Glenn and the McClure Productions team are working on a number of projects in Ghana. One is a new project. We are doing a pilot project to develop art-based instruction to teach children and families in Third World countries how to use mosquito netting. Mosquito netting is shown to reduce the incidence of disease in locations where disease is spread by this insect. Global health workers deliver the netting to locations in need, but instruction on how to use the netting is often ineffective or non existent.
The Village of Hope sits about a 20 minute walk from the coast. The closest village called Feteh is Ghana’s answer to Appalachia. This village of utter poverty is on the outskirts of a lavish resort filled with lots of Germans. Village of Hope is a combined residential facility for about 200 orphans and a school that educates them and another 300 who walk (or are bussed) in from the surrounding villages. The orphans live in homes of about 25 each with one set of house parents. This operation is run by the Church of Christ, so the head master is also the guy who preaches on Sunday. The school day is punctuated with academic classes, religious education classes, singing, a hand rung bell (that sounds more like a monastery than a school building) pick up soccer games, and lots of free play. All the kids have chores here, too and seem to have a deep seated, unspoken (and yes, monastic) sense of duty to making things work. Both children and adults here have endless Obama questions, but I get the sense that even without the election, the conversations would start as easily. The kids regularly grab my hand and walk with me, sometimes working to pronounce my name, some times just to walk quietly. Last night there was a pick up drumming session where I traded the kpanlogo (drum) with some plastic buckets with some kids that rotated in and out of the dance.
I live in the guest house. This is also the place where the SUNY Geneseo students gather for all their meals. Our house mother is Latisha. She made some kickin’ fried plantains and black eyed pea stew for lunch. Next door are some folks that feed the construction workers that are currently putting up new building for a clinic. They were busy making Fufu, a mashed concoction of cassava and yams that is boiled in huge pot over a an open pit fire. It is then mashed by two people, one that crushes it with a 6-foot pole and the other who stirs it with their hands in a beautiful dance-like motion that avoids getting their hands mashed by the heavy pole. The pork we ate for dinner was a walking pig only an hour before. Some of the American students were a bit unnerved by that but it didn’t stop them from eating well.
The SUNY Geneseo student teachers are doing well. First of all, unlike study abroad programs where the student goes to study, here the college students go to provide a service. They are here to work and learn. This has added some challenging twists to the typical study abroad gig, not to mention the frequent reminders that they are not in Kansas anymore but are squarely in the Third World. The Ghanaian teachers see them not as student teachers, but as colleagues. From the first day, they had confidence in them to take classes solo, without a net. This has been both exciting and terrifying for students that are used to walking through an intensive, rigid protocol and protection of American Education. They are creating a new literacy program with the help of an Australian who was hear to deliver books. I think that this program will be taken up by the other faculty and will help the little ones greatly in their reading abilities. It is only the first two weeks, but they are handling it well and there is no doubt about their love for the kids and vice versa. I am very proud of these SUNY students.
Yesterday afternoon, the clear hot blue sky was invaded by an angry storm cloud out of a grade B science fiction movie. It lunged upon our area in what seemed only like minutes and sent the kids scattering to gather up the outside laundry, and the soccer balls. It rained hard, then a little harder, and every time I thought it couldn’t get harder, it got harder and louder. These flash rain storms are the reason for the trenches built into every building and occupied landscape. It left as fast as it started, the blue sky returned, leaving a little gift of a couple degrees lower temperature. In this heat and humidity, every degree lower is like eating a half gallon of ice cream all by yourself.
It has been very cool to be here for Obama’s election. The whole continent is one big party. Even the conservative Christians here that disagree with him on abortion are still cheering for him. Today I taught a lesson on the African Slave Trade with one of the SUNY Geneseo student teachers and the middle school social studies teacher named Mr Essel. We ended the lesson with a discussion of how slavery still exists (this school is an orphanage filled with kids that most likely would have been stolen to work in the fishing industry or prostitution). Since everyone here is talking about the election, it didn’t take long for the students to realize the connection between the slave trade and Obama’s election. In general, Ghanaian students do not study what happened to the slaves after they left their shores. They don’t have much sense of how black/white racism has shaped some much of America’s mindset. But today, one of the kids spoke eloquently in class about how Obama has healed a wound of history. Wow.
Tomorrow, I team teach a mosquito net lesson with the art teacher and go back to Accra with Beatrice Lokko to meet with some folks about next year’s triangle of trade project. Friday, I go to meet up with the rest of the Geneseo delegation in Koforidua. Saturday is a huge state funeral for the finance minister, that is rumored do be an even bigger party than the Obama party.
That’s all for now. Suffice it to say, I have enjoyed the first couple of days here. Latisha says that when some one visits Ghana, they always come back. Hmmmmm.