the blueprint. Esther & I waited another hour for Phillip, our taxi driver. I must be getting used to it, I found myself very relaxed as we waited and visited with some senior villagers sitting in the Palace.
Finally, to the internet café that also has a printer and copy machine.

Delivery of our custom made African clothing is expected around lunch time today…

We have a meeting after lunch and a going away dinner with people from the village tonight.

As much as I will miss Esther and my new friends on the team, I am packed and ready to go home!!!

Days out of order again!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Deb McNally
Our familiar routine was shaken up a bit as our alarm clocks rang earlier than usual. We were out the door at 6:30 to make our way to the palace, where we were invited to join the Queen Mother and the Chiefs in a traditional prayer ceremony scheduled to begin at 7am. Two things caught my attention on the walk to the village – the coolness in the air that felt refreshing and the beauty of the sun glowing a deep orange behind the haze of the sky,
I think it is fair to say that we all felt honored to be invited to witness this sacred prayer ceremony. A ritual that happens every 40 days, performed by the Chiefs and Queen Mother, who are all dressed in their royal robes and sandals. The purpose of this ceremony is to call on their Gods and ancestors to assist them with their prayer requests. Money was offered as each prayer request was made known. One of the requests involved asking for assistance in a legal matter. Another involved a desire to be blessed with money to continue with key projects that are currently underway. The second part of the ceremony was private and we were asked to wait in the palace. This special morning gathering ended with an interesting discussion about the role, responsibilities, and selection process for a Head Chief. As much as we wanted to stay engaged in this fascinating lesson in Ghanaian culture – our work projects beckoned us. Sarah and Bobbi Jo had patients longing for their compassionate care; Jane, Pam, Haley and Ellie off to stretch the minds of eager learners, Kathleen and Bonnie off for an important meeting, and Ed, Sandy, John and I geared up for another morning of construction bliss. Today’s agenda was starting to put the windows in, building the window support for the hallway ceiling, and of course ~ the never ending task of making mortar. John had a personal success today ~ he was allowed to try his luck at “the mortar against the wall” toss. He was famously successful. Today I found myself not as engaged in being physically productive with the tasks at hand. I found myself quite reflective and in the space of simply observing the sights, sounds, and smells around me. My heart warmed as I watched in awe the laughter, the cooperation, the dedication and the strength of these Ghanaian workers who I feel privileged to call my friends. As I observed the activity around me I became aware of this intense feeling of gratitude for everything these men have done this past year and continue to do each day. I have no idea how to adequately communicate to them my appreciation and respect for what they have done and who they are as people. How can I ever help them to understand how much it has meant to me that they are hugely responsible for helping me realize my dream. “Thank you” just doesn’t seem adequate.
The afternoon was like a smorgasbord of activities. The seamstress was here helping everyone design their perfect Ghanaian outfit. Half of us decided to contribute to the economic stability of the country by shopping at a fabulous wood craft market. The treasures found were priceless to our hearts but not so much to our wallets. A few diligent workers stayed to experience one more afternoon reading with the children. Unfortunately, Bobbi Jo was put on bed rest and ordered to drink tons of water to help her bounce back from a bout of dehydration.
As I end another day here in Ghana, I feel blessed to be sharing these experiences with such a fabulous group of people. I feel grateful for the lessons I continue to learn along the path and I look forward to what lies ahead.

Monday - Week 2

Monday, January 18, 2010
Ed Collins
Yes, we started the day with breakfast and had a pleasant walk through the village. The children know many of us by name now and we can’t wait for their smiles and waves. The Ghanaian children certainly seize the day and it has become infectious.
Our aspiring nurses asked for the opportunity to visit South Senchi Ferry today and reported that it is somewhat different there. There are streams leading to the river and a lot of waterfowl, banana trees, and more traditional houses. They conducted home visits to talk to new mothers and provide medical advice. Then it was to the clinic, which is smaller than the Senchi Ferry clinic and seems to also function as a community meeting place. They shared that the day’s medical tests sadly identified a young mother as HIV positive.
Our teachers were joined by Haley, who later informed us that being with the KG class is more exhausting than spending the day at doing hard labor at the library. Pam and Haley worked together as a team in the classroom of very sleepy children. It seems the village had a false alarm about a possible earthquake the night before. Families gathered in the village at 2AM, which sounded like an adventure for the children, resulting in many kids asleep at their desks at 11AM. Jane is now the Global Volunteers Drug Education Expert – Kennedy says she has been invited back anytime to join the same class. Ellie will win the award for the teacher who knew the most children songs. No wonder her students are so well behaved.
The building of the library is moving along rapidly now. Esther has brought focus to the construction foreman and our team of volunteer workers. The walls are being skim coated, door frames are being installed, and window frames painted.
In the short time we have been here the village of Senchi Ferry has opened their hearts to us. It is a warm feeling that is difficult to describe but we all feel it as we work side by side with the local people.

