Sunday, August 29, 2010

You did it!

We have great news…we were able to buy everything we all wanted (and more) for Timtooni Community School and Koko Duu Nutritional Rehab Home! This wouldn’t have been possible without the generous (to say the least) contributions from our amazing family and friends. Over the last two years you all asked if there were things you could do to help….and you did! We have two donkeys, a cart to fetch water and firewood, a merry-go-round, a see-saw and a swing set is on its way! In addition, we were able to buy writing books, slate boards, chalk, pens, pencils, teaching books, and Cameron and I had matching cloth made for the teachers and staff (which was very, very much loved!). To the Women’s Relief Society, the teaching materials you’ve made and sent (not once, but twice) have been a huge help in educating our students.

To both our Moms and Dads, Grandma and Grandpa Pearson, Uncle Kevin and Aunt Kristen, Shelley and Dan, Lindsay and John, Joseph, Matt and Irene, Eliza, Bryan and Shanna, Dorthalina Family, Jenkins Family, and Hiergesell Family, from all of us in Karaga....Naa wuni son ni tem piah, which is our tribal language meaning “May God bless you and thank you”. Words can’t express how grateful we are for each and every one of you. Your helping us buy these items for the school was just icing on the cake for all the support, love and words of encouragement that helped us push through when times were tough. You’re amazing people and we’re so incredibly lucky to have you in our lives.

Enjoy the new videos and photos...this is for you!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

World Cup Wild Ride

Wow! Can't believe that our WORLD CUP TRIP has come to an end. It seems like it was just yesterday that we were making plans and deciding if it was even possible. I don't think there are words for how amazing this trip went and how things seemed to just fall in place for us, but I will try. Our trip started the day we flew out of Accra to Addis Ababa Ethiopia. It was all 5 of our first time flying "business class" and what a time to travel in luxury. (A special thank you goes out to Ray for booking the flights for us.) At every airport we went to we received the business class treatment; moved to the front of the line and our favorite access to the business class lounge where we got to enjoy free food and drinks while we waited to board our plane. Our first flight was just over 6 hours and due to full reclining seats were able to sleep pretty well, especially after our 6 course meal (who knew wine and cheese was it's own course). We knew ahead of time that we had a 17 hour overnight in Ethiopia and were prepared to try and sleep in the airport. However, once we arrived we found out that we qualified for a free hotel voucher which, due to our business class tickets, got us a room at the Hilton. The following morning, after our complementary Hilton breakfast buffet, we flew out for Jo'burg. We arrived in Johannesburg at around 4 pm and hurried to catch our train to Durban. Beth, Cary and Shelley helped us through possibly the most stressful part of the whole trip; paying for the train tickets. When we got to the platform we were all looking around and started noticing that every person had a huge down blanket. Of course we're coming from Ghana and none of us had more than a zip-up hoodie (and Corey didn't even have that!). Hence, we started to worry a bit. After 15 hours on the train, frozen toes and wearing every article of clothing we brought we made it to Durban. We made a group decision to transfer the return train tickets to the bus (which was only 6 hours, heated and served hot drinks on the way, phew!). When we arrived in Durban our friend Joseph (who's friends with PC volunteers in South Africa) picked us up, took us to get bunny chow (a delicious Indian speciality), and dropped us off at the Durban High School where we stayed for the whole week. There was hot running water and comfy sheets....what more could we ask for! Joseph and his friend Charlie were another unexpected bonus and Moms you will be grateful for them. They would not allow us to go anywhere without them at the wheel. Anywhere we wanted to go they insisted to take us, whether it was to the stadium for our match or to the 6 level shopping mall or picking us up late after watching the match at the local pubs. Not one time did we feel anything but safe. Our first match was Nigeria vs. S. Korea at 8:30 under the lights. The Durban stadium is an amazing stadium to be at at night and we all were just aw-struck and yes, I think I even shed a few tears of joy and excitement just staring out on to the pitch jaw dropped. Nigeria lost but it was a close game. On the days that we weren't at matches we went swimming in the Indian ocean, visited the Zulu villages, saw a 105 year old crock, held a giant python, did some shopping at an outlet mall, and watched the other matches at our favorite pub called Booty (funny, huh?!?!). Our last match had plenty of hype going into the days game, but due to both Brazil and Portugal almost guaranteed to move on, the game lacked the excitement of others. Leading up to the match we were surrounded by singing and chanting Brazilians that made for an amazing environment to witness. Also, it was just cool to speak Portuguese with Brazilians again. This was truly a trip of a life time and after all the special treatment and AMAZING food we are finding it difficult to readjust to the volunteer village lifestyle.

