Saturday, June 24th, 2017
Title: Arrival Day!
Greetings from Anloga, Ghana! After making their way around the world, through airports, layovers, and many long flights, all 34 of our students for Session 1 (June 24-July 14) have arrived safely! It has been a long day of traveling, first by plane and then by van/minibus for the three hours from Accra to our Home Base in Anloga, but after taking some time to settle in to the Pin Drop Hotel (our GLA Home Base and our home away from home for the next three weeks) students were greeted by a stunning rainbow and given an opportunity to meet and play a few games with some of the kids that live around our neighborhood. After dinner, our GLA students participated in an initial name game ice-breaker and had some time to get to know each other for a bit before heading to their rooms for some much needed rest.
The GLA staff team here in Anloga has been working hard preparing for the students’ arrival and trying to fine tune our schedule for the next few weeks, and we are all very excited to have everyone here with us now. We will be going through an Orientation tomorrow morning after breakfast that will include an introduction to Ghanaian culture, safety and security protocols, highlights of our service learning activities and adventure excursions, and a few other minor details (like staying hydrated in sunny Ghana!). After our orientation, we will be diving into an initial language lesson on Ewe, the local dialect spoken in this region of Ghana, and a drum and dance session to begin to get a sense of the rhythm and music that is such a profound component of the local culture.
We’ll be getting an early start tomorrow morning so we’ll wrap up this first blog post here. Future blog posts will be authored by our student leaders and will include pictures from our busy days as well so be sure to check back often for updates on all the amazing adventures we are having together in the Ghana!!!
Author: Keith Wingeard (International Director)
Title: First Day Hooray
Today we slept in until 8am and had delicious Ghanaian pancakes for breakfast. We then started orientation with name games to get to know each other. In groups, students made skits regarding what not to do.
GLA students were introduced to their Ghanaian host families for an awesome lunch of salad, rice, papaya, and plantains. Following this cultural meal, we broke into 3 groups for rotations that included language learning (Ewe), dancing, and a tour of home base.
Time for another great meal! We ate lots of coconut rice, avocado, chicken, and apples. After dinner, the GLA staff prepared us for a Ghanaian naming ceremony. Students were given a Ghanaian name based on the day they were born. In the time we had in between dinner and the ceremony, GLA surprised Koko for her birthday. We had Fanmilk (ice cream) and birthday fruit cake to conclude our night. We are off to bed now after a very fun and exciting long day.
Author: Kelly Marx and Natalie Sendelbach
Date Written: June 25, 2017
June 26, 2017
Title: Brick-making and Meeting the Community
Before we all separated and went to our different service sites, we started off the day with a delicious breakfast consisting of toast, eggs, oranges, and oatmeal. Today was our first day at the schools. It was a national holiday, so we did not teach but we got a jump start on brick building. We all learned how to use the cement properly and create the right mold. Overall it was pretty tiring work but nothing we couldn’t handle with plenty of rest and hydration. Team Believers (Brooke, Camryn, Amanda, Parlin, Remy, Nathan, Maggie, Jessie, Bella, Abby, and Tasha) came out with the most bricks made at 57, using three bags of cement, with Amanda the star after lifting a 100 pound bag of cement alone.
When we returned from brick making, we ate a tasty lunch with Chinese noodles, vegetables, cassava, mangoes and papaya salad. Then, we all went and hung out with the local children before starting our next activity. Some people played a game of futbol (soccer) while others had a dance party or played cards.
Later in the afternoon, the GLA participants went to the beach to start a scavenger hunt! We were joined by many local kids on our walk. Once we were on the beach we embarked on an adventure around the area. We had to take pictures of various things that we encountered. For example, a person riding a bike, goats, thatched roofs, yams, and fishing boat, etc. We had to use our Ewe (the common local tongue that is spoken by many natives in the area). Interacting with people outside of the GLA community was an exciting beginning of our relationship with the local people.
Author: Brooke Burgess, Lexie Hill, and Koko Wing
June 27, 2017
Title: Day 4 Back For More!
We started off the day with sausage, baked beans, watermelons, and toast. After breakfast, GLA volunteers dispersed into their three respective groups for brick building. Once we finished brick building, two of the groups went to see cultural festivities performed by the local schools’ students. The third group was able to observe the classes they were going to teach in their assigned school. The groups met at Home Base for the daily lunch which was tuna stew, egg stew, bean rice, avocado salad, and apples (DELICIOUS!!!).
