Things moving forward

It’s interesting seeing the progress of project implementation here in LB Fanteakwa.

Three weeks ago we held a training for 9 local representatives who would be leading the community action component of LB. Community action can involve anything from parent workshops, to read-a-thons, to, the piece de resistance of LB community action, Reading Camps. A community led after school reading program for grade K-3 children.

IMG_5916
All of us after the Volunteers Trainers workshop
IMG_5903
Planning session with volunteers to schedule community meetings

This past week they were the ones explaining literacy boost, baseline assessment results and taking questions from community members about reading camps, figuring out logistical details.

The community has already nominated volunteers to be reading camp leaders and we are securing potential venues for reading camps. The project seems to be moving full steam ahead.

LB Fanteakwa

The past three weeks I have been spending time in Fanteakwa, the south-east district of Ghana.

This Literacy Boost project in Fanteakwa has just begun implementation. The first two weeks, were spent on workshops to train volunteers in the community action and reading camp initiatives and Ghana Board of Ed representatives in teacher training. Reading camps are an after school program where children can have more opportunities to learn literacy through play.

 

 

Today we met with community volunteers to assign field groups and schedule community visits. At these visits, the communities will have more opportunities to ask questions and learn about Literacy Boost, nominate volunteers for reading camps, and determine where the reading camps will be held.

The LB Fanteakwa project is sponsored by KOICA (the Korean version of USAID) I’ve been working closely with World Vision Korea manager, Hyungmo Kim, and intern, Yejin Chang. While Hyungmo has been working at World Vision Korea for seven years, for both, it is their first experience working in the field and first experience with education. This has had a lot of technical challenges for both of them with language barriers, food, and illnesses but they’ve been real good sports about it all.

Farm to Table…as fast as you can!

I’ve noticed that fruit and veg here go bad quickly and are prone to fungi and internal rot. Taking into consideration fluctuations in temperature, humidity, and (lack of) refrigeration, it can still be a delicate balance of timing in order to consume veg when they are ripe and fresh. Once they peak, soon after they will ferment or become substrate for some other uninvited bacteria or fungi. In the states I can buy a good looking tomato and expect to keep it in the refrigerator for 10 days. Here, a bag of good tomatoes can last 3 days, and if there are any blemishes, those little toms are ticking time bombs. We had a bowl of tomatoes that grew white fungi overnight!

rotten tomato

 

I realized just how convenient it can be to have genetically modified organisms (GMO) foods, but also how scary mutant ninja produce have taken over the “fresh” food that we eat in the states. In recent years, Ghanaian farmers have been transitioning to using more and more GMOs, today certain vegetables are available year round and more industrial/modern plant propagation techniques are being utilized by large and small-scale farmers alike. Being here has stretched my perspective on reality of food in America but also the benefits of GM. Ultimately, I maintain that GMOs are not good, and I try to steer clear whenever possible.

Nearly all the food we eat is modified and domesticated in some way or another. And if you remember your 9th grade history class, the Neolithic revolution was really the first time land was cultivated which led to the rise of ancient civilizations. So cultivation and modification food is a central part to the story of the human race. but with GMOs, food is owned and controlled by corporations that are ultimately motivated by their profits instead of quality, sustainability, or ethicality of the food, farming practices, or farmers.

The most striking thing to me here is definitely the flora of central Ghana. The soil here is very fertile and you can see there is a healthy layer of humus here rather than just red clay and sand. Even people in the office – who have high salaries, have their own businesses in small scale farms that are managed and tended by hired workers. I am keen on visiting a farm one of these days. The most common crops here in central Ghana are yams, cassava, maize, and beans. There are tons and TONS of maize grown here. The good news is that the farms are generally watered from rains rather than irrigation systems. The plants help with erosion but, run off from the fertilizers and pesticides are still a major concern because many people utilize (above ground) potable water – especially in rural farming communities – that can be easily contaminated due to the wide-spread farming that occurs throughout Ghana. These are also chemicals that will percolate or leech into ground water sources.

Today the Ghanaian government has sponsored some public initiatives to encourage the use of natural fertilizers and farming techniques. On small scale farms, it is easy to collect and use manure from your livestock to fertilize, and use pesticides derived from local plants however, on large scale farms, owners tend to opt for GM seeds, synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.

