Neil may be the one grain of rice that can tip the scale toward improving the earth. His determination shines through both of his self-directed work terms: first with Nechako Reforestation in Prince George, a tree reforestation company, and most recently through the Global Volunteers Network, working in Ghana with a local community school.
Neil is a third year Geography student specializing in environmental studies. He is passionate about environmental, developmental and social justice issues. Neil is here to share his co-op adventures at a community school. Welcome to the mind of Neil, experiencing the wonders of Ghana and their people.
January, 6 2007
I have been in Ghana for three days so far and it has been a roller coaster experience. My first night was overwhelming, coming into the chaos of a third world city at night and staying in a hotel alone. The next morning I went to the small village of Sega and it began one of the most amazing experiences of my life.
I arrived at my new home and it was such a peaceful experience: baby goats, chickens, children running around every where, and people waving very excited to see another white(ish) person arrive in the village. People (mostly children) would simply call out "blerfono!" "blerfono!", which means white person. This village is very cool and almost all villagers I meet greet me with "your welcome" "your welcome". After initial confusion over me not even thanking them for anything...I soon realized they were obviously welcoming me to there village.
My placement is at the Anmchara International School, managed by Mr.Godwin, an amazing individual. Mr. Godwin, founder of the school is 30 years old and a local Ghanian. The following is the incredible story of Mr. Godwin and Anmchara International School.
Mr. Godwin always had a passion for teaching and was educated for three years in an agricultural college in Ghana. Upon finishing his schooling worked for the Ministry of Food and Agriculture for two years.
He returned one weekend to his grandmother's home town of Sega for a funeral. Mr. Godwin observed many young children sitting idle all day in his families’ village and was inspired by the wasted potential of the children. He met with the village chiefs to discuss the possibility of educating the children. Mr. Godwin promised that within six months he could have the children speaking English. The chiefs admitted that they believed this promise was a dream that they doubted could come to pass.
After his meeting with the chiefs and this life altering trip in Sega, Godwin returned home and resigned from the Ministry of Agriculture. They adamantly resisted citing that his education and social capital was crucially important to the organization and the country, but Godwin felt this was something he needed to do.
The school opened January 2002 as a nursery class with nine children; which soon grew to ninety-two children. Soon, the number of students expanded beyond what could be accommodated in the building he had been given and he asked the chiefs to help. The chiefs granted him a parcel of land in which the school is now situated upon. Through Godwin's own fundraising and the money he received from his resignation from the Ministry of Agriculture, Mr.Godwin built the existing primary school.
Last spring Tabitha Kroecker, a volunteer from Ontario, visited and was captivated by the beautiful people and progress made in the community. Upon arrival home, she immediately created a website to raise funds for the school. With generous donations, which she forwarded to Mr.Godwin, a junior Secondary building was built allowing the school to graduate the children onto higher levels. The Junior Secondary is now fully functional in a simple, but beautiful building. Mango trees have been planted outside and crops have been planted in the yard to help feed the children during school.
The progress that Godwin has made is amazing and it is positive to see the holistic approach and perspective he has on development. I was hoping to arrive and become part of an effort that would allow me to be contribute to a legacy that would grow past me – I am very pleased to see the potential for this happening. I firmly believe that Godwin is creating a model for subsistence education, which as a result will: alleviate population pressures in this area, educate women, preserve culture, and utilize those willing to help in more fortunate countries.
The school now has 250-300 students, over half of which are young girls! From what I have studied in development, this is an unprecedented ratio for a developing country where male children are given priority in such opportunities. As previously proven with developing regions that have embraced progressive education policies such as Kerala, India, this will continue to have unending positive implications for the community.
Godwin was delighted to hear that I was a professional ‘treeplanter’ with eight years experience in the silviculture industry. We have begun creating a project for planting a forest on the school grounds located on a plot of land set aside for additional school buildings in the future. I will personally donate some funds; if you are interested in buying some trees for us to plant I will send financial details once we visit the forester in the future.