With your help the people of West Africa have "a chance, not only to change their own lives and their own destinies, but to change the future of an entire generation".

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Fulani school update - one child registered in the local school!

Posted by Cindy Gracelyn Yeboah 

I would like say a big thank you to Mr. Martin Hiles for his generous support to the Fulani school and to all who have contributed in their own small ways to support the Fulani project both in words and in deeds your efforts are very much appreciated.

This Monday was another great day at the Fulani school for myself, Cindy and Audrey. The turn up was good 23 out of 29 students were present and 6 were absent. The class was again split into two-the young ones practiced the writing of the alphabets and learnt some rhymes. The other class also learnt some phonics and how to put two words together.

One of the women, Asamau’s mother, who promised to be part of the school did not turn up. Upon enquiries we learnt that she left to the city to sell. This is another challenge for MOM because this whole idea of the educational center in the Fulani community is to get the women involved so that they can in turn transfer whatever knowledge they acquire from the center to their younger ones

You will all remember we have been talking about getting 3 of the children registered in the local school where they can get full time education.

Well, we got Elias registered in Akuse Primary after yesterday’s session at the Fulani school! We were not able to get the other two, Asamau and her sister, registered because both parents were not in the house though they’ve already been given prior notice.  

After Elias  was assessed, the teacher in charge decided that he should be enrolled in primary class 3. This we believe is a big progress to the Fulani school.

One major challenge we faced at the school during Elias registration was the asking of money at every stage of the registration. We were even asked to pay an amount of Ghc1.00 for his exam paper. Meanwhile Elias' dad who is unemployed and finds it hard to make ends meet has openly said that so long as he is not going to be bothered with money about his son's education then he is going to give his full support. but if he constantly is going to be bothered with monetary issues then he can not make it.  

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A Banner for Every Occasion

Monday 16th May marked 25 years of the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority, but a first for us in many areas.

We were asked to fly a banner marking the event at the International Airport. This is important for us, because we believe that banners can be used to maintain interest in developmental health issues around the rural areas, especially the lake. We have proposed ideas to the authorities on HIV/AIDS, keeping Girl children in school and more - always to be sidelined, mainly because of the misunderstanding of the impact and the approval process for such an activity.

Banners reach all, regardless of TV, radio, newspapers - and can be seen from small village to cities, cars to canoes... banners are in your sky, and in your face!

We have demonstrated our banner methods before - successfully, but without impact and accpetance. So, to be asked to fly for an official occassion with dignitaries present along the international airport runway at 300' was a privilage!

But that was not all! We not only towed the banner from Kpong to the city and back, with clearance to fly over some restricted areas, we also flew two chase planes in formation! The two CH701 aircraft tailed our Falcon to Accra and back, Patricia, the first woman to gain the National Pilots licence flew Alpha Fox, just above and behind the banner, and was chevroned by Alpha Charlie, flown by Patrick Ata, the first Ghanaian to gain the national pilots licence. All aircraft were operated solo, under the call sign 'Anniversary Formation'. Both Patricia and Patrick (Capt Pat and Capt Pat) were fully trained at Kpong Airfield by WAASPS, and both were signed off as pilots by our in house examiner 'Capt Yaw' - a proud day for where we have reached.

Three aircraft, built in Ghana, two of the pilots trained in Ghana, performing along the international runway in front of an estimated 1000 person crowd.

Reports came later that the crowd clapped spontaneously when they saw the planes flying through with birthday wishes for the Authority.

We thank all involved in making this event a success and for allowing us to demonstrate that we have the compentency to build, operate and carry out mission flights safely.

Happy Birthday Ghana Civil Aviation Authority.... watch out for our banners for health in the rural communities, that you have helped us to prove can be done, at your invitation. Thank you!

We would like to fly the following slogans with appropriate images:-

Love Life, Stop HIV/AIDS (a banner with a condom as a background)

Do Not Shit in the Lake (a banner with a man squatting and pooping with a red cross across it)

Do not drink unfiltered water (graphic to be decided)

Do not bathe in the lake (a person bathing in the lake with a cross through it.

Any other ideas?

