2010 DAMONGO PROJECT OVERVIEW
2010 will always be remembered as the year of the ‘Boarding House build’
Completed boarding house
Although there were many other accomplishments, it is the first build we had ever undertaken and successfully completed. Credit goes to Kelley Beaverford and the students in the Faculty of Architecture, University of Manitoba, who travelled at their own expense to pile mud blocks in 40 degree heat. Of course they managed six credits too!
The crew on final day with U of M
As well, the scholarship program was doubled in size to include almost thirty girls. Several Red Deer schools did book drives for children’s books which were transported to Damongo’s Presby Primary library where children use them every day.
The addition to St. Anne’s Boarding House completed on time and on budget.
The single largest contributor for the year was Debbie Weiers whose dollars funded a good portion of the Boarding House. Without her, we doubt the fine structure that has been build could have become what it has. Besides thanks to many donors, we wish to acknowledge the contrbutions of David Thompson Regional Health for medical supplies, Nova Chemicals for paper and Red Deer Public Schools for books. Thanks to Della and Brent Ruston, David Weisenbach, Ernie McEachern and several generous neighbours for their contribution of laptops.
Several of our scholarship girls will be finishing their high school either this year or next, and all wish to go on to post secondary education. Each of these girls has received $800 for tuition, books, room & board and uniforms. These expenses were covered by donations made to Tools for Schools Africa Fdn., many of which were $20 to $50, so each dollar counts. We all thank you.
The plan of the new building & paint choice
The building of the addition to St. Anne''s Boarding House is moving forward as planned in April 2010. The plans have gone from sketches to drawings and are now moving to the blueprint stage. It will be great fun to have students from the University of Manitoba working on the project with Kelley, the Diocese and us. Our only concern is a shortfall of $10,000 on the $68,000 project. To build the building the size requested we will need to come up with that funding within a month. If not, we will continue with the project but the building will be downsized by 7 metres in length to make up for the shortfall in funds.
The kitchen that is being replaced.
To raise some of those funds, we are presently working a fundraising project of gift baskets for secretaries/administrative professionals week. The African-themed baskets sell for $50 with a $25 tax deductible receipt, and will be delivered to the door of Red Deer businesses. The baskets have African-sourced fair trade chocolate, coffee, tea, flowers, and a few surprises - they are awesome!! Please pass on word of the project to anyone you think might be interested. Baskets can be ordered through our website at www.tfs-africa.org. Just contact us!!
March 10, 2010
Our present fundraising efforts centre around lovely African themed baskets for women. They are excellent as a gift for secretary/admin assistant week, for your wife at Easter, or for mom on Mother's day. The baskets contain several African sourced products and include free trade coffee, tea, and chocolate, and a some personal care items. They are excellent value for the $50 cost, and besides the purchaser will receive a $25 taxable deduction receipt.
Please have a look at our flyer/order form and consider how you may be able to use a basket.
June 8, 2010 from GHANA
On Tuesday June 1st we checked out generators with Noble in Kumasi. We found one that was said to be 2003 but if it was any newer than 1985 I'll eat it. Anyway, it was decided to go to Caterpillar who has a business outlet here and borrow a mechanic for the afternoon. The mechanic found another couple generators and in the end a beautiful, almost new generator was taken to the Dominase Hospital. Well done Noble!!
The new generator for the hospital; the outpatient area of Dominase Hospital
We left Kumasi around noon, heading north. Of course we bought LOTS of fruit on the way, about 70 cedis worth. We went by way of Buipe and then up Safari road, through a rainstorm. Good thing the soil is very sandy as we did not get bogged down. We arrived at Damongo just at dusk, and headed for the guest house. The University of Manitoba students were there to greet us and help carry in the fruit. What a wonderful group of young people they are.
U of M kids going to the building site.
On Wednesday June 2 the kids piled into the back of a half ton truck to go to the build site but I wanted to walk to the Boarding House to see the new building from the cut-across road. That was a great plan except the road was so overgrown that I missed the turn and took Jean on the scenic route, cutting through fields and yards. We entered the compound from behind, but new building was impressive even from the back. It is roof high (without a roof so far) but the construction looks good. They are presently plastering both inside and out, and the roof trusses are secured. The plumbing and most of the electricity are in and we look forward to seeing a roof in the near future. Travelling with Kelly and the U of M crew are Leland Hill and Michael Hersrud. Leland is writing a book about Kelley's projects and Michael is doing a film. When Michael asked me what it was like to see the building for the first time, I had to blink back a few tears. Jean felt the same.
