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".

Monday, June 27, 2011

Today's class cancelled

Submitted by Cindy Gracelyn Yeboah

It was all muddy today at the Fulani Educational Center.  This was due to a heavy rainfall last night. The muddy nature of the road made it very difficult for us to go to the center by car.  I alighted at the junction to the place and trekked to the center through the mud. It really took me along while to make it to the place. As at the time I got there, with two other volunteers Jenny and Jane, there was no one at the center.

Upon assessing the condition of the place, we thought it wise to cancel the class today. The center was completely swallowed up by mud.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Fulani school, recruitment for vocational training.

Posted by Cindy Gracelyn Yeboah

Last week Monday, I had another wonderful time with the kids at the Fulani Educational Center . Turn up was quite okay, three students have stopped because they moved to another town. We now have a class size of 26. 18 were present and 8 were absent.

Elias is doing well in his new school. Asmau and her sister Ayshatu could not go to school last week Monday. Upon enquiry, I was told their mum left home at dawn to the city, to sell her stuff and left the children in bed. When the children woke up there was no one to bath and prepare them for school.

We did a recap of the health talk.  The responses were very encouraging. Every thing we taught them was well understood and practiced as well. The class was split into two with two teachers Audrey and me. The little ones learnt colours and some rhymes and the older ones learnt basic multiplication.

This Monday was also a great one. Attendance was good - 21 were present and 5 were absent. The class was again split into two. We continued with the learning of the colours, rhymes and the multiplication. The performance of the students is improving; their pronunciations are now becoming more accurate. They can now say some simple phrases in English confidently. Some of these phrases are; ‘am fine thank you’, ‘am sick’, ‘am hungry’, ‘am tired’ and so.

After the class, we had a resource person who is a designer by profession to speak to our young girls about a government sponsored youth training project - this project is a wing of a broad project in Ghana called the National Youth Employment Programme (NYEP).

It gives employment opportunities to youth in the country to be employed in the public sectors, health sectors and the educational sectors and in areas where the government needs more hands. This project also gives vocational training to under privileged people who had little education or no education at all.

It is in this light, that we introduced the older Fulani girls and young mother who are too old to go to school, to the programme.

 The Fulani Educational Center project also believes in self empowerment for sustainability of the rural folks. Making them believe that, they, through their own abilities / strengths can bring positive change into their lives, to improve upon their livelihood and their general health conditions as a whole

Currently five young girls have been sent to have them registered to be trained as seamstresses.
Once again I believe this is another great achievement chalked by the Fulani school. Helping people to attain total self dependence.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

On the road again...........

As many of you know Medicine on the Move changes lives one flight at a time... but we also do road trips!  Medicine on the Move has never had its own vehicle per se.  WAASPS, Paul J, Martin H and others have kindly loaned their vehicles for trips.  WAASPS is, of course, intrinsically linked to MoM as it operates the aircraft and provides the 'home' for MoM as well as covering all costs that cannot be found elsewhere in order to meet the needs of the day. (For example Cindy is actually employed by WAASPS, but works on NGO activities the majority of her time).  This symbiotic relationship is great, but it needs to move on from there towards a more independent MoM.

Since the last road trip to the North with Erin, when the WAASPS Previa broke down about ten times, the 'road trip' concept has been 'reduced to locally recoverable by tow-home' movements only.  This has resulted in some 'contracted' operations.

A crunch point came about two weeks ago, when all of WAASPS vehicles went into 'no-go' mode.  The Astra was withdrawn from availability with the departure of Kojo to start his own company (Jesmine Engineering, for which we wish him well), the Buggy throttle cable snapped, carb needed work on, brakes went wonky and fuel tank had so much rust the fuel started finding its own way out of the tank, and the Previa which was in a minor accident, ended up with major surgery, went into light duty service and then experienced 'vehicular-cardiac arrest' with a complete failure of the electrical system.