Weekend Adventures!

Friday/Saturday/Sunday, January 16/17, 2010
Bobbi Jo
Woke up to my friend the rooster at the usual 2 am. Did get back to sleep. Went to breakfast excited to head to the clinic. Today we are going to be working with pregnant women, new mothers and their children. Mama Grace was kind enough to show us their way of doing an assessment on the mothers, pregnant and after birth. She checked the first patient, estimated her gestation at 29 weeks and when I checked the ultrasound I found that was exactly right. Sarah and I got to do the next assessments. We listened to the babies in the womb, felt their position, assessed that they were 1 to 6 weeks. I even got to do the interviews for the paperwork.
After an amazing day at the clinic we headed back to the St James Guest House to get ready for our travels to the Cape Coast. We left, bags packed and Miss Ellie wearing her birthday balloon hat from Pam & Ed. It was very hot, but we had been told we would have an air conditioned vehicle. Bonnie asked the driver to turn the air on and said “Oh, there is a small problem.” The look on Bonnies face was priceless. The sudden change from happiness to “that is not a SMALL problem” was quite cute.
So, we began our long, HOT journey. After reaching Accra I was so happy, I thought we were almost there. My dreams of leaving this hot vehicle were crushed when Ed informed us that we had at least another two hours to go. Now the look on Bonnies face was not so cute. I could related, I’m sure I had the same unhappy look.
After a while there were raindrops, which was a very nice relief since it brought the temperatures down a bit.
We arrived at the Coconut Beach Hotel at about 6:30 and many of us got out of the van and just stood enjoying the light rain.
Sarah and I had stayed in a family unit with Ed and Pam. Bonnie & Ellie had a room right next to Jane & Sandy. John & Haley had a room in a different section of the property.
After settling in, we all met for a very enjoyable dinner. We sat in a covered patio area with a small stage and two musicians on one side and the sounds of the surf on the other side. A couple people caught us on video singing happy birthday to Miss Ellie – wow to be turning 70 with this new group of friends. Ellie even put on her dancing shoes to boogie with Ed.
After a lot of fun and good entertainment, we headed back to our rooms for a good night sleep. Except Sarah had a wild night! She woke up during the night and was convinced that she was sharing a room with someone from the village and she was wondering what happened to me! After a couple hours agonizing over this, she shinned a flashlight on me and was very relieved to see that it was me!

We met for breakfast at that same spot overlooking the ocean, then headed to the slave castle – a very moving experience. We stopped at the castle shops to do the American thing, buying a variety of souvenirs.
Then back at the resort we headed our separate ways to the beach or to lawn chairs in the shade. Bonnie and I both gathered more than enough shells to bring home.
Next was horseback riding on the beach. Sarah & I went first, then it was Jane & Sandy, last it was John & Haley. My horse was a bit stubborn. He wanted to trot constantly and take the lead. I switched another horse. This one also wanted to trot, jump, and go into the water. They were just as excited as us to be on the beach. Of course we got many pictures.
Dinner Saturday evening was under a hut, even closer to the water, thanks to Esther (resort employee who also gave me a conch shell). We had calamari for a starter and I had to get the groundnut soup for the second night in a row – it was fabulous.
We went to bed wondering what kind of trip the malaron would take Sarah on tonight. She reported in the morning that this time it was the bead lady in my bed instead of me.
After breakfast we checked out (a very slow process here) and headed for the Canopy Walk. It was very cool, the views were gorgeous, and even Bonnie, Pam & Ellie did the walk despite their fear of the height...
Our drive back to Accra was long and hot. We stopped at a market where we were hassled more than we had been on this trip. When we were leaving, Bonnie stood in the parking lot surrounded by local men trying to get her to buy from them. Finally she looked up and yelled for help. Ed rescued her…
Back in the hot van for another two hours. I didn’t think I’d make. I wanted to ask the driver to pull over and leave me on the side of the road. But, I survived.
After dinner I kept staring at my watch. At 7:40 I just couldn’t last any longer. I headed back to the room and took the most amazing shower ever!
Wow – what a weekend.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Kathleen Hubbard-Ismail

Our morning began with the familiar rhythm of Obronies finding their way to the dining table and slipping into their chairs to enjoy another delightful breakfast prepared by the skilled hands of our dear cook, Millicent.

