In September 2007, Bryce Davidson went with his grandmother Louise and seven other former delegates from the 2006 GCJ Ghana Journey to return to Axim. Check out the Ghana Blog for more about the trip, and read on to see what Bryce had to say about his experience.
Ghana was the most amazing thing I have ever done, seriously. I never expected that there was a society of people that could be so friendly and caring. In the U.S., we don’t have people like that. Well – not nearly as many. But on this trip I met a few of the Americans that were that way! How amazing seeing the great sides of both cultures.
I went to Ghana because of the orphanage built by the Western Heritage Home NGO, and the help that’s been provided by Global Citizen Journey. I was there for two weeks. Twelve of the days were spent in Axim, where the orphanage is, and two of the days were spent in Accra.
I am really glad I went at the age I did. It gave me a better view of the world and different cultures. If I were any younger, it wouldn’t have meant much to me and I wouldn’t have understood it. There still are many things I don’t understand, but hopefully when I get the opportunity to visit Ghana again, I will make more sense of things.
One of the things I don’t understand is when all the buildings were built, who built them, and how long they have been there. It was seldom that you saw buildings being built. I also don’t understand where they get their supplies. I never saw any supply trucks.
It was great to see how their society operates. For example, in America we often come to blows over differences, but in Ghana they just yell about it to get their anger out instead of resorting to physical arguments. I only saw that once – at the airport over the tips for handling our luggage.
Another difference is their hospitality. They just give and give and make you as comfortable as possible. It’s a wonderful feeling to be so welcome. My first night in Accra, Frank Cudjoe did everything he could to get us the best rooms possible and made extra sure the air conditioning worked. When I spent the night at Gifty’s (Gifty Baaba Asmah), she went in and bought me several bars of chocolate and apple juice just because! They all try to make everything as perfect as it can be. At Gifty’s, they tried to give me my own room and queen sized bed! They also tried to get me to eat separately with their best silverware.
One of the things I expected was very depressed people living in ruins. I was amazed that they seem happier than about 99.9% of the American population. They are very poor, but they embrace what they have and they’re happy with it! They embrace that they are alive even though they sometimes don’t have money for food. It was amazing to me that they were so happy and free spirited. There is singing and dancing constantly going on and they are all so loud and energetic. We don’t seem to have nearly as much energy. Here in the U.S., all people seem to want is more, more, more. They want more stuff, more money, whatever – they’re never happy.
Another thing I noticed about the Ghanaians is how much they help each other and work together. They all just pitch in and do their part, and when one is ill they help them. We don’t have that as much here.
The children are very intelligent and very energetic. They are also very, very creative. They found ways to make games with just a stick. And you won’t believe what one of them can make with a rubber band! About three-fourths of the orphans were very energetic. The other fourth weren’t as hyper and seemed to be very shy and quiet, and one little boy was very sad. He refused to talk to or look at anyone.
One major difference I have noticed in myself since returning is that now, when I see a cool toy on TV, I know I don’t NEED it, I just want it. I used to say, “Mom, I NEED it.” Now I realize that stuff doesn’t make you happier like most people think. They want more money for stuff. But, as I observed, you don’t need stuff to be happy. One life lesson everyone needs to learn is to make the best of your life. You have one life – have fun during it, and try to make the world a better place before you leave it. Don’t do things at the expense of other people if it is at all possible. The last lesson is, you don’t need stuff to be happy.
Well, it was the most amazing learning trip I have ever had or will have for a long time, if not the most – period.
Bryce Davidson, November 18, 2007
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Ryan Hauck, a former GCJ delegate to the Niger Delta in 2005, has not only maintained the connection he made, but has also paved the way for his students to connect.
Ryan’s work has helped to establish a new connection between Quil Ceda (Marysville) elementary school and the primary school in Oporoza, Nigeria. A 3rd grade class at the elementary school wrote letters to 23 primary students in Oporoza after Ryan went into the class and showed slides, discussing life in Oporoza, and teaching the receptive students some Ijaw language and a popular Nigerian song.
