The Ball Is Rolling on SUPS 1-4-7!

On July 8th, we made our way to Sakyikrom to see SUPS (Sakyikrom United Primary School), to break sod on the project. While there, we met with teachers, students and a representative of the chief. We brought the whole team with us, including grandma, who wanted to come along for the first day, to greet the teachers and give them some advice. When we arrived in Sakyikrom, the staff greeted us with some water and offered us a seat in the shade so to welcome us properly as per local protocol.  Then they said a prayer of thanksgiving for travelling mercies.

After chatting with the teachers for a while, the headmaster and teachers.  showed us around the school, highlighting the major problem areas. We started in his office. There was large hole in the roof. The office walls and ceiling, as well as the books and equipment stored there, showed major signs of wear and damage from exposure to the elements.

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 On our way into the headmaster’s office.

 After the headmaster’s office, we went through the classrooms with the teachers.  They shared some of the challenges they experience teaching and learning at the school in its current condition. One teacher mentioned how when it rains, water trickles and then pours into the classroom. It soaks the students and their school materials, leaving them water damaged. While her students often tries to tough it out and keep learning despite the rain, she usually ends up sending them home. Another mentioned how she is constantly worried that some part of the decaying roof will tumble down and cause harm to her students.
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Many of the pillars and the beams holding the structure up were in bad shape.

After looking around a bit, we made our back to Accra to set up a game plan for the next day (Wednesday, July 9th), when construction would officially begin. Day 1 was mainly transporting cement for rendering the walls, to SUPS. On that day, the carpenters began to remove the decaying roofing. The cement floor in the first classroom had begun to sink on one end. This was because it was not ramped properly during the initial construction. The mason and his team broke the floor to begin the evening out process.  Day 2, we picked up our first batch of roofing sheet and roofing nails,  wood and some more cement. It’s been more than two weeks and we have gotten some good work in since then.  As of July 25th, we have roofed and reinforced 4 and half classrooms.  My internet connection is not allowing me to upload many pictures on WordPress, but has been more merciful with the project’s Facebook page. If you would like to see more images and follow our progress, you can join the page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/816078315070486/.

Until next time!

Dubie ’16

Greetings From Ghana!

Greetings from Accra, Ghana! The Live It! project that will be taking place here this summer is the renovation of a school called Sakyikrom United Primary School (SUPS). SUPS is located in the Sakyikrom-Adoagyiri district, Eastern Region, Ghana. The school has 240 pupils from grade 1 to 6, and employs 10 staff. In addition to the communities of Sakyikrom and Adoagyiri, the school also serves the neighbouring villages of Amoakrom, Alafia, Akraman, Zabon and Zongo.  Since the school was built in 1944, it has not undergone any repairs and is in bad shape.

For the last couple years, SUPS has been under constant threat of closure. Rain pours through holes in the tattered roof into the classrooms, making it uncomfortable for pupils to learn and teachers to instruct in the school building.  During the last rainy season, a tropical storm caused a tree to fall onto the school and through its roof.  The already decaying roof began to let in even more water. The desire of teachers to ensure students the opportunity of education and the desire of the students to learn is so strong that they continue to use the school building.

This project, which the team has dubbed SUPS 1-4-7 (One School for Seven Communities), aims to reinforce the structure and repair the roof, so the pupils and teachers may be safe and SUPS may continue to run. Since we have received the Live It! Fund and are able to carry out the renovation of SUPS, the local government has agreed to keep the school open.

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I left MSP on July 5th, and arrived in Ghana late on July 6th. I was received at Kotoka International Airport by some friendly faces. Among these were members of the SUPS 1-4-7 team; David, Kwame, Mariama and Daniel.  David and Kwame are both professional contractors and will be lending valuable knowledge to the building process. They also both happen to be my uncles.  Mariama and Daniel are my friends from high school (RCNUWC) who have come to help with the first two weeks of the project. Mariama (Sierra Leone) will be representing  LEAF (Living Environment and Future). LEAF is an RCNUWC environmental organization. Daniel (Nigeria) is the representative of DROP (Do Remember Other People, can you tell we love our acronyms?), an RCNUWC non-profit with the mission of school-building-schools.  Some other members of the SUPS 1-4-7 team are Rhoda (RCNUWC), Pharez (RCNUWC and Luther College), Sulemana and Abdulai, who joined us the following day. They are all from Ghana. I have yet to the capture them on camera, but will include them in the next post. Pharez was not able to join us in Ghana this summer, but has played a vital role in the planning of the project since last year. 

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From the left: Kwame, David, Mariama and Daniel.

