RE-LIVE THE JOURNEY!

Project: Ghana’s very own short documentary film has just been released!

Project: Ghana is incredibly pleased to announce the debut of it’s Short Film “Ghana”.

While on site in Equafo we were so lucky to have our very own filmmaker, Miss Jo Arniotis, capture our every move. This short 15 minute documentary is sure to make you smile, cry, laugh, and be inspired.

Join us on our journey one last time as we take you back to a land of opportunity, hope, and adventure!

“Ghana Film”

Meet Emmanuel

Meet Emmanuel.

Emmanuel is a young man who lives at the Sankofa Children’s Home and Orphanage in Ghana where we volunteered this past May. He is one of the most incredible human beings on this planet. He is smart, ambitious, dedicated, and humble.

More than anything Emmanuel wants to become a doctor. He also aspires to open up his own orphanage in the future.

Why does he want to do all of these amazing things? So that he can be a good role model for the other children of Eguafo, plain and simple.

The only catch? School is expensive for him. If you are able to help Emmanuel or are interested in potentially sponsoring him in his educational pursuits please let me know. It is children like him who are our future. Thank you.

To help sponsor Emmanuel, please follow the link below to our ChipIn page where online donations can be received

http://emmanuelsankofa.chipin.com/emmanuel-at-sankofa-childrens-home

Project: Ghana in the Toronto Star!

Check out this amazing article that features Project:Ghana!! Written by Paul Irish and published in the Toronto Star.

Volunteer Travel: Toronto woman leads others to volunteer in Ghana

There was no ocean or beach, no restaurants, no museums — but this was the best trip these six young women have ever been on.

It was a month in Ghana teaching children at a small elementary school/orphanage learning about life, values and — most importantly — realizing even a small effort can make a huge difference to people who need a bit of help.

“I don’t know where to start,” says Toronto’s Ashley Hassard, 22, a Western University graduate and organizer of the all-volunteer project “We worked hard, we gave a lot but, yes, we left with a lot. It was hard saying goodbye to those kids … there were a lot of tears.”

The women — Michele Ivanisevic, 21, from Niagara Falls, Joanna Arniotis, 22, from Toronto, Elyse Golian, 20, from Sarnia, Ont., Alexandra Braun-Woodbury, 22, from Toronto and Kristy Race, 21 from Oakville, (as well as Hassard) paid for the $2,000 round trip flight to Africa themselves and made $500 each to defray other costs through bake sales and other fundraisers.

They arrived back in Canada on June 6.

The experience isn’t anything new to Hassard. Her first foray was in 2009 when she travelled to the Dominican Republic, where she taught English. She followed that with time in Costa Rica during 2010 where she stayed on rural islands setting up medical clinics as well as two similar ventures in 2011.

She stresses that her time abroad is all about the people she helps, but admitted she can’t help but experience her own personal growth.

Hassard wanted to share the experience and decided to organize the trip to Ghana — through International Volunteer Headquarters, a liaison organization for volunteers — and advertised for interested participants while at Western. She received 30 applicants and chose five.

“We all felt the same about it — it was just an incredible, empowering experience,” she says adding that some of the other women had been on similar trips before. “It showed everyone what can be achieved, even in a short time.”

As expected, the small village of Eguafo, where they stayed in the south of Ghana, was different from what they are used to.

The group lived in a tin roof hut with a concrete floor and used an outhouse.

To shower, the women would retrieve water in buckets from the town’s two pumps and pour it over their heads. Toilet paper was brought from home due to the simple fact they knew they may not be able to find anywhere in the village.

But they didn’t mind the hardships, it was about their kids.

Most of their time was spent with about 17 boys and girls ranging in age 2 to 16, teaching them English, French and some mathematics.

Just one of the major projects completed during the month was a large vegetable garden so that they would have enough food to eat in the coming months.

“You quickly realize the struggle there,” says Hassard. “It’s hard, but the people are happy, smart and they love life.”

