Saturday June 23, 2018
It’s been a long journey for all of us, but we have all arrived safe and sound. We made our way to our beautiful home base in Dzita and settled in after a great dinner. With all this excitement we dont want to sleep but know tomorrow starts a great adventure!
Sunday June 24, 2018
Today was a day of introductions to both the GLA program and culture of Ghana.
At 8:00 am we had breakfast— although after talking with some of the others students in the program, we all appeared to have all woken up at 5:00 am. For breakfast we had two types of thin pancakes, quite similar to crepes (one plain, one with chocolate) and a fruit salad; there, many had their first taste of starfruit.
Following breakfast, students were introduced to the staff of our home base. We first sat in a circle and stated our names and where we are from. Both the staff and the students then played a game to help us remember each others’ names. The traditions of Ghana were explained by the staff; this included how to be respectful and the traditional Ghanian customs; for example, receiving items from others with our right hand and remembering to greet others.
We students then went over the GLA code of conduct, and later played a version of Jeopardy to review these rules and code of conduct and some Ghanian facts. We then played a game where we were prompted to stand in a circle and link hands and “untangle” ourselves without saying a word; once we finished we learned that communication can occur even if we cannot clearly communicate (perhaps due to a possible language barrier).
We then had to take a swim test. Fortunately, we all passed. After, we spent some time in the water.
After lunch, Boots led the group to a nearby school. It was about a ten minute walk to the school. There we were informed of the education in Ghana and how it is structured. We then visited local homes in the area where the compost toilets were built last year.
Once we came back to home base, we ate dinner and discussed the day and what we had learned. Something that was highlighted was that even if a student has good grades and had the desire to further their education, the often cannot as they may not be able to afford the tuition. At the school, Boots stated that very few scholarships are available for students and many students may become discouraged in class as the student teacher relationships are not very close.
The day concluded with watching the TED talk entitled “The Danger of a Single Story.” This TED talk oped up new ideas and perspectives. Many individuals may have one idea that may encompass “Africa.” This may include poverty, sadness, and a low quality of life. From our experiences we too must also share our story to include others’ perspectives about the different aspects of our world.
Monday June 25, 2018
“… but what will you leave behind?” he asked, a smile spreading across his face. Perhaps the old man understood that we were all thinking of the same thing – the project we had started a few hours earlier. The wise village chief continued, offering advice and suggestions for our futures. Each student was able to ask him a question and he provided fascinating responses. He spoke of life and love; the latter led to some interesting albeit slightly uncomfortable discussion. As we chuckled and shifted in our seats, the soreness in our muscles became apparent.
We had spent the morning mixing mortar and plaster and learning the masonry techniques that will become an integral part of our days in the next weeks. Transporting water in pans (which we rested upon our heads – Ghana style) and lugging 50kg cement bags was tiresome but rewarding. We were able to finish the foundations at each site. Even our HQ visitor got in on the action. We had many interactions with the people of Dzita today. Surprising locals by greeting them in their own tongue was a great experience, and it instilled in all of us a drive to learn more Ewe (the language of the Volta region).
When we arrived back at base, after a delicious dinner prepared by the staff, Elvis helped us do just this. He taught us a full page of words and quizzed us until we had most of them committed to memory (for now). The words will help us communicate at the building sites, during the day, and at markets.
Glad to have finished the first real day of work here! A day of culture, language, hard work and fun! Goodnight from all of us here in Dzita!
Tuesday June 26, 2018
So today started off with mini-sausage, bread pancakes, and fruit. It was all really good. Some people even took the “french toast” & wrapped the sausage to make pigs in the blanket. Service was rough today, but it was still good. We made the cement and mixed it with the shovels which was really hard! Then we poured it into the layer above the foundations to cover the chambers. We got back early, and things changed because the water was down. So, what happened was everyone took a bucket shower, and had one bucket of water to take a shower. Which really shows how much more water you can use less of.
