We stopped today on the way to Yua to help a man get the rope untied from around his sheep’s leg. When Pok talked to him, the man told him how he loves his sheep and would never hurt them.
The Poultry Program is going strong. Women are still giving an egg a day to a child, whether their own or someone else’s. As a result, they say the children are not getting as sick as they were before this program. It is time for me to buy more chickens for these beautiful women.
I gave each woman a gift of earrings or a necklace. The rest of the clothes and earrings will be given to the other women by Imposia. They were so happy to “feel more beautiful than before,” one woman said to me.
Imposia told me that the people of Yua are stopping the travellers from Burkina Faso when whipping their animals. “We will not let you come to Yua for vaccinations next time if you continue the beatings.” Fantastic!!!!
They thanked me for helping their children in school and said they will continue to teach them to be kind to animals.
Legs tied together
Sitting in his lap
On a motorbike
Bike stops working
Puts goat on the ground
She bangs her head
Trying to get up
I want someone
To do something
I stroke her neck
She calms and quiets
A big man pets her
He unties her
Another man takes her home.
She will be slaughtered today
But why shouldn’t she
Have her last hours be kind
I cried for her
Knowing I had done
What I could
I am staying in the same room I have stayed in for years. It is looking very tired these days but it feels like “my room.” The geckos are still walking along my walls and every night they chirp to each other. Thank goodness they are hungry which keeps the insects out of my bed. Yay!
The a/c isn’t working like it used to which used to create a blizzard while I bundled up in small blankets (brought from home of course) and winter pajamas. This year, it has grown old and blows like a summer breeze. That still allows for a cooler than outside,less sweaty night than the oven this room becomes with no a/c.
I always bring hydrogen peroxide and sponges. Everything that I might touch, I sanitized and cleaned several times. Bringing my own sheet bag is of the utmost importance as this time even though my sheets are pearly white, there is a long yellow stain that belies their clean appearance. I don’t even want to know!!!
Peace still cooks my meals and I stay healthy with all of the ginger and garlic. Her house is still hotter than the air outside but I manage.
The reading classes after school go really well but it is hard for many of the students because they haven’t eaten all day and are hungry. They come anyway.
It is these things that even though they are not as easy as being home, they keep me coming back.
Some of the teachers were already in my classes 2 years ago. I don’t have lesson plans,usually finding a need and using that to teach. One morning someone spotted a sentence with a few mistakes on the board: “Janes had ____ his pepsi.” There were several words on the board to choose to fill in the blank. One was “drunk.” There was my lesson plan for most of the morning class. We broke that down to its 4 mistakes and worked on correcting them. The next day, we spotted a lesson on the board that included the teacher purposefully making a mistake and asking the students to correct it. It is so much fun when the teaching works.
In the afternoon, I got a total surprise. Clementina showed up unexpectedly. We immediately hugged and we were both in tears from the joy of seeing each other. She said she will go to nursing school next year.
Clementina and I went to the Primary grades and read books and taught phonics to the kids. It is always a surprise how far behind us they are in their learning. We stepped it up a few notches and the kids were keeping up.
The older students get to watch movies on my computer while I am doing other things. I bring science and animal DVDs. They love them and are hearing english while watching.
In Ghana, I find myself being the kind of teacher that suits my personality. I am like a busy bee pollinating each class with some basic skills of how to learn more effectively. I go back and forth teaching different things in each room. That kind of flitting around suits me. My math is terrible but I can teach them how to use flash cards to help their math skills. I teach basic computer skills by having the students do all of the steps on my computer while putting in a DVD to putting it back into the holder.
Next week we will teach “Gentle Handling of Animals”and sex ed.
My goal is that these students get better results on their exams than the last two years. Now, we know that all of the kids can pass the test and the teachers are excited to challenge their students to the next level. I will be keeping my fingers crossed.
We visited the outlying schools the first day. I had never been. Mostly primary schools and one Jr. high. I have been saying how important it is to build a strong foundation of education in the primary grades and yet I haven’t taught in them. So, this trip is going to focus on them.
Visiting Wisdom’s house was bittersweet. His father was frail in contrast to his strength in the past. He used to jump up from his chair and say, “Ohhh…ohhh…oooh” joyfully when I would arrive. Now he is blind and has testicular cancer. This time he struggled to get out of his chair. His hands are still rough from picking peanuts from their stems, even now. Wisdom, his son loves animals as much as his father. He never beats them. The bull and donkey I bought them look strong and healthy while willingly following their family into their compound.
Wisdom is still teaching villagers and the people coming in from Burkino Faso (Yua shares their border) that beating their animals can cause open wounds which can get infected. If any of you remember, his own bull died when people threw rocks at him and the wound got infected. We couldn’t save him. Wisdom went on a mission to show people other ways of keeping the animals from eating crops which is why they threw rocks. Unfortunately it means tying them up through the harvest season,but better than beatings. Fences aren’t a reality here.
Today we “goodbyed” the men, women, students and teachers. It is always a bitter sweet experience for me.
Today is the day of gifts and hugs. Peace gave me some white ribbon to tie several shirts I brought to give the men. The leaders of gentle handling had their names written on the ribbon. Akonyure will pass out single shirts to those men who treat their animals well.
The women got jewelry and some clothes. I usually give Imposia the largest gift and then she hands out the rest. Since she wasn’t there today, we gave jewelry to the ten women who made shea butter and women who are in the gentle handling program. Imposia will get her package from Pok when she returns.