Hassard says the reality of the world, with its haves and havenots, was crystallized the day she walked into the small school and observed a lesson she could only describe as surreal.

Despite the fact there were no computers, the children were being shown chalk depictions of modems and keyboards for the day “when and if” they get to use one.

Although she’s graduated from Western and is pursuing graduate studies at the University of Toronto, Hassard is staying in touch with the school in the hope of establishing regular trips students can take advantage of.

http://www.thestar.com/travel/article/1210537–volunteer-travel-toronto-woman-leads-others-to-volunteer-in-ghana

Day 30 – Kristy

 

 

 

 

Today is our last day in Ghana. It is definitely bittersweet. I have been sleeping so well the past few days in the volunteer house. It was raining all morning, I guess we have officially entered the rainy season. I had made plans to meet up with my friend Ryan, who has moved to Accra to help with his dad’s business. I was very excited to meet up with him and to learn more about what he does as well as share our exciting stories from the past month. So the four of us caught a cab after getting covered in mud and soaked from the rain. It took a really long time to get there because of the rain and the bad pot holes. We were all shocked as we walked into the mall… It was like a normal North American mall. It had grocery stores, it had a Walmart type store, and it had a bunch of stores that we have back home like Birkenstocks, Puma, and Sony. To go from Eguafo, where the only food you could buy was bread and eggs, to a full grocery store that had every single food item you could think of, was weird to experience. The mall also had a movie theater and a food court. We looked around the mall, but we all didn’t have any money to spend. We were really just there to look around and to check out how different it was from Eguafo. We went into one store that had the most expensive furniture items, one chair was selling for 500 Ghana Cedis. It was so weird to go from people asking us for 10 peseways (10 cents) to people spending 500 cedis on a chair. 

We went to the food court and split some fries. It was exciting to have fries and to have salt and ketchup again! We were waiting to hear from Ryan about when he would be arriving at the mall. After we ate, Ryan called and said he was here. We went to meet him but I hadn’t seen him in so long, that I totally forgot what he looked like! He found me and ran up to me to give me a big hug. He was eager to find out about every experience we had and what we thought about our time here. He offered to take us all out for lunch, which was so nice. He drove to a really nice restaurant and said we could order whatever we wanted. We all got chicken swarmas that had fries in them. We also got juice, which was the first time we have had juice in a month! At lunch we talked about everything. We asked him about some questions we have had and he asked us about our volunteer experience. We all learned so much. Ryan had graduated from Humber but moved to Accra to help with his dad’s business. His father owns a very successful company that sells pool stuff, toilets, doors etc. It is like a home depot in Ghana. Ryan was only supposed to be here for a few months, but he decided to extend his stay to help out his dad more. After the most delicious lunch I have had in a month, Ryan drove us to his dad’s office. His dad wanted to meet with us to also talk about our month here in Ghana. Ryan was telling us about how crazy the driving was (as we had already experienced), and said you have to be very aggressive or you won’t get anywhere.

We arrived at the office and Ryan introduced us to people that work at the company. Ryan is very, very busy and works super hard at his job. We then waited to see his dad (they call him the director). When he was done with a client we went into the father’s office. It was like he was a mayor or something very important. He office was massive. It had 3 couches and a huge flatscreen TV. In the back was a step that led up to a massive desk. We spoke about our experience, but he was sad to hear that we were leaving later that night. He said that next time we come, we can stay with them and he will show us around. Their family is one of the nicest family I have ever had the pleasure of meeting.

Ashley had asked about houses and what their layouts look like. Mr. Frempong said that he would show us a house. We did not realize that it was their new house that he was showing us. It was MASSIVE, the biggest house I have ever seen. As you walk in their was a pool to the left, a fountain to the right. There was a guest house that was so big, and had a family room and a gym. The backyard had 2 big doghouses, as well, they are planning on getting different animals to live there. The house was unbelievable. It was still being built but Mr. Frempong showed us around and told us what would be where. The most impressive and coolest part was in the master bedroom there was a huge balcony, on the balcony, there was going to be a pool. He said if we come back we can stay in their house anytime. I would love love love to see it when it is done, it was absolutely beautiful. After viewing the house, we went back to the office, and Mr. Fremong had his personal driver (no big deal) to drive us back to the volunteer house. Eric at IVHQ volunteer house explained the directions to the driver and we were on our way.