After the Journal reading, the “thought for the day” and a rousing rendition of Happy Birthday for Ellie, our shepherd, Esther, lead her little flock of Obronie sheep out into the green pastures of the Senchi Ferry village.

As we take our leave of the St James Guest House, Ellie heads off for her day of teaching at the B-Akoto KG decked out in her birthday hat created by Pam and Ed. As we continue on, Pam joins joyful Harriett and Joyce at the Catholic KG; Jane disappears on her journey through Kennedy’s door at the Methodist school; and the balance of us continue into town. At the library, Bobby Jo and Sara wave their good-byes and continue down the rich red road to the Medical Clinic while the balance of the construction team heads for the shovels.

Samuel has agreed to accompany me to the South Senchi clinic so that I may ensure that appropriate preparations are made to accommodate our nurses there next week.

As we sit down in the reception area, I have the pleasure of engaging in conversation with several of the young nurses. I notice that each is proudly wearing her own unique uniform made of traditional batik fabric. As I look more closely, I notice each uniform is covered with writing stating, “your health is our concern.” I am touched. My eyes begin to roam the walls as I scan the variety of messages intended by each poster. “The best protection a mother can give…. breast milk only for the first six months” states one. “Don’t be a weak man. Say no to domestic violence” demands another. Then, over in a corner atop the nurses station is a hand-typed document that catches my eye. This one is entitled, “Human Relations Are Essential To Success” With a 30 year career in corporate Human Resources, I leaned in closer to digest its words.

H - Have self confidence
U – Understand the views of others
M – Make yourself a friend to all
A – Admit when you are wrong
N – Never make a promise you can not keep

R – Respect and courtesies are important
E – Explain thoroughly
L – Look, listen, learn
A – Avoid argument
T – Try to be approachable and sociable
I - Insist on self-less service to the community
O – Others first, self last
N – Never criticize in public
S - Stress the positive, always

Once again, I am touched and in awe by the profound wisdom that surrounds me in this community.

I think of the news on the TV about Africa, I think of the impressions a tour group would have driving through this village on their way to the next tourist site. Sure, they may stop, take a few pictures and shake a hand or two. They’ll even get that sought after photo of the smiling face of that sweet African child.

When I return home, both sets of photographs may look quite similar ....but will theirs have that subtle touch of love shining through the smiling eyes of that sweet African child. When we Global Volunteer Obronies return home, we will have much more. We have sat in conversation with that sweet woman stirring her roiling pot of fufu over an open fire. We have been the recipient of their outrageous laughter when we attempt our morning greeting of “Me ho tea sen” as we stroll through the village on our way to work. We know the eagerness of a child who proudly waves his paper in the air with pride to show the Obronie how well he has done. We have sat with the Queen Mother and village Chiefs and learned of their dreams for the community for which they so proudly serve.

Our paths have crossed once again. Last time, these Africans left their shores against their will through the “door of no return” at St George’s Castle. It was they who were coming to be of service to our American soil. It was the blood, sweat and tears of 13 million Africans who tore the roots, tilled the soil and lifted that bail which cleared the foundation on which America is built today. So now it is our turn. It is my pleasure to work side-by-side and hand-in-hand to assist my African brother. At the very least it is my debt of gratitude for their forefather’s sacrifice to my country. And…along the way, I have the profound advantage of being received by open, welcoming and wise arms that hold no grudges but simply want to create a more meaningful future for their kids, that’s all.

So, I reflect back on those words of wisdom written upon the walls of the South Senchi Clinic about how human relations are essential to success and I know in this community and with these Obronies these principles are applied vigorously. These are not merely words and parable to fade upon the walls.

Days out of order

Wednesday, Jan 13, 2010

After another hearty breakfast, we began our 10 minute stroll to the Senchi Ferry village. We are now familiar with the route and sights as we weave our way along a dirt path and past the small mud homes. The chicken and goats pay us no mind and we are getting used to the drenching heat. Villagers greet us with “Wo ho te sen” and we are getting better at remembering the response. The team also brought four soccer balls to be used at recess….these kids love soccer.