Thursday we spent most of the day taking Michael around to do filming with some local people as he is also interested in girl's education. We took him to SAGISS to visit some of the girls at the high school. Several of them, in their freshly laundered and ironed school uniforms, stood to speak of their earlier education. One girl said that her sister had come a few years earlier. When she came home for the first time she reported that there was room for all the students inside the classroom, and that no one had to sit outside, so she decided immediately that this was the school for her. It’s not a selection criteria that most of us use to choose a school.
We went to Presby after lunch where Veronica took us on a tour of the school. Michael spoke with many of the students and teachers, and did a short interview with Veronica herself about her struggles for an education. I had asked Sule about the seed from the Dowa doa tree, and he pointed out a tree at the back of the school compound. We walked back to see it, and Veronica asked one of the boys to get some seeds for us. Jean and I were amazed at the speed with which this young man was up that tree and out to the tip of very high and very long branches.
A beautiful African tree
Michael got some great footage there! We stopped by Rabi's place as she was dying fabric, and she wanted us to see her new bakery. She has a contract to supply bread to some of the schools, so bread is constantly being produced. We bought some for supper and it was terrific. The bread is cooked inside an old wooden ‘dresser‘ with shelves and doors, with a curpot of glowing coals placed in the bottom. We organized a farewell dinner for the U of M people for Thursday night. To give them a chance to interact with some of the wise women of the community, we invited the scholarship committee to join us. It was a great spaghetti dinner with a huge fresh fruit salad and Rabi's fresh buns.
Celebrations with Gonja Dancers
Se slaved for hours over the dessert - Jean's chocolate bars chopped into pieces (very well received indeed as several were going into chocolate withdrawal) and some chopped up red licorice, a travelling staple of mine. It was a great evening. The scholarship committee met after the meal, and students purchased several of Amoah's fine paintings.
Talking to the Gonja dancers
Friday was the final workday for the students, so we made them a special lunch of tuna sandwiches and fruit salad. We organized a farewell party for the students and the workmen on the site. They were down on the ground arm wrestling before the event was over, and the students gave away their work boots to the rest of the crew. After supper the Boarding House girls had organized a music/drama evening for them outside under the dark African night sky. We added to that as we had made arrangements for the Gonja dancers to attend, and both boarding house girls and U of M students were thrilled. So were we. What an amazing group they are. Minerals all around, and the evening was over, but will not be forgotten by any who attended.
The students were to leave at 5 am on a bus, but the bus did not arrive until the evening. Food had not been ordered so we had some hungry kids and no food. More tuna sandwiches - both lunch and supper!! Good thing canned tuna can be purchased in Damongo. They finally were able to leave a day late on Sunday at 5 am. The van was loaded to the hilt and the suspension, as Sule would say, was ‘suffering’. It had about 6 inches clearance, a bad thing on African roads.
Sunday we made contact with Mahama when he came to Damongo, then we returned to Mole Game Reserve where he joined us again. It was great to have a visit. The day had to be the hottest yet - I would guess between 38 and 40, or maybe hotter. All I know is it was the hottest day I remember since I lived here as a kid. The elephants did not cooperate, so mostly the day was visiting. Monday of course we were back at the Boarding House and then we went to Philemon's farm, which is next to Benedict’s farm. I hadn't seen the settlement houses since I was a kid. They are still using the same tractor but it is ‘not looking fine’ as is the African expression.
Tractor "not looking fine" as when Dad worked with it in 1967
Today we are in Tamale to get some cash and run some errands. We are heading back after lunch and have interviews with girls scheduled for the rest of this week and next. Might get a chance to send another blog, or not.....
All for now - hope all are well....
Marilyn and Jean (Mudd)
June 23, 2010
Once again we are home, for the most part in good health although Jean got a minor infection of some kind. We are both working our way through the jet lag although my body still wants to wake up at 4:30 each morning. It makes for a long day! It was once again a joy to visit our Damongo friends, and to catch up on their lives. Of course, we went for two main reasons: to monitor the construction of the boarding house facility, and to meet with the girls on scholarship. We are very pleased with the results of both.
Blogs were not frequent this trip as internet in Damongo has deteriorated since last year. I sent a blog from Tamale on June 8, so will quickly recap the happenings after that.
