SAMANTHA STURM (PEORIA, ILLINOIS, USA)
My venture started in the United States of America where I decided to take action and collaborate with a dedicated organization to help improve impoverished communities in need. However, I was not expecting to find and come in contact with individuals who obtain such a burning passion to help assist others as GCS’s members do. Through my stay in Ghana and chance to work with such dedicated individuals I have opened my heart and mind to the endless opportunities that exist to help the underprivileged. My Project:
Rural Community Development: This entails impacting communities at grass root levels with a variety of different projects. However, once I saw the need of assistance in a primary of Akoefe-Avenui (my host village) I knew that was where I needed to stay. I attended the primary school the following Monday that I arrived. I observed grades K-6 to assess their level of learning and to see where my assistance was needed. It was evident at first sight that there was a definite need for learning materials. The school is equipped with barely what one would call the basic necessities…shelter, chalkboards, and a variety of desks that are soon to collapse at any moment.
Before commencement of full volunteer work, I decided to make teaching aids to assist the teachers in teaching and the children in learning. In order to do this effectively, I asked the teachers to inform me of their needs. From there, I purchased materials at a bookstore in Ho (Volta Regional Capital) continuously throughout my stay, each time refining my teaching aids and adding to them so that each grade obtained a bulk of readily usable learning materials for their classrooms. The more I used the teaching aids in the classroom atmosphere the more abundance of them I wanted to make. Not only did they help the students, but it also gave some variety by using different methods of learning besides black and white (chalkboard and a chalk).
While working in Akoefe-Avenui, it was hard not to notice the conditions of the school and the poor learning environment that it provides. As most of us have learned, the very basic necessities are food, shelter and water. The school does not even obtain these necessities; they are lacking a major component…WATER! Though there is water and electricity in the village. Sanitation is something that is not well practiced seriously, especially when one lives in a country that uses their hands to eat most dishes. The children go to the bathroom, play outside, learn on dirt filled desks, eat with their hands as well, with no means of washing their hands. This is one of the many problems that need to be attacked. There is no electricity in the building which means no lighting. In order to learn effectively, lighting is a must. The school is very shaded, which is good due to the hot conditions of weather; however this means dark classroom which is very bad for the children’s vision and can form into long-term effects. The school is an open area with no enclosed doors or windows; therefore when its rains class cannot be in session. There are also an endless amount of distractions when dealing with such large open areas; one time during a lesson, three goats ran through the classroom. This kind of an environment should not be acceptable.
There are many ideas that could enhance the learning environment of the school. Sex education should be taught to inform children of HIV/AIDS and family planning in a healthy and knowledgeable way. HIV/AIDS and Malaria is such an important issue that it cannot be ignored. Family planning is also a must since many children are being born into families that cannot afford to take care of them.
Future Plans and Hopes:
Many ideas have been turning around in my head since the day I arrived that could improve these conditions. However, patience is an important component that will ensure the best outcome. I intend on taking the primary school of Akoefe-Avenui under my wind and helping them in any way possible. This may be done by collecting funds through numerous ways such as fundraisers, linking schools in U.S. to them to help raise funds and many other ways. However, I do realize that this school is only one of many who are in dire need of help. Through my opportunity to team up with GCS and my dedication to the cause I believe that it is only a matter of time as schools all around the area are able to see and experience directly the effects of those who care by making their environment the best we possibly can.
Besides my work within the school, my overall volunteer opportunity has been equally successful and rewarding. Although, the beginning of my stay started out a bit rough, everything worked out for the best. My home stay could not have been any better, I now consider them my second family and will always be in constant contact with them as well as visiting yearly to see them and to work with GCS. I have learned so much about the Ghanaian culture that could not be taught in any books. This is the kind of knowledge which can only be seen and experienced with the help of Ghanaians as teachers.
Global-Cultural Solution (GCS) has such a strong future and I am proud to become a partner & a member; holding the position as the Public Relations Officer. Though the organization has gone miles with so little resources, there are still much to be done. One interesting aspect I would like to commend them is that, they recognize all volunteers are different and making sure that volunteers needs are their main priority. Truly, their commitments to volunteers can never be disputed by any individuals who have indeed worked with them. I will stay in contact with them about my concerns or questions I have regarding the organization and future improvements of course. Although I started out as a volunteer, I have now formed a perpetual relationship with members and the organization as well as a bond with Ghana and its people and I appreciate this wonderful opportunity.
…Please request for my contact and I will be glad to share more with you!