Ghana Goats Go Home

With the intense end to our projects, the team decided to spend the last few days exploring the country and meeting up with old and new friends. Our first stop was the Volta region with our language instructor Edzordzi and his friend Augustina. They happened to be in Ghana at the same time we were despite studying back in the United States, so we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to spend some time with them. Edzordzi is from the Volta region and offered to take us there to show us some of the major places. 

Our first stop was the Akosombo hydroelectric dam, a major source of electricity for Ghana. We stopped in Akosombo for lunch and then took a boat ride to see the dam and the natural beauty of the region from the water. From there, we took a trotro out to the city of Ho and spent a night relaxing on the side of a mountain at a hotel. The next morning, we made the journey out to the Wli waterfall, West Africa’s tallest waterfall. While the weather wasn’t great, we all still had a great time splashing in the water and goofing around. Once we were done, we started the long journey back to Accra for the night. 

The breathtaking scenery near the Wli Waterfall
  The group with our guide at Wli Waterfall in Hohoe
The team at Wli Waterfall, the tallest waterfall in West Africa!
It’s a small world! We ran into a Tech alumnus in Ghana of all places!
Ho at night
The team with Edzordzi and Tina on our way to the hydroelectric dam

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next morning, the team headed out to Cape Coast to relax on the beach and explore the History of Ghana at the Cape Coast Slave Castle. We spent our first day there relishing in the sunshine and playing in the Atlantic. The waves were quite large so we couldn’t swim, but that didn’t stop any of us from having a good time. The next day, the team got up early to take a taxi out to Kakum National Park. While we knew what a canopy walk was, the reality of being over 40m up in the air over the forest was daunting. The team pushed on and had a great time up in the air. Edzordzi then met us back at our hotel and came with us to tour the Slave Castle. It was a very eye-opening experience to walk in a place that once housed over 1000 slaves and see what conditions they truly existed under. 

The Cape Coast Slave Castle

After Cape Coast, the team returned to Accra to see a bit more of the city

The canopy walk at Kakum National Park wasn’t too high for us!

and get some final work done. When we weren’t consolidating our resources for future teams, we met with Augustina at the University of Ghana – Accra to see the campus and explore the Botanical Gardens there. It was the perfect way to say goodbye to our new friend and see another piece of the natural beauty Ghana contains. From there, the team headed back to the hotel to work some more on logistics and start packing.

 

This post was written from the Kotoka Airport in Ghana. From there, the team is splitting up with Tristan heading back home to the States and Becky and Lucinda spending a week in Europe. It is safe to say that five weeks in Ghana is something no one on the team will forget, and we have all learned something from the experience. At times Ghana frustrated us, surprised us, and confused us, often all at the same time, but in the end, we survived the journey and made a difference.

Thank you to everyone who has followed our blog over the weeks and supported us on our journey, we couldn’t have done it without you!

-Lucinda, Becky, and Tristan

 


Goats Say Goodbye to Babianiha and Sunyani

After relaxing at Mole, the team hit the ground running to begin the final push for projects in Ghana. After quite a few meetings early on in our week, the team met with Headmistress Janet at the UENR Basic School to discuss our potential involvement in the classrooms. Since the students were taking exams that week, we worked with the school to get 30 minutes of their time on Wednesday and Thursday. The teachers seemed to think this would be a good way to break up the exams for the students and engage them with a fun activity. The team returned to our hostel and brainstormed what activities we could do with the students. The students themselves were quite young- kindergarten through third grade- so we wanted them to learn creative problem solving without getting into the science behind it. 

Lucinda with Form 1 students at UENR Basic School

We ultimately decided tinfoil boat would engage the students and could be done without much complex science being taught. This led to an intense tinfoil cutting session in our kitchen to prepare enough squares for roughly 8 full classrooms. The next day, the team headed to the schools with tinfoil, buckets, and weights in hand for the activities. Each member of the team was assigned a classroom to do the activity with, and we got to work. As soon as we finished with our first classrooms, we were each assigned a second classroom to work with. We ended our day after two classrooms each and headed back to the hostel to prepare for two more classrooms the following day. The two classrooms were both kindergarten age so we had to really think about how we wanted to present the activity to them. In the end, we stayed together as a team and worked with the students. The teachers at the school were a huge help both days in helping to explain the activity and distribute materials faster. Both days were a success to us- the children had a good time and learned about problem solving with a hands-on activity. 

Tristan testing a KG student’s tin foil boat at UENR Basic School

With a day of rest and planning in between, the team headed back to Babianiha on Saturday to meet with Watuza (the headmaster of the schools there), Ebenezer (part of the family we were staying with and an important member of the community), and Kwame Amoah (an elder for the village) in order to identify the needs of the community for future projects. They insisted that their main focus was on education for the students because they would be the future of the village and Ghana. With that in mind, we talked with them on what could be done to help improve the education and experience of the students there. One place they especially wanted help was the community center. We had already brought them books earlier on the trip, but there were some serious flaws with the center. As we were talking, we realized that while we couldn’t assist with all of the issues they had mentioned in the short time we had left, we could help with one or two. The team worked with them to figure out estimates for two of the key issues, seating and work tables and getting electricity to the building, and the elders pledged to contribute towards the projects with us. Once we finished discussing, the team headed back to Sunyani for the night to not only figure out a plan for the community center needs but to also prepare for a women’s health workshop on Monday. 