WAASPS, AvTEch and MoM went to the 'bush taxi' system.  All personnel movements went by taxi... at times the taxi conditions were 'not within acceptable standards', yet there was literally no choice.  For the weekely fuel run, a friend lent us a truck to carry the drums to Accra for clean fuel, and on the way the cabin filled with black smoke as the water pump went at the same time as the cylinder head gasket.  Matthew and I (feeling like Jonah's)  resorted to using a tro-tro to Accra... an experience not to be repeated - whilst a relief truck brought the drums to Accra.

Whether you believe in a God, or a coincidence, it matters not, but what happened during this troubling time has changed the way MoM can work and also created the first next towards the activities of Project ETCHE (Encouragement Training for Community Health Empowerment - which you will learn more about in the coming months...).

A benefactor and supporter of MoM made an anonymous donation of 85% of the purchase price of a small double cab truck, a KIA K2700.  Another benefactor and supporter of MoM made a short term loan for the balance, and so, on Friday of last week, MoM, for the first time, became a vehicle owner.

The K2700 has a range of 500km on one tank of diesel, can seat 6 inside the cabin and has a 1.5tonne flat load bed potential behind.  It rides like Land Rover (a bit bumpy but solid) and has an excellent record of service in West Africa - and is economical.   The insurance of just under $900 per year is under consideration by SIC for 'sponsorship' and WAASPS has agreed to cover it should SIC not come through.

One thing we learnt as well is that three AvTech Girls can sleep in the back of the truck!

Havign just done one thousand kilomoters in three days in the vehicle, I would best describe it as 'safe, comfortable and more of a small truck than a big pick-up.  With double wheels on the rear axle and two spares as standard, as well as its demonstrated 'mud and corrugated road' capabilities, even in the 2x4 version we have (we decided not to go for the 4x4 as costs were higher - both purchase and maintenance) and the ability to haul load, this is the ideal vehicle for the MoM activities in Ghana.

So, where did we rack up 1000 klicks in three days?

We set off on a trip that was, as is our usual custom, funded through the needs of another organisation!  We combined some safety training for a 'common interest in the lake people' company and the final push to get Kete Krachi airstrip opened.

Leaving at 4am we headed by road to Dambai, covering tarmac, dirt and more-hole-than-surface roads, crossed on the ferry (a 20minute crossing for less than 1nm of water), and then drove corrugated latterite to Kete Krachi.  It took us twelve hours travel to arrive at a point less than 110nm (200km) from our home base.

On the way we saw a lazy sheep hitching a ride from a motorbike, that lightened the bumpy trip a bit!

After the heavy heavy rains we wanted to see the state of the disused runway we had inspected in February during Erin's visit, which funded the last visit there.  It was in good shape!  So, we headed to the community leaders and made them a clear proposal.

"If you undertake as a community to maintain this airfield for the benefit of the whole community, we will undertake to do the paperwork and pay the fees for the reactivation of this resource."    Of course, in Africa these decisions take a long time.  So, we drafted the necessary letters for the authorities and arranged to meet the leaders at the airfield at 07:30 the next morning.

07:30 we got to the airfield, myself, Patricia and the AvTech girls; ready and eager to clear the site and get it ready for a glamour shot for the application.  We stood alone.  Fearing the worst, at 08:15 I left the girls on the field and set off to the leaderships offices... but I did not get far.  I was met on the way by the community leaders and then trucks of school children and farmers arrived to assist in bringing back to life the facility once used actively.

We set a competetition to cut down three tall trees close to the threshold - in less than 9 minutes three trees were felled by schoolboys with their cutlasses!  Then, Patricia and the girls stared FOD training and the entire group spread out and walked that runway clearing sticks and stones, cow pats (dried and crispy ones) whilst I went with the supportive DCE (Kwame Moses Ponye) and some schoolboys to take out the shrubs on the runway.

By ten am the runway was definitely useable.   Sheepishly, I asked about the necessary letters to be told 'I signed them already, just go and collect them'.  Which we did - and they were all correct and in order!  This demonstrates that 'Africa Time' is not a foregone conclusion, and that with a little encouragement and the right people in the right places things can happen overnight!

