Greetings from Ghana!
The entire GLA team was ecstatic to welcome the first group of students – with one student still enroute at time of group photo but has since arrived – at Home Base in Anloga. Despite the long overnight flights, everyone powered through admirably. It certainly helped to have a welcoming committee comprised of the neighborhood children who could hardly wait to play with their new friends. Some are heading to bed early tonight, as tomorrow promises to be a full and engaging day of fun activities, community building, and cross-cultural interactions.
As the International Director, I could not be more excited about starting this journey with these new students and nurturing their growth as leaders and travelers. I encourage you to check this blog for updates and photos from our students so that you, too, can be a part of this experience wherever you are in the world.
– Laura Ribitzky
Greetings from Ghana,
Today we went to the primary school for the first time. We learnt how to make bricks, which will be used to construct a kindergarten
classroom for the kids. Then we met the students we will be teaching for the following 3 weeks.
The kids were very happy and eager to learn, and respected their teachers and their fellow classmates. One of the interesting things we
noticed was that there was a range of ages in the classes, from 10 to 16 years old in the fifth grade. The reason for this is
that school fees prevent some families from sending their kids to school at an early age or that they are needed at home. After dinner
we met Chief Togbi Kumassah who taught us about traditional marriage in Ghana, which is vastly different from marriage in the west.
After the service site we went home and played with the local kids, who were very fascinated by the Polaroid camera that Julia T. brought.
They all wanted to touch and see the photo that was printed out. The kids were also fascinated by our shoes and other things.
The quote of the day chosen by the one and only student leader Gavin Humphreys is “The early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese”.
Author: Taylor Keena
This morning we headed to the work site. Our group did not have much energy and we dragged through but we still completed 50 bricks. When we went to the classrooms we were much more structured and it was easier to teach the class. Most of us had positive feedback after us teaching. Then we headed back to home base and ate lunch. After lunch we had a little free time before we headed to the island.
At the island we took two boats to the island. Once we got to the island we walked around and went to see baskets weaved, we then got to try and do it ourselves. After we went to a shrine and learned about traditional religion on the island from the priest. We walked around the island some more and learned about how the people on the island catch crabs and fish. After we headed home and did not do much in the evening.
[Note from Int’l Dir: After dinner, we also celebrated Taylor’s 16th birthday with a chocolate cake, candles, and a birthday card that the group and staff signed.]
Author: Lara Galligani
Today was a great day! Morale was a lot higher at service site, so we managed to make 74 bricks. Teaching was better today too, since we’ve all become a lot more comfortable with our classes and they feel more comfortable with us. They’ve understood what each of us expect from them as a class, and have adapted to that.
After school, we ate and then visited Fathers house. Father’s house is a boy’s home for former child slaves in the fishing industry in Lake Volta. A lot of children get taken there at a young age because of poverty in their families. The fishing masters will offer to pay for their education if they work at the lake from 3 years old to 6, but most are never returned. This home helps the rescued boys both physically and emotionally, and they help the families in the area with feeding and such, so they won’t have to send their children to the lake.
We meet the boys and then we played a soccer game with us. It was so much fun, but they were really good. They make up 90% of their school team, and crushed us.
Overall, it was a fun and interesting day!
A week ago 14 strangers left their homes to “Be the change” and today woke up as a family who has already made 316 bricks for a kindergarten classroom. Every day we become more comfortable in the brick making process and each person has found their niche. We have set a goal to make 1,000 bricks by the end of our time here, which will be halfway to the amount needed to construct the building. The first full week of teaching went very well. We have all grown tremendously in the classroom and are finally beginning to find how to give the students tough love. Game time is now incorporated into all of our lesson plans as a way to re-energize the kids and get them focused for the second half of class.