It was getting pretty late, and we had to leave for the airport at 6:30. The traffic was very bad getting home and we started to panic that we wouldn’t make it, but we ended up arriving just before 6. Elyse and Michele were also panicking because they didn’t think we would make it back in time. We had already packed everything up, thankfully, so just had a few last minute things to do. We ate dinner quickly, and met some of the new volunteers that had just arrived that afternoon. Most of them were from America and were really excited to have been arriving. We shared some of our stories, and one of the girls was going to Eguafo, we were all so jealous! After finishing eating, the cabs arrived. We got all our stuff into the cabs and were on our way. It also took a while to get to the airport as the traffic was very bad. We made it through customs and had some time to kill and some Ghana Cedis to spend. We had our last Fan Ice and I bought a few last minutes Ghana souvenirs and snacks. After an hour of waiting, our flight started to board. Our time in Ghana was done. We were on our way to Amsterdam for our layover.

While on the airplane, we all had time to reflect about our past month. Today was so different from anything else we had experienced. The division of wealth was so apparent, and Ryan also explained that in Ghana, you are either super super wealthy, or you have very little money. There doesn’t seem to be any middle class. When people think of Ghana, they always think of the villages, like Eguafo, in which people have little money. But there is a completely other side to Ghana, in which the people are very wealthy and many areas are developed. It was a really cool way to end our trip, by seeing the other sides of things. It was also so nice to meet a friend across the world and to share our experiences.

This was one of the hardest and best month of my entire life. It is a time that I will never ever forget. It has changed me. It is just amazing to think about how happy the people in Eguafo were even though they had little money. They saying “Money can’t buy you happiness” really was shown to be true over the past month. It was such an amazing opportunity and I am so thankful that I was able to go on this journey. I totally would love to come back to Ghana; it is such a beautiful country, with some of the happiest and nicest people. Thank-you Ghana for the best time of my life. I will never forget the people, the kids, Eguafo, and the stories that truly made an impact on my life…

Day 29 – Joanna

It was hard to say goodbye to Sarah and Cori this morning as they ventured off to join the Silver Program just outside of Accra. It was such a pleasure to meet these amazing people and to have the opportunity to go on such memorable adventures together that I know we’ll all be staying in touch.

Once they left and our group was back down to its original six girls, I had a luxurious indoor shower and then we headed for the Central region. The facilitators of our program were very helpful and sent us with our own tour guide to show us around the capital. We visited Independence Square, a historical landmark where many national celebrations are held, and we shopped at the Center for National Culture. The Center is known as the ‘craft market’ and was essentially was a gigantic maze of shops that sold various traditional handmade pieces of art.

When we arrived, we were greeted by a shop owner whose business was making bongo drums. He was a friend of our program coordinator and offered us free drum lessons. The shop owner and his crew lent us each our own large drum and taught us how to play a little pattern. I had no idea how many different sounds one drum could make or how many ways there were to beat it. It was a lot of fun and I have learned to have such a respect for these musicians because it was not easy. We played for about half an hour, thanked the owner for his generosity and time, and began to explore the shops.

Before arriving, we read and heard mixed reviews about the Center. Some tourists have shared their feelings and have reported being uncomfortable and feeling hustled while others enjoyed the atmosphere. In my opinion, it was obvious that the locals wanted your business but for the most part they were respectful when you told them a simple ‘no thank you’. We spent quite a few hours shopping around and buying last minute souvenirs for our families and friends. They had tons of wooden sculptures, paintings, jewelry, fabrics and the list goes on. I bought two wooden masks and some jewelry. I’m really happy that we visited the market because there wasn’t much opportunity to buy souvenirs from Eguafo. I’m glad I was able to purchase local crafts and spend my last few Cedis supporting such talented people before leaving the country.