Thank you all!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Cindy's report from the Fulani school

The Fulani school is really doing well children and parents have so far shown great interest and are very committed. last week on the 6th of May 2011, the student turn out was poor due to heavy down pour the night before and during the early hours of the morning.

The children were split up into two classes with a teacher in each class; the very little ones learnt their ABC's and did some poetry recitals whilst the other class learnt some phonics. 21 students were present and seven were absent. The school still maintains a class of 28 students.

The general environment in the Fulani school is challenging. The students have no tables to write on. The guys bring out benches from the houses to sit on. The class room floor is sometimes very muddy and the children keep dropping their books and pencils in the mud.

Today's turn out was good - a new student was enrolled, Asamau’s mother! Asamau’s mother now wants Asamau and her older sister, Aishatu, to go to the local school. She realises that one day a week is not enough for the children to get a complete education. But she can’t attend school, and by her being there, we can help her to understand many different things related to health and basic education
The children can now recite their ABC's and recite some basic rhymes. The young adults, 5 ladies, 3 of them mothers, can now recite and identify the ABC's and can pronounce two and three letter words.

The class was split into two at the beginning, with a teacher in each class but the two teachers are not sufficient. We need to find a solution to give all the students the attention they need. This can be done either through more volunteers or taking the classes separately. One of our challenges is that the children are quite wild. They are not very disciplined, because of lack of exposure to structured learning. The little ones were today a little restless, crying and fighting for example whilst we are trying to do more advanced things with older children. Another solution may be to try and get some of the adults in the community involved in looking after the little ones whilst we deal with the older ones, including mothers. This is another challenge, and remains to be decided – we are open to any ideas!
Elias has not come along for two sessions – was sick last week, apparently still sick this week with a headache – we need to chase this up as Elias is one of the few with up to date NHIS cards, he should have been to hospital land gotten better by now!

Are we in the right place?

As we continue to assess our operations, we have to consider our location.

Well, we spent a long time choosing the location, and the reasons continue to be valid, and some have actually vindicated themselves repeatedly.

i) Ghana itself is a remarkable example of African potential-to-be. Political, economic and social stability, on the Prime Meridian, english speaking, world respected and incredibly friendly. If you want to start an operation like this in West Africa, Ghana really is the ideal location, was and is.

ii) Kpong. Kpong is 50km north of Tema and 80km by road from Accra with it's international airport. That has not changed as a logistical hot spot. relatively easy access, but not in the city. Outside of the TTWZ (Travel to Work Zone) and also outside of the tax laden Greater Accra. Just into the Eastern region has logisital advantages. Kpong is also well clear of danger areas, restricted areas and the approach path to Kotoka International Airport. The actual airfield site borders government lands for the University of Legon Agric unit, and runs practically up to the river Volta/Kpong Head Pond for the Kpong Dam. Just 1km from the tarmac road to Tema/Akosombo, 8km from the Akapim-Togo range, 3km from Krobo Mt, 4km from Yogaga Mt and 18km from Osuduko Mt. Easy to locate, clear airspace - readily accessible and easy to navigate to even if you lose your GPS, map and compass! (proved that!).

iii) Climate. We also knew we were located in a micro-climatic advantageous location for aviation. We have seen many storms circumnavigate us and see rain fall south of Krobo/North of Yogaga/East of Osuduku/West of the ridge. Not only is the airfield surrounded by a pseudo orographic force field, we are actually ideally located in the Dahomey gap. This is a climatic phenomena in West Africa. It should be rain forest, but is actually coastal savannah. Incredibly special - once you learn to appreciate it! Often we see storms pass over us and only become violent on the other side of the ridge - where the rain forest starts. Fascinating and essentially a massive safety margin for teaching, training and operating an aviaiton operation in West Africa. Add to that, 50km inland we avoid the coastal weather from the Gulf of Guinea / Bight of Benin. Almost like a special place designed just for us! Interestingly, the British identified Kpong as a potential site for an airfield in the 1920's! They did not create one - but we did!