We also visited the clinic today, and learned about public health with Rose!! After we played soccer with the kids in the community center. It was one of the best things I have experienced. The kids were so happy and had such wide smiles. They were running around so much, too! One of the kids named Grace played goalie with me and she was super cute. She tried to carry me, and hang from my arms 🙂 So yeah! I would say it is going really well today, and everyone is getting close together too.
Wednesday June 27, 2018
When you think of poverty, what do you see? Houses with rusting tin roofs, dirty feet, starving children with flies circling their heads. This is the perception of poverty many people back at home picture—and it can’t be more wrong. Today, experienced by six out of the thirteen students, we split into two groups, accompanied by one GLA leader and one local nurse each, to observe home health check-ins.
These check ins consist of:
1.) Greetings and introductions to the household as they pulled out plastic chairs in kind hospitality.
2.) If there are children living there, a check of their green booklet containing their up-to-date vaccinations and progressing weight.
3.) A measurement of each adult’s blood pressure (BP).
4.) A personalized recommendation of what they should consider according to their issues.
It seems simple bulleted on a four point list, though the nurses working tirelessly at the local clinic say it’s anything but. Between the two groups, we faced rejection, anti vaccinators due to clashing spiritual beliefs, and misinformation on health subjects relating to birth control and immunization. These challenges may seem daunting and forever constant as each visit seems to drone on for the nurses (as we asked them to translate the issue while drilling them with lots of public health questions), yet this work cannot be ignored. Like one of the nurses, Rose, said “If I can educate at least two people, then I can educate four, then six, then eight” then she can make an impact on the culture, not just individuals. Public health locals do not look for praise in this job; rather, they look for impact and understanding.
The market was full of busying people and strange new foods. While we tried to take in the overwhelming environment, the staff led our three separate groups through the market to achieve a scavenger hunt—basically just a way to show the everyday run to the market that Ghanaians in Dzita, do every Wednesday to get their supplies. We were handed a list of needed items for the lodge, given 50 cedi, and given to a staff member to help us navigate the market and prices. The informal prices and casual way of doing business was a huge culture shock, but in the end it became clearer as we went out a second time (still accompanied by the staff member) but this time to find things we wanted to buy for ourselves and our families.
After all this, we ended the day with a lesson on the difference between service, helping a local community on something they say they needed while focusing on a sustainable local program, and volunteerism, coming in blind to the needs of a community and instead focusing on “saving” them. The video we watched was a parody on how westerners viewed “helping” people through viewing service as a thing to prove how good you are. Then the parallels between the nurses and service came to surface: we all want to create a sustainable program to benefit the community, while not looking for praise but for impact and understanding.
So, to say the least, we learned a little!
Thursday June 28, 2018
Hey what is up parents, my name is Jack and I’ll be the student blogger of the day.
We had a pretty fun day overall and came a lot closer as a group. So let’s start at the best place to start, the beginning. Breakfast was the first item on the agenda, and we had a blast. Ordinarily we get our breakfast and sit with the same people we’ve sat with since the beginning not because it’s required, but due to our own personal comfort. Today was no ordinary day however, because Dezzy decided to push us out of our comfort zone. We all got our food, and sat with different people at different tables. We had such a blast eating amongst friends we don’t usually dine with that we made one giant table for everyone to sit at. The meal was great, only topped by the joy of companionship.
Soon afterwards, as per usual, we got ready for work. We played a small game while waiting for the rides, nothing too noteworthy, and we built two more layers of wall, as well as fill in the sides of the base with sand to even out the ground. During this I met many small children of the area that took great pleasure in climbing me like a tree. That was great until they got told by their father not to disturb us, then they stayed clear.
Afterwards, I met a man named Coffee, or a least that’s what it sounded like, and he was handicapped and on the older side. He was just on the side of the road waiting for God knows who. He seemed thirsty so I gave him water and talked with him as best I could. It was no cake walk however, as he didn’t speak a lick of English.