Ryan then traveled for the fifth time back to Nigeria this past November, laden with the unbelievable amount of clothing, books, school supplies, toiletries, medical supplies, PE equipment, toys, etc., that were donated by the parents of the 3rd grade class. Once in Oporoza, he spent a great deal of time in the primary school, teaching a lesson and helping the students to respond individually to each of the letter written from the Quil Ceda 3rd graders. (The Quil Ceda 3rd graders have since responded, and their letters were taken back to Oporoza by Joel Bisina).
Meanwhile, the high school students at Marysville-Pilchuck High School are continuing to establish their “sister-school” relationship with students in the Secondary School in Oporoza. Currently they are in the process of raising funds to support the purchase of novels, poetry, and non-fiction books that are part of the Nigerian curriculum, but are not available to the students there. Now that there is a working internet system in Oporoza, students at MPHS are looking forward to more regular communication and building on the relationship they have been cultivating. There is a possibility of using a joint curriculum from the Giraffe Project, which is centered around service learning and empowers students to learn from authentic voices who have been a catalyst for change. This curriculum hopes to give students the background and skills to be actively engaged in the local and global communities to initiate positive change.
Donors and Supporters of GCJ Ghana
Big thanks to the generous donors who helped make Ghana 2006 possible.
- Boeing Corporation
- Kirkland, Washington Rotary Foundation
- Produce Buying Corporation (Ghana)
Significant financial supporters:
- Auslander Family
- J Birchall Family and Friends
- Carter Family
- Castor/Wilkinson Family
- Chandler Family
- Compass Rose Alpaca Farm
- D Lilla Family and Friends
- Hirst Family
- Nopper Family
- Palmer Family
- Transworld Sourcing LLC
- Ward Family
Significant in-kind donations:
- US Embassy in Ghana – sent a US AID representative to our hotel who gave initial orientation to Ghana
- James Kainyiah Family – land for our building project, hosting advance team in their home, in-country host, and countless acts of support
- Ben-Ben Business Services – coordination of the GCJ Ghana delegation and Town Hall, use of office space, computer storage
- Microbin Engineering Services – building cost estimates, contractor services at minimum costs
- Axim Lower Traditional Council leaders. District Assembly, District Education officials, and District Chief Executive: – hosted delegation, provided courtroom for Town Hall, honored GCJ delegates at Durbar and Kundum Festivals, and provided meals and hospitality, and other countless acts of support
- Axim Catholic Church – organized the Children’s Home/Community Learning Center dedication ceremony and provided band, chairs, beautifully decorated head table, and snacks
- Miss Frances Polley, WHH Board member – from her home located next to our building project and kept a vigilant eye on all building materials and activities during the entire building process
- Manye Academy Owner Dr. Nokoe and Chief Executive Mr. Brown-Umar – organized a beautiful science materials dedication ceremony involving students and teachers. Hosted two science education workshops.
- Owner and staff of Axim Beach Hotel – hosted us with exceptional kindness and care throughout our stay, and in September 2007, honored us with a very special farewell dinner
- Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship – hosted fund-raiser
- J Birchall – hosted the “Raise the Roof” yard sale
- D Lilla – supplies for schools & women’s small businesses, consulting and research on women’s empowerment for financial NGO
- J Birchall – laptop computer, masterminded purchase of 56 mattresses for Axim hospital, and the installation of 40+ “veronica buckets”–hand-washing stations
- Curves of Bellingham – displayed posters and coordinating fund-raising among customers
- Leif Pederson – donated computers, UPS device, software, and countless hours of computer consulting
- D Lilla and L Wilkinson – hosted fundraiser
We thank all those who helped—some 250 North American individuals and businesses—who donated money, yard sales items, books, 500 lbs of science materials, games, flier miles, and good advice! You are too many to mention personally, but we are grateful to each of you.
