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.
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.
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.
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.
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!