After shopping around all morning, we were too tired to carry out our initial plan of going to the beach. We decided to go back to the volunteer house, have a late lunch and laid low for the rest of the night. I cannot believe that we leave Ghana tomorrow. It is a very bitter-sweet feeling that I have because I’m going to miss the people and this country so much. I haven’t even left yet and I’m already planning my next year’s trip in my mind.

Day 28 – Elyse

 

Today we went to the Wli Falls in the Volta Region.  It was probably the most beautiful thing that I have every seen.  Words and pictures cannot do the falls any justice.  We took a 45 minute walk through a wildlife sanctuary to get there and as we got closer we could start to hear the falls.  When we turned the corner and arrived it was a breathtaking view.  The waterfalls cascade from 80 meters high and are the largest waterfalls in West Africa, separating Ghana and Togo.  When we looked the left of the waterfalls we could see thousands of bats clinging to the cliff.  It was amazing.  We took a quick swim in the ice-cold water under the falls, took some pictures, and enjoyed the absolutely beautiful view.

We walked back to the town, got come Fan-Ice (which tasted like vanilla ice cream!), and began the interesting journey on Tro-Tros back to the volunteer house in Medina. With the help from Eric from VCO the Tro-Tro took us right to the volunteer house.

We had diner and headed to bed.  It was another amazing weekend of seeing Ghana and experiencing more Ghanaian culture and I can’t believe we only have 2 more days until we leave.

Day 27 – Ashley

The more that I surround myself with new and unique people who have traveled the world the more that I realize that there is so much more that I want to do and see. For instance, did you know that once a year in Spain there’s a festival where the whole town stops for a day to have a giant tomato fight?! Or that in Thailand there is a city wide water fight where for an entire week anyone and everyone in sight is constantly trying to soak each other. You can’t stay dry even if you tried. Then there is the Three Peaks Challenge where people have 24 hours to climb three prominent mountains located in Scotland, Wales, and England. You climb in teams and fund raise beforehand with all of the charitable proceeds going to a charity of your choice. There are just so many things that I have yet to see and have yet to experience.

Speaking of experiences though, I did have one pretty cool experience today… I climbed a mountain! It was one of the largest mountains in West Africa and it was called Mt. Gemi. It took about 3 hours to climb up through the jungle brush. Although we did have one asthma attack and a whole lot of scrapes from nettles and thorns we still managed to do it!

It was crazy suffocatingly hot trekking through the jungle but the view from the top was absolutely breathtaking and made it all worthwhile. The mountain looked down on a whole bunch of villages and towns, and from that high up we even got a view of the Volta Lake down below. There was a moment where I was standing on the edge of the cliff, with the wind blowing through my hair, and in my ears I could hear a current of drum beats that were being carried on the wind from a local village below. Looking around at the lush foliage, the rich agriculture, the red Earth, magnificent view, and sweet drum melody it all quite literally took my breath away and made me think “Now THIS is Africa”.

While staring out at the inspiring view I couldn’t help but be transfixed with the idea of legacies. What would your legacy be? What will you leave behind? Personally, I hope to leave a wave of happiness; a ripple of hope and love and optimism to any and all whom I meet. Going even further from that I found myself thinking about legacies but in the form of cohorts. If our parents generations were known for civil rights, WWII, and the women’s rights movement, what would we be known for? I know that I haven’t been around on this planet for very long, but in the 22 years that I have seen we have taken many long strides in terms of living green, democracy, and technology. Although some momentum has been built regarding some important movements, no large collective “Minga” (any collective community coming together as a whole to better a cause) seems to have been achieved. Perhaps looking back, what we will find to have been our core movement will be Gay Rights. Maybe rather than one large rally, protest, or political revolution our legacy will be a gradual undercurrent of acceptance for human rights globally, or who knows, maybe we really will solve world peace. All I know is that I’m excited to know that what ever comes I will be here to witness it, and maybe even be lucky enough to take part in it. Who knows, I could just start a mini happiness revolution myself. :)

