21 September 2013

Development Perceptions

Well I am back at school and trying to get back into the swing of things, which let's face it, a busy summer has anything but improved my procrastination abilities.  But one day as I sat outside on campus on a beautiful sunny day, my friend began to interrogate me with questions to try and get me thinking about my honours thesis topic. She asked me "What were you expecting going to Ghana and how did your view change afterwards?" This really got me thinking.

Before going to Ghana I had this clear vision, or assumption rather, that everyone in Ghana actually knew what development studies was, because they live it and learn it. I was excited about this opportunity to finally be able to talk to people about development because not many people in Canada understand or care what it is. But what I found out when I was in Ghana, was that it was actually much harder to talk to people about development than I had thought. I came into it expecting that their knowledge would be very similar to mine, but of course this was not true and communication was rather difficult. I realized that they were totally aware of the development situations within their communities and in Ghana, but this was simply because they have grown up living it. Their surroundings and ways of living were completely normal to them of course, but coming from a privileged part of the world I saw everything differently and all I could see was ways things could be improved. Like housing quality, or home appliances or school tools for example. So when I would ask people "What do you need?" or "How do you think thins could be better?" I had a clear vision of these answers in my mind based on what I was used to in Canada. These presumptions didn't match the answers that the people would give me. They would simply say things like money or jobs, things that would simply improve their security of living so that they continue in their way of life. This did not necessarily mean requiring a change in the WAY they lived, which is what I was picturing. Then I realized maybe some of the things that I was picturing, these people had never been exposed to before so they didn't even exactly know how things could be different, and even if they did it probably wasn't necessary to their lives.

So after Ghana I learned that no matter what the living conditions are (and trust me, from the places I experienced, their living conditions are entirely liveable compared to some parts of the world), people will continue on in their everyday lives without much concern for such things because it is simply the way they live and that's all there is to it. They are going to go on surviving in day to day life no matter what Government, NGO, or volunteer comes in from the West trying to change their lives. This leaves me with somewhat of a moral dilemma... Who am I to come in and try to help them? Who says they are asking for help? Why is this necessary if they are going to keep on keeping on? How are we to compare living conditions of Bungalows in Calgary to the Compounds in Wusuta? If both groups of people are content in life then why does it matter? To me it would seem that the Ghanaians even have a happier outlook on life than Canadians. Where does this leave me and the dreams I'm trying to achieve?

I guess this comes down to one underlaying fact that both groups are somehow aware of the fact that one group is more privileged than the other. The truth is that getting to experience Ghanaian culture and living has left me undeniably grateful for the way I live in Canada. I am grateful for my quality of education, quality of living, quality of health care and above all the endless opportunities that I have at my fingertips here. If one place can offer me all of that and another can't, then I suppose something must be missing somewhere mustn't it? This is not to say that Ghana must be made to be like Canada, but they sure do deserve a lot more than what the global system has dealt them. The same goes for the rest of the world. I suppose this comes back around to the reason I went into development in the first place, it is inhumane that so few people live in exuberance while so many suffer, and it is not right that developed countries prosper at the expense of the rest of the world. This leads me to conclude that the privilege that fate has shown me and the grace that god has given me must be shared and it is up to me to find the most sustainable and culturally appropriate way to do that. And hopefully I can instil that same desire within others along the way.

18 September 2013

Wusuta Royal Academy Website Unveiled!

Emily, Shauna and myself have been hard at work developing a website for Wusuta Royal Academy so that all of our information and fundraising efforts may be in one convenient location for those who are interested! It is a big work in progress and we still have lot's of fundraising plans to include but the website is officially ready for use so please check it out!


As well, here is our Go Fund Me donation page if you would like to help out Wusuta Royal Academy.


Let it grow.

Caring is the first step. 

03 September 2013

Words of Wisdom

For Attractive lips, speak words of kindness.
For lovely eyes, seek out the good in people.
For a slim figure, share your food with the hungry.
For beautiful hair, let a child run their fingers through it once a day.
For poise, walk with the knowledge that you never walk alone. - Audrey Hepburn

02 September 2013

Official Information on Wusuta Royal Academy

Royal Academy Preparatory & Junior High School, Wusuta (Ghana, West Africa)

