Tuesday, July 21, 2009

calling teachers...

Katie from Kumasi came to visit me at the weekend. For the second time in a row. I don’t know whether she misses me or has had enough of Kumasi.

Actually she was blatantly using me this time to go and see Harry Potter, eat salad, sleep in till 9 in a room with AC and meet a friend from the states who’s here for a month to volunteer at Katie’s NGO. But, I am totally open to being used if it means I have people to hang out with!!

I met Katie last year in Kumasi at one of those hardest times of being an expat, when the community of friends I'd built up disappeared in a puff of smoke. I was sunbathing at a local pool in the hope of meeting new obrunis... and it turned out she was doing the same thing (I usually use the phrase 'pimping myself out' but I don't want to give anyone the wrong idea). That was her third summer trip to Ghana, and she was about two thirds of her way through. Katie is a primary school teacher from the states, and had just given up her job to set up and run an NGO to support a little school in Kumasi. Even though it’s a school where the kids have to pay fees, I think she was shocked by the lack of educational facilities and quality of teaching.

So Volunteers In Africa aims to help not only with the teaching, but also with training the teachers to teach - to control the children, use effective discipline, make learning fun; and I guess all the stuff teachers in the US and UK are taught as part of their training. Katie also provides equipment and teaching aids - she brought 14 hold-alls of the stuff this time! VIA also educates kids in the US a little bit about Africa, so the emphasis is really on cross-cultural experiences!

Basically, I think it's great, and I think Katie is great too and I think she has chosen a thankless task! Launching an NGO as the credit crunch hit was probably not the easiest thing to do (although she has ways of getting round it... never mind fun runs or lying in a bath of baked beans for a couple of hours, my Californian friend held a beauty evening with 'cosmetic injections' available)(she tells me San Diego, USA must be a long long way from Manchester, UK). Back at the school, progress is slow and frustrating, and the stories she tells me about day to day school life make me giggle but also make me appreciate how incredibly lucky we are to have available to us the education system we do have. I am also humbled when I am moaning about the service at my four star hotel or the fact I no longer have my own personal driver.

Please have a look at the website, and the cause and group on facebook! And to all my teacher friends, please get in touch if you fancy helping her; with teaching and/or with teacher training! Because it's such a small organisation I think you'd feel you were making a real difference even on a short term trip, and I know she keeps costs to the absolute minimum. And there's a great Indian restaurant in Kumasi.

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