iv) proximity to need. From the airfield we can strike the vast majority of the lake in under 2 hours with a 2 seat aircraft. With the 4 seat, we can strike the whole lake in less than 2 hours. The lake has become our focus, mainly because of the very obvious needs in terms of health education and infra-structurally isolated communities. Due to the delays in approvals for land-based operations, and the massive need around the lake, we are moving our focus towards effective use of seaplanes and aerial supply drops. The possible addition of a boat with an amphibian dock - perhaps the first private 'inland water aircraft carrier' is proving very exciting. The main port for the lake is Akosombo, 30km north of Kpong - an easy ride on good tarred roads. We are also close to the highest HIV population in Ghana. Our presence, coupled with our 'girl-centric' training programmes is positively impacting on female assertiveness in the community. Girls see our girls succeeding and realise that they can do more than they thought about - aspiration, inspiration and the resultant ambition are key weapons in the battle against HIV/AIDS - reasons NOT to engage in dangerous activities - realisation that girls can have a bright future... we cannot assess that impact, but it is clearly present.

So, when we look out the window, walk across the apron or take a circuit before sunset, we are regularly reminded that we are located in a strategic position, unique and ideal. Despite many scouting trips for other locations for expansion, we always come back to Kpong Field, its location, orientation and uniqueness make it the centre of operations extra-ordinaire!

If you have not visited Kpong Airifeld, perhaps you should, we would love your thoughts too!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Fulani School Report

Posted by Cindy Gracelyn Yeboah
The following Report is from Audrey....

We had our 6th session, this time on a Tuesday due to the Easter bank holiday. We started at the usual time, just before 9am, this time hoping to get a fair number of the women from the community. We got one more than last week, 4 in total …..so we are moving in the right direction, even if not at the pace we would like…perseverance and word of mouth I think will get more women attending soon. There were 6 teachers altogether this week which was great because it meant we could split the group up appropriately and give more specific attention were needed. Thanks to Lydia, Emmanuella, Akua and also Newton who had joined us on the day. And of course to Cindy, who is very committed to the project.

It may just be the 6th week but the difference in the students really is noticeable. There is a much higher level of alphabet and number recognition, and they can certainly recite A-Z and 1-20. They are so
keen to learn. We started off with the usual songs and rhymes, and taught them a new song. They recalled the new song we taught them last week…impressive!

After our warming session we split the group into 4, according to ability. Ilias received his one to one tuition……if you recall from last week, he had been given a book “the gingerbreadman” to read. Ilias is just learning how to read, so I knew this would be a challenge, but to my surprise, he narrated the story back to me and read the book to me from cover to cover. He didn’t have the fluency and some pronunciations were wrong, but overall it was a fantastic effort for his first book and very encouraging. He is now on his second book.   It really is so important we get this young boy back into the classroom. Our aim is to get him in school with the next academic year in September.

The next class was the teenagers class…there were 4 students in there. Cindy took this class…she was also impressed with their progress, particularly with alphabet recognition and reading short words. They are very interested and enthusiastic which I think makes all the difference.

The third class was run by Akua and Newton. They focussed on numbers 1-10. This class had our 4 women and some of the younger ones like Barikisu who is very bright. By the end of the session they were able
to write and count to 10, through various number games and recognise the numbers in any given order.
The 4th class had the under 8s. This week they had the opportunity to explore their artistic, creative minds. They were given some pictures to colour in and plain paper to draw. I think we could have some future Picassos in our midst! They had fun with it and we had less fighting and crying from them this week!. A good opportunity to also learn their colours. Altogether we had a two and a half hour session with them ….productive and fun for them.

Even when the classes ended and the teachers were leaving the students didn’t want to leave and remained seated….they really are very eager to learn and excited about this new prospect and I guess it also breaks the monotony of their usual everyday activities. I have no doubt this project is making a difference in this community. If they can at the very least learn to read and write, so many aspects of their lives will change…..the ability to read their drug dosages on the bottles from the hospital,  the ability to read health posters and other health information, the ability to gain knowledge through reading and educating themselves, all become possibilities and a reality for them.

Our aim from now onwards is to include something relating to health each week…either  through songs or illustrations [ enabling these young people to reach a level where they have the desire to, and ability required, to integrate to a formal school.]

Friday, May 6, 2011

What is it that motivates you?

Submitted by Jonathan Porter
After a long day at the airfield, we decided to quickly pass by and see Asamau's hand (see An infected hand in the Fulani Camp). What should have been a happy '60 second encouragement pass-by' turned into a 2 hour frustration zone and some very urgent first aid... again.