How Royal Academy Started 
In 2006, Reverend Father Isaac Benuyenah travelled to Canada and worked in the towns of Edam, Cochin Jackfish, and Glaslyn (near North Battleford in Saskatchewan) as a Catholic pastor. He wanted to raise money for children orphaned by HIV/AIDS in the Kpando Municipality, since he had previously funded their education off books he had written. Fr. Isaac collected cans, bottles, and tetra-paks in Canada and recycled them. In five months, he raised $2,000 CAD from these bottle drives.
When he returned to Ghana in 2007, however, Fr. Isaac realized the need for a private school in Wusuta. Parents enrolled their children in private schools in Vakpo and Anfoega, since they perform better than public schools. These children have to walk 10-20 kilometres a day, under the hot sun or in the rain, just to get to school and back home. The toll on these children and the cost to their parents deeply affected Fr. Isaac.
By consulting with his Local Ordinary and the Regional Manager of Catholic Education, Fr. Isaac met with key stakeholders in the Church and the Wusuta community to discuss this issue. A decision was made to establish a private school in the community which would provide education to the HIV/AIDS orphans as well as other vulnerable children in Wusuta.
With the $2,000 CAD that Fr. Isaac raised, a four-unit classroom block was built along with 80 dual desks, and the needed textbooks were purchased within three weeks. On September 10, 2007, Royal Academy School opened with 21 pupils, three teachers and one financial clerk.  Presently, the school has 260 pupils from Kindergarten to Junior High School Form Three (or Grade 9). There are 15 permanent staff members and two long-term volunteers from Germany.

Royal Academy’s Objectives 
The principal aim of Royal Academy is to develop excellent graduates who are academically and morally sound, with the following objectives:
1. provide holistic and quality education that will emphasize high moral/Catholic principles and academic excellence as an alternative for children in and around Wusuta
2.  create an enabling educational environment for children that would put them on the same academic level as their counterparts in the city schools
3.   bring affordable private education to the doorsteps of parents and children who would have otherwise travelled long distances.
The above objectives are achievable through
1.   employing qualified and disciplined teachers
2. providing quality supervision and monitoring of both teacher and student   performance
3.  creating a disciplined environment that will help prepare students for their external examinations, thus enabling them to easily gain admission to Senior High Schools in Ghana.

Infrastructure Needs
The school currently has 11 classes (Kindergarten 1&2, Primary 1-6, and Junior High Forms 1-3), but only 8 classrooms. The three classes that do not have a classroom hold their sessions in the uncompleted basement of the new classroom block, which is still under construction. None of the classrooms at the school have plastered walls, nor are they painted. The corridors also require concrete floors since they become very dusty.

Financial Assistance to Brilliant and Needy Pupils
With financial assistance from benefactors, the school awards scholarships to 22 brilliant and needy pupils every term. Five HIV/AIDS orphans and eight other orphans in the school are included in this scholarship package.

Academic Achievements
Though the school is just six years old, the first Junior High graduates wrote the Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) in 2011 and all passed. In 2012, the Junior High graduates again all passed, placing Royal Academy in the sixth position out of 60 schools in the Kpando Municipality. It is currently the best Junior High School in Wusuta.
Administration (in the ‘About’ section)
The School Management Committee (SMC) is the Management Body responsible for making and implementing major decisions of the school, including its governance, growth and welfare. The Parents’ and Teachers’ Association (PTA) helps the SMC in the implementation of matters that affect pupils, parents and projects. These two bodies decide the fees to charge, the dress code, and the discipline in the school. The Headmaster and the other members of staff execute the daily administration duties of the school.

Royal Academy Volunteers 
In the past six years, the school has played host to both national and international volunteers. The first volunteers came from Canada in 2009 and stayed for two weeks. The African Center for Peace Building sent a group of students from Kwame Nkrumah University of Science & Technology (Kumasi) and the University of Ghana (Legon) to teach voluntarily at the school from May to the end of July 2010.
The third group of volunteers, German “Weltw√§rts” (formerly, “German Development Service”), arrived in the school in September 2010 and left in August 2011. Another two replaced them from September 2011 to August 2012. The current German volunteers arrived in September 2012 and are due to leave in August 2013. On June 24, 2013, three volunteers from Canada also joined the staff for two weeks.
This intercultural cooperation between Royal Academy Preparatory & Junior High School and thee volunteer groups have helped improve the school’s reputation, international relationship, and positively enhanced the image of the school. This cooperation has brought an understanding of world cultures to the school and the entire village of Wusuta.

Ongoing Development Projects
1.             There is an urgent need for new classrooms. The foundations of a 19-unit classroom complex are currently under construction. The block-laying of the basement is complete though not furnished. Work began on the ground floor in July 2013.
2.             A plastic tank (polytank), which can store 700 liters of water has been purchased and installed.