Marilyn meeting with students
Starting on the 9th, we began meeting with the girls who have been on scholarship for the 2009-2010 school year. We wanted to see how they were doing personally, how it was with their families, and of course their academic accomplishments. It was very nice to see them all again, a year older and more confident. All scholarships have been renewed for another year. Students receiving scholarships are attending and/or staying at DASS (Damongo Senior Secondary), Ndewura Jakpa Tech High School, SAGISS (St. Anne's Girls Senior Secondary School) and St. Anne's Boarding House. We are pleased to continue support for the girls listed below:
Shafow Baba, grade 11 who wants to be a doctor,
Mercy Konlitey from Bole,
Asia Iddrisu from Buipe.
Abagail Afibah, from Takoradi finishing second year,
Safura Issah, an orphan from near Tuna,
Nafkatu Yahaya whose father has passed and wants to be a nurse,
Salima Abdulai a Wala from Damongo.
Ernestina Sunwiale from Tuna,
Rashida Alhassan who wants to be an accountant,
Gladys Atafo whose mother has passed
Nashira Sumani, from Bole, family of 13 children,
Cynthia Akurugu, Frafra, mother has passed, Bole, Rebecca Bawkoro from Nandom
On June 9th it was great to have some visitors from California stay for the night at the Guest House on their way to Upper West. They were about 20 girls from a Catholic girls’ school in California who were visiting their sister school at Jirapa. We enjoyed their company and enthusiasm. On the 10th and 11th we continued to interview girls, this time with new girls looking for possible support for the 2010-2011 school year. Some of their stories were very inspirational. We had finished interviewing at Jakpa when Mary said, "It is not possible, is it, to consider one more girl?" We asked who she had in mind, and we met Janet, a third year student. Janet is from Upper East. Her father died when she was in JSS. Her mother is supporting five children as a trader. Whenever she is not in class she is working in a drinking bar serving and washing up in order to make money to stay in school. She wants to be a teacher, and her marks are all excellent. We agreed to support her for her fourth and last year at Jakpa so she is able to concentrate on her studies.
Saturday we went to the local market, always a fun experience. Having Sule along was very helpful because although I do have a reasonable background in local produce, there are always things new to me, and Sule was well able to explain what they were and how they are used. Sunday we headed back to Mole. Mahama said he had called the elephants to attend us, and they did! We went on a walking safari, watching the elephants feed as they left the water hole. Then we went on a driving safari, the first time we have been able to do so, thanks to the government of the Netherlands which has paid for road construction through the park. We stopped at a salt lick and got a small sample we hope to have analyzed as all the animals go there, and the rangers want to know what other minerals the animals might be seeking besides salt.
Monday the 14th is a day we will always remember because by then FIFA Fever had gripped the whole town, and on Monday night we got to be a part of it. Football is certainly the game of choice for just about every kid in the country, and the Ghanaian team was doing well. Every TV in the country was tuned into the World Cup games in South Africa. When Jean and I walked over for supper, Father David and Father Sylvester were running extension cords to hook up a 14 inch TV outside. We joined them to watch the game. Father Augustine had arrived, so the five of us sat under the twinkling stars in the black African night watching football, cheering, drinking beer, eating goat kabobs and just visiting. It was a great time that will be long remembered.
On Tuesday we continued to interview girls and also dispersed the remaining supplies from the 2008 teachers conferences to various schools. In the evening we had a lovely meal for the scholarship committee who had done such a fine job in selecting girls for us to interview for possible scholarships. We wish to extend a very heartfelt thanks to Adrianna Bille, Jonas Bore, Mary Teni Azotikemah, Gabriella Wumnaya and Veronica Nornia for their fine work. Laz was unable to attend. We presented all with small gifts.
We finished interviewing new candidates for scholarships, and the recipients of the 2010-2011 junior high and high school scholarships will be:
SAGISS: Mahama Sahada Jemima, Damongo; Kipo Samata, Damongo; Dery Roselyn, Wa Ndewura Jakpa: Antobam, Janet, Wiaga; Bafaana Janet, Sawla; Bugri Salamatu, Bole; Abibu Salamatu, Boachiepe; Azotikemah Augustina, Navrongo; and Yussif Fatima, Yapei
DASS: Penneh, Augustina, Dakpaalakura; Laer Charity, Longtong no2; Konodis Ayishetu, Bole; Kontodia Anita, Buipe
St. Anne's Boarding House: Danielle Damonkye, Saru-Kalba; Gladys Wusah, Daboya-Lingbinsi; Mary Zinye, Lawra; Augustine Samba, Nandoli
Damongo Presby JSS: Fusheim Nimah; Kadin Ayisha; Dauda, Rabinatu; Ewura Ayisha; Mbigamsi Nafisah; Soale Elizabeth; Adam Sahadutu
We are also considering three possible post secondary scholarships for the coming year. A sister who is working with physically handicapped children has approached us for help as well, but we don't know yet just how far our money will go.