“Never doubt that a small group of committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” -Margaret Mead

Day 25 – Michele

Today is our last day in Eguafo, how terribly sad. I cannot believe we will be leaving for the volunteer house tomorrow. I can’t even begin to imagine saying goodbye to the kids at the centre and the students at the school. I did not sleep very much last night as the significance of today was on my mind. I’m going to miss being Mme. Mischa, and it saddens me that today is a holiday so yesterday was our last full day at the school.
It has been raining all day so our original plan to take the centre kids to the beach was a no go. We decided instead to have a party for the kids. Some of the girls went to Elmina to grab soda, cookies, watermelon and other supplies while the rest of us finished up making decorations and certificates of appreciation for the kids. We decorated the bedrooms at the centre while David distracted the kids. When they arrived back, we performed our dance for them before revealing the decorations and plans for the evening. The kids loved our dance, although it was probably hilarious to them.
After we performed on the centre steps, we gave out watermelon which was quite a treat for the children. Fresh fruit, especially watermelon, is a rarity as it is quite expensive but we thought it would be nice for the party. For dinner, we cooked up a large quantity of noodles and served it to the children. There ended up being just barely enough to go around, or so it seemed, but in combination with everything else the kids were well fed.
We took a break and made a quick late dinner for ourselves, then headed back to the centre where the Sankofa Cultural Group (the dance/drum team) was performing/practicing. We watched this for a little bit before moving inside to hang with the children, handing out soda and cookies and having our own little dance party. A portion of the night was dedicated to handing out the certificates we made including: Kwesi – best picture taker, Dominic – jokester, and Joseph – Top Dawg. It was extremely fun dancing and hanging with the children and we stayed until about 10:30. It still has not hit me that we are leaving tomorrow, although saying goodbye tonight was very sad.
I know we have only been here for a short amount of time (and believe me I wish I could’ve dedicated more time), but my experience here with the kids has made a lasting impression on me. I will never forget the people I’ve met here, the lessons I’ve learned, and the memories I’ve shared with the children in the centre and at the school. It’s strange to think that I may never see the kids again, and how easy it might be to lose ties with the community once settling back into normal life at home. I hope that through a joint effort between the 6 of us, sparked by the impact the children here have had on us, we are able to keep in contact and follow up on progress. We have David a donation towards purchasing a “horse goat” to mate with his current one, along with a certificate we titled “best dad”. I hope that the time we spent here is memorable to the children, as volunteers come and go, and we can continue to remind them that we haven’t forgotten about them once we return home. I am not looking forward to tomorrow, reality will begin to set in once we pack everything up and say our final goodbyes.
Michele

Day 24 – Elyse

 

So long Sankofa Basic School. Tomorrow is a holiday, Africa day, so today was our last day at school. When we arrived at school in the morning the kids weren’t doing too much in class so we walked around and took some pictures with the kids and then went back to the house for lunch. We went back after lunch with the plan to help teach some classes but the kids had something else in mind for the afternoon. All the kids were lined up with machetes in hand. Six year olds, holding machetes with the plan to use them. David had instructed most of the boys and some of the older girls to go to the new schoolyard and cut down trees and to cut the grass.

It amazes me how common and acceptable it is here for six year olds to have and use machetes without any adult supervision. Back in North America a parent would be reprimanded for bad parenting and the child may use the machete for more than cutting grass. Some say that the media doesn’t affect how children act but from seeing how nonviolent these kids were with machetes you can see that media must play a part and also the way we raise our kids affects how violent they are. In Ghana the children are taught that machetes are a tool and are taught how to use them properly but in North America, children are taught that they are a weapon and can see from the media how to use it to hurt someone.

Anthony taught Michelle how to cut the grass with the machete and we played games and played with some of the other kids.

