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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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