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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


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)