Open-Minded: We critically appreciate our own cultures and personal histories, as well as the values and traditions of others. We seek and evaluate a range of points of view and willing to grow from the experience.
Today we went back to the village of Zali. Mrs. Fine and I oversaw a soap making training, while Mr. Bender and Austin oversaw some repairs to the village and made plans for the next steps in the water filtration system.
The women were a little distant at first. I appreciate their wise glances in our direction. They have work to do and they continue to remind the “silly mingas” (me and Kori) to move out of the sun. They have a child on their backs for most of soap training and they break to make lunch for the everyone in attendance. They are women from the two villages (Zali and Kpaachiyili), two different religions (Christian and Muslim), and various ages (I wanted to ask but dared not) coming together to learn how to make a substance that is both important and hopefully profitable. WaterISlife provided the training and materials for the training and so must oversee that they are learning the right skills, as well as business practices.
All people involved must arrive open-minded, and ready to learn. At this moment, I sit on a concrete floor in a soap house with a laptop on my lap. I have snapped pictures of them and their children relentlessly. While we try to be discrete in drinking out of bottled water and using copious amounts of hand sanitizer, there is no secret that we are ‘delicate.’ Yet, they are slowing coming around. I show a few of them pictures of my family and they suggest that I have four more children. Uh, no thanks. I motion back that the shop is closed. One woman takes me and Mrs. Fine to her home to show us a project of drying grain to make cereal. They allow me to grate some of the soap into a bucket that will become powered soap, which I find very therapeutic, especially under a tree in the heat of the day.
The day began with an open-minded attitude and spirit. It ends with women working together to make change. I think I found my people on this side of the world and I think that I will miss them very much.
Inquirer: We nurture our curiosity, developing skills for inquiry and research. We know how to learn independently and with others. We learn with enthusiasm and sustain our love of learning throughout life.
Today we visited the Kpaachiyili village and the school. My education continued as I learned about a new village and the school we call a ‘sister’ school. We first visited where waterISlife is building latrines for the village. The villagers are now participating in purchasing their own latrines for their family. Next we are greeted at the school, which I now know is a K-5 primary school. In order to go to a junior high school, the children must travel 5 to 10 miles away. As is customary here, the first thing we did was to sit down with the headmaster, staff and leaders of the school to have a conversation about the reason for our visit. I gave all the items Odyssey sent with me (pen pal letters, rulers, pencils, sharpeners) to the headmaster and for the next hour, we matched the pen pal letters. Because the school is K-5, I am bringing some letters from the K-2 grades to distribute to our elementary campuses. After matching the letters, we took a picture of each student from the school so we can print their pictures upon our return.
After we got all the students needs taken care of, we moved the desk of the headmaster to under a tree and used the opportunity for the Kpaachiyili staff to ask me questions. Before we got to the inquiry, however, one of the village leaders wanted to present me with a goose. Yep, a goose. Not surprising, I will not be bringing said goose home with me. Just know that she sure was pretty. ;) To set this picture for you completely, let me share some key observations upon my arrival. The school has no water, no electricity. It has two hand washing stations and latrines. The children wear uniforms but they are torn, ill fitting, and most are dirty. The children leave to eat lunch at home and many do not return to school afterward. There are aphid type bugs everywhere – I am still picking them out of my backpack. At one point, I probably offended half in attendance when I couldn’t stop myself from picking one out of my shirt. Their needs are many but we agreed on the main point: education is the life blood of the community and the world, but you cannot educate healthy, alert minds unless you have the basics (water, sanitation, hygiene) covered.
The differences in our school, education and culture are vast. It is difficult to imagine. Privilege is too pretty of a word to describe the difference between what we have and that they do not have. However, it was a humbling moment when we sit down with the staff of the school, their questions to me show that we are always more ‘same’ than different!
A few of their questions:
How do you get the children to behave?
Who pays for your uniforms?
How much training do your teachers receive?
Do you take attendance? How do you get them to show up?
How do you get them to solve problems?
When do your children know what they are going to be?
Do they take a lot of tests? How do you measure their progress?
How do you get their parents not to do the work for them?
Right??? Odyssey can you hear me? Here I sit in a remote village in Africa and the conversation is the same! So, I did what I do. I spoke to them about Responsive Classroom, Love and Logic, taking time to work on procedures at the beginning of the year to get the results they want, invoking the love of learning with a program that helps promote a life long learner, ask deeper questions to get deeper answers, and on and on. They asked our teachers to come give training. :) I suggested some video question/answer sessions back and forth to start.
My lesson of being an inquirer today and listening to others is that we are not alone in our basic needs and desires. The connection to others is never far away when we ask questions.
PS The writing of these children is very impressive! Even at the 2nd grade level, the penmanship is amazing. They are doing some good work there!
Caring: They show empathy, compassion and respect towards the needs and feelings of others. They have a personal commitment to service, and act to make a positive difference to the lives of others and to the environment
Today we went back to the school at Kpaachyili unannounced. It seems that the similarity of problems of schools across the world are even more the same than at first glance. Today, there was a teacher attendance problem. We arrived before the headmaster and several teachers did not show up. So, the headmaster took turns going into each of the 4 classrooms teaching the math and English lessons until substitute teachers arrived. I took some video of the lessons that I will share later but the children were ready to learn! While we were waiting for the teachers, Mrs. Fine reviewed some of the hygiene and hand washing practices, and the children did a good job remembering what to do when they sneezed and when to wash their hands. We also video taped a couple of children showing the Odyssey school the proper way to wash hands. They were very thorough and even paid attention to their nails! We hope to show this to our scholars because it is a great reminder that good hand washing keeps us all healthier.
Today I chose the caring profile attribute because there are many ways to care and to make a difference. The teacher attendance problem is because the teachers have a long commute from Tamale into the village with very little funding. The student attendance problem is due to the students going home for lunch and not returning. I have to admit, this morning I was angry for the hours of instruction lost to teachers not being present, even if I knew that the reasons are valid. My phone doesn’t work here so before someone suggest I should have done my regular job at home and called substitutes, alas, I could not. However, I would have if I could have!
The children would sometimes ask me to buy things for them. One boy looked at my shoes and asked for me to bring him some shoes. For a split second, I looked at my shoes and remembered how many times on the trip that I’ve complained in my head that my shoes were hot and bulky. While sitting with that guilt, I WANTED to say, “Yes, how about the ones on my feet.” Instead I said, “I’m sorry, I cannot.” True caring, I’ve discovered over the years, is often bigger than making the person feel better in the moment or giving something that lacks sustainability. With Love and Logic in mind, I asked the WATERisLIFE representative in Ghana to speak to the Chief and elders of the community (because this is the customary line of communication) and to suggest mothers taking turns cooking food at the school a few days a week so the children could stay at school for the whole day. In addition, perhaps left over materials from other village projects could be saved and used to make a staff quarters for overnight sleeping. I tried to sympathize with him, explaining the education priority differences between Arizona and other states in the US and how we must rely on our community for additional help. I bit my tongue and did not say, “You know, it takes a village.” Because well, that would just be too ironic to say, wouldn’t it?
I am thankful today for Odyssey, our parents, and our community who prioritizes their children’s education…….