Need Areas of the School
1. The classroom complex: The most pressing need of the school is to complete the 19-unit classroom complex as soon as possible.
2. ICT lab and library: The increasing number of pupils make it necessary to have a library and an Information/Communication & Technology (ICT) Laboratory, both of which have been included in building plans for the newest complex.
3. Electricity: Through the benevolence of some volunteers, the school has been connected to the national electricity grid, which extended light to two classrooms. We are soliciting for funds to do the same in other classrooms. Providing light to the other classrooms will cost about GH 5,200 Cedis, or approximately $2,667 CAD.
3. Restrooms: The school lacks a modern toilet facility. Both teachers and pupils use a pit latrine, which is unhygienic.
4. Learning materials: The school needs textbooks (especially English Readers), desks, and other teaching and learning materials. GH 180 Cedis (approximately $92 CAD) can provide all the text books of a JHS 1 (Grade 7) student. A desk for a student costs GH 80 Cedis (approximately $41 CAD).
5. Computers (new and/or used): A new desktop computer and a used one cost about GH 600 Cedis and GH 200 Cedis, respectively, or $308 and $103 CAD.
6. An Overhead Polytank for storing water: A plastic tank which can store 1500 liters of water at the school costs GH 3,500 Cedis (approximately $1,795 CAD).
7. Volunteers: We need volunteers who would stay for at least a year to teach and/or render other related services.
8. Scholarships for needy and brilliant students: It takes GH 258 Cedis (approximately $132 CAD) in this 2012/2013 academic year to educate a pupil in Royal Academy.

Message from Fr. Isaac 
We solicit assistance from individuals, corporate organizations, societies, clubs, groups, associations, Churches, foundations, school, etc. We believe we can and we will reach our goals through your generous assistance in kind and/or cash. If you are touched by this passionate appeal, you may donate a “Shoe Box” during the coming Thanksgiving and Christmas festivities to Royal Academy Preparatory & Junior High School, Wusuta (Ghana), or bequeath something in kind and/or cash to the school, or leave a testament for it. The school has an account at the Credit Union in Edam (Canada) where you can send your donations to.

Contact Royal Academy
You may contact the school through the following addresses:

Ms. Jeanette Gorski
Royal Academy Preparatory & Junior High School, Wusuta
Christ the King Parish, P.O. Box 422
Edam, SK, S0M 0V0
Tel: 001-306-397-2828 / 001-306-892-4312
Email: jgorski@sasktel.net

Royal Academy Preparatory & Junior High School, Wusuta (Ghana)
P.O. Box 9, Vakpo, Volta Region
Ghana, West Africa
Tel: 00233 (0)249535471 / 00233 (0)206586836

 Email: ikbenu@hotmail.com

Wusuta Royal Academy

Well I believe that I have finally received a break in this crazy busy summer of mine to sit down and start sharing some of my Ghana experiences, it has been long overdue! I have decided that the first experience I would like to write about is my volunteer experience at Wusuta Royal Academy, a private school in the village of Wusuta in the Kpando district of the Volta region in Ghana. I spent two weeks volunteering here after my group study finished. So here is the story of my amazing first volunteer abroad experience :)

The Adventure Begins.

Originally before embarking on this trip I had hoped to volunteer at an orphanage. I had even found an amazing place called Fathers House, which houses eight boys who were rescued from child slavery in Ghana's fishing industry. Unfortunately, my plans to volunteer there fell through and I had to find a new placement at the last minute. Thankfully, our professor Kodzo came through with accomodation and volunteer placements for Emily and Shauna, who were kind enough to take me in on their adventure to Kodzo's village, Wusuta!

Here is Kodzo and the driver forcing our bags into the back of the trotro with a rope,
We weren't sure if our bags would make it to our destination when we got in the back
of the cramped van but we stayed positive and excited for our next adventure.

The drive to Wusuta was an adventure but it was filled with many beautiful things to see and of course we made it to Wusuta safely. Upon arrival at Father Isaac's house we received a warm meal, an introduction and welcoming to the school's teachers, a preview of the school in the evening, and settled nicely into our lovely room. The next morning we walked to school and our first day on the job consisted of an introduction from the headmaster about the organization of books, classes and teachings. We had hoped that we might get a little prepared before we began teaching and that we would start off by sitting in on other teachers' classes but to our great surprise the very first thing we did was teach.... ALONE! They separated the three of us girls into three separate classes, gave us some English books and we had to improvise lessons on the spot basically as substitute teachers in front of rambunctious students! I tried my best but I was rather uncomfortable with this situation as I had never taught before and I much prefer to be sitting with the children helping them than in front of them teaching. 

Needless to say we were all overwhelmed by the experience alone, let alone how different the school system was compared to what we grew up with. We ended the first day early as I had some minor medical issues to deal with. So I had decided that I would be a much better help to Father Isaac and his school if I could focus on helping the other teachers, learning about the school, spending time with the students, and documenting my experience with notes and pictures so that I may form a better understanding to fundraise for the private school in the future. So that is how I spent the rest of my two weeks volunteering! Let's face it... I am a development practitioner, not a teacher and my skills are much better directed to raising funds for the school. So I suppose that's what this blog post is really about, sharing what I learned about Royal Academy in hopes that others may take interest and understand why I so badly wish to help this amazing school!

