I have been focusing the majority of my time on teaching, and developing Our Talking Hands over the last year. I have not been posting here, but rather at the Our Talking Hands website and Facebook Page. Things are going really well for me in Ghana, where I continue to serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I extended for a 4th year, which ends September 2013. I still don’t know what I will be doing when I complete my Peace Corps experience; I hope the amazing ride continues. We had a pretty great Leadership Camp a little while back, I will include so you can check out what we are doing to support the deaf in Ghana.
After finishing our Christmas Fufu and Goat, I gave Stephanie a small globe so she could brush up on her Geography. She shows us where Ghana is, and where her friend Willow lives. Merry Christmas and enjoy!
Lavoe, from the Volta School for the Deaf demonstrates making bottle cap earrings. A Peace Corps Volunteer asked for a custom earring using bottle caps from her home state of Wisconsin… Lavoe is happy to oblige.
Opie McGuire is a hero to many. He served alongside Peace Corps Volunteers in Uganda and most recently in Ghana. As a volunteer he saved a young girls life. The details are long, painful and best told by Opie himself, but this video depicts the co-founders of Our Talking Hands, Scott and Promise presenting this little girl with gifts sent by Opie. The video is meant for Opie, but stands as a testament for all to see that one person can have a profound impact on the lives of those around them. Thanks be to Opie for all you have done to inspire the rest of us. Your legend lives on, and so must the story of a man that fought against popular opinion and did what was correct.
The capacity to make beautiful wooden batik stamps has been built, and now the students have begun making these stamps to order for a number of interested customers. A big thanks goes out to Henning Lemcke, a German volunteer who came to the school for a visit and demonstrated the technique to myself and some of the carpenters in the Vocational Department.
In the following video, one of the vocational carpenters Richard, uses a fret saw to carve one of 37 stamps commissioned by a fellow Peace Corps Volunteer Emily Kernen. The batik stamps depict various yoga poses and turned out beautifully. The stamps have excited a number of prospective future customers, as Richard has now perfected making these stamps and is now taking custom orders.
The following video shows three of my students from the Vocational Department at the Volta School for the Deaf as they demonstrate processes associated with Kente Weaving.
1. Bless winds thread on to a shuttle.
2. Tetteh prepares the warp.
3. Forgive demonstrates the weaving process.
(Hohoe, Ghana) The following video documents students from the Volta School for the Deaf using a webcam for the first time. The students from the vocational department were practicing video conferencing in preparation for using their newly installed internet at the school. The students are now able to broadcast their talents to the rest of the world. Broadcasts are forthcoming.
I had a fantastic time visiting home between August 5th and September 15th. I took a 30 day leave from Peace Corps and tacked on another 10 days of vacation to spend some time with friends and family in the U.S. I have extended my service in Ghana with the Peace Corps for another year and with renewed energy plan to continue working towards our joint mission to help provide sustainable livelihoods for members of the deaf community.
The efforts of all who have supported this mission have become more and more visible. At the Volta School for the Deaf, the total number of computers in our newly established ICT Center has grown to 12 with plans to expand further. While I was home a new friend of mine by the name of Ron Foster gave me the idea to “bring the world to these students.” With Rons assistance, one of the largest Telecom companies in Ghana visited our school just last week to run a DSL line that will carry a broadband connection that will help our teaching staff better educate the students at the Volta School for the Deaf. For all those that know me well, you must know that my mind is spinning with ideas of how to use this new resource. I am excited to have my students show off their abilities via YouTube, utilize Wikipedia, and develop a larger visual database. A virtual tour using Google maps is something that some may take for granted. I feel lucky that I will be there to see the eager eyes and smiles of bewilderment as my students begin guided exploration of the world around them. Along with thanking Mr. Foster for his assistance with this particular project, I would also like to thank him for teaching me about Agape Love. Thank you Ron.
In the Hohoe community, we have opened a retail store. We are calling the store Our Talking Hands. The store is being managed by Promise Mensah, who is learning to run the store using QuickBooks on the stores new laptop. The store was rented for 2 years by Promises mother Anne Mensah. The entire Mensah family has been wonderful supporters of both myself and the students at the Volta School for the Deaf.
The Volta School for the Deaf has been getting national attention as of late, because this past week I was awarded the National Best Teachers Award for being the best foreign volunteer. I was given the opportunity to meet with the President of Ghana, John Atta Mills at his Castle in OSU. I shared the experience with 53 teachers from all across Ghana. The experience was a once in a life time honor. I followed in the footsteps of two excellent Peace Corps Volunteers who won the award in 2010 and 2009, Arianna King and Stephen Riutta. I was bestowed gifts and had my picture on the cover of the national newspaper “The Daily Graphic.” I have yet to arrive back at my school from the celebrations, but I am excited to head back to home. We have big dreams ahead of us. I will ride home tomorrow thinking of those eyes that are eager to see the world. The anticipation is killing me.
Thanks again to all who have supported us. The Massie family, Marilyn, Anne, Patricia, Riverside United Methodist Church, Mom, Dad, family, and of course all of your friends. All of my friends that keep in touch and help me get out of my head every now and again. Thank you all.
Preperations are under way to receive 70 new volunteers and welcome them for the next 2+ years of their lives. The new batch of volunteers will be arriving in Ghana in June 2011. Most of the future Peace Corps Volunteers who will serve in Ghana have been sent their invitiations, and are now turning their attention towards the internet to exhaustivly research all there is to know about Ghana. An excellent resource for volunteers searching for anwers can be found at the Peace Corps Wiki website. Information available includes history, packing lists, health and safety information, and much more. The purpose of this post is to add a couple of items that I recommend packing. I don’t expect you will find these items on any other list.
The following is a list of 5 books given to me by the English Literature Teacher at the Volta School for the Deaf. She made this list known to me during a staff meeting, when she expressed her frustrations at not having these books that are required texts for Junior High School Students in Ghana. These books are not easily aquired, and have made it difficult for Junior High School Teachers to comply with the Ghana Education Services curriculum. Making these 5 books more available to the community you serve could act as a wonderful gift, whether you are posted in Education, Natural Resource Management, or Health and Water Sanitation. You will make friends with families that have Junior High School aged children, and hopefully work with schools regardless of your placement.
For volunteers placed in Art Education, I recommend bringing The Joy of Signing. The students and staff at my school have fallen in love with this text and use it to settle language disputes and help develop vocabulary. I have encouraged the Peace Corps Training Staff to make this text available to all the Art Education volunteers, but there can never be too many copies of this book at your school. My family has sent me 15 or so copies of this text, which I am selling at my school for about $10. The teachers and the students buy it faster than I can get them here. Pack your bags full of all you will need in Ghana, and remember… if you have extra room, stuff a few copies of The Joy of Signing in as well and you will not regret it.
If you have questions about the Deaf Education program in Ghana, or Peace Corps service in Ghana, please ask and I will do my best to answer them.
My camera is back, thanks to an assist from my mother. I can now begin documenting the work we have done over the past few months, as much progress has been made here at the Volta School for the Deaf. We have our new computer lab up and running, as well as 6 active Kente students. We are now making aprons, bags, quilts/duvet covers, pillow covers, and much more. I am enjoying my work/life here and am planning to request an extension of my service for a third year. The director of Peace Corps Aaron Williams visited my site last month, and provided great feedback and energy to my service. Until the new photos come in, enjoy these photos of our new computer lab, the Buckeye Kente, and bottle cap earrings my vocational students are making.