This post was a team effort! We each wrote our own biography, and Charles wrote the first part of the post. Lianne wrote the second part about our team activities. We all look forward to contributing to the blog while we are in Ghana next month.
Me kyea mo [I greet you] and welcome to the first travel blog of Team Ghana. Seeing as we are still a ways away from officially beginning our journey in country, we’ll start with a brief crash-course in Ghanaian history, as well the backgrounds of the team members and what projects they will be heading up in the future.
The modern state of Ghana has its roots in the 9th century, as a local trade powerhouse and continued to hold a place of power within the region until the advent of european colonization in the 1500’s. After the end of the second world war, the political landscape was in constant upheaval, transitioning from a constitutional republic to military junta and back again until the turn of the 21st century. Today Ghana is one of the fastest growing economies on the continent, with an 8.7% GDP growth and one of Africa’s largest stock exchanges. Additionally the country boasts a multicultural populace, with a mix of ethnic groups such as the Guan, Akan and Ashanti residing within the borders of the country. The region in which we’ll be operating out of will be in the Brong-Ahafo Region, which is mainly populated by the Akan people who speak the Twi [Ch-wi] language.
My name is Lianne Novak, and I’m going into my fourth year at Michigan Tech (fall 2018), and am a general mathematics major, looking to complete minors in statistics and Leadership (through the Pavlis Honors College). Outside of academics, I’m involved with the Huskies Pep Band and am a tour guide through the Admission’s Office. I enjoy watching Huskies volleyball and hockey, snowshoeing (in the winter) and enjoying coffee at Biggby, or Pannakaku at Suomi’s with friends.
I’m organizing and planning the Women’s Health project. It’s centered around teaching girls in some of the communities to make reusable sanipads. Girls in past years have had to miss school every month, simply because they don’t have access to any sanitary products. We use materials that the girls can get in country, and will be giving them a kit for the workshop, but they can keep the extra materials (sewing needles, scissors, and possibly extra fabric if I can purchase enough for two pads/ girl). Also, in the past the girls have learned how handwashing and sanitation is important. I am going to try and expand this portion of the workshop this year. Thinking about going to graduate school in Biostatistics, I took an introduction to Epidemiology class this spring. My instructor, Dr. Kelly Kamm in the Kinesiology and Integrative Physiology department here at Tech, did her PhD dissertation on hand washing and the prevention of disease in young children. She talked to us about the importance of hand washing, especially around young kids who are at higher risk for diarrhea and pneumonia. These are two leading causes of death in children under 5. Most of the girls I work with in Ghana will be mothers one day, and so it will be important for them to know about what keeping their hands clean can mean for their young children.
My name is Sonja Welch, and I’m going into my fourth year of Biomedical Engineering at Michigan Technological University. I’m from Baraga, MI, and I love reading, being in the outdoors, spending time with friends, staying active, and watching movies. I’m a member of the Undergraduate Student Advisory Board within the Pavlis Honor’s College, the Vice President of Philanthropy for Delta Zeta, and the Fundraising Officer for Medlife. In addition to that, I also work in the Math Learning Center and the Engineered Biomaterials Lab. This summer, I’m going to be in charge of finding new projects in Ghana for future Pavlis cohorts. I plan to do this by facilitating Design Thinking Workshops, setting up meetings, and interviewing people in country. I will also be checking up on past projects, including the medical van, and working on finding new ways to make these facilities useful for the Ghanaian community.
Hi, my name is Charles Fugate and I’ll be going into my third year at Michigan Tech this coming Fall. I’m currently majoring in Mechanical Engineering and Anthropology, with a minor in leadership. I enjoy exploring the Keweenaw, playing games with my friends, and listening to podcasts like 99% Invisible and Lore. I currently work as a Student Manager at the Memorial Union Building on campus, and will be a Multi-literacy Center Coach in the Fall. During our trip to Ghana during the summer I will be doing research into the folklore of the Akan people which will hopefully go into a repository that both Ghanaian’s and people on the internet can access, and that future cohorts can add to. I look forward to setting up a project that I can really sink my teeth into, and that allows me to get an in-depth look at the cultural values and tradition of Ghanaians. Additionally, I hope this will open up new avenues for future social science based projects for future cohorts.
I’m Josh Undlin, a 3rd year Mechanical Engineering Major with minors in Aerospace Engineering and Global Leadership. I’m from Canton, Michigan and plan on working in the aerospace industry after I graduate. When I’m not doing school work, I enjoy hanging out with friends, reading, and spending time in the outdoors. I’m a member of Michigan Tech’s Aerospace Enterprise and work as an Assistant Desk Coordinator at the reception desks on campus. Additionally, I’m a member of Mind Trekkers, an organization that travels around the country in an effort to get kids of all ages interested in careers in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields. I plan on using my Mind Trekkers experience in Ghana with my main project being working with schools in the city of Sunyani and the village of Babianaha to promote STEM education and encourage creativity in the classroom. I’m also leading the team in getting resources for the community center in Babianaha and identifying possible projects at this site for future cohorts.
We Earlier this month we spent a weekend at McLain State Park with the Tanzania travel group, as well. We made some s’mores our second night, spent some time on the beach, and rediscovering our childhood at the playground. We also had a traditional Ghanaian dinner with our teaching assistant, Edzordzi. A photo of the four of us with our sparkling juice and dinner is below. The food is called “Banku ne nkrumakuan.” It has a tomato based soup with okra. Edzordzi said that in Ghana the okra would be fresh, but he used blended canned okra in the soup. He made some salmon filets, and used Semolina to make the “bread like dough” that was representing Banku. You eat it with your hand (your right or “clean” hand), by pinching off some Banku and then scooping up some soup.