CHAWCLATE CHAWCLATE CHAWCLATE! AAAHK!

Ghana is the world’s largest exporter of cocoa beans and cocoa is grown in the east. The largest importer of Ghanaian cocoa is Switzerland home of Nestle products which include nestle tollhouse semisweet chocolate chips, and other high quality chocolates like Lindt or Tourist.

I hope there will be time for me to visit cocoa (in the north) and gum (west) tree plantations during my time here.

I’ve tried some Ghanaian brand chocolate…they have not mastered this art yet. Unlike standard commercial brands of chocolate such as Hersheys they use higher quality ingredients  such as cocobutter, instead of vegetable fats and emulsifiers. I wish I could say this improved the flavor and quality of the chocolate but It. Did. Not. This was a very disappointing derivative of cocoa.

 

The lesson I have learned is that chocolate is an art where a humble bean can become luscious and palatable, but I am seeing that it is not as simple as procuring a cocoa supply and using the “right” ingredients in appropriate proportions.

The end-line times

In the past week, we began our endline assessments for Literacy Boost. Last week we had a two day workshop prepping volunteers on how to correctly administer the test using Samsung tablets. #ict4d #whynot

Although I think the tablets are more powerful than necessary for collecting this data, they are shared among different projects. I was impressed by the user friendliness of Tangerine – our assessment application. It’s almost like a WordPress but for assessments. As admin you can design, write, and edit the questions and answers. And then you are able to “publish” the app and upload it onto the tablets.

The exams are taken one at a time for each child and an numerator fills in their graded performance on tangerine. They’ve use mostly proxy questions in order to determine their demographic – as designed by Dziedzorm the planning monitoring and evaluation coordinator (pronounced Jay-jum). This includes questions about the type of meat they eat, if there is electricity at home, and other information about their parents’ work and level of education.

I’ve been learning a lot about the nuts and bolts of data collection and just generally looking ahead and recognizing causes for concern. For example the benefits of over-communicating with your drivers, or reviewing the data collected on a daily basis in order to catch and correct errors.

Things at the office can be pretty unpredictable and run off schedule which is expected in a field office but when Dziedzorm is in charge, things happen and they happen at the scheduled time!

This past Friday was another national holiday it was the Republic Day so we had off from work and I went galavanting around Kintampo and Kumasi to celebrate the establishment of the Ghanaian Republic.

“Trying to understand Ghanaian Government is like trying to understand women.”

-Kofi Sefah, WVG Natural resources and management

Other cool things that have happened:

This past weekend, Victor, a World Vision staff member, invited me to take college students from his church out to pray for people in the city. Most people in Ghana are Christian, still, we are eager to see God touch people and do amazing thigns. It was such a fun and crazy time. We simply prayed for sick or injured people in the name of Jesus and they would just be shocked that the pain instantly left them! Whaaaat? Jesus is so cool. I think there were over ten people who received healing! People with crutches were walking away with out them, babies getting healed, and market ladies seeing their their friends healed and asking for prayer too. I love seeing God blow up expectations! The best part for me, is always watching the faith grow both for the people who receive healing and for the students who went out.

A little unwell

The past two weeks have been packed!

It started out with visits to rural schools to conduct interviews and collect impact stories about literacy boost (our intervention). It was great getting out into the field and meeting the teachers and students who have been implementing and learning the LB curriculum. Through the Ghanaian accent I have been able to discern “very very very good” and “print rich” (referring to the component of the intervention to increase posters, letters, and other reading support material around the classrooms.) Based on the interviews, everyone loves it, literacy boost makes them happy, and their only recommendation is that LB needs to be extended so that other communities can benefit from it. Okay.

Last Tuesday I felt a cold coming on, but it was actually malaria! Hooray! It was my first time getting malaria! My condition quickly declined then improved and I was finished with it by Sunday. All the people here at the office really cared for me and loved on me while I was sick. Sasu, my supervisor, brought me watermelon and apple juice, and a number of other staff came to my room just to pray for me! On Thursday, I was sent from the field office to a larger base in Kumasi so that I could have more advanced medical care (just in case.) I can honestly say this was probably the best experience with malaria I could possibly have. Even though we don’t have running water at my house, there were unexpected heavy rains at night so that our buckets were always full. Also, on the way to Kumasi, we saw a huge double rainbow! (What does it mean??) In the Dagombe language, they actually call it a “rain sword.” I think it sounds so apt!

