Tomorrow, We Travel

It’s been a while since we’ve updated our site, but a lot has been going on.  Over the past year we have purchased and prepped the computers, procured the furniture from generous donations, and secured the money to complete the building from donations of amazing people, churches, organizations and businesses.  We packed the computers, equipment and furniture into a container and shipped it to Ghana in February.  Last week, the container arrived in Ghana and its contents have been trucked to Abesewa for installation.

Tomorrow, our installation team heads to Ghana.  Jim Arant, Bobby Gordon, Danny Chamblee and Geoff Coston (Me) board our plane in Columbia at 2:45 PM and will arrive in Accra, Ghana at 8:00 AM on Tuesday.  We will spend the following seven hours, or so, driving to Sunyani, Ghana, our base camp for our mission. On Wednesday, we will begin to change the lives of thousands of Ghanaians through our gift of the library and technology center.  I will be posting daily video updates on our Facebook page as we travel from South Carolina to Ghana to do our small part to change the world.  Follow us at @UMCSCINGHANA on Facebook.

With God, All things are possible!

Heading Home

We came here to learn about things we need to do to accomplish our task – to build an Information Technology Center in Abesewa, Ghana.  After today, I think we will have knowledge to make good, informed decisions, check.

I came away with much more.  New friends:

  • Charlie and Mary Kay Jackson – who have been the most gracious hosts in the midst of Dumsor (Ghana for off-on), a time when electric power is turned off and on – many times without notice.  Charlie was without power for the two days we were traveling.
  • Bishop Kofi Asare Bediako – a wonderful leader  and servant – very gracious and has not let his status go to his head.
  • The many people with whom we met – they gave us counsel and have helped in so many ways to advance our project.  From the teachers and technicians to the staff, administrators and vendors.
  • The people of Abesewa – the children of the schools are especially impressive.  The adults are gracious and Godly.  They all are the reason for the project.

I am impressed with the people of Ghana.  They are determined to survive.  They will do what they must to survive.  They will do what they must do to live.  They are strong.

Jim

Day 2 – Abesewa

After a restful night and a quick breakfast at the Freeman Methodist Center in Kumasi, we were on the road again to Abesewa (pronounced ah-BES-u-wah).  More villages, potholes and speed bumps with street vendors lining the road at every intersection.  We arrive in Abesewa mid-morning and meet the district Bishop.  In order to be officially welcomed into the village, we must be formally introduced and greeted by the Village Chief, Elders and school officials.  This is a very structured ceremony with each person being introduced and greeted with the shaking of hands (always the right hand and from right to left).  The Chief formally welcomes us and the Bishop thanks him for his hospitality.  According to custom, we have brought gifts for the dignitaries and the schoolchildren.  The Chief is presented with a South Carolina flag.  The Chief and the elders are also presented with t-shirts (courtesy of McWhirter, Bellinger & Associates Law Firm).  After the welcomes and introductions are over, we finish with another round of handshakes and follow the Chief to the Technology Center where we are given a tour by the Supervisor of Construction.

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It’s tremendous to see actual progress with the Technology Center.  Before today, we had just seen a few photos of the foundation and the surrounding village – seeing it in person, makes it real.  While the building may look a bit crude by U.S. standards, this will be a solid, modern building for the village of Abesewa and will fit their needs perfectly.  During the building of the foundation, the schoolchildren pitched in to help fill the foundation with soil – that’s a lot of dirt to move with a single wheelbarrow.  We walk around the building as the supervisor explains the construction process.  We then enter the building as he explains each area.  Running water, a septic system and four water closets (bathrooms) are included in the design.  This village has very few indoor toilets, so this will be a major benefit for the users of the center.  The construction workers are diligent and innovate as they work with virtually no power tools.  I’m impressed as one mason carries a block on his head up a ladder to the other mason who cements it in place.  We are all happy with the progress.

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Next, we assemble at the school where we are all seated along the rear of the school and introduced to the teachers and students.  This is why we have come.  Jim and I have traveled over 8,000 miles to this very moment where we can finally see the beneficiaries of the Technology Center – the boys and girls who are the future of Ghana.  With the support of the Methodist churches in the Orangeburg District, empowered by God’s Love, we are here to make a difference and to offer hope to the hopeless.  We pray.  Another round of gifts to the teachers and staff – t-shirts, bags and hats, crayons and pencils, a South Carolina flag for the school.  The students sing the Ghanaian national anthem. There are several impromptu speeches given to the students about the honor and responsibility of receiving the gift of the Technology Center.  We meet a few of the students and teachers and get a rousing “Thank You Orangeburg” from the students.  We walk back over to the Technology Center followed by some students.  Jim is ambushed by players from the school’s soccer team calling for help to get some “boots and hose” – soccer cleats and socks.  Jim is in his element and will somehow find a way to make this happen.