Western Heritage Home/Global Citizen Journey Ghana Alumni Wish List
We, Ghanaians and North Americans together, are interested in new ideas and potential projects. If you wish to discuss your ideas or need more information, please contact Maryanne Ward, 360-848-6568 (firstname.lastname@example.org) or any GCJ Ghana Alum.
GCJ Ghana alums enjoy giving presentations about our work in Axim. We have skilled speakers, slide presentations, computer projection equipment, etc. Contact us to arrange to meet with you or your group.
The information below outlines what we are working on, Ghanaians and North Americans together. It may seem like a dull listing, but behind the words are passion and excitement. The WHH Board is energized, and exercising their strong leadership in the community of Axim. Together, with your help, we CAN make a difference by focusing on grassroots efforts in full, transparent partnership with our Ghanaian partners.
Children’s Program (top priority)
$150/yr provides supplemental support to enable an orphaned child who lives in family home within the extended family system to attend school. Note: Schools costs include registration and exam fees, uniforms, sandals, underclothing as needed, text and exam books, book bag, mid-day meal. Tuition may be required. Although the Ghanaian government pays tuition in the “government” schools, there are not enough slots for all children, and also, since the children walk to school, there may not be a government school near enough to their home.
$600/yr (or $50/month) fully supports a homeless orphaned child in the orphanage. Support includes school, PLUS food, clothing, adult care, medical needs, and other essentials.
Orphanage/Community Learning Center Capital Needs
$5000 for a manually pumped bore hole (well) for supplemental supply of potable water for Orphanage during electrical outages which prevent the piped water system pumps from running
$10,000 for a large poly tank and stand to capture and store non-potable water during the rainy season for cleaning, bathing, watering garden, etc. Functions as emergency backup water supply during the dry season.
$12,000 for a bus to transport children and to rent out to earn revenue for Children’s Program
$15,000 to complete the Community Learning Center. Supply electrical power, bathrooms, water hookup. Install electrical conduit for computer lab. Finish terrazzo finish on the floors, paint. Outfit rooms with doors. Provide chairs and tables for large meeting room. Provide computer desks and chairs for computer learning lab. Install light fixtures, handrails. A white board or two would be nice.
30-40 XP-level computers and necessary peripherals for Computer Learning Lab
Expertise/components for solar (photovoltaic) electricity generation or diesel generator
$1500 to complete our project to provide hand-washing stations, known as “veronica buckets” to every school
Women’s microfinancing funding
Funding to expand the existing public piped water system to the 60% in Axim not served, who now depend on inadequate and sometimes unsanitary shallow hand-dug wells
Funding for volunteer experts to travel to Axim as requested by WHH
Funding for basic costs for Ghanaian experts to teach AIDs awareness and other classes needed by the community. Note: Income over and above expenses will help fund the Children’s Program.
Grant-writing expertise, especially African children’s school support programs
Practical and successful expertise/ideas for self-sustaining activities for orphanages, especially ideas for entrepreneurial, for-profit economic activities in Axim/Nzema East District.
Current WHH/GCJ Alum Collaborative Projects
Orphanage/Community Learning Center in Axim
Goal – Provide a home for 35 orphaned children plus a community conference center and computer learning lab.
Background – The community has no such facility. The children need shelter, and Axim needs a place for community gatherings, training classes, and vocational workshops of all kinds. The community center and computer learning lab will provide revenue to support the children’s program. The building is 75% complete, thanks to funding procured by GCJ Ghana delegates/alums. Currently there is no computer training center for adults in the Nzema East District of some 125,000 people.
WHH Children’s Program
Goal – Support 135 orphaned children either in the orphanage or supplement their care in homes within the extended family system. Ensure adequate food, care, and especially education.
Background – Encourage North Americans and Ghanaians to support these children individually but more importantly as a group, as a special “extended family” within the Ghanaian tradition. Encourage “pen pal” friendships but minimize personal contact involving gifts, visits, etc. for individual children. Recognize the value of the extended family system, and support WHH’s desire to provide as normal a life as possible for each child within their own cultural system.