In the afternoon we ventured to Auntee’s place, a local tailor, where we brought our fabric to get it designed into trousers and shirts. There were a lot of people to fit up, so we resorted to pictionary in the sand, and we had way too good of a time with that. We then came back to the lodge, and immediately got taught how to grass whistle by Lena, which annoyed surrounding members of the community, but one of the funniest things to us. Then Eric taught us Egyptian War, or Slamwich, which is a vicious card game that raises blood pressure and numbs your hand. We then played cards again for a while until dinner. We tried making awful jokes at the table, which only led to cringes and fake laughter.
Then, we got into small groups in order to self evaluate our goals. We came together to discuss the three facts about our leaders and I obviously crushed it. That will wrap it up for today’s blog as we are going to bed soon. We are fine and are loving our time here.
Friday June 29, 2018
A new day arrives yet again, and there are many surprises laid ahead. Today began cool, with a crisp wind accompanied with a delicious beans and eggs breakfast. The group’s energy was low, but as soon as caffeine kicked in our systems, we were up and ready for service. Once arrived at our sites, the primary goal was to establish steps, and begin plastering the walls of the famous toilets. Easy day of work today, though the sun was beaming and the flies were crowding on our faces wet with sweat.
After the appropriate amount of work was accomplished, we headed back to Home Base for an early lunch. Justine, the lovely head chef, presented us a plate of soft boiled yams topped with “the sauce”, a concoction of the perfect ingredients and measurements, a large portion of coconut rice along a side of a most exquisite salad of course. After Justine received a round of applause for her work of art, the group of service-learning students went back to practicing ping pong techniques and shuffling a deck of cards for a small break.
The afternoon activity consisted of two things nowhere close to anything we have done so far: visiting a fort museum from the times of slavery in Ghana, and reaching the top of a coastal lighthouse. The transportation on the way to our first destination was a trip in itself, as the road was bumpy enough to make our bodies jump, it was soothing enough that many students fell asleep. We passed some villages that were apparently more well-off than Dzita, the village where we rest, and some were scarcer.
On our way back, we went into a village named Keta, full of friendly people and colorful market stands. There at the end of the path was the a bright red and white lighthouse, built from metal, shining right next to the fearful ocean. A kind man opened up and allowed us to climb to the top of the lighthouse, though some had a much more difficult time adjusting the increase of distance between our feet and the ground. The view was incredible, we could see thousands of palm tree and every road for miles ahead.
In the evening, we were greeted by a lively cultural performance. It involved an enthusiastic group made up of young girls singing, men drumming, and women dancing. The students were even forced into the dancing at some points, some quite nervous at first, but everyone slowly got their bodies to cooperate into a decent rhythm, and moved in a circle with the others, to a catchy beat.
After the guests were thanked, we enjoyed a nicely cooked glow fish with “sauced” up rice, alongside coconut salad. A delicious ending to a beautiful sunny day, a memorable day, and yet another day in incredible Ghana.
Saturday June 30, 2018
Today was another fantastic day in the beautiful country of Ghana. We started off with another delicious breakfast, pancakes and fruit, and then we headed off to service at 8:30am. At the site, we plastered the four outside walls and part of the stairs. Plastering is a very hard technique, but the service leaders are great at showing us exactly how to do it; it’s all in the wrist! At my site today, all the kids were watching us while we worked and they even wanted to dance!
After service, we had lunch and then it was football tournament time! We walked to the field with some of the football players from Tigo’s team. Once at the field, we played ladies versus ladies and guys versus guys. Surprisingly, the ladies were fairly matched! The football games were really fun to play in and even watch. Watching the actual football players use their techniques was pretty awesome. Also at the football tournament, we played the ninja game and some of the girls from the other team showed us their games, including a version of our ‘duck, duck, goose’, where they sing ‘there’s a fire on the mountain’. After that, we walked back home and Claire showed us her project of the day (POTD) which ironically was another version of ‘duck, duck, goose’ with a sponge filled with water!
