The little things

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 door in my tired, old room

The door in my tired, old room

My gecko

My gecko

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.

Leticia,me,Anna and Peace

Ayamdooh and Pok talk loud politics while driving to Yua every day. My sun umbrella is in the car window blocking me from getting burned. Ayamdooh tells me when to close my eyes as we approach the animals in the market place. Sometimes he even remembers to tell me to open them when we have driven past.

Knowing there are still no teenage pregnancies in the schools, everyone passed their exams and many of the books are still in the library gives me promise of even more successes. [caption id="attachment_398" align="alignright" width="300"]Reading class in an unfinished church Reading class in an unfinished church


A girl reading in the reading group after school.

A girl reading in the reading group after school.

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.

Teaching in the schools

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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.

primary 1 children

primary 1 children

MAKE LEARNING FUN

MAKE LEARNING FUN

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.

Students watching a movie while I teach in another room

Students watching a movie while I teach in another room

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.

Stamping and putting stickers on all new library books.

Stamping and putting stickers on all new library books.

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.

First days

Wisdom's father 2015

first day visiting outlying schools

first day visiting outlying schools

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. Primary student

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 and "Honda" the bull.

Wisdom and “Honda” the bull.

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.

Goat in a bowl

Goat in a bowl

SAYING GOODBYE

SAYING GOODBYE

Goodbye to Akolgo

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.

Akolgo and pok

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.

Giving shea butter to nurses for use in skin conditions, which are very common

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.

Shirts to Joe, a gentle soul

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.

Me and teachers

Jewelry donated to the women

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.

Gifts to the men

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.

Akonyure, the first gentle handler of animals in Yua

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.

Goodbye to the women

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.

Saying Goodbye

IMPOSIA

IMPOSIA

Imposia, the first woman in gentle handling of poultry

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.

Imposia

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.

Imposia, the leader of the women in Yua

To Imposia and the women with you, I am sending love and light to all of you.

SEX EDUCATION

SEX EDUCATION

Carrying 3100 condoms to the clinic

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.

3100 condoms to the clinic

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

Boys sex ed with Pok

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.

Girls sex ed-giving out a condom for answering a question about the DVD

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.

Watching condom DVD in boys sex ed

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

Girls making more funeral pockets for students

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!

 

POULTRY VACCINATIONS

VACCINATIONS

Boy with small hens

After the Chief’s talk, my expectations were high for poultry vaccinations.  That was a mistake.  At our first station, people were walking in with sometimes 8 or 9 fowl hanging from their feet.  One man came to the station with a large rooster whose legs were tied together and hanging from the handle bar of his motorcycle.

Holding hens gently

Pok talked to the group about what the Chief had said regarding Yua’s gentle handling ways with animals.  I asked him to tell them that in the future when their animals are not being carried properly, they would be asked to pay for their vaccinations.  For years, they have been free to anyone who comes.

Boy holding rooster

Ayamdooh spoke to many of the farmers with bulls arriving to the vaccination site with sores and scars from being whipped.  He told them that he would not treat them the following year if he saw evidence of beating these hard working animals.  Since then the problem has been resolved.  We realized the Chief might have only been talking about the bulls and donkeys when he gave his earlier report.

Children with their hens

Since he came to the poultry vaccinations yesterday, he is aware of the need to explain to the villagers that this handling extends to all of the animals.  Since I am not supposed to talk to the chief directly, Pok spoke with him about what we saw.

The people saw that the poultry immediately calmed down and were much easier to vaccinate if they held them against their bodies.

One boy made an effort to hold the chicken under his arm, but held him upside down until the animal threw up.  Lots of poultry were turned right side up after that.

Gentle Handling

I helped Pok put drops in the eyes of the small chicks.  One got away from me and a man holding two large hens was able to grab this tiny, yellow ball running in the dried grass.  Ayamdooh was mostly vaccinating the older animals and injecting them.  It was amazing to see the white liquid flow right through the vessel.  We held the animals feet with one hand, held them against our chest and with the other hand, held up a wing.  The bird stayed calm and most of them seemed to hardly feel the needle.  He had to be extremely careful as to not hit a vein.  Ayamdooh’s skills as a veterinarian are precise and always he is thinking what is best for the animal.

Chicks being vaccinated with eye drops

The morning was long as people brought some of their poultry and ran back later with another hen for us to vaccinate. As we were driving away, Ayamdooh saw a woman who had walked a very long

Poultry basket which is carried on their heads

way from her house with a wicker basket full of chickens on her head.  Most people bring their poultry in these large wicker baskets so there is plenty of breathing space.  Some even bring them in old, plastic oil containers.

SUSTAINABLE PROGRESS

SUSTAINABLE PROGRESS

SOLAR LIGHTS IN YUA

Based on the meeting with the chief, the grades of the students, the enthusiasm of the teachers and progress in Yua, I believe they have gotten to the point of sustainability for these things.

Reading to Primary School children

Crop productions when the weather is what they need, has increased because of their care for the working animals.
I told Pok that I don’t think I am as useful in Yua since the programs are all taking hold.

Teaching Teachers new ways of encouraging their students to learn

Pok is from Sirigu, a neighboring village.  Much larger than Yua and it is a place I cover my eyes when driving through, for fear of seeing animals being mistreated.  Pok wants me to teach there in his section of the village.

READING CLASS

I told him that I don’t want to be the white woman barging in on their lives, telling them to do things differently.  I was asked to go to Yua.  They embraced me and my different ways.  I don’t know if that will be true in Sirigu.

Laughing in reading class

Pok is going to talk to the chief, headmaster and teachers to introduce them to the idea of handling animals gently and teaching students in a very different manner than what is taught here.  He will do this before I come and we will see what they say.  He feels positive because many of them come for the free vaccinations that we provide for bulls, donkeys, sheep, goats and poultry every year. The man that hung the rooster on his motorcycle handlebars came from Sirigu.

I have a soft spot in my heart for the people of Yua.
A woman said that I must drink “the rose water” that they give to strangers to welcome them and I said, “I am not a stranger.”  They laughed and agreed and I didn’t drink any water that didn’t come out of a sealed bottle. Rosy or not!  Whew!

The Women who will make the shea butter

FUNERAL POCKETS

FUNERAL POCKETS

Grace as the sewing teacher for the brown pocket group

The girls from ages 12 to 17 sat outside in the shade making funeral pockets.

Since discovering that many of the girls get pregnant at funerals when their parents aren’t watching them, funeral pockets were born. Last year, Jaime from Planned Parenthood came up with this idea and had a pocket party.  I brought their brightly colored pockets to the girls for sex ed class.

A little cloth pouch that is big enough to hold a condom or two is pinned under the girls’ dress.  No one knows it is there, but her.
Ayamdooh bought the different colors of material, scissors, thread and needles.  I appointed 4 girls to be teachers, each with a group. Each group had their unique color of material.  The process was full of laughs and friends helping friends.

Making green pockets

The white pocket group

The girls who were in my class last year knew what the pockets were for so they let the new girls in on it.  Less embarrassment and giggling then in the actual class when I passed these out last year.  This time they seemed a bit proud of them.  I had a condom  which we placed in each pocket to make sure it was a good fit.  One girl showed me her pocket which happened to be large and said, “mine is too small.”  I asked her how big did she think condoms were.  All the girls burst out laughing and surprisingly their English was better in this class than any other.  Hmmmmm!