Kete Krachi is a strategic location for looking after the lake - it is half way up the lake length and the confluence of the two big northern river-legs that make it up.  Kete Krachi has the potential to become a MoM secondary base.  It has a hospital, and a once per week ferry service from VLTC, who have offered to carry fuel to the site for us.  Getting Kete Krachi operational opens up a whole new real of possibilities.  It is not MoM, nor I, nor the AvTech girls that make it possible. No, it is the people of Kete Krachi - the children we flew on Fly Me Day from there, the support from the Volta Lake Transport Company and, most essentially the decision making and determination of the people of Kete Krachi.  Our encouragement is all that we have given, they have made the difference.  That is the basis of MoM's approach  - we help you to help yourselves - and it works!

From Kete Krachi we took the VLTC ferry, the Yapei Queen, through the afternoon and night to Yeji, in a strong storm.  The crew were fantastic and we spent a long time on the bridge with them.  These are the folks that will be keeping an eye out for the Health Education Vessel that we expect to operate on the lake next year (equipped with an amphibious aircraft dock behind), and their knowledge of these waters are essential both for boat and float plane operations.  Even with the experience of many years sailing on the waters, during the storm we hit a tree.  The jolt had me jumping from the bunk, but the steel hull just moved on.

We docked at four small communities along the way, dropping off and picking up people and supplies and seeing the yam piles getting ready to be loaded on the return trip.  Where the forklift cannot move these yams will be carried by hand through the water to the vessel and hand loaded into the crates to go to market in the south of the country - about 4 hours at each stop.  These very communities are ideal destinations for ETCHE as it moves upstream in the coming months and years - and communities for us to note in case of emergency landings - for a forced landing in these parts should be near a community that you can get a lift out of!  Our GPS was busy getting co-ordinates for each of these, and they will be loaded onto each aircrafts equipment for 'emergency and future use'.

Here we are docking at Ehiamankye...

then at Dorkponya...

next was Bejamase

and finally at Hawusakorpe

before we appraoched the lights at Yeji...

We spent the night on the boat and disembarked at 04:00 on Wednesday morning to the fly filled sky of Yeji, our shiny new donated K2700 truck covered in bits of hay used in the Yam crates, blown about by the storm.  We saw a picture of the crates that fell on a new truck a few weeks ago during a storm, and realised that our storm was not so bad after all - the grass was easily cleared.

As dawn rose over Yeji we saw the most amazing Nimbostratus - the sky was blackened in a horseshoe shape, the effects of the temperature differences from the different rivers, air movements and the micro-climatic influences dominating the panorama.    We had hoped to take the ferry across to Salaga (the site of another abandoned airfield) but the weather was not in our favour for the day.

As we approached the ferry an old lady ran out at me shouting 'DANGER DANGER' and pushing me away from the boat.  She was concerned that we may try to cross during the storm.  Patricia reassured her that we heard her concerns and would not sail if the sky was dark!

We spent some time with the crew of the boat and gained understanding of the water and the sky, and then set off on the eleven hour drive back to Kpong - on good roads for 95% of the journey.   That was eleven hours to cover a distance of 400km by road or what would have been just 250km by air - less than two hours in any of the MoM/WAASPS aircraft...

The best part of this journey was, for the first time in my memory, this was a trip without a breakdown, without a puncture, without an unexpected challenge of the vehicular type, with airconditioning that worked and kept the red dust out of our hair, clothes and teeth... in fact, it was really pleasant!  So, MoM is on the road again, in a better condition and better able to make the differences to peoples lives that we so dearly want to make.

As I wrote on my FB page this morning.... "God resides in the heavens so that he can see all of humanity, seeing where the needs are and acting appropriately... when we fly we see more than most - and with it comes responsibilities to care for those we see that others cannot."

Thanks to you, we have been able to see the needs from the sky, and thanks to you we are able to undertake road trips to work towards creating the infrastructure necessary to take the much needed Encouragement Health Training for Community Health Empowerment to the people in need.

Please, keep on supporting us, for despite the stomy skies and challenges that flow like a river in our direction, I can assure you that we are working to change lives in a very cost efficient, people-centric, non-invasive and sustainable manner - in ways that are not common in these parts.  THANK YOU!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Health Talk

Posted by Cindy Gracelyn Yeboah

It was all about health at the Fulani camp last week. Attendance was great and more of the adults are being registered. Asamau was sent to the hospital by her dad to get her wound dressed. Elias started school last Monday.

