Time Capsule Letter
My GLA Ghana was…
Two weeks of sweating in the sun, lifting bricks, and trying your hand at mastering plastering…what a great way to start the summer.
Your enthusiasm and hard work helped build two sexy toilets for the residents of Dtiza. The time you spent building and the efforts made connecting with the kids of the community made a huge impact.
We hope you remember Justine’s amazing food, Elvis and Leon’s attentive service, and the hours spent getting to know Jasper and Balo at the work site.
Now that life is back to normal, don’t forget to continue to reflect on the many lessons you learned on program. From eliminating single use plastics in your life to remembering to be more compassionate and willing to engage with others, keep challenging yourself to step up as the everyday leaders you are. And sometimes don’t forget to ask yourself “are your sure?”
Thanks for an amazing two weeks in Ghana!
-Abby and Suzannah
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Tuesday July 9, 2019
Everyone made it to the start of their two weeks on the Building Healthy Villages program in Ghana. Although tired, the group is excited for all the awaits them in the next few weeks.
After a tasty first dinner, we did a round of quick introductions and got to know the two GLA leaders a bit more. After a long day (or more) of travel everyone was in bed and lights out early hoping to start catching up on some much deserved sleep.
-Suzannah – GLA International Director
Day 2: Orientation and Village Tour
By: Emma Ramboer & Alyssa Utochkin
Wednesday July 10, 2019
Today was our first full day! We spent time playing ”get to know you” games, learning basic rules and touring the village.
In the morning, we started by creating a map in the sand and standing where we’re from, where we want to go, the origin country of our favorite food, and our favorite place we’ve view. To review health and safety on program, we played a game where we matched symptoms to illnesses, then decided how we would react in that situation to, for example, feeling dehydrated.
Then we met the staff! We were introduced to the people who work in the lodge and for the non-profit. We played a name game involved whacking each other with pool noodles if you didn’t think of a name fast enough. It was so much fun! They also taught us several cultural expectations, such as that it is considered rude to smell your food.
In the afternoon, we took a tour of the local village. Boots, one of our local directors, explained the different local crops, and showed us a variety of local plants, such as cassava. We met a local woman, who showed us an example of the type of composting toilet that we will start building tomorrow!
We also got to see the local school and it was interesting to learn that each grade has a separate room, and classes could be comprised of as many as 80 students. We waved with our right hands (another culturally appropriate observation) to a bunch of the kids there, because it is encouraged that you greet everybody in Ghana.
Thursday July 11, 2019
Today was the first day of service. We were split into work groups and each went to our building site and started working. We got to meet the family that would be using the toilets and we got to meet new people that lived in the same area. As we worked children would come play and chat to us. The goal today was to add a whole new layer of bricks to the toilets and do finishing work on the inside chambers of the toilets. We learned how to make mortar with cement with sand and water and then finished the day by plastering our work.
Later that afternoon the local chief came to talk to us and answer some questions. The chief oversees culturally significant happenings in the Keta region. He’s greatly respected by his people. He talked to us about Ghanian culture including, the importance of marriage, and how he became chief.
Later that night we had the opportunity to learn some of the local language, ewe. We now feel better prepared to greet and interact with the village.
-by Caroline Meeschaert and Ava Warga
Friday July 12, 2019
Today’s service included carrying water, mixing heavy cement by hand, and setting the floor for the toilet. We ended a bit early because we had to let the concrete dry overnight before laying bricks. As a result, we had a lot of free time to play with the local children and play volleyball with the staff. The children were more open to us and a less shy than the previous day.
We had the chance to use what we had learned from our Ewe lesson we got the night before. Though today’s workload was short, it was just as tiring. Carrying bricks and mixing cement was not only an handful (lol) but more difficult due to our sore muscles. We felt very accomplished.
After lunch, a local nurse named Rose came to talk to us. Rose answered all of our questions about Ghanas general health. We learned that women’s health tends to be more difficult here due to the traditional culture. As we delved deeper into this topic we found that Rose was extremely progressive.
Rose is studying to be a midwife and promotes sexual health education in schools and amongst her patients. She explained the hardships women here in Ghana face in terms of pregnancy and receiving medical attention.
Today was also Ellie’s (one of our group members) birthday. There was a big happy birthday banner and we all signed a card for her. Happy Birthday Ellie!
-by Jackson Popper and Lea Schneider
Saturday July 13, 2019
Today’s main focus at service was building the first layers of the toilet walls. We added four full layers of brick to the structure. The process was much harder than usual, as we had to carry a ton of bricks, lay them, and continuously mix mortar. The little local kids were very happy to see us today and tried to jump in and help with our work.
Another big part, and highlight of today, was participating in a beach clean up. We were all given big bags and gloves and headed to a beach spot just in front of our home-base. We noticed that the majority of the plastic was the small black plastic bags. They were mostly spread around in smaller pieces, and buried in the sand, which made it really difficult to pick up.
-by Sannah Javaheri and Anya Smit
Sunday July 14, 2019
Happy Birthday Emma! Today we celebrated another birthday on program. Last night we shared cake and sang happy birthday to both Ellie (birthday two days ago) and Emma.
