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Travels abroad make you appreciate your blessings

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Learning from her experiences with students in Ghana

By Theresa Howard

I recently returned from a tour of the west-African country of Ghana. I was part of a visiting group connected with the University of Kentucky. We had two administrators from UK, two county extension agents and seven Extension Homemaker members from across the state in our Kentucky group.

We were there to present donations to a rural village school on behalf of the Kentucky Extension Homemaker Association. This came about through the efforts of Dr. Kwaku Addo and his wife Esther. They are both from Ghana and he teaches nutrition and food science at UK and she is a nurse at UK Medical Center. Annually for the past five years, Dr. Addo takes college students on an educational tour of Ghana.

About 10 years ago, Kwaku and Esther asked for donations from their church members in Lexington to help build two new kindergarten classrooms at the school in Esther’s hometown of Adjeikrom in rural Ghana. This was started, and in honor of the donors the kindergarten was named Kentucky Academy.

They continue to take donations to improve the classroom building and supplies. Last year, KEHA decided to adopt the Kentucky Academy as an international project. Two local Homemaker clubs contributed to the $5,000 in statewide donations. With these funds a ceiling was put in the two kindergarten classrooms, which included electricity, lights and a ceiling fan. Before this, the rooms were just open up to the tin roof covering. And the only light or ventilation was through the classroom doorway or some of the wall cement blocks have decorative holes.

The next improvement is to have funds to put in real windows to allow for better air circulation. Ghana is located in sub-Sahara Africa and is warm and humid most of the year, so packed classrooms would be very warm during most school days.

KEHA donations also paid for new chair and tables for kindergarten students. They also shipped six large boxes of school supplies. These were shared with the Kentucky Academy school, another rural village school in Abonse and a SOS orphanage in the capital city of Accra.

The donations to the Kentucky Academy make the kindergarten building by far the best classroom facilities in the Adjeikrom village school which goes from kindergarten through junior high. The water source for the school is either a stream located many yards away or they do have one well with a hand pump.

Because of lack of funds this year, no meals were offered during the school day. One of the nutrition specialists at U.K. is getting married in September. Instead of wedding gifts, she is asking guests to give a donation that will go toward paying for breakfast and lunch for the kindergarten students during the next school year.

About the age of 15, students are ready for secondary school or high school. To be able to attend, students have to pass acceptance tests and be able to pay tuition. Most have to travel to a larger village or city to attend and do better if they can board at the secondary schools. Because of the expense, most cannot afford education beyond junior high level.

Ghana was once a British colony, so English is taught and understood by most persons. It is a universal language for the country because there are many different dialects spoken in various regions of Ghana. It has been an independent country since 1957 and is proud that it has a democratic political system.

I am fortunate that I was able to tour the Eastern and Southern parts of Ghana with this Kentucky group. Whenever I travel abroad it always reminds me to appreciate all that we have in this country and to not take it for granted, such as with our educational opportunities, money and energy resources, conveniences of modern living, and political freedoms.

But sometimes you have to leave your home surroundings to better appreciate what you do have, as one Ghanaian proverb states: “When you are sitting in your own house, you don’t learn anything. You must get out of your house to learn.”