Sanitation, Hand-washing Stations, HIV/AIDs Awareness
Goal – Raise awareness about infection control, sanitation, and HIV/AIDs prevention. Provide basic hand-washing stations locally known as “veronica buckets” to all schools and orphanage.
Background – Teaming together with local leaders as role models supports existing local efforts to educate all about HIV/AID threat and prevention, and the importance of cleanliness and infection control to prevent disease. Working through the schools helps kids to develop positive lifelong habits.
Water System Extension
Goal – Extend the existing piped public water system to approximately 60% of the Axim population who currently have limited access to clean water.
Background – Axim is located on the ocean. There are hand-dug wells, but they are too shallow to provide consistently clean drinking water year round. We especially want to extend the piped public water system to all schools and public sanitation facilities.
Leadership and Women’s Entrepreneurship
Goal – Support women’s microfinance programs. Conduct Appreciative Inquiry workshops when invited to do so by local leaders.
Background – AI helps men and women individually or in groups to discover their own strengths and local resources, and to design workable futures. Empowered women strengthen families and communities.
Konongo – Read about the Konongo Odumase Library Project as well as other follow up projects outside of Axim.
2007 is Ghana’s “Jubilee Year”, celebrating 50 years of independence from Great Britain. Ghana is a democracy, with its presidential and parliamentary elections coming up in 2008. A relatively peaceful country, Ghana enjoys a rich traditional culture, and is the recipient of a Millennium Grant due to its good government. Ghana is a welcoming country, located on the equator, and on Greenwich Meantime, so Ghanaians consider themselves to be at the center of the world!
The following links are good sources of factual information about Ghana.
Ghana Journey 2006 Highlights
Fifteen North Americans journeyed to Axim, Ghana in Oct-Nov 2006. We joined 13 Ghanaians of similar professional/vocational expertise and lived and worked together for 2.5 weeks.
While in Axim, we engaged in communication and peace-building dialogs, sub-projects, and our “Legacy Project” — building an orphanage & community learning center.
Accomplishments of GCJ Ghana 2006
- Planned, recruited and led delegation of 15 North Americans and 13 Ghanaians to Axim, Ghana
- In preparation for the trip, delegates gave dozens of talks to hundreds of people in the Puget Sound region, including Rotary Clubs, schools, universities, churches, libraries, and community centers, exposing audiences to the culture, history, needs, and impact of AIDS in Ghana and West Africa.
- Began construction the first Orphanage/Community Learning Center, Western Heritage Home, in Axim, which will house 35 orphans. Raised $65,000, which will get the Orphanage portion of the building ready for occupancy.
- Raised $2800 to provide social welfare to the guardians/caretakers of 21 orphans, in preparation for assuming responsibility for their care, and to help with their school fees.
- Purchased 56 mattresses for the local Hospital in Axim by raising $4000.
- Brought many suitcases full of clothes, school supplies, calculators, soccer balls, books, toys, etc. One extra large piece of luggage full of clothes will be distributed to Axim volunteers as they work on orphanage building.
- Brought several routers and 4 desk computers for the planned ICT Center (information Communication Technology plus Internet Cafe) at the Community Learning Center we are building, plus a laptop for the hospital and for our Ghanaian Host project director.
- US and Ghanaian delegate computer whizzes laid the groundwork for an internet café to be installed in the orphanage.
- Brought medical supplies including sterile gloves and solutions, syringes.
- Women’s empowerment team organized a women’s session, including HIV and hygiene instruction as part of women’s empowerment in town of Axim, Okuno Village (attended by 48 women and men), and a nursing school. Offered a Women’s empowerment workshop to 147 women in business skills, time management, and HIV/AIDs prevention. Displayed a video of women using a “chorkor” to smoke fish. Toured, visited, and counseled in a Women’s Training Institute that trains dressmakers, hairdressers and other marketable skills.
- Organized and facilitated an all day Town Hall which brought 145 diverse townspeople together to brainstorm ideas for the future of their community and create initial action plans.
- Ran a Blog communicating our experiences in Ghana (http://gcjghana.blogspot.com).