I said goodbye and one of the women told Ayamdooh to ask me to return so they could “goodbye me.” As I walked over towards them sitting on logs and wooden benches under the trees, they started clapping and singing. I didn’t understand a word but I understood they were saying thank you for all of Yua.
Wisdom, the son of an elder, Alkolgo now works at the clinic. He has also taught gentle handling of not only working animals but dogs as well. I gave him a package of shirts tied in a bow and he told me that he needs to buy a truck to bring water to the animals that are not close to the house. He said it would cost 400 Cedis, which is about $190. I told him that I thought that would be possible.
Going to the school was the hardest on Ayamdooh’s and my hearts. The teachers all came out to thank us for the help we gave them and the students. They hope they will do better on their exams because of what everyone learned. Julius, the head teacher is always so humble and beautiful when he expresses his gratitude. My heart breaks open every time he speaks.
I stood in each of the 3 classrooms and said “goodbye.” One student asked if I would come back next year. A girl stood up and said that God would bless me and give me safe travels back home. Then thanked me for coming to help them. It was all rather humbling.
When I asked, “Who wants hugs,” and opened my arms, the girls were the first to jump up. The first girl held on for much longer than anyone else with her head in my chest and her arms squeezing my waist. She looked me right in the eyes for about 30 seconds before letting my hands go.
When I first came to Yua in 2000, I hugged a student and was told they had never seen that before. Years ago, a girl ran up to me after a ceremony, put her arms around me and held on. I still remember wondering if what I was feeling from her was some sort of deep pain. She couldn’t look at me but desperately wanted to hug.
Today the hugs were joyous and animated. One boy ran up to me so hard, he knocked me in my throat. Elbows and heads all over the place in excitement. Truly, this was so precious to me and so unexpected. I felt like turning back and saying, “Okay, I want to stay another week.”
Ayamdooh took his turn saying, “goodbye.” He paid his respects by saying the names and pointing to the students he remembered asking questions. It was beautiful to watch.
His last words to them were a promise. He would pay for anyone’s school fees if they got a single digit score on their exams. No one has ever done that in this school and the higher the number, the worse the score. He looked them in the eyes and said, “Single digit, I pay for a good school.”
Upon exiting the classes, Ayamdooh stood with his hands to his face and said to me, “This is not easy.” I knew exactly what he meant.
I am very distraught to find out that Imposia, the first woman to head up the poultry project and all of the women’s groups, is in Tamale working for food. She has been a force in helping women to come together and get involved in new programs. I have seen her smiling face every year and this time when I learned that she and many others had not harvested enough grains to sustain themselves and their families, I felt so sad and desperately wanted to help.
It is painful to think of her and some of the other women who are pillars in Yua, having to leave their homes to travel to a town 4 hours away by bus, to find small jobs just to feed themselves. When I asked Pok to call them and tell them that I would buy bags of grain for them, he said that would not be possible. He said they would not come home.
One bag of grain costs about 300 cedis or $150.
It is a harsh reminder about how lucky many of us are and how easy it is for us to go to the grocery store and buy what we want.
I will be leaving enough money with Pok to buy grain for these women when they return. I also left a package for Imposia with clothes, jewelry, bicycle tubes and tires.
To Imposia and the women with you, I am sending love and light to all of you.
We dropped 3,100 condoms at the Yua Medical Clinic. The nurses confirmed that only one girl has gotten pregnant in the 4 years that we have shown the DVD on correct condom use.
It is really a joy to find out that they have continued to show the DVD every term to all of the students. Even in the primary school!! I was surprised, but they said that is where the one girl got pregnant. She was 17 and in the equivalent of 5th grade.
The nurse said to me, “we know they are thinking about sex, so why shouldn’t we tell them the correct way?” She added that anyone who is willing to go to the front of the class and put the condom on the wooden penis gets one cedi (about 50cents).
In the past, when I approached the topic of condoms and sex, some girls didn’t look at me and only
one nurse would sit up straight and talk straight forward about it. Now, with out hesitation, one person working in the clinic said that the men like the condoms I bring better than the ones the government supplies. The ones from Planned Parenthood are thinner and they can feel more than the thicker ones. So, now the talk is frank and to the point. As far as I am concerned, that is the only way to teach this subject.
So, next we went to school and Pok taught the boys and I taught the girls. Pok had never said the words, “penis” and “vagina” before last year. Ayamdooh got sick and couldn’t teach so Pok had a crash course in sex ed on our drive to Yua. He was so proud of himself and felt “free,” he said since he could now say those words without being scared of punishment. Pok is 60 years old and a brilliant man. Teaching sex ed became his life’s mission after his first class.
Today his class lasted about 3 hours. Mine was about 2 hours. We covered everything from reproductive parts to how to correctly put on a condom. I made the video about 4 years ago and I am happy to say that almost every student that goes to school and every adult who is a parent, watches it.
I called up the four girls who were teachers when making the “funeral pockets.” I gave them each a pair of scissors, the leftover material and needles. When I told them that the nurses had invited them
to go to other classrooms and teach how to make them, they were ecstatic. After class, they were sewing funeral pockets for other girls who missed the class. Boys even wanted them.
We ended the day with a movie about global warming. They had never seen ice except in a water bottle. Nor had most of them seen waterfalls, even though there is a large one in Ghana. Many of the boys were glued to the computer dazzled by the sights of these huge natural phenomenon.
Another great day!