A meeting to determine future projects in Babianiha
From left to right: Evans Opuni, Lucinda Hall, Kwame Amoah, Becky Daniels, Ebenzer Opuni, and Watuza

The women’s health workshop was set-up with the assistance of Nana who knew Headmistress Theresa of St. James through church. While completing some errands with Nana, we met with the headmistress to talk about how many young women to expect and what we were planning on discussing with them. It was revealed that the workshop could be to as many as 300 young women and any information we could give the girls would be appreciated. Once we returned to the hostel that night, it became apparent that we didn’t have nearly enough supplies for that many young women and would not have enough time to lead a workshop with them on assembling the reusable sanitary napkins. As a team, we decided we would assemble as many napkins as we could by ourselves and distribute them to the women who really needed them after a quick discussion with them about women’s health. In order to complete this task, the team dedicated most of the night following Babianiha and Sunday towards creating them. We had acquired a manual sewing machine but it proved nearly impossible to work with our limited knowledge on them. We only completed a few of them by Monday morning- not nearly enough for the girls- but made a plan to make it work. We would go in and give the workshop and distribute the ones we had done. We would then spend the next few days hand sewing the rest of the napkins for the women and drop them off before we left Sunyani.

Luckily for us, one of the teachers assisting us with the discussion taught sewing felt confident that she could help the girls assemble them if we brought in what we couldn’t sew as kits. We completed the discussion with the young women and helped to answer any questions they had but might have been too uncomfortable to ask in the past. Overall, the workshop was a success to us, and the Headmistress Theresa expressed interest in seeing some of our STEM activities next year too. The next couple of days the team sewed several more napkins and assembled kits with the rest of the materials. It was frustratingly slow at times, but we powered through and had many kits and pads for the young women by the time the team left Wednesday morning. 

Becky and Lucinda with young women from St. James JHS and Headmistress Theresa

In between sewing, the team made another trip out to Babianiha on Tuesday. We had worked out that we could help provide the community center with 30 desks and benches so that students could have classes in the building and easy access to the materials there. In return, the elders would contribute the funds necessary to get electricity to the building so that laptops and other resources could be used within the building. As we got to Babianiha, the elders had all gathered at a local funeral and we were given the opportunity to join them for a but before we went and had a meeting with them. A Ghanaian funeral more resembles a party with great music than an American funeral, so it was really interesting to be there.. After a few minutes, the elders invited us to a separate place to have a discussion on the next steps. The carpenter was called and we provided the funding for the desks and benches to be ordered. In return, the elders promised they would ensure that the desks and benches would be completed and kept in good condition so that students for many years could benefit from the community center. The team returned back to Sunyani for the last night there with the blessings of the community. 

Becky, Lucinda, and Tristan with the elders of Babianiha

Being our last few days in Sunyani, the team worked hard to wrap up all other projects and say goodbye to our contacts. On Monday night, Nana and Emmanuel Opuni hosted us for dinner as a send off to our next adventures. During the day, we met with Jay from UENR several times to tie up our project with him. Jay is the president of their equivalent of student council and is extremely interested in working with us to make STEM education in Ghana more interactive and sustainable. With him, we set up the structure for an organization that would work with local schools to create interactive STEM activities once a month for the students. The team and Jay wrote an outline for a constitution for the group and identified the needs of the organization starting out. We also agreed to share our resources and contacts with him to help get the organization into the local schools we had already worked with. We were sad to say goodbye to Jay,  but we look forward to continuing to work with Jay and the organization once we return back to the United States. A major goal for the team this year was to find a way to make our projects sustainable and the organization presents a unique opportunity for us to have a lasting impact long after we have gone. 

With our project work wrapped up, we had our sights set on a part of Ghana previously unexplored by Pavlis students: the Volta region! 

Stay tuned to see what we got up to there!

Lucinda, Tristan, and Becky


Goats, Elephants, and Monkeys, Oh My!

You’re not Ghana believe all that the Ghana Goats did during our second full week! It was jam-packed with new people, new experiences, and new places. We really kicked off the week by heading to Babianiha via trotro and taxi to stay at the house of a long time contact in country. Once there, we were greeted with a delicious traditional Ghanaian meal and were shown to the house we would be occupying. It was nice to get to know Ebenezer, a member of the Opuni family, and he told us the origins of Babianiha, which actually means “Everywhere is here,” in the local language. He says it means that everybody should feel at home in Babianiha because their home is here. After getting settled in, we reconvened with the family and talked about how we were going to complete the projects we had planned on. That night was spent lesson planning and brainstorming how to engage with the students with a limited time frame. 

The next morning, we were introduced to the headmaster of the local schools, Watuza, and he went over the school’s needs and wants from us and helped direct us in our activity planning. From there, we were introduced to the teachers at the Junior High, the main students we would be interacting with. We immediately dove into activities and did a lesson bridges with the students. After teaching them four basic structures, we gave the students some basic building materials and tasked them with building their own bridges in small groups. Once the students had made a final product, we used weights to test the strength of them. Throughout the activity, the laughs of students and staff alike could be heard around the room. At the end, we presented a large suitcase full of donated educational books to the teachers to be used in the community center. We used the rest of the day to continue to explore project opportunities for future teams and plan for our women’s health workshop during the next morning. 

Presenting the books we brought for the Babianiha Community Center to staff at the Babianiha JHS
Students watching to see if their bridge will hold the weight that Tristan is adding

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When morning came, we got up extra early to meet with the elders of the village. After we had a conversation with them, they were glad to hear of our success and offered any assistance we may need to complete any of our projects. From there, we ate a quick breakfast and headed over to the school to work with the young women there. During this, Tristan broke off to continue talking with the headmaster and explore what projects they might need help with now or in the future. During the workshop, we worked with the women to help them sew and create reusable menstrual pads. We also talked with them on the importance of practicing good hygiene and other suitable topics for a group of young women. 