We spent the night preparing for our party for the kids the next day and reflecting on our last day at school. It was really sad to think that we wouldn’t be at the school any more. As hard and frustrating as it sometimes was, it was also a lot of fun. All the kids were so wonderful and so bright. They loved us helping them and I loved spending time with them. At times I wasn’t sure how much we were able to help them by standing in front of 20 kids who didn’t speak my language and by not having any material to actually teach them other than my knowledge in the back of my head but I think they really enjoyed having us there. Some of us were able to use our skills that we have that some of the teachers don’t have, like being able to teach French or to teach about computers, and we were able to connect with the kids and hopefully help them in some way or another. I think that by even just chatting with us and having us help them read they were able to gain even just a little more about English. I also thought more today about how I, as an individual is able to help the kids in the orphanage. The in and out flow of volunteers into these kids lives and the short time spent with them makes it hard to commit and make a connection. But these kids seem to receive better resources for learning English, receive more donations, and are better fed and healthier than most of the kids in the village because of the volunteers and help that David receives. I want to continue to work with David to provide more resources for the kids for the future.

 

It was a great last day spent with the kids and I can’t believe there is only one more day in Eguafo.

Day 23 – Joanna

This morning after teaching, Kristy and I took Michele to a local town called Abure. She hadn’t been feeling well over the last few days and more than a couple locals have told her that the fever like symptoms could a sign of malaria. They told us that it would be better to be safe and get her blood tested at a clinic than to risk it getting worse. Although she was really nervous, Michele agreed and we left Eguafo in a cab.

When we arrived at the clinic, a huge wave of nerves hit Michele. She walked up to the counter, wrote her name on a wait list, paid 5 Cedis, and within seconds was called by the doctor. As she began to walk behind the curtain separating the waiting room from the labs, she quickly turned around and asked Kristy and I if we could come with her. Of course we didn’t mind at all. The reason we were there was to give her some support, although I was nervous for her as well. We got up and trailed in after her. Behind the curtain was a little whole in the wall with a counter top and a doctor sitting at a small desk. He started laughing when he saw us all march in and was confused as to who the ‘sick one’ was.

Michele had a seat and instantly the doctor opened a needle head out of a plastic package. Michele’s face just went pale and she began to start asking a lot of questions. “Is the needle sterilized?” “Do you dispose of them properly?” As she was talking, the doctor was waving the needle around and cracking jokes like, ‘Why? Do you not want me to use a clean needle?’ Michele continued with the questions and the doctor continued setting up at such a fast pace. Without anyone even noticing, he swabbed Michele’s finger and with no warning, he pricked her. It all happened so fast and Michele yelled out an ‘Ouch! …..Wait, that’s it?’ The doctor pulled out a little glass slide, squeezed her finger and took a sample. He told us to come back in an hour for her malaria results. Michele, Kristy and I walked out of the clinic laughing hysterically because the whole time we were nervous about getting a vein blood test in a Third World Country. No one ever mentioned the fact that it was just the prick of the finger.

We walked around for about half an hour in the blistering heat, discovered that there wasn’t much to do in the area, and walked back to the clinic to wait. As we sat there, we watched as peoples’ names were called and they received their results to various tests. The lady at the front desk was given a piece of paper from someone in a white lab coat and the paper was folded into three and stapled shut. Patients would step outside the clinic to rip open their piece of paper to find out their results in that bizarre fashion. It reminded me of a vile version Ryan Seacrest reading the final results on American Idol or something. I couldn’t imagine the suspense of opening that piece of paper.
The lady at the front desk could see our reactions to how the results were being given and laughed and told us that she wouldn’t staple Michele’s paper. Waiting in the clinic felt like much longer than it was, I could only imagine what was going through Michele’s mind. Finally the lady leaned over the counter and said that although her sheet has not been printed yet, Michele tested negative for malaria. We were so happy and decided to wait for the print out so we could bring it back to Eguafo. It was definitely a load off to know that our malaria pills were working properly and that she probably just had a simple fever or minor sickness that she could get over on her own.

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