Keeping the Ghanaian NGO operating efficiently are Francisca Amoako and Lydia Ajono. Francisca was always able to solve whatever problem arose. Thanks to Lydia for her contact in Kumasi with Ahmed, the bead man. He again has provided us with some awesome necklaces we will soon have for sale. Also thanks to Laz,, William, Kelley, the U of M students, Leland, Michael, Claudius, the Scholarship committee, Amoah, Sule, Mahama,and the many others who made this trip so enjoyable. And the best for last - thank you Jean for your wonderful companionship and the many good times! Jean was awesome at recording our trip in pictures.
All for now and thank you to all who have helped make this building, and these scholarships, a reality.
July 1, 2010
As an example of what TFS-A Fdn is doing in Northern Ghana, I would like to tell you the story of two girls, one who just started school and one who has finished secondary school. First I want to tell you the story of a five or six year old girl named Ophelia.
We often walk from the guest house down a dirt path to the Boarding House. The path winds through fields of yams, maize and cassava with random mud hut compounds scattered here and there. In 2008 I was walking down this path when a family of four children, three boys and a girl, came out to greet me. The oldest boy with a crutch spoke English so we all had a small visit. They allowed me to take their pictures. The smallest, a girl, had a sparkle in her eye and a curiosity that was to be remembered. She told me her name was Ophelia.
This year Jean and I were walking down the same path when a small female bundle of energy began yelling, waving and running toward us through head high grass. Kids yelling and waving is a common occurrence so we usually stop and talk, which we did again. As we were visiting, Grandmother and two brothers appeared. The family spoke English quite well, so I asked the small girl her name. She said it was Ophelia. I immediately remembered her, and in fact had put a picture of her in my journal, which I had with me. I opened the journal and showed her a picture of herself two years ago. Her face lit up like the morning sun. I ripped the picture from the journal and gave it to her, then asked to take a picture of her holding the older photo of herself. She was so pleased.
Ophelia squatting in the foreground in her new school uniform with two brothers and Grandmother
I then asked Grandmother if Ophelia was attending school. She said there was no money for a uniform. In my journal was a ten cedi note, so I pulled it out and handed it to her, explaining that I would be pleased to buy Ophelia a uniform. She bowed and curtsied, saying "Thank you Ophelia friend". A couple days later when we were once again on the path she stopped us to show us the uniform. She explained that it had cost 5 cedis so she had purchased two pair of flip flops for 1 cedi each, and the family had used the rest for food. I was so pleased to see Grandmother, the uniform and Ophelia's excitement about having it. I asked her to hold her uniform so we could take yet another picture, but grandmother stripped off her zippered and dusty brown jacket (her only piece of clothing) and on the spot pulled the uniform over her head, and helped her put on her shoes. We took her picture again, this time in her new uniform. She was bubbling and was so excited to be going to school she was jumping as if she was on springs while her brothers were trying to shush her and have her appear properly serious.
A half hour later as we headed back to the Guest House we met the children on the road again, this time with Ophelia heading off to her first day of school. Her contagious smile and the twinkle in her eyes were pure joy. I was almost as excited as she was! And all for seven Canadian dollars.
Now, on to the story of Sophia. We first met Sophia in Damongo in June of 2010 when she was brought to us by her former headmistress, Gabriella. Sophia graduated from high school two years ago with excellent marks but was unable to go on to post secondary education due to lack of money. She comes from a rather remote mud hut village named Sorri 2 which we have passed through several times in the past as it is on Safari Road. Gabriella spoke very highly of this girl, so we agreed to meet her, and we were very impressed with her composure, her grace and her absolute determination to continue her education. Following are excerpts of a letter she wrote to us:
"I am a girl of 20 years of age named Daudu Sophia. I am from a Muslim community, and am the fifth born of seven children. The family consists of four girls and three boys. Among the seven of us, four are educated and three are not. My oldest brother has completed Polytechnic and is presently doing National Service. His name is Salifu. I am the next one who has gotten an education and I have completed senior high school. The others who are getting an education are Rahinatu and Adam who is still in primary school. (Note: TFS-A paid Rahinatu’s school costs to attend junior high as well.)
I actually found it very difficult when I was in school. My parents are peasant farmers. After harvesting, they get just a little for family consumption. Then a little of that would be sold for my fees which was not enough sometimes. I had to beg other people to help me pay my fees. There were times the school collected food stuffs from my parents because they could not pay. As for my personal needs, I could not tell them because they could not get money for me so I just managed. I used not to eat anything besides school food because I did not have the money. But I took my studies seriously. I studied and took first position in almost all the subjects even at the final exams. I became the senior prefect in my final year.