Today, I began teaching in one of the kindergarten classes under the eye of Madame Joyce. There are 19 boisterous children sitting two to a desk. There is a chalkboard and letters of the alphabet adorning the front wall. Along with a few posters, there is little else in the way of visual aids. The heat is oppressive and materials are rudimentary. Despite this, the children are eager to learn and learn they do.

Class begins with singing “We Shall Overcome” followed by recitation of “The Lords Prayer”. Madame Joyce has me work on the alphabet with the flashcards I brought. A, Apple, the A sound….you get the picture. The children raise their hands to sound out the cards and we go through all 26 letters. There were a couple of stumpers as S was for Skunk and P was for Pizza…..both items never seen by the children.

After a group song about how our hands, shoulders, knees and toes all belong to Jesus, we launched into mathematics. The children go into the yard to collect 10 pebbles apiece. Once back, they learn how to add by counting out the rocks. Each student has a notebook where they write in their answers. The pencils are in various states of use with some less than two inches left. Erasers are a hot commodity. Those without erasers simply wet their fingers and smudge out the mistake.

For recess we go out in the sun we and danced the Hokey Pokey, Ring Around the Rosie and played Duck, Duck, Goose. We read Chica Chica Boom Boom and they loved the rhyming way of applying the alphabet. Back in we went and I taught uppercase and lower case letters, followed with another exercise to write out on paper.

The children are at various levels of learning. The class was taught in English and the kids had a good grasp of basic vocabulary. Some children pick up new concepts quickly and others struggle just to write their name on the top of the page. The latter welcome individual attention. The more advanced students help those less so and this concern was touching to observe. Whether fast or less fast, each child lights up when told that they did a “Good Job”. The teacher and students make the most out of very little and the importance that Senchi Ferry places on education bodes well for the future of these little ones. The spirit is there!! I look forward to getting to know these children and Madame Joyce over the next 8 days.

Back at lunch, team mates discussed their morning. Those working on the library moved the heavy concrete bags and prepared the mortar mix. This was used by Reuben and his crew to plaster the interior walls. Additionally, wood was sawed for use in framing the doors and windows. Our nurses went on home visits to listen in on briefings on family planning.

Our Ghanaian adventure of the day was riding in a tro-tro. Our country manager, Esther, led the way and the destination was a small Kente fabric weaver close by. Standing on the side of the road, we hailed a tro-tro with enough seats to house the ten of us. I wonder what the two men who were already on board were thinking as ten Obrunis crammed themselves in. It was hot, it was basic, it was cheap but best of all it was travel the way the Ghanaians experience it and there will be more tro-tro rides to come. Unfortunately, the weavers business was closed but we will try again.

We returned to the village for our first tutoring session. As we waited for the key, Jane had the children moving and laughing to Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes and Ed engaged them in a spelling bee. Then we went inside, the children selected books, we carried chairs outside and broke into small groups. My student, Killip, read his book in flawless English. My husband, Ed and I merged our groups and we showed photos of family and travels we brought from home. They were intrigued by photos of snow, camels, pyramids, buffalo, the beach, winter clothes and Ed’s birthday party. We explained birthday traditions in the U.S. and they shared Ghanaian birthday rites. They wondered if Ed really had to blow out 63 candles! These boys were so curious about the world outside their world. Did Buddhists believe in Jesus? Where is Ecuador? Will you die in the snow? Do plants in Boston die in the winter? Can you go to any school you want? Is Mexico a dangerous place? Curious minds want to know. I leave the work day impressed by the keen minds of these children, their inquisitiveness, attention to detail and their yearning for more. They love school, love to learn and I hope they get the chance to fulfill their educational potential.

Pamela Ward

Boston, Massachusetts

What day is it???

Friday, January 15, 2010

Haley’s journal for:
Thursday, the 14, 2010

As I read this to the volunteer group, on the 15th, it is Elle’s birthday! So if
Any one wants to wish her a happy birthday, who hasn’t, now is a good time.

For me, the day started out with waking up from a weird dream at about
Seven A.M in the morning. With my father telling me we were going to be
Late for breakfast…again! Once I got to the common room for breakfast I
discovered that a few other people had bean experiencing weird dreams to.
We decided to blame it on the Malaria pills. After breakfast most of us
headed out to do our volunteer work for the day.

Bonnie & Esther left early for Accra with Phillip (our driver) and John (the electrician for the Library). Another cultural adventure.

