Jan 12, 2015

LIFE LESSONS FROM PRIMARY CLASS 1

The post today is from last year, a summary of the life lessons I'd learned or being reminded of when I was teaching Primary Class 1 in Kissemah - November and December of 2013.  

I am headed to Ghana on Friday and the children from Primary Class 1 are now in Primary Class 2 and they are boarding at the new school in Ayikumah Township.  The new school is 44 kilometers from the school on the porch in Kissemah.  

The kindergarden and Primary 1 classes are still in Kissemah, on the porch at Ceci's house. All of the other classes that used to be at Kissemah are now in Ayikumah.  In the new location we also have "day students" from the surrounding village, children who are going to school for the first time.  

None of this could be possible without the financial support of all the donors and sponsors that invest in these children. The children and teachers are extremely grateful and appreciative. Everyday during the lunch blessing, all of Mawuvio's friends and supporters are included in the blessing. Everyday !   

My goal is to post updates daily while I am in Ghana.  


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After teaching Primary Class One for ten weeks in Kissemah Village in Ghana at the Mawuvio's Outreach Programme school, I will never go a day without wonderful reminders of them and the many lessons they taught me. 

I will forever be grateful to these tiny scholars, warriors, students and teachers of life: Abil, Victor, Lilian, Elijah, Grace Mary, Florence, Prince, Godsway, Akos, Angela, Shalome and Joyline.

Primary Class One - Mawuvio's 

So many lessons in detail have been recorded in my mind and heart, so many. Some funny, some sad, some extremely insightful, some challenging and frustrating and many, many moments with them have been opportunities for me to learn about the resilience of children and about the energy and light of the human spirit. Being surrounded everyday by the entire Mawuvio's student body, 62 children ages 5 to 16, a gift for life, children who I've come to know and love.

Tonight when I was taking my "village bucket shower" I looked up at the sky and heard Grace Mary's voice saying ... "Madam the moon sometimes looks like a banana". And indeed it does, tonight the moon is in the stage where it looks like a perfect beautiful silver banana.

Today when Angela answered the Science exam question, name three animals that fly, her answers:

1_ bird
2_ angel
3 _ house fly

Animals can indeed can be angels. I have two at home in Atlanta, Welsh Corgis, Maddie Louise and Morgan Sofia and while they can't fly, they are indeed little angels.

In the kindergarten class next to Primary One, Teacher Lawrenda was helping Prosper, one of her young students with some of his exam answers today. We heard Teacher Lawrenda saying out loud, "Prosper do you talk with your buttocks?  Prosper, do you wear crayons to school" ? Prosper was standing very still next to Lawrenda seriously contemplating the questions with a big smile on his face. It was very quiet when this happened, three of us teachers all close by, I guess we were all in a serious mood and the questions made us all burst out laughing.

I know it is one of those moments when you have to be there; 1:30pm on an extra hot hot humid afternoon, towards the end of the first day of the Term 1 exams,  for a few seconds, the mood was light as many of the children also giggled.  Prosper is a card. Actually he and Mark and Dennis are all cards. I will never know how Teacher Lawrenda manages that young group. She does an amazing job of teaching the young children, balancing their overall kindergarten energy with the focus required for them to learn and behave in our current classroom setting on the porch of Ceci's home. 

(L to R) Dennis, Mark and Prosper, KG1 Students 


One of my favorite all time reminders, everyday at lunch after we all say the blessing, everyday, all 24 children on the porch, lift their bowls up a tiny bit and say to me and Lawrenda... "Madam You're Invited" - "Madam You're Invited". From the very first time this gesture happened when I visited in December of 2011, I am still touched by the consideration and courtesy from very young children, most of whom only get one meal per day, the lunch they eat at school. The echo of their tiny voices forever a song in my heart. 



The children praying during the blessing at lunch at the school 


At anytime in the future when I need to be courageous and brave I will have Lilian Ampomah from Class One, top of mind.  Tonight I was telling Madam Ceci that not once since she has been at Ridge Hospital  have I seen her cry. When she had her lung aspirated manually with a needle in her back she made sounds that no one should ever have to hear; she has never cried or whimpered either before or after the aspiration procedure. 

Her capacity for grace and eloquence at the young age of 8 is remarkable. Today she called about 3pm. She asked Belinda, her sister, to call, Belinda passed the phone to Lilian and I heard her beautiful voice say, "Hello Madam this is Lilian".  I told her I am coming to see her at the hospital tomorrow.

