Author: lucindah

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