Friendship Bracelets!

Friendship Bracelets!

I can’t wait to get out of this snow and leave for Ghana on Friday. I am finishing up my poetry and creative writing lesson plans with Jordan. While packing, Laura found a friendship bracelet making kit and since we both learned to make them at summer camp we are going to bring string and teach our students at Heritage Academy!

Erin

You’re Ghana Wanna Read This

Hi everyone!

My name is Arielle and I’m a senior at Westtown School. I’m super excited to be one of the lucky 14 people this year who get to travel to Essiam, Ghana at the Heritage Academy and teach! I’ve travelled all around the world and visited about 30 countries during my lifetime but I’ve never been to Ghana or even Africa before.

From 2006-2010, I lived in England with my family and attended an international school there. This allowed me to travel the world and have Europe at my doorstep. Of all of the places I’ve visited though, which range from Mexico to Dubai, I know that Ghana is going to be a completely different experience. I really don’t think anything could compare and that’s why I chose to sign up for Ghana. I know for someone like me who has seen many parts of the world this would be the only trip that would be truly life-changing because Ghana is so different from any place I’ve ever been. Continue reading “You’re Ghana Wanna Read This”

Counting the Days

2/19/2014

In just over a week I will be driving to JFK airport in New York, lugging two large suitcases through security, and spending 11 hours on a gigantic plane en route to Accra, Ghana. I’ve attended countless meetings with my group every Thursday night and learned how to write lesson plans, learned about Ghanaian culture and how to teach a class, but I still can’t seem to wrap my head around the fact that in a few days I will be teaching over sixty 6th graders. Every few days one of our group leaders sends us photographs of the small school grounds of Heritage Academy, exciting us more and more for our coming adventure.

In Ghana I will be teaching basic grammar and creative writing along with my teaching partner, Erin, as well as conducting reading periods for a small group of students. For me, choosing to teach creative writing was easy: it is something that I love to do. Envisioning myself reading the written work of twelve-year-olds puts a smile on my face without fail. Deciding to go to Ghana however was more difficult. Public speaking has never come easily for me, so teaching twenty students three times a day will be challenging, but I’m sure it will be rewarding.

With around two feet of hard packed snow on the ground, my anticipation for Senior Projects is growing. I am counting down the days until I load my bags in the car and begin my journey to Heritage Academy.

Jordan

Home Again

April 5, 2013

Last day of teaching at Heritage
Last day of teaching at Heritage

It’s several days into spring term and I’m steadily adjusting to life back at Westtown. Everything feels so surreal – graduation is just around the corner and then my classmates and I are off to college. But in this whirlwind of activity, there remain things I have taken from my experience in Ghana that will never go away.

  • The amenities we take for granted are luxuries and we should always be thankful. Air conditioning, hot showers, flushing toilets, reliable electricity – these seem like miracles.
  • Middle schoolers in any culture are extremely difficult to control. But even if you feel like giving up, remember that they are good kids at heart and really do want to learn.
  • Get anti-malaria pills from a trustworthy source.
  • Stick ten teenagers in a guest house during a power outage and a hacky sack becomes a godsend.
  • Nothing goes according to plan – but it’ll turn out alright in the end.
  • It’s never too late in the year to meet people and really appreciate them. (And share lame jokes and tell embarrassing stories.)
  • Teacher Kwesi was right, I’m not Bill Gates. And while I certainly don’t think I changed the world, maybe a lesson stuck with one student or a comment I made helped another student connect the dots. Our group was thrust onto a new continent and into a new way of life. I didn’t just leave my comfort zone on this trip; I was catapulted into my “oh-my-god-new-experiences-but-let’s-try-not-to-panic” zone. That’s more than enough for me to feel like my time in Ghana was worth it.

It’s Ghana be a Good Time!

Feb. 27, 2013

Well hi!

My name is Rachel and I am one of the ten students going to Ghana for Senior Projects. In Ghana we will be teaching at Heritage Academy, a school founded in 2004 by Westtown School’s Teacher Kwesi, as well as doing community service and touring cultural and historical sites. Since this progressive school’s founding, enrollment has grown tremendously and every year Westtown students hold classes there, in subjects ranging from science to history to music and theater and everything in between.

I will be co-teaching an English/creative writing course with my friend Taryn, as this plays off both of our academic strengths. Truth be told I’m terrified. Not only will I be thrust into a completely foreign culture, I will also be expected to stand in front of a classroom full of kids who seek to get something out of what I might have to offer them. Continue reading “It’s Ghana be a Good Time!”

In Fante?

Things are starting to become normal in Ghana. We are starting to get into a routine with school and I can assure you that we are all working VERY hard. It seems that everyone’s classes are going well and all of the kids are really warming up to us!

