Mission Statement:  Tools for Schools Africa Foundation works to improve the quality of life in the
Northern Region of Ghana by enhancing educational opportunity and access to post primary education.

2011 - 2012 DAMONGO PROJECT OVERVIEW

June 13, 2012

Greetings once again from Damongo! As Mahama says, “We are kicking” but sometimes barely surviving the heat. Gail is a trooper and is passing the "rookie" test with flying colors. She has seen life from a new perspective, and is very interested in the culture and people of the area.

adrianna - mentor
Meeting Adrianna, one of our mentors, at her school

Today was the first day we delivered copies of 9 Degrees North to primary schools. The basic rule was one book per hundred students and one soccer ball per 250 or so students. We visited seven schools today, all in or near Damongo.

The schools varied widely in size and degree of orderliness but not in enthusiasm when they saw 'abruni's" coming as we are usually the bearers of gifts. And we did not disappoint. Most of the school knew us as we had delivered books to them in 2006-7.

school
Students with books

At all the schools the kids were chanting and cheering. At a couple there was a so much shoving and pushing that older students had to force them back with switches. The majority were orderly, polite and respectful.

At most schools we tried to read the kids a few pages, and Mike, one of our contributing artists, will be pleased to know that his page, 'T for Transportation', is a definite crowd pleaser. The kids laughed and pointed and loved the little guy with a football riding on top of a moto.

school
Happy kids with new soccer ball
school

Students with books

Tomorrow we will be interviewing scholarship girls all day. First we will visit with the seven girls we presently support at Presby JSS, and in the afternoon we will meet with the girls from the Boarding House ( the one where we built an addition in 2010).

It will be incredibly humid tomorrow as the rain is pounding the tin roof right now and has been for some time. Higher 30's forecast for tomorrow, so we will be drained by the end of the day.

We are looking forward to talking with the girls, and seeing what life is with them. Already several have seen us on the street and have come over to talk.

sule and his kids

Sule and his children

As always we appreciate, more than anything else, the people who continue to help us get from place to place and make thing happen, especially Sule, Mahama and Gabriella.

I can’t wait to have all the scholarship girls together this coming Saturday. Tuna sandwiches, jello and carrot cake will likely be the menu, for Plan A at least.

Hope all is well in your lives,

Marilyn P.

June 19, 2012

I hope you are enjoying some sunny days in Alberta, but from what we hear you have been having rainy season too! On Friday we had a rainstorm that took out cell phone towers, electricity and brought down a good number of trees. Mahama and I drove three and a half hours to Tamale to pick up three of our out of town guests: Francisca and Lydia (both are directors of our Ghanaian NGO) and also our electrical engineering student Alfreda. Doing a round trip made one long day. In the meantime MG and Gail were playing Betty Crocker and whipping up some spice cakes and jello for celebrations tomorrow. Gail was the photographer for the day, and Marilyn G got the mixer games going then served a wonderful lunch. Maybe not a standard lunch menu, but a hit here, and quite an accomplishment when achieved without electricity, phone or a vehicle. Well done!

June 19, 2012

I hope you are enjoying some sunny days in Alberta, but from what we hear you have been having rainy season too! On Friday we had a rainstorm that took out cell phone towers, electricity and brought down a good number of trees. Mahama and I drove three and a half hours to Tamale to pick up three of our out of town guests: Francisca and Lydia (both are directors of our Ghanaian NGO) and also our electrical engineering student Alfreda. Doing a round trip made one long day. In the meantime MG and Gail were playing Betty Crocker and whipping up some spice cakes and jello for celebrations tomorrow. Gail was the photographer for the day, and Marilyn G got the mixer games going then served a wonderful lunch. Maybe not a standard lunch menu, but a hit here, and quite an accomplishment when achieved without electricity, phone or a vehicle. Well done!

washed out road

The trip to Tamale on the washed out Damongo road.

The time with the girls was awesome! The purpose of the day was to gather all our scholarship students from various school together so that they could meet each other. We didn't know how many girls would attend as some had to travel significant distances, but it was a full house with about 58 attending, including mentors and a few family members. Francisca, Lydia and the in-school mentors were inspirational with their life stories of determination and commitment to education. Francisca told how she sold headpans of fish to pay for school fees and Lydia related her story of listening outside the school window while she was supposed to be herding cattle. Jonas assured them they could successfully compete with boys and Gabriella emphasized that they now had another family to help them. Alfreda spoke through nerves and tears of how her family gave her away at birth as they did not want another girl and how she began school at 13. Believe me, it was an inspirational day for us too.

girls mixer games

The girls doing mixer games with Marilyn G.