This afternoon many of us got corn rows and NONE OF US CRIED- I PROMISE. Later, we visited a local high school and had an opportunity to talk to the students and learn a lot about how their school system works. They were very interested in American schools and it was fun connecting with locals of our age for the first time here. Tonight Jeremiah from the Father’s House (mentioned in yesterday’s blog post) visited our base. He spoke about children’s rights and challenged us to take a look at social injustices in our home communities. As Jeremiah said, “A minute of your time can change someone’s life.”
A Very Interesting Day
I started the day with my roommate, Claire, yelling my name because I didn’t wake up to my alarm. I dragged myself out of bed and went down stairs to meet with another person in our group, Gavin. We went to every bedroom to wake up the others. That was my morning. Everyone else’s morning started with a knocking noise and the Circle of Life from the Lion King blasting outside their door. We all ate breakfast together (porridge, sunny side eggs, toast, and cereal). Afterward we quickly brought our dirty clothes to the basket outside because it was laundry day. After we were all ready we went to the school. Even though we weren’t teaching because school is off on the weekends, we still made bricks. We only used two bags of cement, a total of 53 bricks. We had already decided our total brick goal for
the entire time we are here is 1000 bricks. Today we decided our second goal is to do more than 102 bricks in a day (4 bags).It was an easier day because we didn’t want to be tired for our guest speaker.
Our Guest speaker later was Dr. Andrew Ayim. He talked to us about the medical system in Ghana and we were able to ask him questions about it. It was an interesting speech but some tended to doze off. We came home. Some of us went outside to buy some fan ice for the neighborhood kids. Then we quickly ate lunch so that we could leave for our river tour. We were decked out in our swimsuits and cover-ups with optional sunglasses. We rode in two buses to the river then we got on a giant wooden boat. The seats were almost as tall as my legs (I’m short). On the river we got to see where the river and the ocean meet. It was hecka cool. We finally got to the beach. We all put our stuff down and ate some snacks. One girl, Hannah, had brought a hammock which she quickly set up. Most of us went swimming in the river, which mostly consisted of playing Never Have I Ever. It is a great way to get to know others. As soon as we got out of the water a storm hit. The wind was blowing everywhere. Sand blowing on you really hurts. We all huddled in a small space with other people from the beach. Then we waited till the storm had calmed down to get into the boat again to go home. It was still raining and we were all soaking wet but we made the most of it by having a sing-a-long on the boat. We got back home, showered, and ate dinner (fried rice, cucumber, watermelon, and chicken). Then we had a leadership workshop where we discussed why people feel the need to go “help” other countries and not their own. We spent the rest of the evening having free time. I used the time to write this.
Today was fantastic. It was probably the first slow(ish) day we’ve had since we arrived. Our day began with an optional visit to a Christian church. Ten of us went and four of us stayed back at Home Base. Compared to Church back in the U.S., the Ghanaian service was rather loud and exciting. I think the music and sermon was so interesting because the people had so much passion for what they were professing. One woman even stood up and raised her hand to the sky. The congregation welcomed us after we went to the front and introduced ourselves.
After Church, we had free time. Some of us played with the kids, while others lounged and read or talked. I took a nap. Around 3:00 we all scattered to the houses of our Host Families. I did not witness everybody’s experience, but I can share mine. I am in a group with Elizabeth (nicknamed Ewezebeth by me), and Jenna. Our Host mom welcomed us in and had us sit down outside. For a few minutes we asked her questions, and at one point she went inside and grabbed bracelets that she had bought for all of us. After we thanked her for the bracelets, we began playing a board game that sat on the table. At some point a man came in and introduced himself. He seemed nice enough. As we were playing the board game though, the guy addressed me and said, “Clara” (my name is Claire) and I acknowledged him. Right after that he said, “Will you marry me?” I was a bit flabbergasted, to say the least. I assured him that no, he could not marry me. Apparently Ghanaian men joke about marriage to women a lot. You learn something new every day.
As it began to rain, we all gathered downstairs for a weekly evaluation. During this time, Shene referred to the term “OG.” For anyone who doesn’t know what that means (like Shene), it stands for “Original Gangster.” Shene was under the impression that it stood for “Old Gangster.” We cleared that one up quickly.