When I was in school my dream was to become a business administrator. But after I completed high school, my dream was dead because I could not get money to go forward after secondary education. My father is now weak and tired. He cannot go to farm as he used to. My brother is in National Service so he has no permanent job that pays money to help support me. You have brought me back to life. You are making my dream come true. I promise that I will study very hard and come out with first class from the university. I will work hard and help my community in the near future......"
Education is the key to girls having some choices in their lives, and that is why we continue to support as many girls as we can. Sophia's story is just one of many, but she wrote it so well that I wanted to share it with you. We have other girls that will be looking for post secondary education in the 2011-2012 school year, and likely we will not have enough money to support them all. If you or your family have any interest in 'adopting' a girl for the purpose of supporting her through two to four years of post secondary education, you to can change lives. What a wonderful Christmas present from one extended family to another.....
September 7, 2010
Boarding house dining room
Just a short update to let you know the building at St. Anne's Boarding House is now complete inside and out. The covered verandah adds a nice shady area where girls can congregate. On the left is the study hall, on the right is the kitchen and the dining room is on the centre. Many thanks to the students from the University of Manitoba for their help on this project, and thanks also to the Diocese of Damongo and contractor Claudius Bangfo.
Noble will be shipping another container in about three months. The Boarding House girls in the dining room
Any working computers/laptops/monitors or medical supplies that could be donated for the next shipment would be greatly appreciated. thanks again for all your support.
October 27, 2010
It is through the generosity of two fine Central Alberta families that we are able to announce we now have four girls in post secondary education. Most satisfying is that we have a village girl in medicine, a rare occurence in Ghana indeed! Aloysita is attending the University of Developmental Studies in Tamale in the Faculty of Medicine. She has already completed a science degree at Kwami Nkrumah University, Kumasi, and will require four more years to become a medical doctor. She promises us that she will work in the Northern Region, hopefully in Damongo. Aloysita is our latest scholarship recipient. Thank you to Blair and Lyn Goertzen for her support.
For those of you in the Red Deer region, we will co-host an event in Red Deer on November 6. Tools for Schools Africa Foundation invites you to a craft sale at the HUB on Ross Street. Locally and globally hand made items are for sale by several local charitable organizations. The profits from sales are used to help improve lives somewhere in the world. We have for sale free trade African coffee, African teas, handmade African necklaces, shea butter lotion, gift cards and a number of other items. When you purchase from Tools for Schools Africa Foundation your dollars directly support the education of girls in West Africa. At present we have over forty girls benefitting from scholarships, mostly at the junior high and senior high level. Four girls are now attending post secondary institutions in the faculties of business management, food and nutrition, electrical engineering and medicine. Aloysita is one of those girls. Wonderful professional African women are mentoring each of the girls.
Best wishes for a wonderful festive season.
November 30, 2010
We had a call from Sophia this morning. Hearing the joy in her voice was wonderful because we knew that being able to continue her education was the reason she was so happy. She is in business administration in Sunyani. We are encouraged by the educational achievements of all forty-four of our scholarship girls.
9 degrees north - The ABCs of Ghana
Presently most of our time is being devoted to our newest project, a children’s ABC book we are publishing for Northern Region schools called 9 Degrees North: The ABC's of Northern Ghana. Mike Boldtr, a graphic designer and children’s author from Spruce Grove, has convinced some very talented professional illustrators to donate an illustration for one letter of the alphabet. The book will have an appendix with additional information on each subject so that teachers can use the book in classrooms as a teaching tool. About three quarters of the run (likely about 3,000) will be given to schools in northern Ghana while the remainder will be for sale in North America. We hope the profits from sales here will fund future printings. We have a separate website set up that will show artwork as it is finished, and you will be able to see blog comments from the artists. So far it is just up, but check back to see the progress on this project at:
This year we have several Red Deer school classrooms which are contributing to TFS-AFrica through a variety of school initiatives. We thank all these very young global citizens! As always, we wish to thank our wonderful friends at the Rotary Club of Edmonton South who continue to support us yearly. A special thanks to Lyn Goertzen, Laurie Harder, Ron & Mary Fath, and Sara Coumantarakis for their understanding of the power of education for Ghanaian girls. And as always, many thanks to Sandy who continues to update and maintain this website free of charge. Finally, a HUGE thank you to Sule Abdulai for keeping us safe on hundreds of kilometers of Ghanaian roads.