I was working on the library again, with Ed, my dad, Deb, Sandy, and a few locals. The work I did today was the hardest work I’ve done so far. My job was the same as Sandy’s, which was to use a chisel and a hammer, or block of wood, to cut out little squares from a hard sort of platform of wood. Ed brought his I-phone to the library today, which I have to say, was a good idea. All the workers were singing and dancing to the wonderful tunes of Bob Marley! They got upset when it stopped playing, and since Ed was gone I was asked to “help the music move again.” Deb and my dad, John, were helping make the mortar, and Ed was helping make the doors and windows, while the locals helped make us do a better job. After work in the library, the Global Volunteers sort of met up to walk back to the common room for lunch, where I found most of us singing nursery rhymes for Pam to teach at a School, but when she had a notebook to write down the songs in we all had forgotten most of them. This was all right since we made up our own nursery rhyme that we named I lost my poor foofoo. Once our hunger was satisfied we were happy to relax before walking to the Methodist School, for tutoring with the kids. When we came back to the Guest house, we all relaxed with one of the tribal elders. When we ate dinner, we told each our stories from the day. There seemed to be many funny ones. Today was not as packed with things to do, and places to go, but I think we all needed a little rest anyways.

Day 4

Tuesday, January 12, 2010
By John Wark

Ghanian proverb #1: Instead of doing the wrong thing, then pacifying people with money, do the right thing and save your money to look after your children.

Ghanian proverb #2: When the old woman is hungry, she says, “Cook something for the children to eat.”

One of the most prominent facets of life in Ghana became apparent on the overnight flight from New York to the capital city of Accra. One row in front of me sat a father and his son. The boy was only about two or three years old and did not have a seat of his own. So his father, dressed in a blue blazer and dress slacks, held him on his lap the entire duration of the transAtlantic flight without so much as a hint of personal discomfort or complaint.

I watched him closely and his face remained serenely composed the entire flight. I recognized him as Ghanian because as we passed through customs he queued up in the line for Ghanian nationals. I felt the urge to go over to tell him how moved I was by his selfless act and what an inspiring example of fatherhood he presented. But I held back, slightly concerned I might somehow offend him. After being in the county a few days I realized I had nothing to fear. Ghanians accept compliments with the utmost grace. I also realized that I don’t need to see such a man step into a Ghanian customs line to identify him as a Ghanian – seeing him with his son was enough to identify him.

Since arriving in Senchie Ferry with the rest of the Global Volunteers team three days ago we have seen day by day just how deeply this sense of devotion to children reaches into the entire community. It is a devotion enthusiastically inspired by Global Volunteers, which has invited us each here to participate in helping the Senchie community grow stronger in its self reliance and confidence in pursuit of the priorities it has set.

The priorities set by the community and adopted by Global Volunteers largely revolve around the children, from the current library project to the assistant school teaching we will do here.

This trip to Ghana is for me occurring under a double sign of the child. That I am here at all is the work of a child. I flown from Florida to Africa to support my beautiful 13-year-old daughter Haley’s personal effort to become more self reliant, much as Global Volunteers is supporting the children of the Senchie community.

Here, in today’s group journal, I want to publicly thank my daughter for being brave enough to dream boldly and be daring and self-reliant enough to advance her dream of visiting Africa as far as she did. It was Haley who contacted Global Volunteers and found this program only five weeks ago and who, when I and her mother first suggested it may take a little time, effort and planning to make a trip to Africa, answered use with: “Don’t say it’s not possible. You have to believe that it is.” She said coming here would fulfill a desire held since she was much younger. Thank you, Haley, for this remarkable trip.

What I have discovered in the short time we have been here is that while your mother may be in Florida, awaiting our return, Haley, our motherland is here. Where human life first took hold millions of years ago.

The importance of children to our collective reason for being here emerged again on Tuesday, the day of this journal entry, as the children of the village dressed in their cleaned and pressed uniforms returned to the village’s schools for the first time since their Christmas break began and the members of our group who volunteered as teachers – Ellie, Jane and Kathleen -- joined in classroom activities.

The schools are simple concrete block affairs with shutters and doors that open to allow the air to cool their poorly lit classrooms. But the children are incredibly happy and well looked after. They go to school only through the sixth grade in the three schools Global Volunteers is sponsoring.