The road up to the school yard that everybody walks up to school each day.

A picture of the school's timetable for all 9 classes: KG1-2, P1-6 and JHS1-3. Subjects include: 
English, Math, Science, French, Ewe (local language), ICT (computers), Library (books), 
Citizenship, Social Studies, RME (religious moral education), Creative Arts and PE.   

Why the School Needs Some Help.

Royal Academy was started out of the kindness of Father Isaac's heart and his wish to help educate some children in his area who had been orphaned by AIDS. Soon he realized that all of Wusuta itself would benefit from a school. For more information on the story of how Royal Academy originated and for more exact information about need areas of the school, please visit my other blog post here

This is the first building of the school that Father Isaac established using the $2000 of fundraising through bottle drives. Structural proof that a little bit of fundraising here in Canada can go a long way!

The entire school complex with the original first building to the right. 

The beginning of the new three-floored building to increase number of classrooms in the school. 
A long-standing work in progress and proof that the school still needs a lot of financial assistance. 

Even though the building is not finished yet, two classes are still held within the first floor. 

The donated playground, which is nice to have in the school yard 
but it is rather out of date and infrequently used. 

The school's headmaster and a teacher showing off the water tank.

The inside of a kindergarden classroom. 

Experiencing Wusuta.

Volunteering in Wusuta obviously wasn't all work as we had many cool experiences and got to do a lot of lovely sight seeing in the area :) I absolutely loved the coastal regions of Ghana but I don't think anything can really compare to the tropical forests and mountains around Lake Volta.

Father Isaac in action at a Catholic church service. 

Us volunteers were lucky enough to have Father Isaac arrange for us to climb 
to the top of Mount Afadjato, one of the tallest mountains in Ghana. This is 
one of the amazing views from the top. 

Here is me in front of Lake Volta, which is the biggest man made lake in the world. 
Wusuta is just under an hour's walk to the incredible Lake Volta. 

Myself, Emily and Shauna with Father Isaac in his home where we stayed. 

This small mountain I'm standing on is right behind Father Isaac's house in Wusuta. 
My two German volunteer friends, Dominick and Ole, were kind enough to 
bring me to the top so I could see the sun set on Lake Volta! Another one of the 
amazing adventure opportunities when staying in Wusuta!

A better view of the sunset on Lake Volta.
The Happy People of Royal Academy. 

Here are some snap shots of the fun times we had being at the school everyday!

A morning assembly in the school football field. 

Shauna and Emily with a few of the teachers.

A group of the Kindergarden students, the craziest and cutest bunch of kids I've ever met.

Our dear friend Moses the teacher with his class. He was overly welcoming 
and generous to us, it is not often you find such a nice person so I am very 
fortunate to have met him and happy the school has found such a caring teacher.

Myself with cute little Faffali, I could carry her around all day!

Myself with some more of the KG kids. I spent a lot of time with them and their
shenanigans since most teachers avoid them because they're so crazy. I spent time
 listening to their many songs and dances, teaching them the macarena, chasing them 
around the field, spinning them around and breaking up their many fights.
Exhausting to say the least!

Headmaster Godknows at his desk.

My German friends Ole and Dominik, they spent a year teaching English and 
Math at Royal Academy and the school really wouldn't be the same without
all of their amazing help!

Reading with the girls from P4.

One of many Azonto dance competitions.

Where Do We Go From Here?

We quickly realized that the two weeks we spent at Royal Academy would never be nearly enough time to help the school in all of the ways we wanted. So we decided early on to brainstorm ways in which we could continue helping the school move forward in meeting their needs, even after we came home to Canada. One of the first ways we decided we could help is to fundraise by selling bags and other goods made out of reused water satchels. 

The beginning of an awesome fundraising project that Emily, Shauna and I are 
working on! These are the rubbers of the water drinking satchels that continuously
 go to waste. We decided to collect the rubbers and bring them home to sew into hand bags :) 
When we told the headmaster, he ordered the entire school to help collect rubbers for us. 
On our last day at Wusuta Academy we came to find this group of students organizing hundreds 
of these rubbers that the students brought for us, I felt amazed and blessed! And yes.. we had to 
bring that huge bag all the way back to Canada! I will keep you posted on how our work will be going. 

The headmaster and I helping out the students.

Please stay posted for a new blog post on all our plans to help the school! Coming Soon!