A little while later, a group of us walked down to the store in the rain. We bought snacks and candy. Though it doesn’t sound too exciting, it was a good bonding experience.
The last part of the day prepared us for our trip to the slave fort tomorrow. We watched a clip from the film Amistad. The part of the movie we saw portrayed the life of a slave on a ship to the New World during the time of the Atlantic Slave Trade. Graphic but informational, the clip gave us a quick look into what we will be learning about tomorrow. I’m sure we’ll learn even more, and I know we already have numerous stories to share when we return home.
– Claire Plump
Fort Prinzenstein – June 22
As we arrived to service site today we had 369 bricks completed from week one. With our music speaker being out of battery, I could quickly tell that energy was low – BUT we worked through it. As we worked, I personally tried new jobs. I learned how to mold the bricks (actually very hard) and counting the buckets of sand we mix with cement (also very difficult being easily distracted). After flying through 3 bags of cement we reached our daily record of 75 bricks. I was so proud that we worked so well, each willing to switch jobs frequently. After we changed into teaching clothes the FanIce bike came by so I bought some for everyone for working so hard. We are now up to 444 bricks and tomorrow should break our ½ way mark of our goal of 1000 bricks.
In the afternoon we got the chance to visit an old slave fort in Keta about 20 minutes away from Anloga. Fort Prinzenstein was built in the 17th century and though over half of it has been washed away, there was still partial standing that we got to walk through. There have been between 4 and 5 million slaves that have passed through this fort. I thought this was a very educational tour – teaching us about some of the history and hardships that have happened right here in Ghana and learning how we can move forward from it. After the tour we got a chance to walk around and take pictures and process everything we had just seen and heard. Then we walked down to Emancipation Beach. Here, we got the chance to lie in the sun, put our feet in the water, drink some soda and just enjoy each other’s presence.
Day 10 means that today we are not quite half way done with our trip but tomorrow we will be over half way done. I cannot put into words how close-knit our group of 14 (yevu squad) is. I am grateful for the experience that we will forever share and can’t wait to make more memories on the second half of this trip.
– Lizzie Anderson
Today we successfully beat the GLA Ghana record with our brick making skills. The previous record was 102 bricks and this morning we
made 106 bricks. This accomplishment brought us past our half-way mark for our goal of 1,000 at a current total of 550. Though we were awfully tired, everyone’s teaching skills improved and we are consistently getting more comfortable in the classrooms.
When we arrived back at home base and finished lunch, we had our third leadership workshop conducted by Shene. The topic was human
rights; she taught us all 30 rights put in place by the U.N. after Worl War II in 1948. We questioned if each right applied to us personally and
then if it was always applied in different parts of the world (to everyone). All of us here are very privileged in many ways that we were
born into or have no control over which can determine if we have all the rights we are intended to. In our discussion we found that many people all over the world, and even in the United States, do not receive all of the rights that they should. This talk made all of us appreciate how privileged we are; now we can recognize this and see the topic of human rights from different perspectives than our own.
After the leadership work shop, we did an activity called “Bucket of Dreams” in which we all worked together to get out “bucket of dreams” out of the “ocean”. Laura led the activity and it tested out our collaborations skills more than we thought.
The day ended with a game of handball outside with the neighborhood kids. We always have so much fun with them and they bring us all so much joy. Ghana is amazing.
– Mary Malone
Perhaps the most wonderful thing that can happen to an imaginative youth, aside from the blessing of imagination itself, is to be exposed
without preparation to the life outside her or her sphere- the sudden revelation that there is a there out there.” This is a quote from the book Jitterbug Perfume, by Tom Robbins, a book that I have been devouring here in Ghana. This quote seems to capture what each and
every young mind on this trip is going through, namely, realizing that there is a there out there. Each day is filled with new smells, sights, tastes, and more. Everyday each one of us realizes that there is more in this world than we ever imagined. It’s magical.