Today we also participated in a Batik making workshop. We had leader named TT and his students at a nearby vocational school that guided us through the process of batik making. The batikking process started by using stamps and brushes to apply hot wax to a white fabric.
After the wax dried we were given a wide variety of colors to chose to dye our fabric. After 10 minutes of mixing the dye it fully absorbed into the fabric except where the wax was. The final step was to dip the fabric into boiling water and allow to dry. The final results were beautiful and artistic batik fabrics.
-by Clara Chapman & Ellie Voss
Monday July 15, 2019
After breakfast both groups headed to their service sites to finish plastering the outsides of the toilets and putting the steps in place. It was a particularly long day leading to a late lunch, but like always, very fulfilling.
Shortly after lunch, we got into the car for an afternoon outing and a tour of a slave fort. Learning about the fort and slave trade was a very intense, heart breaking experience. We also stopped to visit a historic lighthouse and got a very cool view. The light house stands 120 feet tall, made of metal, and is powered by solar energy. It was first built around the same time the fort was used and guided slave ships to the west African coast.
On the way back to home base we stopped at a local bead shop and bought handmade jewelry for our friends and family back home.
Dinner was ready by the time we returned. The entertainment continued after dinner as we sat down to watch a cultural performance of drumming and dancing. This performance concluded with everyone’s participation, as the dancers got everyone on their feet to join in and dance.
-by Avery Best and Felix Sorenson
Wednesday July 17, 2019
This morning, instead of doing service at the compost toilets as we usually do, we headed out to Sahara park (community soccer, volleyball, and netball field area) to help Dom, an intern with Dream Big Ghana, set up the workout section. The work was a bit more intense just because there was no shade and a lot of digging in wet clay. We put up a swing set, a balance beam and dug moat around the park where a wall will later be constructed.
In the afternoon, we went to a local market in a nearby community. There was a list given by the kitchen of items that we needed to buy. It was like a scavenger hunt; we even had to use our limited knowledge of Ewe. Watermelon were the hardest thing to find for some reason. There was a woman selling slices for a low price, but charging too much for the whole watermelon. We had to search the whole market for someone else selling it, but couldn’t find anyone!
In the end, we had to pay the higher price. Meanwhile, we were carrying five sticks of six-foot tall sugar cane on our shoulders. Once we completed our hunt, we went to a fabric stand and bought some of the coolest fabric to bring to local seamstresses, where they are going to make us the clothes we want. There were the cutest baby goats ever there!
By: Alyssa Utochkin and Emma Ramboer
Thursday July 18, 2019
Today the last group of four students went to the clinic in the morning. They followed the nurses around the local village and saw how they tended to the babies, giving vitamins and malaria vaccine shots.
The rest of the group went to service as usual. We finished plastering the walls and steps and are now ready to make the finishing touches in these last exciting couple days.
We had nice time to rest and swim in the lagoon after lunch before going to Sahara Park for another sports day.
We enjoyed our evening with the locals and kids playing soccer and just getting to know them.
Yet to come we will be attending a bonfire on the beach with the staff. It should be fun.
-by Lea Schneider and Jackson Popper
Saturday July 20, 2019
Today was the final day of service; the compost toilets are completed and ready to be used. There was a great sense of accomplishment to see our hard work come together and have the chance to put our names on display. We also went to Gershon’s (one of the carpenters with Dream Big Ghana) farm where he taught us how to plant tomatoes. It was interesting to experiences a new method of farming that doesn’t use the technology readily availed in the US.
This afternoon we had lesson in traditional drumming, dancing and singing. It was surprisingly difficult to match the rhythm of the drums with the beat of the bell. Despite the difficulties of drumming, we still gained a lot of information about the history of the local dance we’ve seen many times previously. After our lesson, the staff surprised us with a delicious going away dinner with the entire crew and staff. This was the first time we were able to eat a meal with the staff and it added a great sense of community to the dinner. Overall, it was a great day.
-by Ellie Voss & Clara Campbell
Sadly, it is our last official day on our two week service project. Today began with our “toilet ceremony”, where we introduced ourselves in the local ewe language and proudly showed off our newly built, composting toilet. During the ceremony the proper way to use the toilet was explained and demonstrated as well as the importance of sanitization (washing hands) afterwards. Following pictures we headed back to home base to prepare for our afternoon excursion.
To start our afternoon, we boarded a traditional fishing boat and started down the Volta river. We arrived at the beach and ate a very tasty lunch of coconut rice and chicken. Then, we got to relax, play volleyball, and enjoy the sun. This being our last day we took lots of group pictures and made our last impressions on the lovely staff. Thank you for this amazing experience Ghana and we will be back soon!
-by Felix Sorenson and Avery Best
Monday July 22, 2019
Two weeks, two compost toilets built, and countless smiles and hugs from the kids…
Thank you for your incredible contribution to the Dream Big Ghana sanitation project. We truly appreciate your hard work the past two weeks.
From all of us here on the ground, have a great rest of your summer.