The rest of us – Haley, Sandy, Pam, her irrepressible husband Ed and I – joined the workers for day two of construction work on the library Global Volunteers is building. The library will be a first for the entire region and serve communities for miles around when complete. When we arrive there is already a shell and a roof. Our morning was spent moving more than a hundred cinder blocks, wheeling barrows of mud to mix with sand, arranging scaffolding, mixing cement by hand, passing blocks to the masons up on the scaffold, offloading a truckload of wood for the framing and continuing to ready conduit for the electrical work. We also completed the upper courses of stone work at he east and west ends of the hallway. This work was all completed by noon, Ghanians and Obronies (whites) working side by side, but the Ghanians directing and guiding the Obronies every step of the way.

My daughter Haley learned how to use a trowel to throw “mud” into the channels carved into the cinder stone for the electrical conduits and then to pack it in and smooth it over, She also helped pitch sand into the wheelbarrow and mixed cement. Needless to say, I am very proud of her.

By 12:30 we were tiredly picking our way back along the network of red dirt roads and paths that thread through schoolyards, backyards and front yards to the St, James House hotel where we are all staying and where lunch would be waiting. Earlier in the day, as we walked to the schools and the library we saw the scores of village children in their fresh uniforms assembling outdoors near their schools and heard them sing their national anthem.

Many of the children we saw in the morning now roamed the pathways or milled about near the schools. I noticed that the village women set up tables near the schools and handed the children fruit freshly peeled with a machete, and such things as bags of nuts and also bags of water. Children of all ages approached us as always with open faces, hands out, touching us, holding us, hugging us, sometimes begging for soccer balls for their pictures to be taken.

Often it seems to me many of the children are simply using these encounters to practice their English and I have begin to notice for fewer requests for soccer balls, at least today. They seem to want merely to practice saying, “Hello!” and “How are you?” and “Good afternoon, sir.”

I’ve also noticed that these children often speak better English and understand more than do many of the young men working the library construction site. Although another group of teenagers who lingered in the shade of an awning near the work site demonstrated good enough skill. “Mister,” they shouted as we walked past them, give us your daughter.”

After lunch today we had been told we would begin a regular mid-afternoon routine of tutoring the children from the schools. But the teachers asked us to hold off a day so that they could complete some of their own back-to-school business. So we found ourselves with the unexpected boon of a cleared afternoon.

Esther & Bonnie headed out to find yet another internet cafe. Meeting with the home office...

For the rest of us, out came the guidebooks. The list of potential free-time activities posted near the list of must-learn Twi phrases was consulted. Was there sufficient time to leap aboard a tro tro and run into Accra to visit the Arts Center? What about a visit to a place within walking distance that apparently had kayaks for rent and a pool to swim in? Or, how about that place 10 minutes away where we could buy amazing hand woven pieces of khente cloth?

We ended up taking the advice of a veteran, Kathleen, who sagely suggested we go to the Continental Hotel where we could rent a boat to tour the Volta River, see the exotic animals they kept on the grounds, and have a drink on the veranda poolside.

The boat ride was a treat, and cooling respite from the day’s heat and hard work, as we slipped through green water below green hills. We motored around for an hour, passing by fancy resorts and pretty riverside estate houses, banana plantations, tilapia farms, what is purported to be the world’s second largest suspension bridge, and an impoverished riverside section of Akasombo.

The sharp contrast between wealth and subsistence living in this country is staggering.

At the Continental Hotel we saw monkeys and crocodiles, exotic birds including parrots, and a strange animal that looked like a big cat with a raccoon face and both stripes and spots along its body. Haley fell in love with the monkeys and now wants one as a pet. (If you’re wondering where the impetus to buy or adopt the horses, chickens, cats, dogs and goats we have, you may use the aforementioned as your clue.)

When I paused to reflect on where we are and what we have been doing I was struck by how far and yet how near everything feels. For instance, was New Years really only 12 days ago? Have we really only been here three days? It feels like weeks. It is hard to believe this is only Tuesday and also a little bit beyond imagining that I am really in Africa, that this is Ghana, and these Twi-speaking Akans are our hosts for the coming weeks here in Senchi, beautiful Senchi, emerging from the fragrant smoke of cooking fires that have been burning since the dawn of time in this part of the world; Senchie lying indolently under the hot sun in the shade of an ancient mythically large mango tree not from from the Volta river; Senchi awakening in the quiet, gentle eyes of its children, Senchie drumming the names of its children through hundreds of years, their names ringing with the passage of daily life itself: the people of Senchie and the place making the familiar as unfamiliar, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Kwadwo, Kwabena, Kwaku, Yaw, Kofi, Kwame, Kwasi, Adwoa, Abena, Akua, Yaa, Alfia, Amma, Akosua; Senchie, maze of timeless red dust paths along which appear and disappear, children, old blind women past the age of 100, chickens, goats, dogs, women and men carrying a vast indescribable array of goods on the their heads, families huddled around outdoor coal fires, women pounding fuffu, driving banku.