The magic starts with an early awakening, breakfast, and then it is off to brick making for us. Today we made 76 in the broiling sun, taking multiple water breaks to combat the ensuing midday sun. We then headed for the classroom for a full hour and fifteen minutes spent in
front of a class of young children. My grade 6 class has sixty three people, ranging from ages eleven to twenty three. It is a range of
emotions, and comprehension levels each day as my teaching partner and I start another day, filled with solving and deciphering the classroom this new day.
After, we all headed back to home base to enjoy lunch, and after, it was off to the market we went. We have been to this market once
before, but this time, it was time to buy groceries to bring back to the kitchen at home base. As a group we went across the market looking
for tomatoes, plantains, tiger nuts, dish washing detergent, chickens, yams and more. The sights and sounds that surround left me speechless. All I could do as we hustled around the market, sweating, and watching as the locals grabbed my arms, calling “yevu,” or making hissing sounds to call our attention to their stands. We are strangers in a strange land. It is a land filled with multi colored fabrics, sea salt
out of the lagoon, and dried fish steaming their stench into the hot air, as their glistening scales seem to be roasting in the midday sun.
Each fish in a different position, dried in place as the strangers watch disgusted and fascinated at the same time.
We all piled into the van and headed down the dirt road filled with multiple pot holes. The driver maneuvers around these with great skill with the turn of the wheel left and then right. It’s a maze, a maze that we enter, and always exit once we are home, at home base. Once
arrived there, we pile out of the van in time to take cooking lessons from the kitchen at home base. They taught us how to mince garlic and
onion together in a mortar and pestle to make seasoning for the beef that was to be placed in the finished product, Jol Lof rice. This kind of rice is a traditional dish here in Ghana, and is delicious.
Once cooking was done, my favorite part of the day comes. This was when the seamstresses came and brought us back the clothes that had been custom tailored for us over a week ago. Each day since we all were measured, we have been talking about the day we would get our
clothes back. Most of us loved the clothes we received. I can say that I am completely enamored with the new Ghanaian clothes I can now wear. Some of us even bought more clothes that the seamstresses had brought to sell. I know I did. As I write this, each of us is lesson planning with our new sasa pants on. The mentors are doing the same. We really look like a team now, all bound together by Ghanaian fabric. I guess you could say that that is magical.
– Ona Hauert
Today in the beautiful country of Ghana started much like it does every day. I woke everyone up with a tap on the door and a “good morning, time to wake up”. Breakfast was devoured and everyone piled into the van for another day of brick making and teaching. This process has become routine for us, every day starts the same and is followed by another day of hard work. I personally am really enjoying the teaching part of this experience as it teaches me not only about how I act as a leader to younger people, but how I interact with my co-teacher when teaching a lesson. I teach fifth grade and a few of the boys in my class will come and sit by me during the break they have around ten o’clock every morning. At the end of the break they will fight over who gets to carry my backpack to class, and hold my hand as we walk to the classroom. Every day, it puts a smile on my face to see how excited they become when it is time for the Yevus to teach. The whole group has improved tremendously in terms of teaching and managing a class. At the end of class, we play a game. The kids absolutely love heads up seven up, actually running to the front of the class so that they can be picked to be the ones at the front.
We came home and ate a wonderful lunch, followed by some downtime where we were left to relax and talk. After that, we went to a palace in Keta where we were greeted by two chiefs. One of whom was the chief we spoke with during the first day we were here. The other was a more powerful chief and was dressed regally in bright fabric and gold jewelry. They told us of the duties of a chief and their role in society. Elizabeth is famous for asking many questions when we have guest speakers, and this time was no exception. Every time she raised her hand, she had not one, but two questions to ask, which the chiefs found amusing. In the end, they were very good spirited and answered every question that was thrown at them, even asking a few questions of their own. Somehow, the conversation was steered towards marriage and one of the chiefs even asked Elizabeth if she would like to marry an African chief. It was all fun and games obviously, but it was incredibly funny in the moment seeing as the chief is about seventy two years old.