Then, dinner time came. For dinner we enjoyed fresh pizza with salad. After dinner, we partnered up and blindfolded half the students and the ones who weren’t blindfolded helped lead the other students through the obstacle course. It got a little chaotic, but ultimately it taught us the importance of trust, leadership, communication, and listening. We also watched a TED talk to show us the importance of being a leader, but also the importance of taking the initiative after the first leader to get others to follow. Finally, we ended with April’s POTD, which was a trivia game that involved questions about goats. Time is going very fast here and we all love it here!
The country is beautiful, the people (both the villagers and the staff) are amazing, and all the students are really getting along well.
Sunday July 1, 2018
Today was Day 9 of living and breathing in the vibrant, vivacious country of Ghana.
Yes mother and father, this is your beloved daughter Sargi writing this. Yes I have been taking my malaria pills, yes my poop has been fine, and yes I’m having the time of my life.
Since we, children and mentors alike, understand the parents need to be informed about their offspring’s aliveness throughout their visit in Ghana, I’ve decided to enlighten all of you about our happenings with excruciating detail and big words. The big words simply because I’m smart… obviously.
Today we started the day off with an energising breakfast from our head chef Justine to help us work our hardest at the sites. We finished up the exterior of our compost toilets by plastering the walls and building the stairs. After service we took much deserved showers and enjoyed yet another wonderful lunch. Soon after, we traveled in a TroTro, a motor vehicle popular with the Ghanian people, to a batik workshop. There we learned how to use traditional Ghanian designs and art to dye cloth. Once back at home base, we had an intense capture the flag game, resulting in a round of Alvaro’s for everyone.
We ended the day with presentations on public health, increasing our knowledge on the preventions and risk factors of several diseases. We are now nearing “lights outs” at home base, while getting ready for a long but fun day ahead of us tomorrow. Good night and don’t let the mosquitos bite!
Monday July 2, 2018
Today was a great day in the wonderful country of Ghana. We started off with breakfast at 8, then went to service at 9. My service group finished plastering the stairs, and then we got sand to fill in the rest of the surrounding area around the toilet. Many young kids came and helped us do the work a little bit, and at one point, there were about 22 kids! They all helped so much. Two of the kids, Francisca and Grace were attached to me, they were too cute. After service, we ate lunch, then went to a school.
Today is Day of Republic in Ghana, so the kids did not have school. We saw the composting toilets that were made for the school, and we saw the classrooms from the outside. After we looked at the school, Boots let us play with the kids that were at the school. They were all very nice, and Boots’ child Destiny got to play with them, too. When we got back to the lodge, we played football (soccer) and volleyball with some of the kids at the Community Center. Francisca was there, so I played with her for a little bit. We saw a lot of kids that were at the service sight as well.
At about 4:30, we left the Community Center and did an activity in the summer hut. Desiree and Jen filled cups with a liquid that we didn’t know of at the time but ended up being oral hydration tablets to hydrate us. We did two relays of drinking them. Today was Chloe’s project of the day, so we played a game called SPUD in the Community Center.
After, we ate dinner, which was fantastic as always, and met for our night activities. For our night activity, we got into four groups and got cultural greetings that we had to do to each other. It was very interesting because it showed how to respect other people’s cultures and ways of greetings. After that, we got into our mentor groups and made an elevator speech about life in Ghana. We also talked about our highs and lows of the day. We ended this great day with Kate’s project of the day, which was yoga. I enjoyed the yoga very much, thank you Kate. Tomorrow will be another amazing day full of new experiences!
Tuesday July 3, 2018
Today, breakfast was at eight, consisting of toast slapped in egg and toasted in a French fashion, sausages, baked beans, and pineapples. Days for Girls, an innovative, international enterprise focused on educating girls about their monthly cycles and distributing reusable and locally sustainable menstrual supply packages, visited to tell us all about their organization. After an engaging presentation, we learned about how they are working to become self sufficient and reach every girl in need in the world within a few years– an ambitious but worthy goal. With luck, no female will ever miss days of school or work again.