Asamau came running out from the scattered rubbish pile that adorned the front of their living accommodation, saying in 'almost Queen's English' "How are you?".... a quick hug to Matthew and then a more cautious approach to me. As I ran my hand roughly over her close cropped, bristly hair, she looked up from under my apparently oversized white hand with a little, dirty black face adorned with the most wonderful jewels of eyes. I smiled and asked to see her hand. It was immediately hidden. I knew something was up.

Bending down I could see more swelling than before on the finger, and less on the hand itself. I looked carefully in the dim moonlight and realised that a new infection was now established and enjoying creating further tissue damage in the little mites finger.

Matthew's fuses started to blow, sequentially and with increasing escalation of volume, agitation and readiness to do whatever it takes to make sure that this little girl, symbol of all the children of Ghana, got what she deserved as the child of a 'responsible adult'.

In the ensuing loudness, I insited that the father and daughter joined us in the car to the house. Not my favourite approach, but the only responsible one under the circumstances. We would need hot water, anti-septic cream, clean dressings and, above all, a clean environment in which to work on this child.

In the car Matthew's breathing was getting more agitated - and I could feel him ready to explode at the condition of this little girl, unbathed, unfed, lacking in even a small percentage of the care that he had poured out over the past two months on an almost daily basis. I urged him to drop us and go to fetch Alai, since Alai is a leader of the community and carries influence above that of a white man and his brother.

Patricia and Jane set about preparing the equipment and supplies needed, and I started getting torches, clean hands and ready to undertake the necessary care of the wounds. Then my telephone rang. It was a government official with a random question.... He asked 'What is it that motivates you?' - I told him to call back in one hour, since I was not ready to deal with a call at that time.

We worked on the hand, Alai came along, words of correction and encouragement exchanged, and we reluctantly sent Asamau back with her father on the understanding that we would re-dress the wound on Friday morning, and it had better be clean, as should the little girl.

Matthew took the two men and munchkin back to their community whilst we all tidied up at the farmhouse.
I was mulling over the 'What is it that motivates you?' comment. It had been clearly posed waiting for the response 'money', since that is the number one 'so called motivator' in the world. Those who have visited us know that 'money' is not a motivator, simply a tool that enables us to do what is needed, so money was not the key. I thought some more. Changing lives - yes that was part of it... I kept mulling...

Matthew came home and we sat and talked, with a little agitation in our tones at times, about the frustrations of trying to encourage families to take care of their children. I shared with Matthew my 'Motivate' phone call.

Three sentances later we both agreed:-

It's the future of the children that motivates us.

The children cannot know what is good or right, the parents often have no clue to pass it on to them. The adults are unlikely to change as far as is needed - but the children have the potential to.

So, it is back to 'headlamps' creams, tape, boiled water, saline solutions and providing the basic care that needs to be learned...

But there is one thing that we know, and that is 'If we had been able to build the clinic, by now this would have been solved'. IF we had the clinic we could have 'admitted' Asamau and kept her in a clean, well fed environment for the 10 days she needed in February. Again, right now, if we had the clinic building we could keep her 'in' for three days and get her on the right track. However, the motivation of the children is not conducive to 'making money'.

If I leave here and take up a consultancy post somewhere in the world, I can earn plenty of money. If there was somebody else ready and willing to do what we do here, I would be happy to help to fund them - BUT I gave up that opportunity, willingly. Now, we need you to be motivated to help us to find the funding we need to establish the clinic building and to get that 4 seat air-ambulance flying and on floats. Help us to get the support we need for the sake of Asamau and all the other 'invisible children' that are out there.
'What is it that motivates you?'

Heads, Shoulders, Knees and tails...

Driving through the Fulani camp last night provided an unexpected performance...
Cindy and Audrey have taught the children two particular songs....

'My head, my shoulders, my knees, my toes... they all belong to Allah' (in Christian communities they sing 'Jesus', but our aim is to educate, not to change their culture or their beliefs - we are mindful not to jeopardise the trust relationship that is the basis upon which we successfully build Community Enablement).


'A lion. A lion has a tail, and a very large head and a very small waist.'