Copp and I had a class that was rather difficult to work with, but today we had a real breakthrough with them. We asked them to start writing their own rap or song and they all handed in beautiful pieces of this amazing poetry. They wrote about their love for soccer and their families and for God and it was really touching to read the words that all of the kids wrote. In our first class, I have grown especially close to a young boy named Solomon. Those that have been to Ghana know that “taking me as a sister” is a very big honor and quite a compliment. Well, Solomon has taken me as his sister and his pen pal. He has asked to see pictures of all of my friends and family. I have taken close to 300 pictures already, so I promise that I will have plenty when I get home. The cutest thing is when kids write notes and hand them to you during class, they get so excited and it is the sweetest thing. There is this amazing girl in one of my classes named Lydia and she has been so helpful. Overall, the kids have been one of the greatest parts of this trip. They are all beautiful and amazing and I will miss every one of them when we leave.

Yesterday, after school, we made cement blocks as part of our service. I don’t like manual labor but making blocks was so much fun! I don’t know if it was because I am in Ghana, but building blocks was great! Some of the boys came over to help us because apparently we were moving too slowly. It was hard work but I actually loved it. After that we took a walk into the village, Ajumako, and we walked into a nice soda bar thing. There was great Ghanaian music playing and Eva, NyAsia and I started dancing. We were immediately sought after by a random guy but then he turned his sights to Rebecca. He proposed to her and she declined but we wouldn’t give up so T. Michael had a conversation with him. It was great fun.

We have been learning a lot of Fante! That is one of my favorite parts. I love learning the language. It is customary in Ghana to take a name based on the day which you were born, long story short, my Fante name is Kosia, it is a lovely name for girls that are born on Sunday! It is so funny because every time you ask someone how to say something, they ask, “In Fante?” It is very funny.

I have grown close to a boy who works in our house named Bright. He is such a nice boy and he deserves a shout out on my blog.

I have to go because a lot of other people want to use the computer, but I hope to tell the rest soon.

Laura, thanks for keeping up, I love you and I miss you a lot :]

Becca and Jordyn, would a facebook message hurt every now and then? :]

Much love,

Jordan

This is weird!

Hi everyone,

It is so hard to believe that I am leaving for Ghana on Sunday. I am so excited to travel and start meeting the kids, though! Copp is going to be teaching music with me and I am so excited that he is going to be with me in the classroom, it makes things so much less intimidating! I am really nervous.  I want all of the kids to like me (I really want to be the fun teacher with the fun class!) but more than that, I want this to be a life-changing opportunity. I don’t know why I am so nervous, I really have no doubt that it will be anything less than life-changing.

I am so excited to go! I am going to be posting as much as possible since I will probably have a lot to say!

Lots of love,

Jordan

Back from Ghana – Kevin

Well, we made it back safely to the U.S. yesterday, and it’s safe to say that all of us were incredibly sad to leave Ghana and Heritage Academy. The kids were all so wonderful, and there were some tears from a few of our group members and a few Heritage students at our farewell on Monday.

The last week of teaching for me was, in general, great. Most of the children finished up their books, and those that are finished have a permanent place in the Heritage Academy library. Given the fact that practically none of these children have ever taken an art class before, many of them can draw extremely well. The only thing I found surprising, and a little annoying, was that the children couldn’t figure out how to share the materials I had gotten for them (colored pencils, pencil sharpeners, erasers, etc…). I would have expected this from much younger children, but certainly not from 13-14 year olds. Seeing as that was really the only problem that I had to deal with in my class, I’d say the entire teaching experience was definitely positive. I am especially proud of my J1B class (7th grade), who are (because of test scores) classified as the more remedial of the two J1 classes, because their work ethic is significantly higher than any other group of students I have met. Not only did all of the students in J1B finish their work by Friday afternoon, but they managed to do it all in fewer class periods. Some of the students in that class even finished their books the night that I assigned them. Although I think that I’ve known this for a while, it was great to see an example, showing that test scores don’t always reflect intelligence and that a hard work ethic is probably one of the most important tools to have in life.

I took pictures of all the books that the children made so that I could remember what they looked like, and I will post some of them on this blog soon, so that you all can read and enjoy them as well.

In addition to teaching, we have also been working hard to make the cinderblocks that will eventually be used to build the secondary school (high school). We made a total of 315 blocks in our short 2 week visit, and according to T. Kwesi the secondary school will be up and running this September, just in time for the new school year.

Again, we were all heartbroken that we had to leave after such a short time, but I can guarantee that many, if not all, are planning on going back as soon as possible.