Young women sewing together reusable sani-pads in Babianiha

One of our favorite parts about visiting Babianiha was visiting the local monkey sanctuary. It was beautiful to see the enormous groves of bamboo, and slightly unsettling to hear rustling from above us until eventually monkeys seemed to materialize from thin air. The fact that we brought bananas to bribe them, excuse us, feed them, helped. They would snatch the bananas and corn right out of our hands, and some of them definitely seemed to be posing for their pictures. It is local belief that these monkeys contain the spirits of the ancestors, so they are treated very well, and it is considered disgraceful to harm them.

Group picture at the monkey sanctuary courtesy of Evans
Hungry monkeys!

 

During the course of the few days we were in Babianiha, we befriended a good portion of the younger school children which resulted in a lot of them following us around town hoping to hold our hands or eerie chanting coming from the occasional hut where the children were trying to welcome us. (Lucinda was their favorite) After our projects finished up, we got ready to head back to Sunyani with Evans, a university student, our local guide, and a part of the family we were staying with. 

Babianiha children making funny faces at Lucinda

On Saturday morning, we woke up bright and early to pack into a car for our first mini-vacation of our experience here. We were taking a trip up to Mole National Park for some much needed R&R and a safari. The trip started off rocky- flat tires, potential speeding tickets, and lost reservations- but everything turned out great and we had the privilege of experiencing the natural beauty of the Savannah and Ghana. 

Getting ready to go on our safari ft. Evans!
We were probably too close to the elephants, but our guide didn’t seem to be concerned
A gorgeous view of the reservoir from the Mole Motel
Tristan climbed the tree first…
Lucinda did too…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I guess you could say we succumb to peer pressure

Another early morning for a safari was just the adventure the team needed to start the day and we were blessed with tons of elephants to see. A few baboons and deer also made an appearance and made the experience all the more memorable. We checked out of our lodge and headed back to Sunyani that night, celebrating our successful vacation and planning our next steps with a renewed passion after our much needed break. Monday morning saw the departure of our new friend Evans and the team settled in for another bout of meetings and planning to finalize the plans for our last few weeks in Ghana.

It is crazy to think that as we are writing this we are over halfway done with our journey here in Ghana. Stay tuned for updates on our next round of adventures back in Sunyani. 

Becky, Lucinda, and Tristan


Goats on the Go!

The Ghana Goats made the final leg of our journey into Sunyani on Saturday. We will be staying on the campus of the University of Energy and Natural Resources for the rest of our time in Ghana, with small excursions into other areas of the country. As soon as we moved into the dorms, we hit the ground running with meetings with contacts and visiting key areas like the market. At first, we were all a little overwhelmed by the new area, but we managed to survive on our own in the market to get supplies for dinner- even if it was just plain rice with fried vegetables on top. 

The next morning, we got up early and made the trip to Babianeha with Dr. Opuni, a key contact for the program here in Ghana, who drove us and even introduced us to some great bread on the way. Once in Babianeha, we met with the Opuni family and exchanged contact information. For a quick excursion, we hiked out to the egg farm and met with some more of the family. After that, we walked over to where the schools and community center are, the two main locations where we will be working. With Dr. Opuni as our guide, we ventured into the border town separating Ghana and Ivory Coast to meet some more people who will help us be successful during our time there. After a quick lunch back at the Opuni house, the team traveled back to Sunyani for some more exploration of useful locations. 

Becky, Lucinda, and Tristan in Babianeha.
Standing at the border of Ghana and the Ivory Coast with Emmanuel and Kwajo Opuni.

The next morning, the team spent our last day with Andrew, our advisor, by meeting Nana’s mother who runs a pharmacy, meeting the headmaster of the Ridge Experimental Schools, and locating the trotro station that will eventually allow us to travel back to Babianeha at a later date. While we had prepared some ideas for activities for the schools, we didn’t want to do something with the students if it was ultimately irrelevant to their studies, so we asked the headmaster what they would like us to teach while we are there. There was some exchange on what we could feasibly teach them without going outside of our abilities and it was decided we would teach basic electronics to two classes on Wednesday (today) and math to one class on Thursday (tomorrow). Armed with only some photos of a textbook, a science kit, and a general idea of a syllabus, the team headed out. 

The trotro station that will take us from Sunyani to Dormaa on our way to Babianeha.

Yesterday, the team spent the entire day researching activities for basic circuits and using the kits to build engaging projects for the students. After several hours of Google, trial and error, and a nap break, the team had a lesson plan for both levels we would be teaching. We had an early night last night to allow us enough sleep to get to the schools by 7:30AM to meet the teachers again and be introduced to the classes. 

Becky and Tristan designing circuits to be used with Ridge Experimental School students

The first class we taught had a little bit of a rough start, but, with some good communication, we settled into a rhythm. Soon, the students were building little circuits of their own and engaging with us on the activity. The second form was a little bit older and had a bit more knowledge about the circuits we were building, though they had not worked with the science kits from the school before. Our activity got off to a rough start, but we made our way around the room to help the students and everyone, including us, seemed to have learned a bit from it. Our final activity revolved around the difference between parallel and series connections in circuits- figuring out how to get a buzzer and an LED to work at the same time in the small circuit. It took the students a second to figure out how to connect elements in parallel, but soon the room was filled with the high pitched buzz from the speakers signaling success. Tonight, we will finish developing our lesson plan for the math lesson tomorrow and then we will head to the school in the morning.

Catch you next time!

Lucinda, Becky, and Tristan


Goats Can Fly!

Agoo!

