7.30.2018 Ashanti Region, Ghana
In January, I said goodbye to all of my friends and family. I took a leap into the unknown when I boarded a plane to Ghana with not a lot of information, but a whole lot of questions. Now here I am six months later, pre-service training and official site integration completed, ready and feeling prepared to get to work on some bigger projects. I am having a hard time believing it has already been six months. While each day of training seemed to drag by, the days and weeks since are flying by in a flash. I love to be on the move, and I think I will have more of that starting next month, but site integration has been valuable in learning how to be still and stay in one place.
The highlight of this month was being reunited with my training group to mark the official end of our site integration period with a week long training in Kumasi. Not only was it so great to see everyone after being away for so long, but also the food was amazing, the hotel had a great pool, and the rooms had hot showers. The first day was awesome! They dedicated a whole morning to letting us each give a short presentation about our sites. It is amazing to see the many similarities and differences among sites and regions all within one country. It is also reassuring to hear people going through some of the same challenges and celebrating their successes at the same time. I loved hearing what everyone has been doing and glad this was how we spent the first day. I got a lot of great ideas in the process.
Now a lot of this training was a review from our pre-service training, but we had a few sessions that I think will be essential to a successful service. One was about grants and how to apply for them. There are many avenues available for raising money for projects, some donation based and other from funds set aside by the U.S. government. Applying to grants will be a major priority for this upcoming month. We also learned about project design and implementation, which was the focus of my MPH, so very exciting to see this incorporated into Peace Corps training. Finally, we met this great group called KITA, which based in Kumasi. They basically help with a variety of agriculture-related, income-generating projects including bee keeping, growing moringa, rabbit rearing, and more. They also taught us how to make liquid soap, which is an activity we are planning with the Girls’ clubs next term. I am super excited about growing mushrooms, and hope to bring them out to do a training on how to grow them. When I suggested this to the community at the meeting last month, they were super excited about this idea.
Some other fun times from the month included celebrating the Fourth of July with a couple of other volunteers from my area, teaching the kids about some basic nutrition, helping build a tire playground at another volunteer’s site, and attending the last day of school of the term. For the Fourth of July, we had bean burgers, guacamole, tortillas, a frozen watermelon drink, and apple pie for dessert. It was the best homemade meal I’ve had in awhile. My health lesson this month was on nutrition. I went to the primary school and did a lesson with about 80 students, which I will probably never do again with such a large group, but was a lot of fun nevertheless. We talked about Go (carbohydrates and fats), Grow (proteins), and Glow (vitamins and minerals) foods. We sorted locally available foods into the different groups and talked about how to have a balanced diet.
One day this month I took a little day trip to another part of the Ashanti region. A volunteer from the previous health group was working on a tire playground for her primary students. A few other volunteers and I put together a tire dome and several see saws. The kids did a lot of the digging and burying the tires in the ground, and we bolted them all together with the help of their teachers. It was fun to see it all come together, and the kids couldn’t wait to start climbing all over the dome before it was even finished. The last day of school for the students was this past Thursday, and now they will have about six weeks off from school. There was a lot of excitement as the kids all received their final grades and scores from the exams, and some of the parents came out to see how their students have done this year. One of the teachers did mention a concern over how kids can regress during the breaks because they aren’t studying. I know we also have this problem in the United States. I will have to explore the possibility of setting up a Kids’ club during breaks to review and practice reading. I’d also like to maybe help with some tutoring next term.
Now for some personal updates: I’m still having cooking lessons (I’ve posted the recipes if anyone is interested) and working on improving my Twi. This month I started training for the 10K, and I’m trying my hardest to stay motivated and follow the schedule. I’m definitely remembering why I hate running so much, but Gyata does make it better. We go running in the early morning or evening right before the sun sets when there are less cars on the road. She runs either in front or behind me the whole time and keeps me going. I’ve also started a gratitude journal. My other attempts to journal so far have fallen to the wayside per the norm, but I am hoping a couple of sentences a night will remind me of all of the great things and people I have in my life. I just finished reading book number 20 (my goal is 100 before the end of service), so if anyone has some suggestions, please send them my way. My goal for myself this month is to learn some basic sign language. I’ve got the alphabet and numbers 1-20 down, but would love to be able to hold a conversation with the students in a nearby school for the deaf. I’ll keep you updated on my progress. Next month, I am attending a conference on malaria and a training about nutrition, so I am looking forward to learning some new things to share.