Friday, June 11, 2010

OK Everyone! Listen Up, cause I only gona say this once.

This week the newest group of Volunteers arrived. Making us not just the old group but the old old group. This makes the end of our service seem even closer. We have some BIG news, but I will get to that in a second. We have enjoyed our village and feel that it is a good site for a new volunteer to replace us. There have been some changes to when new volunteers arrive, as you will rember we arrived in Oct, so the new volunteers who are replacing a previous volunteer will come to their site in August. We have found out that we are going to be replaced (and now for the big news)we have the option of closing or service by then end of SEPTEMBER which means that WE WILL BE HOME IN TIME FOR CHRISTMAS THIS YEAR!!!!!!!! We don't yet have all the details and dates but we wanted to tell everyone the good news. Kym is super over excited and can't wait to call and tell you herself. We are now in Tamale ready to watch the opening ceremonies of the World Cup on our way to Accra and then flying out to South Africa on the 19th.

We also took some video of Km's students doing some dancing!

Friday, May 28, 2010

A description of what we're doing in Ghana

The Peace Corps asked us to write a description of what we do in Karaga. I thought you all might like to know, too, so this is what we've been up to for the last two years....

Description of Service

For the last 20 months, Cameron and I have been living in the Northern Region of Ghana in the District Capital called Karaga. The population is around 17,000 and is continuously growing. We're Health, Water, and Sanitation Volunteers having separate supervisors, counterparts, and primary projects.

Dizem Bella Nutrition Center requested a WATSAN volunteer and this is my primary project. Here at the center we have the Executive Director/PC supervisor, two health extension workers, a cook, and a grounds keeper to help assist the many women and their malnourished children. The typical length of stay is 6 weeks where the women pay three Ghana cedis per week for food that is prepared for them, medicines, Plumpy Nut nutritional packets, sleeping mats and water. Each morning the children's weights are taken to record their growth progress and a health lesson is taught. These lessons include topics such as nutrition, HIV/AIDS, family planning, basic sanitation, exclusive and complementary breastfeeding, and the importance of using iodated salt. These lessons typically last 20-45 minutes and are ideally taught five mornings a week. In conjunction with the nutrition center, we started a primary school for the orphans in our village called Timtooni Community School. We currently have six teachers, all paid for through the Ghana Education Service and 120 students. Our family from home has graciously sent homemade teaching materials and USAID has given us a series of 25 Ghana-specific teaching posters.

Cameron's primary project is working with the Carter Center helping in the eradication of Guinea Worm Disease. He does weekly GW case searches, abatement of any source of water the people fetch from, and village volunteer training sessions. He is currently assisting in the Karaga shift of only Guinea Worm eradication to Trachoma education and prevention. The Austrian Government through the NGO Vamed is currently constructing a polyclinic in Karaga where Cameron has helped the general contractor in site development and construction. Our dam broke in early 2009 causing a major water shortage. Cameron helped reconstruct this dam, by hand, with the people of Karaga. He's also started a small Moringa farm. This is a tree that grows quickly without the need of lots of water, is entirely edible, and is used in animal forage, water purification, medicine, and plant disease prevention. His goal is to grow the seeds in small plastic baggies then have our students at Timtooni transplant them around the school and nutrition center to be added to the meals prepared for the students, mothers and malnourished children.

Together we've sponsored a "Know Your Status" campaign with a village screening of the Kayayo film (of village women and men becoming porters in Kumasi and Accra where HIV is a serious problem) , a question and answer program with the Karaga nursing staff on HIV/AIDS facts and concerns, a town versus secondary school football match, and free HIV testing. We've also just completed a World Map in one of our primary/junior high schools and are hoping to complete another.

Future projects, in conjunction with our continuous projects, are an HIV/AIDS poster contest at the Junior High School and an HIV/AIDS Jeopardy match between the four houses at the Senior Secondary School. The winners of these competitions will receive a new football sent from the States by Pat and Dave Griffith and the South Aiken Soccer Team.

We're also still pursuing the hope of a library in our community. This, of all our projects, has been the most difficult and tedious to carryout. We'll continue to talk with our District Assembly and GES in hopes that our replacement volunteers will have more success!

We're lucky to say overall our projects and experiences have been successful, even considering the frustrations and roadblocks. Our PC supervisors and counterparts are supportive and accommodating and our community members are willing to express their ideas, wants, and needs for change.

When we moved to Karaga we replaced a volunteer. She wrote this quote on our wall and I read it every day. It gives us the courage to continue here in Ghana for a few more months knowing that this Peace Corps experience will forever change our lives.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
-Mark Twain

Kymberly Tuckfield