Did you know goats can fly? The Ghana Goats did just that! We flew out on June 26th and landed midday on the 27th.After spending the past few weeks finishing up our travel prep and our language/culture classes, dealing with missing passports, and getting some last-minute planning done, we finally left!

The most stressful thing we encountered before we left was trying to get our passports back from the Embassy of Ghana. We got a call about 3 weeks ago saying that they can’t be released to us because the return postage sent was incorrect. After several calls and emails and a ton of worrying, we got them back on Tuesday, June 18th. That’s a little too close to departure for comfort, but at least we have visas and passports!

Waiting at DTW to board for JFK! Couldn’t have done it without our passports. Shout out to Paige in the PHC for getting our visas sorted out for us!

We’ve also been busy doing some fundraising, and thank you to those who helped us out by donating to our projects on Superior ideas! We couldn’t do our work without you, so thank you again! Our project page can be found here (https://www.superiorideas.org/projects/ghana-2019)

A picture of us looking *professional* for our Superior Ideas page

Packing has also been a bit of an adventure! We have 2 suitcases dedicated for project work, and we’ve been prepping the materials for our projects, especially the Women’s Health project. Lucinda and her mom prepared enough fabric to make 147 sanitary pads in our Women’s Health workshops. It was entertaining to try to get all of those bags around the airport or to the hotel once we landed, and we at one point filled an entire elevator with our bags, but it was worth it to finally be in Ghana and ready to go!

A stack of fabric that can be used to make 147 reusable Sani-Pads

Once we got to the airport, we had quite an adventure navigating the check-in process, but we all made it through with time to spare for our first flight. We ended up landing in JFK a bit late, but, luckily, we had landed at the correct terminal. Getting on the plane itself was also entertaining, and a bit frustrating, when they ran out of carry-on bag space and started trying to send people back out of the plane to check their bags instead. This ultimately led to a back-up and a thirty minute delay to the start of our flight. Once we were up in the air, it was smooth sailing and we even got to see some beautiful views from the windows.

Our view as we were landing at JFK on Wed., June 26th

Landing in Ghana was fairly uneventful. We met Andrew, our advisor, outside the airport and took a shuttle over to our hotel. Andrew showed us around the nearby mall and the team picked up some fun snacks to hold us through until we could go out for dinner as well as exchanged some money. Our further plans for the few hours we are spending in Accra include some exploring and getting up early to catch a bus to Kumasi. We all feel that it is truly unbelievable that we are finally here and can’t wait to really start on projects in the communities. It’s hard to believe that all of our hard work and planning has paid off.

Thanks for everyone’s support, and stay tuned for our next update!

-Lucinda, Tristan, and Becky


On the Go with the Ghana Goats!

Agoo! (Hello!) We are landing in Ghana on June 27th and will be spending 2 weeks in Sunyani, 1 week in Babianeha, and spending the rest of our time split between Kumasi, Accra, and other locations as well as project planning as a group. Here are some short introductions for our team members! And if you’re wondering why we’re the Ghana goats, there are a lot of goats in Ghana.

 

Meet the Team

Lucinda Hall – lucindah@mtu.edu

Hi, my name is Lucinda, and I am a senior biochemistry and molecular biology student. Living in a small town in Michigan has caused me to expand my horizons in every way that I can find, and growing up in Girl Scouts helped me travel the world, appreciate volunteering, and empowered me to pursue a STEM career. It seemed like the Global Leadership pathway of  Michigan Tech’s Pavlis Honors College was a perfect fit for me. I currently work in a developmental biology research lab using fruit flies to study cancer pathways, and upon graduation, I will go for my Ph.D. studying treatments for cancer using our body’s own immune system. I also work as a Resident Assistant providing guidance and support to students living in Michigan Tech’s residence halls. In my free time, I enjoy skiing and playing in the Huskies Pep Band at Michigan Tech.

 

Becky Daniels – rsdaniel@mtu.edu

Hello, my name is Becky! I am a senior biomedical engineering student with minors in Leadership and Spanish and I am from Mukwonago, WI. Ever since joining robotics in High School, I developed a passion for engineering and can’t wait to apply all that I have learned during my time at Tech to real-life situations in Ghana and wherever else life may lead me. One of my biggest values and goals is to help people all across the world. I joined the Pavlis Honors College- Global Leadership to explore what it truly means to help people and learn how to be a better engineer, leader, and person in the process (while getting to travel along the way). After graduation, I would love to get into the medical device industry and start making an impact in an industry that touches so many lives and combines my passion for engineering and helping others. When I am not working as a Physics Learning Center Coach, Archives Assistant, or Learning Facilitator, you can find me playing some music on my ukulele or reading a good book.

 

Tristan Hunt – tahunt@mtu.edu 

Hey, my name is Tristan Hunt and I am a fourth-year Mechanical Engineering student majoring in Global Leadership here at Michigan Technical University. I moved here from Kalamazoo, Michigan where I lived for high school and one year of middle school. Before then I had attended schools overseas when my father was in the military. I decided to join the Pavlis Honors Colleges Global Leadership Program after my freshman college year because I wanted to get more emphasis on leadership- something that has always been important to me. I hope to work with my cohort to introduce STEM education to some of the local schools and I am also planning to add some grade school level literature to the community center in Babianeha. I’m excited to get to gain this experience of going abroad as well as spending time with my cohort.

 

Team Goals and Projects

On this trip, our goal is to not only continue a legacy of projects started almost 10 years ago, but also continue to expand our partnerships in communities across Ghana. The three main projects we are pursuing as a team this summer focus on STEM education, Women’s Health, and collaborating with the Community Center in Babianeha. While the entire team will be involved in the planning and execution of these projects, one team member will take the role of project lead for one project. Outside of these three main projects, the team also hopes to reach out to organizations at the University of Energy and Natural Resources so establish partnerships and programs with an even broader scope and impact across Ghana.