We had a joint class with three teachers Audrey Newton and me. We spoke to the students about personal hygiene and how to keep their surroundings clean.

Among the things we discussed are; proper washing of hands – with soap and clean water. The teachers demonstrated to them how to properly wash the hands to get rid of the germs that may be hiding in their nails before eating, after playing and after visiting the toilet. We explained to them that, this to a large extent will help prevent the contraction of bacteria associated diseases such as cholera and diarrhea.

After the demonstration by the teachers the students were allowed to do same.

During the talk, our investigation revealed that, the people have no latrines in their homes, neither is there one for the whole community. Due to this reason, everybody in the community defecate in the bush and leave it open without covering it. The flies then settle on this mess and bring it back to their homes leaving them with diseases .

We also spoke to them about how to treat their drinking water to make it safe. Since their source of drinking water was from an open fire hydrant point by the roadside. We taught them to boil their drinking water, allow it to cool and settle then it can be sieved with a clean napkin. This, we explained that, it will make their water safe to drink.

Again, we spoke to them about weeding their surroundings, keeping it clean at all times, and the proper disposal of waste to prevent the attraction of mosquitoes which causes malaria.

We also spoke to them about oral health prevention of body odor and many more.

Most of the kids were always coming to school bare footed without any sandals or slippers, so we encourage their parents to always ensure that their kids were either in their slippers or sandals.
We also advised to safely keep their National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) cards and to avoid keeping sick people for too long in the house before taking them to the hospital.

This week, turn up was poor; all the young girls and boys including the parents were not were not able to come. The little kids were the only ones who came to school today.  It’s raining season in Ghana and a time to cultivate crops. ‘Everybody have left to the farm to do some planting”, one of the kids said. I was the only teacher; Audrey fell ill during the week and couldn’t come with me.

We did colorings and recited some rhymes. I had a very good time with kids.

Just as we were about to end, a few of the adults, who had by then finish with their work at the farm, joint us. They learnt some basic math and practiced some addition and subtraction.

Next week, we will treat more health topics. Am expecting a greater turn up next week than today

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Fulani kids in schools...

Posted by Matt Porter

Well... I thought I should make a small blog as things at the Fulani camp have been moving in good directions - more so than we had anticipated! As you know, Elias has been getting registered to get to school. On Sunday evening, Jane managed to complete the sewing of his uniform in time, which he had paid for with his own money. 
We went to see him tonight, Tuesday, to check if he had been to school on both days, and he has! Elias has been keen on this for a long time, but there was always so many excuses and unknowns and misunderstandings, that have been taken away by trips to the school to find out the real deals...

Tonight though, I was very surprised and confused when Asamau's mother, Hawa, asked me where her children should go on next Monday - the camp or Akuse? Well, Elias, who speaks excellent English, was able to translate and explain for me... We had been to the school the first time with Elias and his father as well as Asamau's father, but on the follow-up visit to establish where the children should go into which class, Asamau's father wasn't around whilst Elias took a test to establish his levels. So I thought that was that... Elias in school, Asamau and her sister in the camp education centre...

Turns out, Hawa took Asamau and her sister to Akuse yesterday to register them in the school! She then took Asamau to the hospital to get her finger dressed (yes, still ongoing, but getting there)! That's two bits of great news! So Hawa wanted to know if on Mondays, the children should come to the camp education centre, and go to the Akuse government school the rest of the week... I explained to her that the children should go to a full school that can offer a lot more in terms of education than we can, BUT, she, the mother should DEFINITELY come to the education centre on a Monday!  

So we are moving in the right direction here! The parents seem to be getting the idea that the education centre can provide help with basic literacy and health education, but not full education... The kids are better off in the school, and the women better off in the education centre... And with 3 out of 20-odd children in the school at Akuse, I think the other parents are going to start doing the same, especially as they are finding out that the school is a lot more accessible than they previously thought! The biggest challenges are the transport for them and the costs, despite the fact that the main tuition fees are free up to end of Junior Secondary School.

So, we will keep an eye on all this and see how it pans out!