The stories told confirmed that in the most hopeless of situations there is always hope for the future. One of our junior high girls is the sole income earner for family as well as caregiver for her siblings. She has been carrying this weight for four years.

As the lunch ended, another rainstorm hit so the girls had another hour to spend together under a roof. It ended up being a wonderful time to connect even more with each other before crossing the shin deep water between the guest house and the Boarding House.

Girls from SAGISS - a senior secondary school

The girls from SAGISS - a Senior Secondary School

To make the day even more special, we got word that we have received more scholarship funding through the Alberta Teachers Association and the Canadian Teachers Federation. Thank you! The few lucky teachers who were selected from this area are really looking forward to the teacher training offered this summer in Tamale by CTF. Wonderful opportunity for all.

sponsored girls

Some of the girls we have sponsored who have completed high school. Some are in post secondary and some are waiting for a placement.

We had a meeting yesterday with the office of District Director of Education, exploring another build with the University of Manitoba in May 2013 at Presby Primary and JHS. Some groundwork needs to be in place for that to happen. The School is "choked" with students, and still parents are bringing more. The junior high has 325 students In three regular sized classrooms, and the more-than-200 KG students do not have a room at all.

Enough for now. Today we interview girls at DASS, the local government high school. Great girls and we are looking forward to it.

Marilyn

June 23, 2012

This is our last update from Damongo. We have Sunday here and Monday morning will be heading to Tamale, and then on to the coast.

We were just reviewing, over a shandy, the accomplishments of this trip, and we must say we are pretty pleased.

Gail in her African dress

Gail at the tailor’s trying on her new African dress. Thanks for traveling with us Gail, and I hope it is a birthday celebration you will long remember.

1. Scholarship girls. It was also great to see our scholarships girls growing in confidence and poise. Seeing how they have blossomed and who they have become through access to education has reinforced our determination and commitment to the keep funding them as long as we are able. Thirteen have completed high school. Their future is bright, even brighter if we are able to secure sponsorship for their post secondary study. We are so impressed with their knowledge and leadership skills. Over twenty new girls will be welcomed into the fold and will be sponsored at junior high and high school levels. We are humbled by their stories of responsibility and the challenges they have overcome in order to attend school.

2. The computer placements for the three local high schools were very well received. Many thanks to Lloyd, Blaine and Dennis for their help in shipping about eighty computers for these schools. Three of the four schools already have them up and running. Only Ndesco does not.

3. We were thrilled with the excitement our ABC book generated. Copies were delivered to most the schools in the immediate area and some have been set aside for delivery farther west next year.

4. There were three chairs set up under the mango tree at the edge of the football field today as we had a command performance game by the house teams at the Vocational High School. They put on a game for us because they were all wearing new (to them) Red Deer Renegade jerseys! The twelve hundred jerseys have all found homes and we have some very happy school football teams!

5. The books collected through elementary school book drives in Red Deer were mostly given to schools west of Damongo, like Bole, Sawla and Tuna. Our friend Augustin looked after their delivery.

6. And best of all was the Saturday our schoolarship girls all spent the day together. The University and tech students were inspirational with their stories of overcoming adversity to achieve academic excellence.

7. We are bringing back ideas for the 'next' book!

So many things have worked out well. Having a new and improved guest house was near the top of the list as was an air conditioned, reliable vehicle with both Mahama and Sule available to drive. Having accommodation with Noble in Kumasi is fabulous, and Francisca/Lydia as the glue that binds this all together - please accept our thanks to all. The openness and genuine interest of the Damongo people is always rewarding, and sometimes entertaining. We are still giggling about the girls being told, "Don't use your parents as a pillow because one day you will wake up and your pillow will be gone and your head will be hanging just like that!"

We also enjoyed Gabriella's comment, "The day has come and gone, and what a marvelous way it has been spent.". This comment speaks perfectly to our time in Damongo- the fine people, the beautiful sunsets, the torrential rains and no malaria (so far!).

With many thanks to our families,

The 3 Abrunis