 

STEM Education Becky’s Project

The goal of the STEM Education project in both Sunyani and Babianeha is to collaborate with the teachers at the school to develop and implement innovative methods of teaching STEM to students. The team contacts the schools prior to travel in order to understand the curriculum the cohort will be assisting with and work with the teachers to develop a teaching plan between the travelers in the cohort. By not only teaching STEM to students but also establishing a partnership with the teachers, the students receive lesson plans that are engaging and include multiple viewpoints across cultures.

Women’s HealthLucinda’s Project

The goal of the women’s health project is to educate young women about menstruation and host workshops to teach them how to make reusable sanitary pads. Young women in rural areas in Ghana often have to forgo attending school while they are on their period, and missing one week of school per month can be detrimental to their education. These workshops give these young women the resources to obtain an uninterrupted education and empower them with knowledge about their bodies. These workshops will take place in Babianeha and Sunyani.

Community Center Tristan’s Project

This project will be located in the town of Babianeha at its community center where there have already been several other projects led by Pavlis cohorts. This year, Emmanuel has asked the team to supply an assortment of books for the students in the area to utilize. Currently, there are books for an elementary age group as well as a high school and college level age group but nothing for middle school students to read. Our plan is to acquire plenty of literature regarding STEM as well as potentially expanding the collection to include leisure books.

Travel Locations and Dates  

Take a look at our schedule and the map to get an idea of what we’ll be doing where and when!

Project Schedule

 

Map of Ghana – the pin shows Babianeha

We’ll be posting accounts of each week in-country, so stay tuned to catch our adventures!

-Lucinda, Becky, and Tristan


Last Days in Ghana

By: Lianne Novak

Thank you for being patient this week while I wrote the week 5 post for our team blog!   We left Accra on Sunday (August 5), and while the rest of the group spends a few weeks vacationing in Europe, I’ve been home unpacking, and fighting a “bug” that I picked up somewhere along the way.  Anyway, on Monday we headed back to the dressmaker to pick up the dresses that we left with Nana.  They all had longer zippers now, and fit really well when we got them home and tried them on.

 

Emmanuel came by that evening to say his farewells, and to tell us that his driver would pick us up the next morning at 5am to bring us to Cape Coast.  There is no direct bus to Cape Coast, and transferring buses can be a pain since they do not all have a set schedule (some of them leave as they fill).  We got a group photo with him (below), along with some individual photos.  We chatted for about ten minutes, and loaded the items that he stores for Pavlis groups into his car, too, before he drove off.  An inventory of these items was taken so that we can give accurate information to next year’s Ghana group about what’s left for them.  We left some cooking supplies including silverware, a hot plate, rice cooker, pan(s) and some dishes, along with 4 standing fans.  These were left for us by last year’s group, and Nana and Emmanuel are nice enough to store them in their house for the groups each year.

 

We finished up our packing that night and went to bed for a relatively long nap before our alarms started going off at 4am.  We finished stuffing stuff into our suitcases (ie toothbrushes and PJs), picked up our bags, said our goodbyes to the hostel room, and headed out to meet the driver.  The drive to Cape Coast wasn’t very long (about 5 hours), but it was quite bumpy.  We made it to Cape Coast and finished checking in at the first hotel by 10:30am (Orange Beach Resort).  We still had most of the day to explore the area and see what was around Cape Coast.  We headed out going towards the Cape Coast Castle (though from my understanding, it’s being renamed the Cape Coast Dungeon, which might be a more accurate name).  Being a tourist town, and the Dungeon a tourist attraction, there are plenty of people trying to get you to either buy their paintings and artwork, as well as children who want you to sponsor them in school.  Our understanding from Nana is that school in free in Ghana, and the children all carried around copies of the same letter with their name filled in, so we were suspected that this money was not really for school.

 

We weren’t warned about this, so we stopped and looked around at the paintings at the various stands, and had to resist purchasing all the paintings.  I know that I spent more than I meant to at one of the shops, and had to be very conscious after that outing that this was a tourist destination, and just like any other major tourist area, there would be more than enough souvenirs around, and to resist the temptation to buy every single souvenir you see and like!  And, like any other tourist area in the world, there are lots of people trying to make money from the tourists.  This was also where a lot of Ghanaians want to be your friend.  They want to know your name, and then want to know your number, or address.  If you don’t want to give out your information, you have to stand your ground, make up a story if you have to (can’t get/make international calls), and eventually they will go away.  You can also be more direct, and flat out say “no,” but I personally felt that they were harmless and 10-15 minutes later they’d go away if your “polite lie” was convincing enough.

 

We spent a lot of time on the beach relaxing each day, though sitting on the beach and reading wasn’t an option if you were looking for a nice peaceful experience.  Kids would come along asking you to sponsor them, or native Ghanaians would come asking you to be their friends.  It was a bit easier to relax on the beach at our second hotel (Oasis Beach Resort).  The group went out with Evans (staff at Orange Beach, not the same Evans from Babianeha), and another visitor from Norway the first night to the Dungeon.  There was a lot of drumming that we could hear from the lounge area and even our room, and so we headed to the Dungeon (almost next door).  It was the 20th anniversary of the emancipation of the Door of Return event.

 

The Dungeon has a Door of No Return, which is the door that the slaves walked out of on their way to the ships that they were shipped out on.  In 1998 the Door of No Return got a sign on the other side that reads “Door of Return.”  At this ceremony, in ‘98 the bodies of two of the former slaves who had walked through the Door of No Return, returned home through the Door of Return.  We stayed for most of the documentary (I think) before we headed home around 10pm.   We headed back the next day for the official tour and to see the museum.