Lunch, as always, was another gorgeous creation from Justine: avocado wrap, chips (French fries for you Americans), and a chickpea salad. The best part of the day was service in the afternoon. Walking up to our site, we saw the completed structure of the toilet, surrounded by the smiling members of the family benefitting from it. A few hours were spent coating our compost toilet with layers of rust colored paint, and a few more hours washing the paint off with buckets (hoses should never be taken for granted).
At the end, the children of the house gathered around, watching me give myself unintentional showers with overflowing headpans. The kids assisted in carrying water, the mother helped us clean up, and a young man shook my hand and accompanied our team to the road as we left. I saw nothing but genuine appreciation in their eyes. The blood, sweat, and tears of laughter from composing freestyle raps about building toilets were worth it, a million times over. After a lovely dinner (rice, Sauce, salad, and my favorite fried plantains) we slipped into the night. I’m heading to my bed now. I don’t know how I can leave this place in a few days.
Wednesday July 4, 2018
Today was Day 12 in Ghana. Breakfast was at 7:00. We had omelettes, toast, and avocado fruit salad. It was a delicious meal and everybody enjoyed it. After breakfast, we split into two groups– one went to finish up the toilet, the other to go with the nurse to visit the locals. I was in the group that went with the nurse; it was a fun experience.
The nurse took us to an island off the coast into a small community. When we arrived on the island, we were greeted by a horde of mosquitoes that bit us as we furiously sprayed ourselves with mosquito repellent. After we got past the mosquitoes, the nurses took us to the different parts of the village, where they would talk to locals about their health problems and translate what the villagers said to us.
A common problem found among locals was hypertension– due to stress and drinking, and another problem was a lack of famliy planning among women. Many women in the community had unexpected teen pregnancies because they did not understand how babies were made, so they were forced to stay with their baby and were unable to follow their dreams. We then learned about breastfeeding, dangers of home births, and reasons why many people do not go to clinics to seek treatments. I truly learned a lot from this experience and it’s something I would like to do again.
We returned from the island and headed to Auntie’s where we received and paid for the clothes we had ordered last Wednesday. Lunch was right after that and we had yam balls, vegetable sauce, and beet salad. It was a great meal and it helped to prepare us for our afternoon activities. After lunch, Ballo taught us how to play drums and how to dance, we even learned a new song! After that, we had a debate with local students concerning the hazards and advantages of being a farmer or fisherman, which was an interesting experience.
Dinner was after all those activities and we had a huge feast to celebrate our departure. We had goat kebabs, fried chicken, and okra mango salad. This was one of the greatest meals during the trip and I really enjoyed it. We completed our day with a bonfire on the beach, where we dance and sang until our fire died out. Looking at the stars and listening to the sound of the waves was an amazing experience I will cherish forever.
Thursday July 5, 2018
Today was our last day in Ghana and we had a great day! For breakfast we had an omelette cooked with peppers and plantains. We finally got to see our hard work complete and we celebrated by having an opening ceremony of the toilets. While most of it was in Ewe, the families seemed very excited to learn how to use them.
Then we took a nice boat trip down the Volta river to Papa’s bar and hangout on the beach. When we arrived we played sports with the locals and had lunch on the beach. After winding down and eating another delicious meal from Justine we headed back to home base and said goodbye to a fellow student with an early flight.
When the time came around for dinner we had noodles with vegetables and salad followed by a student talent show. The talent show consisted of a variety of songs from Count On Me by Bruno Mars and even a hula dance lead by Lena. After a long day of saying good byes and spending quality time with each other it was an unforgettable day that will always be remembered.
Our journey began early today to head back home. Although tired, we remained with smiles on our faces as we check-in and passed through customs, knowing Ghana will forever be in our hearts.