After lunch each mentor group divided into different excursion trips to either an island/lagoon, a foster home for former child slaves, or stayed at Home Base to refine their Ghanaian cooking and braiding skills (+WIFI). On the island trips, volunteers experienced a 30 minute canoe ride to a village of 2000 native people. They were given tours of the island and learned how to weave mats and baskets. Afterwards, they played with the native children and shout out to Volunteer Ashtyn for introducing the kids to hopscotch! On the island, they met with local priests and were exposed to the Traditional Ghanaian religion (IT WAS SO MUCH FUN!). Another group visited “Father’s Home International,” a foster home meant to rescue children from slavery. Jeremiah, the head of the home, explained graphic stories about the origin of the 13 orphans they have currently recovered. Volunteers listened intently to the admirable and laudable actions of Jeremiah while being shocked by the ongoing issue of child slavery. Meanwhile, the final group remained at Home Base where they worked with local cooks to make a meat dipping sauce for yams. Soon after, a local hair braider visited to braid everyone’s hair. To finish of the day with a blast, we all had dinner (spaghetti, mangos, papayas, cucumber salad) and then moved onto various icebreaker games, then off to bed. Students are thriving and having a blast—check in later!
Authors: Nam Lam, Natalie Sendelbach, and Remy Benitah
Written: June 27, 2017
Thursday, June 29, 2017
Title: Market Adventures!
After a delicious breakfast, students ventured to their school once again. We got started with brick building, and the different groups continue to compete to find the most efficient method to make the most bricks. Following brick building, all groups got to teach today! Every group seemed to really bond with their kids and get into the groove of teaching. We look forward to strengthening these bonds with these inspiring students!
Following teaching, we had an amazing lunch with plantains, watermelon, and rice and beans. After lunch, we split into two groups to go to two different markets named Keta and Anloga. The market consisted of different sounds (including people shouting “Yevu”), different smells (fish in particular), and lots of colors. We had the opportunity to find and purchase our own fabrics in the native currency of cedis. We later took those fabrics to a seamstress who will fashion these materials into the clothing items each person wants. It was quite an experience to be immersed in Ghanaian culture.
We returned to home base and gathered for an amazing dinner. Following dinner, we heard the story of Dodzi, the local GLA director. He told us about the Ghanaian education system, and he followed that with his touching and inspirational story. Then, we were given time to lesson plan and wind down before lights out. It was such an amazing day, and we are excited for the weeks to come!
Authors: Lincoln Hildebrand, Ava Scatoni, Parlin Escobar
Title: Week One Conclusion
The end of our first week was filled with another day of sun and activity in Anloga, Ghana! It was the second day of teaching for two of the groups and the third day for one of them. The students are beginning to get more comfortable with the teachers (us!) and starting to learn our names and grow connections. The individual groups are developing a better system on how to make the bricks quickly and with higher quality.
We finished up the rotation today for the mentor excursion groups. Each group had an amazing and/or eye-opening experience that opened their mind to new possibilities.
The afternoon of activities concluded with another delicious meal curated by the wonderful kitchen staff. We all chowed on seasoned chicken, fresh mangoes, coleslaw and classic French fries. Our evening activity had us split into three separate groups, where each person had a different sense taken away. We then all tried to collect a bag that was surrounded by obstacles. Each team used a different strategy to complete the task. Some succeeded efficiently, and others struggled. The goal was to collect a bag that held our individual dreams which we had written down earlier along with symbols of the GLA Experience. We then headed off to bed, satisfied with the success of our first week in Ghana!
Authors: Kajsa Holland-Goon, Maggie Wolf, Cole Smith
Written: June 30, 2017
Title: First Saturday of Immersive Culture and Clean Laundry
We started off day 8 with breakfast at 8:00. Then, each mentor group went to their respective schools and did 3 hours of brick making service. Because of the extended amount of time, each group was able to break their own personal record of bricks made. After 3 long hours, we all assembled back at home base for lunch and ice cream! Each group had half an hour to debrief their experiences of their first week. We were then split up into groups of 3 or 4, and visited local host families to experience Ghanaian culture. Students were given the opportunity to ask questions and immerse themselves in typical Ghanaian life.
Once returning back to home base for dinner, we enjoyed playing Mafia with the entire GLA group, and then watched the U.S.A. vs. Ghana soccer game together. After a long and tiring 8 days, GLA students are ready to take a day off, catch up on sleep, and prepare ourselves for another week of fun and service. More updates on our adventures soon.