 

The museum was really interesting; they had diagrams and illustrations of the ships and what the slaves had to endure during their time at the Dungeon.  There were also photos of some famous African-Americans who are Heroes of Diaspora including Duke Ellington, Harriet Tubman, Fredrick Douglass, and Stevie Wonder, and Martin Luther King Jr.  The tour itself was very eye opening.  We were shown the various rooms where slaves were kept for months at a time.  These rooms had no windows, usually 1-3 small holes (maybe the size of a window) at the top of one wall that had to be at least two stories high to let light and air in (for 250 men), and there were no bathrooms or latrines.  We were also shown the rooms for the women and children over age 13, as well as the Door of No Return.  It was hard to think about how those people had suffered.

 

The next day (Thursday), we moved to the hotel next door (Oasis Beach).  We took a trip to the ATM, and also gave Josh and Charles an opportunity to look at some of the shops for souvenirs.  We spent a lot of the day relaxing on the beach, writing in journals and reading.  We took a trip to Kakum National Park on Friday to go on a canopy walk, which had been highly recommended by the previous group.  The canopy walk itself was really fun, and the incline of the hill wasn’t bad, but the stones were not evenly laid, and you had to pay very close attention to your footing to make sure you didn’t slip and trip!  Charles took a group selfie (below), and Sonja captured a photo of Lianne and herself on the 2nd or 3rd suspension bridge.  We enjoyed the rest of the day relaxing and packing up to head to Accra on Saturday morning.

 

We didn’t realize that you had to pre-purchase tickets for the bus to Accra from Cape Coast, so we ended up taking a mini-bus (12 passenger van) to the outskirts of Accra where we picked up a taxi to take us to the Airport View Hotel.  We spent most of Saturday relaxing at the hotel before our travel, and reshuffling some luggage.  Sunday we checked out, and spent time in a lounge area working on our final project report before departing for the airport and our journeys to Europe and the States.

 

Sonja and Lianne on one of the suspension bridges at the canopy walk.

 

Group selfi on the way up to the canopy walk (PC: Charles)
Group selfi on the way up to the canopy walk (PC: Charles)

Many Meetings

Many Meetings

Hello and welcome back to Team Ghana’s Travel Blog. This week has been incredibly busy, so let’s jump right in! We started the week off running, meeting with the headmistress of the basic school at UENR about a possible summer youth program on Monday. Also, our phone call and check in with our fabulous leader, Mary Raber, went very well. The team departed from our hostel in Sunyani early Tuesday morning and arrived in Babianeha just two hours later after a minor mixup with our taxi driver. From there we were greeted by our friend and guide, Evans, along with his “brother” Solomon who runs the community center. The women’s health workshop we put on in both Babienaha and Badukrom went so well that in the latter we had to bring in additional seating due to how many girls wanted to join in! After two amazing (and exhausting) workshops Team Ghana went back to the Opuni household and took a lunch of fish stew in tomato sauce before heading back out to Badukrom where we met the chief. He and his son, nicknamed Sacrifice, told us the story of how the town was founded by a man who was running from french slavers and ended up in Ghana. The people of Babienaha ended up giving him a plot of land as well as a kingship, and his descendants still live in the town to this very day. After out interview with the chief we said our tearful goodbyes to the people of Babienaha and returned home.

Group Picture from Womens Health Project
Group Picture from Womens Health Project
Meeting with the Chief
Meeting with the Chief

After waking up so early to go to Babienaha, we thought our one meeting on Wednesday would be pretty easy and low intensity. It was not. We met with Charity, an african studies lecturer who was introduced to us by Dr. Asamoah at the University of Energy and Natural Resources. She lead us on a whirlwind talk, bouncing between different subjects like different Ghanaian customs or the English translations of some nearby villages, and even ended up introducing us to the people who ran the cultural center in Sunyani. While we got more than we bargained for, the team felt that the meeting was one of the most productive and thought provoking they had had thus far. Following the meeting, all who attended promptly took a nap for at least a couple hours. The following day, the boys became very ill but the girls continued to soldier on meeting with Dr. Phyllis Opare to discuss design thinking and STEM workshops. It turns out UENR already had a STEM fair in the spring semester but they were open to the idea of collaborating with us to do one in the summer! Sonja continued being awesome that night, frying up yams that we had bought in the market to make delicious yam fries which were heartily eaten by all.

Yam Fries!
Yam Fries!

On Friday we picked up the gorgeous hand-tailored Ghanaian outfits we had ordered the previous week. Everyone was super pleased with how their outfits looked, but less pleased on how they fit. Sonja even had to cut herself out of her dress with a pair of scissors and Lianne couldn’t even put hers on. Never fear though, they’ll be sent back to the tailor and all will be well. Additionally, we found out how to make dough for Buflot, a kind of Ghanaian donut. Nana, one our hosts, taught us along with her extended family. We’ll have to try making some when we get back to the states! On Saturday morning, we made the early trek to see the Buflot being fried, which was done in the kitchen on a charcoal oven. The Buflot themselves were too hot to eat there, and had to cool while we met with Prince Bonnah Marfo at the cultural center. At the cultural center we learned how the center uses the power of theatre to teach lessons and bring about social change through what was basically human centered design. They were also very excited about the village name project and were willing to turn the stories into radio plays or even ones on stage.