Both songs teach body parts and have actions - great songs to teach and learn with. HOWEVER...

In the twilight on the dusty road I suddenly see four little shoeless bags of fun hurtling out of the bush on a collission course for the car. Patricia, Michaela and Ben were with me. We all smiled at the ambush committee!

I slowed down and smiled out of the open drivers window. Looking at their faces and reading their eyes I could see that they wanted to use some of their new english language skills, so I greeted them with 'How are you?'

The immediate response from all of the beaming faces was 'fine thank you and you'. Followed by (with exaggeration of actions)

'A lion. A lion has a tail and a very large head, my shoulders my knees my toes, and a very small waist. A lion. A lion has a tail and a very large head, my shoulders my knees my toes, and a very small waist - ' this repeated in almost correct fashion, no concern for synchronisation, with some added ' My mouth my nose my ears my my my my ' accompanied by fingers pointing in all directions, generally the correct ones. The energy and the dancing and the smiles of excitement demonstrated a life force in the community that was new. A discovery of learning and being able to share, communication outside the confines of the wood and mud structures that are their homes.
Then, suddenly as if a choir master had caught their eyes, they all in unison sang 'all belong to Allah' then the giggles sat in, along with almost bow and courtesy movements as they acknowledged their accomplishments. What wonderful moment. A moment where we all clapped, and our smiles exceeded measurement. Our souls lit up with added love for these children and their needs.

So, tonight, a larger group had been exercising 'listening watch' and approached at speeds normally associated with motorised vehicles, jumping sticks and debris on the way. We did not want to encourage too much nightly excitement, so kept the exchanges to 'Hello, how are you, fine and thank you'. Then, I realised that Asamau wanted my attention really badly. She held up her little swollen finger, with another infection on it. It is looking better overall, but the clear lack of basic hygiene continues to affect the poor child's comfort and jeopardise her longer term usability of the finger.

I took her hand in mine and looked at the offered injury, her eyes piercing out of the dusky evening low light levels. Even if the parents have not realised that we have something to offer to help this child, the child has clearly appreciated what we have done to help her, and is appealing for more support.

With no adults available tonight, and mindful of the dangers of wandering around the camp in the dark - the hazards are many - there is nothing for tonight to be done.

Tomorrow, we will pay a visit in the morning. Clean up the finger, again, dress it again, and request that the family take better care of this child, again.

This really brings home just how easy it is for the 'big operations' to waltz into communities like this 'Carry out surgery, provide training and more' in a few days and claim great achievements - and since nobody is gonig back in on a regular basis, who can challenge it. The post operative or even first aid care infections are potentially life threatening, the lack of ability to follow the directions for medication shocking in many cases, it is not like the 'west' this is more challenging than most will ever even realise.

It is also brings home our approach of 'gaining trust and developing commitment' is a much much longer process- it takes years and needs followed up on even after that. Our approach is not full of headlines and 'thousands reached this week', we do not say things like ;we treated 50 people per hour' or 'installed xyz water filter' headlines. No, we are working towards the long term, sustainable community enablement, steps towards self-sustaining changes and self-awareness. It is tough, it is lengthy, but it really is worth it.

If you really want to feel how much it makes a difference, join me one evening on a drive through the camp, and who knows what sort of ambush we may enjoy together.... these precious moments are the support and encouragement that keeps us going - and they are truly precious.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Turbine Update

May 5, 2011

Submitted by Mathew Porter
Well, updates on the turbine! We had put it up a few weeks ago (did we blog that? Can't see any!?) on a 6 metre pole. It was doing OK, but not spinning much - we cut down some trees stopping it spinning around it, and made some adjustements on the turbine, as recommended by Matthew Luthi, the inventor - lowering the base to change the pitch of the blades, making them spin better in lower winds. It has been doing OK - in the sense that it has been spinning - but has been needing a bit more height and some guidelines. 

The 90 knots winds the had the other night decided for us that it was time to change the pole! But guess what?! The wind turbine is intact - no damage at all - good field test for the turbine! So Francis was around, and helped me to cut it out. But haven't been able to find the right size pole to sleeve it and increase the height a bit more. Annoying that. So on look out for right sized pole, or, more likely, innovative solution to get about 2-3 m more, with guidelines!