-Kevin

Obronyis

A bunch of stuff has happened since the last time I posted anything, so let me fill you in. We met the only other white people in the area, taught a few more classes at Heritage, visited Kwesi’s other school: Ochiso, got to know the town of Ajumako a little better, visited Kakum National Park, and Almino Slave Castle.

The other Obronyis (Fanti for foreigner, but more often used to describe white people) in the region turned out to be Germans, who are teaching for a year in Ghana to fulfill their mandatory service. It’s been nice having the opportunity to practice my German, which is unfortunately really rusty, even though they always answer anything I ask in English. I guess I should just be glad that I have the chance to speak German at all in Africa. Bella, Malinda and I also speak German to one another sometimes, so that we can convince persistent street vendors that we don’t know any English. One of the German’s offered to join Harrison, Danny and I on one of our morning run, and let me just say, that was definitely a mistake. Harrison chose that day to sleep in and Danny (because he’s a sprinter) left the run a quarter of the way through. This left me alone with Toben, who is significantly faster than I am, and I felt bad each time I told him that “Ich kann nicht so schnell gehen, aber du kannst so schnell wie du willst gehen, weil ich den Weg nach Hause kenne”.

Classes at Heritage have been going better in general, although I’m starting to feel a lot of sympathy for anyone who has to deal with large groups of young children on a daily basis. I definitely feel as if the children in the reading groups are learning new vocabulary, but I’m still not convinced that they can fully comprehend the stories. In each of my groups there is one kid who struggles significantly more than the others and I know that he would greatly benefit from some one-on-one time, and the other kids would also benefit because it would mean they would be able to move onto more complicated books. In general, I’ve found that I can get the kids much more involved and interested in reading if I can relate the vocabulary and the stories to things they can see around them, to things they know, and especially if I ask them to translate the words into Fanti. If they explain the Fanti word to me, then I can tell if they know the proper definition of the English word, and I get to learn a word in the process. I started this strategy on Friday, so the only word I know so far is Aho (pronounced Ahoo), which means bubble. My story and book making class is also going well and according to plan. The kids have created stories that have morals, plots, and well-developed descriptions of the characters and settings. They have also made some really amazing drawings to accompany their stories, which is especially impressive because none of these kids have had an art class of any kind in their life. I took time this weekend to correct the grammar and spelling in their stories and then on Monday I will have the kids start transferring their stories into the final books.

After lunch on Friday we visited Kwesi’s second school, called Ochiso Heritage Academy. It’s located in the bush, about 45 minutes to an hour away from the other Heritage Academy, and it serves a completely different community. One would expect the kids in the bush to be even more excited to see white people, because they’re even more isolated than Ajumako, but oddly enough they didn’t seem as interested in us as the kids at Heritage did. We said hi to everyone, then the boys played soccer with some of the kids, while the girls got mobbed by the other kids. Playing soccer with 30-40 little kids is obviously fun, but the 95 degree weather was not so much fun.

On both Friday and Saturday night a few of us walked into Ajumako (one of the local towns) to see what there was to do, and to do a little exploring. Friday night wasn’t so exciting, but on Saturday, we ran into some kids from Heritage who gave us an impromptu tour of the village. They took us around to their houses and we met their parents, all of whom were incredibly nice. It was really shocking to see where one of the boys lived. He is taller than everyone else at Heritage because his parents have enough money to provide him with a sufficient amount of food, yet his brothers sleep outside on the concrete porch with only a thin blanket underneath them, and he sleeps on a small bed frame. His bed doesn’t have a mattress, only an old square of carpet and a few pillowcases instead of a pillow. It’s difficult to believe that this is where one of the wealthier kids lives.

On Saturday morning, we all visited Kakum National Park, which is located about 2 hours away from Heritage Academy. The park is home to animals such as forest elephants, antelope, leopards, monkeys, and various insects. Unfortunately, the park was once used for logging, and was only recently turned into a wildlife sanctuary. Because of this, the animals are very skittish and almost impossible to find. We didn’t see any animals today, but the forest itself was breathtaking and different from anything I’ve seen before. After visiting the Kakum, we traveled to Almino slave castle. It was built by the Portuguese about 500 years ago, but was later taken over by the Dutch, then the English, and finally the Ghanaians. It was definitely an eye-opening experience, and is as important to remember and visit as the Nazi interment camps in Germany and Poland.

On Sunday we’re planning on attending the headmaster of Heritage Academy’s church in the morning, and seeing a local soccer game in the afternoon. Monday through Friday will be more teaching days, and then we visit Cape Coast next weekend.

Hopefully, I’ll get a few more posts up before I return home.
Kevin

P.S. Those of you who are expecting postcards: They will come, but since they take 11 days – 6 weeks to get where they’re supposed to go, you probably won’t get them until after I get back.