Frying Ghanaian Donuts
Frying Ghanaian Donuts
Team Ghana with Prince Bonnah
Team Ghana with Prince Bonnah

Sunday was our day of rest from our long, eventful week. We washed clothes, wrote in our journals and generally took stock before our long trip on Tuesday of the next week. It’s so odd to see how much of your life can fit into a couple bags, and it’s hard to believe that we’ve been here four weeks. Nana and Emmanuel also had us over for a Ghanaian feast at their home, with groundnut and tomato soups, fried chicken, plantains and yams, as well as egg salad and rice. It was some of the most delicious food we had eaten all month. Literally everything was cooked to perfection and every single plate was practically licked clean. In addition to eating amazing food, it was fun to see Emmanuel and Nanas family as well as just hanging out with them. We talked late into the night, talking about Michigan Tech, Russia and plans for the future, and we were all really sad to leave at the end of the night.

Nana's Amazing Cooking
Nana’s Amazing Cooking

That’s all for this week, keep watching for next week’s report. We’ll be in Cape coast touring slave dungeons and hanging out on the beach!


Sustainability and Safari

Our focus for this past week was on ensuring the sustainability of the projects that we are introducing and continuing. In short, we wanted to make sure that the projects that we are working on could be continued without our direct presence. This was also the week that we went to Mole National Park (pronounced like the end of guacamole) for a safari.

The main project that we wanted to look at the sustainability of is the women’s health project that has been run for the last several years. The project teaches girls how to create reusable sanitary pads out of fabric so they don’t need to resort to makeshift alternatives like parts of old mattresses. Typically, the girls have been supplied with kits containing enough material to create three reusable pads with the hope that they would be able to create more as needed. Ideally, the girls would also be teaching their friends and family how to create the pads so that the knowledge can be spread to people that we can’t reach during our time here. In order to make sure that this is possible we needed to make sure that the fabric that we provide, fleece and flannel, is able to be found in the markets in Ghana. If they are not, we wanted to try and find alternatives that the girls would be able to get ahold of and use.

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One edge of the Central Market in Sunyani

To find out what materials were available to the girls, we went to the markets in Sunyani. It was not the first time that we had been to the market but we had not really looked for these sort of fabrics before so we were not entirely sure what we would find. The group started at the Wednesday Market, which true to its name is a market that only gets together on Wednesdays. We had been there only once before, during our first week, so it was fairly easy for us to get turned around and lost outside of the Wednesday Market on the streets of Sunyani. It was during this time that we got a bit of a lucky break. In a roadside stall not far from the market we found fleece blankets that could be used as material for the kits. We bought a few to supplement the fabric that we had brought and figured that if we could find them at a random stall outside of the market, then someone who knew the area better could probably find some as well. As we continued to try and find our way back to a familiar area, we saw several more stalls selling fleece so we felt confident in this choice of fabric.

Our wanderings eventually lead us to a part of Sunyani that we were much more familiar with, the area outside of Sunyani’s Central Market. The Central Market is in full force everyday, so we go there fairly often to get food and other necessities. We managed to find a few more stalls selling fleece and visited a fabric store that Nana had shown us earlier in the week when we went shopping for African fabrics we are getting tailored into clothes for us. We were unable to find flannel, but Lianne felt confident that by layering cotton, which is by far the most common fabric we found, that the same effect could be reached.

Of course, we also worked towards sustainability in other projects. We found local technology shops that we are planning on checking out to see what future groups may be able to buy over here instead of bringing from the US. Charles and Josh met with a contact at the University of Energy and Natural Resources (UENR) who was able to put us in touch with more people who should be able to help with the folklore project. While this was going on, Sonja and Lianne were meeting with Dr. Emmanuel Opuni-Frimpong, our main contact and the Pro-Vice Chancellor of UENR, to look into bringing a Summer Youth Program to UENR, similar to the one at Michigan Tech.

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Savanna Lodge in Larabanga where we spent the night

By far, the highlight of this week was the trip up to Mole National Park for a safari. We went up on Friday with a driver that Emmanuel knew and stayed the night at the Savanna Lodge in the village of Larabanga. The Lodge was great and it was as close to the park was we could stay without staying at one of the hotels inside the park (which were all full). The next morning we got up bright and early for a 7AM safari. The safari lasted about two hours and gave us the opportunity to see lots of animals in their natural habitat. Among the animals we saw were elephants, warthog, kob (a type of antelope), and monkeys along with a wide variety of insects, lizards, and birds. I could spend pages writing about everything we saw, but a picture is worth a thousand words.

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The first elephant we saw

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A small family of warthogs

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A baboon

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Some kobs hiding in the trees

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This elephant was blocking the road

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A beautiful view of Mole

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Jeep selfie

We had a fantastic time this week, and we look forward to what our final couple of weeks in Ghana have in store for us.


“Broni Coco Machi!”

By Sonja Welch

“Broni Coco Machi!” means “Good Morning, White Person!” in Twi. During our time in Babianeha this week, children were constantly singing this to us. Everywhere we went, kids were singing and waving at us. I felt like a huge celebrity everywhere we went! I never thought our mere presence could make them so happy. I had so much fun waving back at them and shaking their hands. I just wish I knew more Twi, so I could interact with them more. This was the case in Sunyani too, but they liked practicing their English with us more than their Twi. Whenever we visited the school there, they would also stand up and say, “Good Morning. I am fine. How are you?” in unison. And so many of them wanted to shake our hands and take selfies. It was really cool!