We returned home and were given time to play with the local children or have some free time. Of course, I chose the children and couldn’t get the smile off my face the whole time. The children are always full of energy and happiness, and are always excited to come and play with the Yevus. We are almost like a special toy that they only get to play with for a short time before they have to give us back, and they take advantage of every second of it. We finished off the night with Jollof rice for dinner and the movie Girl Rising. The movie told the story of several girls and how they grew up in their separate parts of the world, coming from an assortment of backgrounds and upbringings. I wish we had gotten time to watch the whole thing, but due to time constraints, we could not finish. However, it is on Netflix, so that will be the first thing I watch when I come back. We also packed for our trip to Ho tomorrow where we will be for the weekend. I know that personally, I could not be more excited for what the capitol of the Volta region has to offer the Yevu Squad.
My alarm went off at 6:45 this morning, and I climbed out of my mosquito net to start waking the others. Despite the early rising time, it wasn’t a difficult task to wake Yevu Squad this morning. Many were already up and out of bed when I knocked on their doors, since everyone was anxious to begin our journey to Ho. We were greeted by a pleasant surprise as we entered the dining hall and peered out the window. The large bus that carried us on our journey from Accra to Home Base on our first day in Ghana was parked in the driveway of the hotel. We brought our bags out to the bus to be packed onto the roof, before returning to the dining hall for breakfast. We were devastated to learn that we had run out of peanut butter, but enjoyed our meal nonetheless. With stomachs full, we made our way outside, and we started boarding the bus. As the seats started to fill in, we noticed that we were one member short of the complete Yevu Squad. As we discussed the absence, a member of our staff boarded the bus with the answer we were waiting for, but not expecting. We soon found out that during the night, one of our fellow students had boarded a flight back home. We have become a family in the past couple of weeks, and it is never easy to lose a member of your family, but we can’t blame her for her decision, and we are glad that she will soon be in a place where she is happy and comfortable. She has had a positive impact on this experience, and she will be in mind as we complete the final week of our program. Once the information sunk in, we pulled out of the hotel and began our journey to Ho.
After a long three hours on the bus, we arrived in the capitol of the Volta Region. Our first stop was a visit to a local Ken-Te weaving business. After a brief history of this unique type of weaving, we were given a chance to test our skills. Some were more fit for the job than others, but it was an interesting experience for everyone. While preparing to leave, we were given the opportunity to purchase Ken-Te items that were already completed. As we took these items in exchange for very little money, we thought back to the time we spent weaving. Imagining the amount of time it would take to complete the items in our hands, we developed a much greater appreciation for the work put into them. We walked back to the bus, and made our way to lunch.
With stomachs full once again, we drove to our second stop, where we would learn how to make Batik fabric. Batik is a method of fabric design that involves wax stamps that remain the original color, when the fabric is submerged in dye. We were all given a yard of white fabric, and there were several stamp options to choose from. After stamping our fabric, we were given several color options to dye our fabric with. Everyone created a unique design, and each one was beautiful. After purchasing some ice cream, we boarded the bus for our final stop before heading to the hotel.
We arrived at Youth Village Exchange, and we led inside by a leader of the NGO. We were sat down, and given the history and vision of the organization. Youth Village Exchange aims to help young mothers develop the skills that are necessary to support themselves and their children in the future. We were given a tour around the facility and an opportunity to purchase items that were sold to fund the organization. Once we had finished our purchases, we rushed back to the bus in hopes of arriving at the hotel before the pool shut down for the night.
With nearly an hour to spare, we arrived at the hotel and ran straight to the pool. We swam for a while before heading to our rooms to get washed up for dinner. Faces were filled with excitement as we arrived in the dining hall and saw pizza and fries, ready to be eaten. The food was devoured in very little time, and everyone began to exit the dining hall and head separate ways for the night. I was given the opportunity to sit on the pool deck with a view of Ho illuminated against the night sky. As I sat and talked to a few other students in the final hours of the night, we tried to discuss our favorite memories of the trip thus far. Few could develop a single answer to this question. Every moment of this experience has been unbelievable, and I can’t wait to see what the following days in Ho have in store.