Monday, July 7th, we had a meeting with the chief of Sakyikrom and his entourage, members of the official local government, the headmaster of SUPS and some teachers to formally begin the project. Sakyikrom is a very traditional community, so it is important for us to respect and observe traditional order as we carry out the project. We began the meeting with the elder of our household, my grandmother, welcoming the delegation from Sakyikrom with a bottle of Schnapps. Then the visitors made their way around the room, greeting each of us. After a prayer by a priest from Sakyikrom,  my grandmother informed the visitors that the young people had a desire to improve the condition of SUPS.

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My grandmother giving the traditional welcome to the delegation from Sakyikrom.

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From the left: The Chief of Sakyikrom and the priest who accompanied him.

After the introduction, my grandmother opened the floor to the team. We each introduced ourselves, informed them about Live It!, DROP and LEAF. We thanked them for welcoming us into their community. We discussed the timeline for the completion of the project and the potential for a longer relationship with the Sakyikrom community. Kwame and David then addressed the technical aspect of things, explained the repair process in detail. They closed by adding that we would need the community’s help to make this happen.

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From the left: Daniel, me and Mariama.

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David (in the denim shirt) explaining the repair process.

The chief’s right hand man then stood up to share the chief’s response. He informed us that the chief had heard us, and that everyone from the Sakyikrom delegation had also heard us. He thanked us for thinking of their community and informed us that we were welcome to work on the school. He added that the chief would rally up community members to participate in the process. The Sakyikrom priest closed the meeting with a prayer. Then everyone moved around the room, shaking hands with each other to seal the agreement. We let them know we would be coming to Sakyikrom the following day. Then as the elder of the household, my grandmother wished them a safe journey home. The ball is officially rolling and it is exciting!

In the next post, I will share what we found on our first visit to SUPS. Stay tuned :)

- Dubie, ’16

What is La Colmena?

So where did we leave off? With the taller de boxeo?
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With planning our summer school classes for kids?
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With the construction materials for the greenhouse?
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With the days of classification of library books accompanied by cookies and coffee?IMG_0140
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With the continuation of the mural painting?
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With the great success of the jewelrymaking class?
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Photos don’t need words. I can hardly find the words. I am incredibly happy. Everything we’re doing is beautiful. Finding money to pay the rent can be tight, but Pato got back from his annual week of tourguiding anesthesiologists the other night and was stunned by all the momentum we’ve been pouring into the library, the orchard, the vibes of the house. It only takes a week away to forget the reality that we’re constructing, and a lifetime to develop it. Shoutout to Chad Topaz, here I go on take 2 of my calc quiz.

Love and song,
alizarin

Pregaming the Tuesday night meeting

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Esteban keeping his neck safe from the ozone danger of the library lightbulb.

Ruth left yesterday :(

It was great to have her here. Some day soon we will receive her photos and recount to you all how the last few days have been, visual aids and all.

Hilites:

Hitting up a barter market  at UNAM.
Approval from the landlady to build the greenhouse.
Silkscreen workshop nearly functioning!
Adopting a dog for a week to find it a home.

Love til next time,
alizarin

Work, work, work!

Fifth Week of Work!

I cant believe this is the fifth week of work! We have finished the digging of the first main line supplying one half of the total homesteads. In the past two weeks we’ve had one meeting which went by quickly because we wanted to spend more time on the sites. We presented the progress report, encouraged people to buy taps because it is nearing month end.

 

This is the first source filled with its first water

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Dilemmas at work!

In the past two weeks there has been slow progress in the project relative to the speed with which we started. There have been numerous problems that have arisen due to a clash between traditions and development. The building of the second source has proven to be more of a speaking challenge than it is a physical one. The first issue was that the source is located on a boarder between two chiefdoms, Mbabane and Hlophe. People from the Hlophe chiefdom were claiming the water to be theirs, therefore reported a respected man Mr. Zulu (who is working with us) to their chief for taking their water and distributing it to the other chiefdom. Luckily, Mr. Zulu was not laid any serious charges and the matter was resolved. The second issue arose when we were digging the trench that leads to the second source. We dug it such that it passed through a forest before it entered the source. A man who has a homestead nearby was very unhappy with this as he claimed that the forest is his and we should not have dug at a place that was not appointed by him to us. After a couple of days of talking to him, he finally agreed to the trench passing through the forest. The final issue is that we don’t have any builders available. This has led to the building of the second source to be put on hold for a while. The builder we had for the first source found a job and no longer has time to help with the building. We have, however, secured one builder who promised to help only on weekends though.

Picture of us putting soil on top of the pipes

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So far, what we have been doing was digging trenches and putting pipes and taps for homesteads that were already with their material. After the resolution of the first two issues two days ago, we started clearing the second source, getting it ready for the builder to start building the dam.

Pictures below show the site of the second water source and a few men starting to clear the rocks.

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Pictures below show the clearing of the first water source so that grass can be grown on the surroundings.

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