Lilian at Ridge Hospital in Ghana 

Dr. Solomon said the chest tube had to be in at least 7 days, tomorrow is day 7. I pray pray pray that we can bring Lilian home Saturday or Sunday. And we have some great news about Lilian. A group of wonderful people in Atlanta, GA have graciously signed on to support Lilian, all of her medical expenses will be covered with donations to Mawuvio's. Lilian knows many people all over the world are thinking and praying for her; everyone from Mawuvio's in Ghana, Flo and Hannah from Austria, all of our friends and family in America and Panama. 

What a great experience, the rally of complete strangers who overnight became the friends of a little girl, thousand of miles away, their support making it possible for Lilian to get medical care in a hospital setting.  Lilian has a serious case of pleural effusion in her right lung, a chest tube was inserted to drain the fluid. 

My lesson with water:  everyday at lunch 4 of the girls in Class 2 and Class 3 help Ceci fetch water to replenish the large container the children drink from and to replenish the big basin where the lunch bowls are washed after everyone is done eating. Since the water has not been "flowing" in the village for the entire time I have been here, Josephine, Felicia, Etonmah and Matilda - are doing this everyday. 

Where Ceci gets the water is not far from the school and the man who owns the poly tanks knows Ceci, so he does not charge the school.  The girls have to walk the distance of 1/2 a football field to go and come back with the water buckets or basins and they do this twice everyday at lunch. I am sure before they come to school and after they also have to get water for their families where they live. 

I will forever be grateful to them, I will forever appreciate every shower I take, every glass of water I drink, every swish of water I use to brush and rinse my teeth.



The girls fetching water after lunch 


When I am at a keyboard, the Primary One class will always be with me. During one of our ICT reviews (Information, Communication & Technology) we went to the school office so they could see the parts or components of a computer.  The  question came up, how many keys  on the keyboard? Joyline counted for the class, the total 100.  Their curiosity at this age is something that I had to get familiar with, some days it can be exhausting.  



Looking at a video clip on the iPad 
My lesson with quiet and patience; when it got extremely hot on the porch, usually right before lunch, I would ask the children to be very quiet. So quiet that we could hear the breeze. And somehow, someway, the leaves on the mango tree would move a tiny bit. Their focus on silence coupled with their imagination allowed space in the air for the breeze to visit. I would tell the children that sometimes the breeze was shy and sometimes friendly. Moving the large whiteboard helped, we all enjoyed the hints of calm and cool, imagined or otherwise. 

I am not a teacher, I am not a mother, so everything about showing up on the porch at the Kissemah school location as the Primary Class One instructor has been new to me. Everyday I am learning right along with the students. I've learned that I can indeed manage and teach the class and about 90% of the time I can keep the all focused.  I've learned that a tiny bit of chaos is perfectly OK, I've learned that even when I thought they weren't paying attention, indeed they are. 

The relationship I've forged with this class, a reminder everyday that knowledge is power, that education does translate into opportunity and that one day at a time, these children are forging the future of Ghana and the world at large.  


Primary Class One on the porch of Ceci's home in Kissemah Village 

When Primary Class One practices their Spanish we've made up movements to correspond with everyday of the week and Sabado is "hips swaying" as they say SA-BA-DO. Elijah has the best hip movement of any boy his age. When you see him doing his rendition of SA BA BO, smiling from ear to ear, you want to get up and dance. Everyday there is joy, laughter, always a  moment or two or many that fill my heart with thick joy. 


(L to R) Grace Mary, Elijah, Lilian 


My life has been enriched in ways that I will forever be grateful for. When Joyline asked if I would ride on the plane that she will one day pilot, when Ben invited me to sit at the front of the church where he will one day be Pastor, these tiny moments forever stored in the movie reels of my mind. 

I will be able to recall them on the giant screen of my imagination and know that in West Africa in a place called Kissemah Village, I have forged life long friendships with children that will grow and have opportunities because of their education, because of the love and care and nurturing and exposure they get from the Mawuvio's co-founders Kwame and Renee, from the Mawuvio's teachers, from the volunteers, from the Mawuvio's student sponsors and everyone at large that supports this small organization.


Students during morning assembly in Kissemah Village, Ghana 


And to think that this all started with a random Google search for "recycled glass bead bracelets from Ghana." I tell people all the time that it is absolutely no coincidence that Google, Ghana and God all start with the letter G.  And Mawuvio's in EWE, one of the native Ghanian languages, means God's children. 

Charlotte Paul, I will forever be grateful that you came to my house for dinner in March 2011 with your beautiful recycled glass bead bracelets from Ghana.  That was the beginning of a path that has changed my life forever. 



Recycled glass "Krobo" beads from Somanya Market in Ghana