Authors: Camryn Simon, Matt Hwang, Alissa Wang
Written: July 1, 2017
Title: Relaxing Sunday
We started our relaxing Sunday with a late breakfast and the option for students to participate in a local church service. Many students attended. It was full of song and dance and preaching, and the local congregation closed it off with a prayer for our safe travels and service. Many of us took part in communion and paid our tithing. While we attended, students back at Home Base took the morning off, relaxing, sleeping in, and playing games. After the church service, we all returned for lunch and had some time to do some lesson planning and laundry.
Later in the afternoon, we visited the local chiefs for the Keta region and heard them speak about their duties. While we were there, there was a funeral going on, and we got to hear the gunshots, meant to scare away death, and learn about how Ghanaian funerals were carried out. Students had the opportunity to ask questions directly to the chiefs and we learned a lot about what it means to be a chief in the African culture. We headed back for dinner and then watched part of the movie Amistad in preparation for visiting the Keta slave fort later this week. After a long week, it was nice to take a day of relaxation and to enjoy home base with the local kids before starting service strong again tomorrow morning. We are ready and excited to start the new week!
Authors: Hollis Robinson, Jess Jacobs, Tasha Peterson
Written: July 2, 2017
Title: Dancing in the Rain
Our leisurely Monday began with a delicious meal of oats, bananas, and toast with Nutella. After breakfast, we diverged into our mentor groups to solely build bricks, as there was no school due to a national holiday. We kept our energy high by dancing to Lady Gaga and Katy Perry throughout the tiring work. Not even the rain could lower our spirits! In fact, we just found ourselves dancing more. Collectively, the three groups made over 300 bricks for the local schools today. We returned to home base for hearty lunch of sweet potato porridge, spicy pasta, and our beloved mangos.
Then, we set out for the Anloga market for a shopping scavenger hunt. Students had a chance to practice their Ewe language and bargaining skills in addition to picking up some souvenirs for friends and family. Of course, it wouldn’t be a trip to the market without grabbing some ice cream. We earned our dinner by participating in a friendly soccer match against Ghanaian high school students, which took some of us back to our younger years playing the sport. Even though we lost 5 to 2, each player put his or her best foot forward. The game was followed by yet another dance party.
We devoured a dinner of curry rice, pineapple, chicken, and avocado salad. Just before bed, we welcomed two guest speakers onto home base. Jeremiah of “Father’s House” spoke about child slavery and his personal experience working in the orphanage. The other speaker was a nurse from a hospital in Keta, who spoke about Ghanaian health care and the problem of HIV and AIDS. We concluded the night with polishing up our lesson plans for the following day and spending some time with friends.
Authors: AJ Vitiello, Martine McLaughlin, Abby Kanter
Written: July 3, 2017
Title: The Forts of July
On our patriotic Tuesday, we started the day with a hearty and nutritious meal of toast, pancakes, and apples. After the balanced meal, we set out for our routine day of service. We began by spending the first part of the morning building bricks before teaching our eager students. Dangerous games of Duck-Duck Goose took place followed by educating them about American Independence Day.
After a busy morning, everyone headed back to the home base for a long-needed meal of tuna stew, egg stew, rice, and apples. Then everyone had time to wind down and relax by playing card games, finishing laundry, and taking well-deserved naps before our cultural excursions. The group was split into two: a Keta slave fort and the GLA home base for the Building Healthy Villages program. The slave fort was an emotional out-of-body experience filled with wet eyes and heavy hearts. We learned about the harsh conditions that the Ghanaian slaves had endured. Our tour guide, Bella, was full of knowledge and eye-opening stories. After the tour, one of our local staff, Wisdom, took us for treats and refreshing beverages on a dock overlooking the beautiful ocean. The other group was taken to Meet Me There to meet Christian, the manager for the NGO Dream Big Ghana. We were first given a tour of the lodge with the added learning center. After, we were taken to see one of the many compost toilets that him and the other GLA students have built in the local community. Then, the group was taken back to the lodge for a fun time in the lagoon swimming and using the canoe.
After a chill and educational afternoon, both groups were taken back for a festive night. All mentor groups participated in a watermelon eating relay race to determine the order for dinner. But before eating dinner, we celebrated the Fourth of July with refreshing and sweet Coke-floats. The Ghanaian birthday tradition was followed by pouring water on Nathan, the fellow birthday boy. After the festivities, everyone gathered for a delicious meal of pasta carbonara and oranges. The night was followed by getting to know one another through the personality tests taken to better understand our leadership styles.