Moment to moment life in Africa shape shifts. Almost instantly the days in Ghana take on the quality of a waking dream filled with sounds and sights and smells in which one feels one’s self suddenly becoming more African, less white European. This is liberating, is it not?

The shade from the tree with the root that reaches to the instant mankind was born spreads out its leafy African limbs, shading the white brother and the black sister indiscriminately. One feels the stirrings underfoot, knows the substance of life, the ancestors felt. The same earth. The same stirrings. The same aliveness at one’s core.

Africa is less a place to know that a place that presents one with a new way of knowing.

Me da ase, Senchie.

Me da ase, Global Volunteers.

Me da ase, Ed, Pam, Sarah, Bobby Jo, Ellie, Deb, Kathleen, Jane, Bonnie, Sandy, Haley.

Me da ase, my Akan sister Ester.

Me da ase my African ancestors with whom I stand eyebrow to eyebrow.

Day 3

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Day 3
Written by Sandy Wessner
Woke up at 5:30 am to traffic along the highway. Bobbi Jo woke up to a crowing rooster a the crack of dawn. Gathered for breakfast and received our direction from Esther. Breakfast consisted of eggs, toast, and cornflakes with condensed milk. With full bellies most of us headed for the village. Deb, Bonnie & Esther went for a banking adventure - Ghana style.

Another hot, humid, sunny day. School was not in session today so there was no classroom teaching. A walk through the village brought children out greet the “Ebronies” (white man or woman). Stopped at the clinic to drop off Sarah and Bobbi Jo for their assignments. Two new newborns and a waiting room full of patients awaited them. The rest of the gang headed to the library worksite. John, Haley and Sandy mixed mud and packed it around the conduit tubes. Jane showed her stuff carrying blocks. Ed masterminded the conduit cutting and placement into the electrical boxes. Pam, Ellie, Bonnie, Kathleen and Deb sang songs and played games with the children. At 12:30 we began our walk back to the Guest House.
We had lunch, another great meal, and were off to the Cedi Bead Factory. We were shown the process of manufacturing beads by Mr Cedi himself. The process includes glass crushing, designing, firing and stringing. We all went into the tiny gift shop to make our purchases of necklaces, bracelets and bowls.
We were off to the open air market after a stop for phones and sim cards. We said goodbye to Esther and explored. The market was filled with smoked fish, fruits, vegetables, trinkets, shoes, cloth and people. An hour there was more than enough!
We all hopped back in the van for a quick ride to the Volta Hotel. There we had drinks, appetizers and singing (Happy Birthday to me). What a way to celebrate my birthday – half way around the world with my new found friends.
We also took pictures. The Volta Hotel overlooks the Volta Dam and Volta Lake – the largest man made lake in the world.
Back to the guest house for dinner and planning.