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Our last task before leaving Abesewa for the day is to meet with the technology teachers to find out the specific technology needs of the students and villagers.  Ghana is heavily invested in the education of its people.  We saw schools everywhere – from the tiniest of villages to the largest of cities.  Sitting down with the teachers of technology really opened my eyes.  The curriculum for every student includes lessons in technology.  So, from primary school through high school, every student is taught about computers and their use – but it is all theoretical.  They teach computers from a book, very few children ever get to even touch a computer.  It’s an incredible task for a teacher to teach the concept of “drag and drop” without a computer.  They are very excited at the prospect of teaching beyond the abstract.  Alan and Phillip will be key to the success of the center in Abesewa.

Alan and Phillip

After our meeting with the technology teachers, we headed to the city of Sunyani to have a late lunch with the Bishop and stay in his guest house for the night.  We had a terrific, authentic Ghanaian meal and talked at length with the Bishop about our project.  Bishop Asarebediako is a wonderful, down-to-earth, fellow who was the perfect and gracious host.  He is a true visionary, both for the church and his country.

We finished lunch and met in his downtown office with his staff and the project managers.  We went over the details and finances of the project and we were updated on the next project phase – the roof of the center.  The project is meticulously well-managed.  After our meeting, and to our great surprise and honor, Jim and I were each presented with an African Fuku or Smock.  We were looking very stylish in Sunyani that afternoon.

Jim, Mary Kay and I went to dinner at a hotel in downtown Sunyani.  It was a very nice meal and they actually had ice you could put in your glass – first time I had seen that in Ghana!  After dinner, we returned to the Bishop’s guest house where we stayed up late and chatted with the Bishop on several topics.  Just us regular guys, shootin’ the breeze….  What a great day!

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Today, I saw hope

imageToday, I saw hope.  I had a chance to see beautiful young people who have hope because of what we are doing.  You can see despair in the eyes of the street vendors – no joy, no hope.    But, in the eyes of the young students at Abesewa Junior High, you can see hope.

We are offering hope!

I find it hard to accept appreciation when I feel so blessed.

Thanks be to God!

Kwaku Jim

(Kwaku means Wednesday – the day on which I was born.  In Ghanan, your full name often includes the day of the week on which you were born)

Awesome Day in Abesewa

imageWe are still in an area where Internet speed is slow (we are trying to fix that), so, I’ll be brief. We had a simply awesome day.  We visited the village of Abesewa, where the technology center is being built.  We met with the Methodist Bishop, the Chief, the Elders and several of the school staff.  After being welcomed into the village, we visited the Technology Center, which is making terrific progress.  We also met the school children and had a very productive meeting with the Headmaster and two technology teachers.  Later, we met with the Bishop and the project managers.

We had an amazing day and Jim and I will give more details when the Internet service is better.   )kyinaa. (tomorrow)

Our First Full Day in Ghana – Expanded

Sunday, December 6, 2015.  Now that I have better Internet speed, I can be a little more detailed about our first full day.

When we walk outside for the first time in daylight, we notice the sky is very hazy.  This is due to a phenomenon known as Harmattan.  This is when trade winds pick up dust from the Sahara desert and blow them across west Africa from November to February.

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After a filling breakfast, we head off to Church with Mary Kay, Charlie, their helper, Gifty, and her two children.  It was an amazing service where Jim and I were recognized and made to feel at home.  The service was very similar to a contemporary worship service in the states, with music of celebration and meditation.  It was an exciting day for the church as they introduced their new pastor.

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After a lunch of rice and fish and chicken, we were on the road to Kumasi.

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So, you know those action movies where the cars are flying down the road zipping in and out of traffic and nearly colliding with oncoming traffic?  Welcome to Ghana, where that is the normal way of driving.  They have developed a form of communication between the drivers through flashing lights and honking horns where they all seem to know what the other driver is going to do.  While we saw a few wrecked cars that had obviously been on the side of the road for months, we never actually saw a wreck in the hundreds of miles we drove in Ghana.

There seems to be a village about every 10-20 miles or so, where you have the opportunity to slow down (thanks to the hundreds of strategically-placed speed bumps) and purchase food, water or crafts from vendors along the roadway.

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After a long day, we finally arrived at Kumasi, where we stayed at the Freeman Center – a Methodist conference center.  The rooms were very similar to hotel rooms in the states, with air-conditioning and hot water.  We had dinner at a very nice Chinese restaurant.  This rather upscale meal cost around 30 Cedi – about $8.00.  Off to bed to prepare for the next day.

 

 

 

From Despair to Hope

Today, I saw people who lived day-to-day, street vendors who peddled their wares from the top of their heads.  Day after day they walk back and forth along the road selling anything from water, different kinds of produce and other items you would not expect to see in remote Ghana.  Day by day, minute by minute, is how they survive.  No plans for a future.  No hope.

Together in Christ,

jim