Authors: Lexi Flesch, Grace Hwang, and Jessie Schwartz
Written: July 4, 2017
Title: Breaking Down Board-ers
Still recovering from a fun Fourth of July, many people drowsily trudged to our hearty breakfast of French toast, pineapple, and watermelon. Now filled with energy, we were on our way to school. Once there, we hustled to work rejuvenated and with a can-do attitude. Our strong efforts were met with a successful morning of building bricks out of sand, water and concrete. We then entered our classrooms ready for an exciting hour of games, activities, and eye opening discussions. So brick by brick, lesson by lesson, we grew closer to those around us.
For lunch we had pasta and corn beef stew along with some papaya. We had a short break in order to recover from our strenuous morning, and went to the local boarding school. At the school we played several icebreaker games in order to familiarize ourselves with the students, and allowed them a window into our lives as well. Through various activities including geography games and ice cream socials, we were able to connect with a diverse group of our peers living in Ghana. Their eagerness to learn inspired us to appreciate our own education. Many of them had ambitions to expand their horizons by continuing their educations, some even dreaming to someday come join us in the United States. A lot of them also enjoyed playing many different types of sports, namely “futbol”, or as we call it, soccer. Surprisingly, many of them had Facebook, Snapchat, and other social media platforms, which gave us an opportunity to create and maintain lasting friendships.
For dinner, we indulged in a typical American meal, such as French fries and mangos. For the night, we closed our day by listening to different speakers about healthcare and human trafficking in Ghana. The group learning about healthcare from Bridget, a head nurse at the local hospital, was told about the upsides and downsides of the Ghanaian health system. The other group was then reminded of the challenges faced by Ghanaian children throughout Ghana by Jeremiah, the director of Father’s House International. Finally, we danced in the pouring rain as we listened to music, and were reminded to “be the change” when we return to our communities back in United States.
Authors: Nathan Aloisi, Tyler Egan and Sophie Furman
Written: July 5, 2017
Title: Service, Slave Fort, and the Sea
Today we were awoken by a storm. It was a big boy. A select few actually showed up to breakfast, while the rest stayed cozy in their bunks. We were given the announcement from Chief Keith, who enlightened us with the wonderful news of leaving later due to the inclement weather. We all had some extra time to get ready for teaching and headed to the schools.
The rain drummed on the roofs of the classrooms (because they are made of tin—VERY LOUD) and we taught some interesting lessons, such as American slang (now, every time Bella walks into the classroom the children greet her with “bro, wassup”) and body parts (Liz experienced some interesting stick figures drawn by the kids, which had many extra limbs in unique places). We went outside after our lessons and were surprised by the news that we could not make bricks because of the rain.
By afternoon, the rain had ceased and the sky was a pale gray. Half of the group went to the Keta Slave Fort, while the other half went to Meet Me There. The slave fort was informative and saddening, as we learned about the history of the fort and events that had occurred there. It shared a big part of the culture here. Keta was partially destroyed by erosion in the 1970s, but the US Government donated money to the Keta relief fund and really lent a helping hand (thanks Bill Clinton!) Overall, it was a somber yet enlightening experience.
Post-fort, we headed over to a local bar where Stephen bought us all pop/soda, and we danced, played games, and just enjoyed each other’s presence. What a fun time!!!!!!
Friday, July 7
Title: Hi-Ho Hi-Ho, Off to Ho we go!
We started off our day with breakfast at 7:00 am. Then we all got into the vans and drove 3 hours to get to Ho. Along the way, we stopped at the New Seed International Orphanage and School. After being welcomed by traditional drumming and dance, we listened to a presentation on how New Seed International functions. We then jump roped with the kids and said our goodbyes. Following this, a little further down the road we arrived at Sky Plus Hotel. We were excited to be in a new place and enjoyed eating hotel lunch for a change.
After a fulfilling lunch, we headed to a village exchange to batik and learn about what they are doing in the community. We learned about micro-financing and what this NGO was doing to help young women around the area. We then headed back to the hotel for a delicious dinner followed by a mentor session. After this we had free time to roam around the hotel and get a good night sleep for our adventurous day tomorrow.