Day 2

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Written by Jane Durkee

Woke feeling energized after a good night’s rest at Airport View Hotel. Team met for breakfast, of coffee, tea, toast, beans eggs, and sausage at 7am.
Then the comedy began as we watched the driver many helpers load our bags into the van for the drive to Senchi Ferry. We gave up to the luggage Gods that all of our bags would fit… The back door of the van would not close so ropes were employed, with great hopes that it would hold over the “rumble strips” (the African version of speed bumps).
We piled into the van with no room to spare. We were ever so thankful for the breeze from the windows since the AC did not work! There was one quick pit stop for gas. All in all, I was amazed at the quality of the roads – paved, very smooth.
After less than 2 hours, we arrived at the St James Guest House. We checked in and started our first team meeting. Esther runs an efficient, purposeful meeting – a very good facilitator. Deb provided the message of the day, Bonnie read her Day 1 Journal.
We played a name game, reviewed Global Volunteers’ policies, and then reviewed objectives. With Ed as our tape master, we filled out and posted five cards each listing our personal objectives for this service program and arranged into the following:
- To Learn/Experience the culture
- To give our time & talent
- To make friends & have fun
- To grow personally
- To teach children
After reviewing characteristics of an effective team, we broke for lunch. Another great meal, this one consisted of chicken, salad & French fries. We took a brief rest after lunch then walked to the village for our meeting with the chiefs.
The walk started at 3:30 on a rather rough path through a small field. Our team was very engaged and had a lot of fun. It was rewarding to see everyone come together for a larger purpose. My favorite phrase “the power of the people” comes to mind.
The crossed the 2 lane highway and started through a field which led us by various small huts and a high school soccer game. The people along the way very friendly, greeting us in English & Twi. It was an amazing walk – who knew of the welcome we were about to receive. We turned a corner and suddenly there were kids everywhere greeting us with hugs and handshakes. We all agreed that we had an overwhelming feeling of warmth and genuine happiness. This could easily be described as a Human Blanket of Friendship!! The kids are a variety of ages, all so interested and happy in these people with red faces (from the heat) and white skin.
The village had arranged a welcome ceremony. There were chairs set up around a clearing under some trees. They even hired a DJ for music and entertainment. Several welcome speeches were given. We shook hands with the chiefs and introduced ourselves to the village. A highlight for me was the “drama” put on by the kids, called The Life of a Child. All were proud of the children to perform for the audience
And then there was dancing! Mystery Jane got us started when a local gentleman asked her to dance. Kathleen and Bonnie jumped right in and almost instantly had many kids to dance with. It was grad a kid or two and dance. FUN!
We said farewell after final set of meetings and a tour of the soon to be
Senchi Ferry Library. Yeah Deb for all your hard work raising this money!
I would like to bottle up all the warmth and energy from this first introduction to the community and share it with the world.
Wrote this journal after dinner, looking forward to Day 3.

After dinner (at 7) it’s off to bed for most. The time differernce does not seem to be a problem for anyone.

Day 1 – Wow a new continent for many of us!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

It was fun to meet and greet the other team members, discovering each other both on the plane and in the airport. Eight of us came in on the same flight from JFK. And, a lively flight it was. I was surprised by all the “activity” on the plane – and a little in awe at those who were able to sleep on the plane.
Esther, our new Ghana Manager, was there with a big smile to greet each of us with a hug!
After some confusion about a mystery team member (Jane) who seemed to be MIA, we proceeded to the hotel shuttle bus. I imagine our driver was a bit overwhelmed by all the unwanted help that swarmed around us once we walked outside. I was taken aback by the young man who begged me for a magazine. I finally gave him an Oprah issue I hadn’t yet read to get him off my back!
Checking in at the hotel was another little round of chaos. I had three different room assignments in the course of it all getting settled. My roommate here in Accra is Miss Ellie, an amazing woman who has traveled to every continent and has been on many mission trips. She was on our India program 4 years ago.
The Airport View hotel is simple and close to the airport. A shower & a bottled water to go with my toothbrush were my first priorities.
A little walk after the nap made Miss Ellie and I realize we really did enter a new world. It is very hot in the full afternoon sun and I had forgotten my hat (you won't see me without a hat very often). We met a young woman walking up to the busy corner to sell oranges. A whole platter of oranges nicely arranged and carried on her head. We took pictures.
We found Deb & Sandy sitting at the pool. Too hot for me – I went and sat in the hotel lobby using my laptop. Have to do what I can while I still have internet.
I was struck by the level of activity in the lobby. It seemed to me that they had far more workers mulling about than they had tasks to complete. They seemed to mostly ignore the American’s hanging out.
Dinner was server in the small hotel restaurant, almost next door to our room.
We gathered in the lobby and met up with Mystery Jane, who had actually arrived a day early. We have a great mix of people. A father and 8th grade daughter from Florida (John & Haley). Bobbi Jo and Sarah from St Catherine’s college. Ed & his wife, from Boston, were adventurous and toured the city via taxi during the day. Still awaiting the arrival of 1 last team member – Kathleen.
Dinner was very good. A pan with ½ chicken and ½ fish (no clue what kind of fish, but it was good). There was a bowl of beef in sauce. They had an excellent mix of veggies, and two rice dishes that were very good. And, they had French Fries, which made me laugh. I hope they didn’t do the French fries for us!
Back to our rooms for a good night sleep. So, here we are - people with varied backgrounds each coming from our little corner of reality to spend the next 2 – 3 weeks together helping a small community most of us have not even seen yet. The power of the human spirit!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

And, I'm off... Well actually I'm off to Ghana Friday morning. I wonder how it feels to have a 100 degree swing in temps in 1 day. I may melt!