 

20160616_172530On Monday I was back at the office and it has been full-on chaos ever since. This week we had donors from Canada visiting our office which meant that LB-related tasks were a secondary (or tertiary) priority. On top of that, our start date for endline assessments has been moved up so we’ve been scrambling to visit 40+ remote communities in order to deliver notices about the testing.

20160622_130507Today we ran part 1 of a Trainers of Teachers (TOTs) workshop. Seven community members spent the day with us reviewing and discussing strategies for improving inclusion in classrooms. It was fun to facilitate activities and discussions. One topic that really had these TOTs very vocal was the issue of hunger in schools. It was unfortunate that we could not provide much support for that.

Another picture of the rainbow!

20160616_172626

Just some thoughts

What I’ve been thinking about a lot lately is the school in Mozambique. Pemba is the place where I feel most at home. Though I am the wrong race, and my Makua and Portuguese are limited, I have been allowed to be a part of family in Christ there. Last year around this time, God asked me to lay down my time in Mozambique for Philadelphia. In the winter, again I felt God asking me to lay down a church where I felt loved and comfortable and go to a church where I could minister to university students. Again and again, God asked me to lay down opportunities to attend Christian conferences and missions trips. It felt like they were beautiful silken sashes I had worn to my delight. Even if I felt misunderstood by my family and peers, I was proud to have them. One by one Jesus asked me to lay them down. I needed to learn about love that overcomes persecution, pride, stress, control, and hate. I also needed to learn that the dreams in my heart are not just Him and me, but there have been a number of merciful people loving on me, putting up with me, and cheering for me as I walk with Jesus daily and let go of the things that need to be let go.

The reason I have been thinking about Mozambique is because I felt God say that I will go to Mozambique after completing the IEDP at UPenn and my teacher certification. I know I will be returning to Philly but I’m so excited that God has called me back to Mozambique. Every time I get to go, it is such a surprise and is such a great gift to me.

God I never even asked, but you put precious treasures there that I get to hold, even for a little while. And I get to go back! This year they had their very first 12th grade graduation at the Iris school. I was so proud of those kids. Two of them were girls who are very dear to my heart. After months of driving through bush-bush for birth parents, waiting for African bureaucrats, and waiting on finances, they are now attending an English language learning school in South Africa. I hope they can live with me in Philly in order to study for SATs, TOEFL, and write college applications when I come back to teach. It doesn’t matter where they attend college, but I truly believe that one of them will the first Mozambican to attend Harvard University. I have realized the Korean mom in me. Now I just need to sign them up for piano and violin lessons and my transformation will be complete.

Happy African Union!

It’s been a week since I left for Ghana.
God has really provided for me while being here.

It seemed like the WVG team wanted me to come over as soon as possible but most of my first days spent here were quiet and uneventful. At times I felt uneasy: many people were going out of their way to help me get settled and I hadn’t even done any work for them. I don’t deserve this! – was the undertone of my first couple days. So I would just pray that I could be a blessing to them too.

Originally I was supposed to travel to Fanteakwa (pronounced fan-tee-ah-kwah) to work on the KOICA sponsored program called Literacy Boost (LB) but the project manager has been feeling ill so we improvised and I was sent to the LB team in Kintampo.

The staff here in the field office are great. I’ve been staying with them in a small apartment nearby the office. We cook, laugh, and talk about the programs.

I am surprised by the pace of the office here. It’s still not as stress laden and industrious as American offices but much much better than offices I’ve seen in other parts of Africa. Today is African Union Day but most of us are here in the office wrapping things up before next week when everyone in WVG will be away together at the Spiritual Conference.

We got to visit the field schools where LB Is being implemented. This was a simple monitoring trip. Our group brought formative assessments for the students to keep track of their progress. In the picture, Sasu is with a student asking her to read a word in Twi.

It’s raining beautifully again. I love the sound of a good downpour.