- Demonstrated conflict resolution and forgiveness skills to the Axim Council of Elders.
- Visited a Muslim village to deepen understanding of Muslim people and cultivate relations.
- Preached in 2 churches, a woman’s evangelical organization (Women Aglow) and met with ministers about the orphanage and how they might support it.
- Two US and one Ghanaian delegate were teachers who gave science and civics classes to hundreds of Ghanaian students. They are engaging a US high school in ongoing pen pal exchanges with a school in the Axim area; song/letter exchange between a US Sunday school and students in the Axim area. The US teachers were given special awards from the school district for their support.
- Videotaped most of these activities and plan to create an educational/PR/outreach on video.
- Met with the Takoradi Rotary, the Kings of Lower and Upper Axim, US embassy officials, and Boeing and Coca-Cola representatives to discuss the project, needs of Axim, and funding for the Orphanage & Community Learning Center.
- Interviewed on several regional and national radio and TV shows, and wrote articles for in-country newspapers.
- Brought district civil engineers and water specialists together with US civil engineer to assess water and sanitation facilities. They are preparing grant applications for funding to build a water system for the 60% of the Axim population now using inadequate hand-dug wells.
- Participated in “circle time” to enhance leadership and team building, processing, custom writing, skill development, listening skills, sharing, inquiry, and reflection.
Western Heritage Home Orphanage/Community Learning Center
Our Legacy Project was to build an orphanage and community learning center in Axim. WE ARE THRILLED TO ANNOUNCE THAT ON DECEMBER 5, 2007, 28 CHILDREN MOVED INTO THEIR NEW HOME!! This project was initiated by our Ghanaian NGO partner, Western Heritage Home (WHH), to fill a crucial community need in Axim, and GCJ decided to help them. The children need shelter, and Axim needs a place for community gatherings, training classes, and vocational workshops of all kinds.
Currently there is no computer training center for adults in the Nzema East District of some 125,000 people. The community center and computer learning lab will provide revenue to support the children’s program. The building is 75% complete, thanks to funding procured by GCJ Ghana delegates/alums.
The GCJ team has worked together to support WHH in building this Orphanage and Learning Center, which will house up to 35 children orphaned due to HIV/AIDs, malaria, and other family tragedies.
The Learning Center will provide a much-needed facility for community leaders to hold meetings and classes on HIV/AIDs and general health awareness, women’s entrepreneurial and empowerment possibilities , and conflict resolution, and hold modest conferences. It will provide a place for Ghanaian and international volunteers to assist in Axim development project. It will house a Comuter Center to provide computer training and internet access to the community.
Staff for the Children’s Home have been hired. We are lacking kitchen counters, cabinets, chairs but the children are moved in. They are calling themselves “pioneers”, because they have moved in before things are quite ready, and are paving the way for future children. They are at home, have been attending school for a year, have had regular after-school meals, and have new hope and purpose for their lives! Thanks to all who have helped us so much.
Host: Western Heritage Home
Western Heritage Home is a Ghanaian-registered, Axim-based NGO which focuses on children, especially orphaned children, school fees, women’s empowerment, promoting AIDS awareness, and conflict resolution. James Kainyiah, WHH Founder and Chairman, is our local host. WHH has developed a vibrant board of men and women to oversee and manage the home and begin developing a sustainability plan, to find ways to generate income to pay ongoing school, living and maintenance costs. When a large number of North American delegates returned in September, they were able to work with Board on developing vision and skills: Barbara and Louise led sessions on Appreciative Inquiry and Maryanne brought bookkeeping software.
Be sure to check out the inspiring array of activities the Ghana delegates from North America continue to spawn and nurture. They have formed Ghana Together to continue to support this powerful work.
Follow Up Projects in Axim (WHH Children’s Program to support the orphans, Sanitation Station, Water System Extension, Women’s’ Microfinance)
Other delegate initiated projects in Ghana: (Konongo Library Project, Appreciative Inquiry, Life Story Project)
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