– Julia Bell
We woke up early today at around 5:30. Some people woke up earlier because they wanted to see the sunrise. When the students who woke up early went outside, they found out that it was extremely foggy and that it would be impossible to see the sun rise. Despite this everyone was in high spirits because we were going to see the waterfall. We all ate breakfast at 6:00 and then we got on the bus and drove to the monkey sanctuary.
At the monkey sanctuary there were mixed reactions. Some students were ecstatic to hold the banana and have a monkey climb on their arm to peal the banana. On the other hand some students were very nervous to have a wild animal on their arm. Most of us eventually warmed up to the Mona monkeys and let them climb on our arms. A certain mentor was terrified of the monkeys and didn’t let one come near her. One monkey got the great idea to climb on a student’s back and surprise the student from behind. This student freaked out and screamed and the monkey ran off. Overall most of us had a great time with the monkeys.
When we arrived at the forest that the waterfall was located in, everyone was eager to get to the waterfall. The hike to the waterfall was about a 45 minute walk through a beautiful rainforest. As we got closer to the waterfall we could see the outline of it and we got more and more excited. Everyone was enchanted by the waterfall when we arrived. Most people got into their swimsuits and ran into the water. Many pictures were taken. Everyone had a fun time. When we were walking back it started pouring and everyone got soaking wet, but by the time we were back the sun was out and the rain had stopped.
There was a small village near the waterfall where there was a little craft market. We got our money and we bought a lot of cool souvenirs. After everyone was done shopping, we drove back to the hotel. We ate dinner. Some people stayed up late and talked, but I crashed into my bed because I was exhausted and I fell asleep right away.
– Abigail Walters
Today we started off our last day in Ho a little later than usual, with a 7:30 wakeup call and breakfast at 8. After breakfast, we got on the bus at 9 to go to Remar Ghana, which is a small orphanage located in Ho. When we first got there the man that is the head of the orphanage told us a little bit about the facility. He told us that there were 6 boys that currently live there ranging in age from 12 to 16 years old. After he finished telling us about the facility and how it works we were able to talk to the boys and some of the local kids and get to know them a little bit. Most of us played with the new soccer ball that Dodzi had brought for them. They seemed very excited to play and I have found that mostly all of the kids we have met here are pretty good soccer players. Some of the other kids were hanging out with the smaller local kids that don’t live at the orphanage but hang out there. After about an hour and a half of being there, we took some group photos and then got back onto the bus to head back to the hotel. When we arrived at the hotel we had about 30 minutes to pack our stuff up and head down for lunch. We all ate our last lunch in Ho together in the dining room and took in the amazing view we had while we could. After lunch we headed back to the bus to begin our drive back to home base in Anloga. It was a pretty quiet car ride as mostly everyone was exhausted from the very eventful day we had on Saturday. It was sad to leave Ho because we had such a fun time, but I think a good majority of us were happy to be headed back to our home away from home.
– Julia Thornton
Today we started the day by eating breakfast then heading to service site. When we got there we found out there was only two bags of cement there. So we planned to only do two but once we started the two bags we got more cement. We made three bags of cement which was 73 bricks. Then we got ready for teaching. Two people were missing during community service so staff had to help people during teaching. Teaching went well and nothing major happened. After lunch, we had a workshop called “Story of Stuff”. We learned about the processes of consumerism and waste. The seamstresses then came and gave people their clothing items. Once that was finished we left to Father’s House International again to play another game of soccer. They had about eight players on their team while we had about fifteen people on our team. They beat us six to one. Even though we lost it was a fun time. Once we came back, we got ready for dinner. We had reflection circle and talked about our day and then we listened to Stephen’s story and lesson planned.
– Taylor Keena & Mary Malone