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[Children Singing “Broni Coco Machi!” in Babianeha]

Besides being paraded around the town and waving at children, we did get to do some actual project work this past week. On Monday and Tuesday, we visited Ridge Experimental School B in Sunyani, where we conducted a hand washing demonstration, a women’s health workshop, and a STEM education demonstration. During the hand washing demonstration, we taught the children in all grades the importance of hand washing and how easily germs can spread. Lianne did this by squirting some liquid soap in a few kids’ hands and having them shake hands with their fellow classmates. They all laughed as they had to interact with each other and make everyone’s hands sticky. Fletcher, the ICT coordinator at the school, walked around with us and asked the kids questions to make sure they were paying attention. Whenever he asked what they learned and only one person would answer, he commonly said, “Who is coming?! They have not said all. You’re being selfish with your knowledge!” We laughed about his word choices later because we were so shocked by them, but we were still extremely grateful for Fletcher’s presence. Although through unusual methods, he still made sure the kids were listening and engaged in the demonstration.

During the women’s health workshops, Lianne and I helped about 50 girls learn how to make reusable sanitary pads with some kits she made. They also liked to laugh a lot and work together. Two of the female teachers even helped us out with instructing them. One teacher would repeat what we were saying to the kids in Twi, and the other teach made sure to take selfies with us while we were instructing! I thought it was hilarious, but she did end up helping girls make their kits too. 

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[Sonja and Lianne with some of the Kids at Ridge Experimental Schools]

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[Some of the JHS students at Ridge Experimental Schools]

Josh worked with the kids on STEM demonstrations both in Sunyani and Babianeha. He had the kids work on their creative and designing skills by building small boats with aluminum foil and having them test them in a couple basins of water. The boats were supposed to be designed to hold a large load without sinking. This was tested by adding nails to the boats. Some sank with one nail, and others couldn’t be sunk by even 25 nails! All of the kids had a blast doing it. They’d egg each other on about their boat designs and boast to each other if their boats held more nails. The teachers in Babianeha were especially enthusiastic about the project since it related directly to what they were teaching at the time. They helped us out even further by tying it to their lessons on buoyancy and upward and downward forces. I just wish we had more time in the schools and more demonstrations to do. The way all of their eyes lit up made you really feel like you were making a positive impact in their lives.

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[STEM Demonstration in Babianeha]

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[Team Ghana with the JHS students in Babianeha]

During our time in Babianeha, we also had time to talk to the directors of the community center, which is basically a computer lab for the students. It was fun getting to know the uses of the community center and learning about their needs. It was crazy to realize how much we take for granted something as simple as a printer in the United States. My goal is to find a sustainable way to make sure they can access the resources they need in order to give the kids at the school a great education.

After visiting the community center, we met with the headmaster of the primary school. We discussed the needs of the school, and it was great to learn that he would also like us to do STEM demonstrations with the primary school students. At this time, I also noticed all of the kids were outside with machetes chopping the grass! I thought it was so unusual, but the headmaster explained that because of the uneven layout of the land, they can’t use lawnmowers to keep the grass cut. I guess if it works, it’s fine, right?!

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[Children Cutting Grass with Machetes in Babianeha]

Later that day, we spent some time working on Charles’ project. We headed out to the monkey sanctuary close by. His goal was to gather some stories about the place and the monkeys themselves. When we arrived, the place was much different that I had expected. I pictured a tourist town, but it was actually a small village. When we arrived, we met with an old man who agreed to take us out to the forest to see the monkeys. And boy did they not disappoint! There were monkeys everywhere! There were many times where we got so close that we could touch them. We brought bananas with us, and the man had some dried corn in a jar he could shake around to attract the monkeys. He let us feed them the bananas and corn, and it was so cool! We even saw baby monkeys clinging to their mothers!

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[Tour Guide Attracting Monkeys at the Monkey Sanctuary]

This man also only spoke Twi, but we luckily had Evans and Solomon there to translate for us. He explained to us how monkeys were very sacred to their community. In fact, they were given the same respect as humans. If anyone killed a monkey, they would also die for their crime, and the monkey would be given human burial rites. We even passed by one of the graves on our way through the forest. We also learned about how the town came to be, but that’s a story for another time. Charles plans to post a collection of the stories we learned later on.

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[The gang at the Monkey Sanctuary

Back: Josh, Solomon, Sonja (Me)

Front: Evans, Charles, Lianne]

The next day, we went to the Chief’s Council Meeting. Unfortunately, the Chief couldn’t be there since he was away in Accra at the time. But meeting with the Council was still a really cool experience. Charles asked them for stories about how the town came to be and other folklore they may have stored away. I asked them about any needs they had within the community and if there were any projects they’d be interested in partnering with Michigan Tech on in future years. They talked for a little bit in Twi and Monaa, and they decided that they’ll give us a document with the information we seek in two weeks. It wasn’t how we expected it to go, but I think it still worked out well! We were all really nervous coming to the meeting since we didn’t realize how many people would be there or all of the formalities we would have to go through. It definitely made me more nervous about it since I didn’t want to accidentally offend anyone, especially in this context. We were in the presence of some of the most respected elders in the community! I can’t even imagine how much of a disaster accidentally disrespecting them would be.

Overall, our week spent at Ridge Experimental Schools and in Babianeha were very eye opening and successful. We would especially like to thank the Opuni family for hosting us. They gave us a place to stay and cooked meals for us every day! My favorite meal was always breakfast since Evans’ mom would make us a breakfast sandwich and milo (basically hot chocolate). We would also really like to thank Evans for carting us around everywhere and putting us in contact with people. We would have been so lost without him!

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[Typical Breakfast at the Opuni’s in Babianeha]

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[The Gang Getting Ready to do some STEM Demonstrations at the JHS school in Babianeha

Left to Right: Evans, Josh, Sonja (Me), Charles, Lianne]

Medase! Thank you for following our journey. We’ll have more updates next week!