Authors: Kelly Marx, Camryn Simon, Lexie Hill
Written: July 7, 2017
Title: Monkeying Around Ho
To start off day 2 in Ho, students woke up early to go to Tafi Atome Monkey Sanctuary. This sanctuary is home to several different families of monkeys. Students were given bananas which enabled them to interact with the monkeys on a more personal level. Some students even found themselves with monkeys perched on their shoulders!
The group headed back to Carlito’s Pizzeria for lunch, where they recharged for their upcoming hike to Wli Waterfall. After the delicious meal, the students embarked on the hike. About 45 minutes later, the group arrived at the bottom of a stunning waterfall. Wli waterfall is the second tallest waterfall in West Africa! Some students chose to hang back and take photos, while others ventured into the waterfall. After spending some time taking in the beautiful landscape, the students made their way back to the beginning of the trail. Here, students were given some time to explore many shops with carvings, art, jewelry, and other souvenirs.
After this fulfilling day, students headed back to Sky Drop Hotel where they were greeted with a fantastic buffet. Students gathered as a group after the meal to reflect upon their most memorable moments in Ghana.
Authors: Amanda Olsen-Dufour, Natalie Sendelbach, Grace Hwang
Written: July 8, 2017
Title: Goodbye Ho
After waking up from dreams of waterfalls and monkeys, our group gathered together for one last breakfast in Ho. Before leaving, however, we split into two groups in order to learn about Kente weaving. Some of us got to try our hands at the process, which involved using our feet in a pulley system. Then we were given the opportunity to purchase original items such as bookmarks, ties, vests, and purses. Following a filling lunch at the hotel, we packed our bags and hit the road.
The drive back to home base was bumpy and long, but some of us were lucky enough to catch up on some sleep. Before devouring a meal prepared by our kitchen staff, we enjoyed a few hours of free time by unpacking and playing with the local children. As the sun began to set, we walked to the beach in order to meet with our mentor groups. We reflected upon our exciting weekend in Ho and discussed our goals for the last week of service. Then, we attempted to create a human pyramid in the sand. It failed miserably, but the photos were very funny.
We concluded our day by talking about our passions and values with the entire group. Keith, James, Ariel, Ashley, Fafa, Wisdom, Jerry, and the other counselors shared stories from their pasts and what inspired them to join GLA Ghana. After quickly lesson planning for the next day, we hopped into our beds for sleep.
Authors: AJ Vitiello, Cole Smith, Tasha Peterson
Written: July 9, 2017
Title: Canoeing into Our Last Week
After getting a full nights’ sleep back in Anloga, groups were able to head back into brick-building service and teaching with focused and determined minds. Our relaxing time in Ho allowed all groups to head into our last week with a revitalizing kick!
Once all service was completed, we headed off to Keta to experience a beautiful river tour via large motorized canoes. The trip was filled with music, drums, dancing and laughter. Upon the completion of the tour, we stopped off at a local beach to enjoy the sun, ocean and many dogs (and puppies!).
At night, we all gathered for a leadership activity hosted by mentor Ariel. The activity included placing ourselves on a spectrum based on our own values for two separate traits. This concluded with us coming back together for a final discussion on our own experiences with decisions in our own culture. We also began our planning for the upcoming “Community Event Extravaganza” show!
As we move further into our last week, we continue to live in the moment and grow as leaders.
Authors: Matt Hwang, Maggie Wolf, & Liz Frissell
Written: July 10, 2017
Title: Baby Got Back
Today, we started off the day with a delicious breakfast including oatmeal and toast before starting service. We continued to build bricks for the schools and teach the children. We returned to Home Base after finishing up our lessons for lunch, which was followed with a series of cultural activities.
One of these activities involved learning to balance baskets on our heads as well as carrying babies on our backs. It was extremely difficult as it was very different from our culture and therefore hard to grasp. Another activity was a dancing lesson from our very own Wisdom and Jerry, the local staff. It was overwhelmingly fun, yet challenging in that it can be intimidating to dance in front of other people.
Following these cultural activities, we met with our mentor groups to make finishing touches on our talent show performances. It should be interesting to see what everyone brings to the table tomorrow night! After dinner, we had the opportunity to listen to our International Director—Keith—speak about his experience as a Peace Corps volunteer and ask him any questions that we had. It was incredibly helpful in allowing several of us to look further into a possible future endeavor. To close the night, we finished up lesson planning and had some free time to get to get to know each other even more.
We are very excited to continue our adventure and sad to see it start to come to a close.
Authors: Abby Kanter, Hollis Robinson, Ava Scatoni (AHA Take On This)
Written: July 11, 2017