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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

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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

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Meet Your 2017 Ghana Team!

Ma adwo (good evening)!

Tonight we, the 2017 Ghana team, will take the first step in our international journey where we will spend five weeks completing international human centered design projects and cultivating a higher understanding of the culture and way of life of the people of Ghana.

To start off our journey we’ll give you a brief introduction to all of our team members to see who you’ll be hearing from over the next couple of weeks!

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Amanda Moya is a fourth year Mechanical Engineering student from Las Vegas, Nevada. Her professional interests include work in energy generation through natural gas and wind power. During her time at Michigan Tech she was able to attend the 2015 Global Grand Challenges Summit in Beijing, China which peaked her interest in the energy industry and led to her industry experience with Consumers Energy.

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Joshua Geschke is a fourth year Biomedical Engineering student from Riverview, Michigan. His professional interests include medical device research and development as well as their sales. Last summer, Joshua interned with Meridian Health Plan in their IT Security Department and helped identify opportunities and implement procedures to make Meridian’s IT Security policies more comprehensive.

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Summer Oley is a fourth year Chemical Engineering student from Monroe, MI. Her professional interests include refining. During the spring of 2016 and 2017, Summer has worked at Marathon Petroleum Company at the Detroit Refinery in the Tech Services department and at the headquarters in Findlay in the Operations research department respectively.

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Daniel Knenlein is a fourth year Computer Science student from Grand Rapids, Michigan. His professional interests include improving technical support through client studies and technician training. During the summer of 2016, Daniel interned with the Spectrum Health hospital network in their Information Services department.

The team will be based out of Sunyani, Ghana (pictured below) but our projects will take us to cities such as Kumasi, Babianeha, and many more!

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We will posting (at least) on a weekly basis so make sure to come along on our adventure as we tell you about our experiences with tro tros, visiting monkey sanctuaries, the numerous unexpected challenges we’ll face with our projects and many other aspects of the next five weeks!

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Yebe kyia (goodbye) from your 2017 Ghana Team! 

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