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3 weeks, 3 feeding sites

With 3 feeding programs to support, my goal was to meet/plan/budget/shop for one site during each week of our 3 week visit in early 2017. The focus for week 1 was the Nutrition Center at Kongo-Logre Clinic. Babies and toddlers identified as malnourished during clinic visits are referred for assessment, home visits, and feeding at the nutrition center. In many malnutrition cases, babies are not able to adequately breastfeed. For instance, death or serious illness of the mother. Quite a few cases are twins where the mother’s milk supply is not able to meet the demand of 2 babies. In northern Ghana where food supply is just enough for subsistence, adequately nourished children most often breastfeed for 2 years

The keystone of the clinic program is for mothers, grandmothers, or other caretakers to bring identified children and their small sibilings to the clinic on weekdays for breakfast, lunch, bathing, immunizations, and other medical care. The clients do all food preparation from taking grains to the grinding mill, drying the resulting flours, cooking (over a wood fire), and cleaning up. Local foods are used exclusively, with a focus on “weanimix” porridge (roasted and ground maize, soybeans, groundnuts) for the 6-12 month olds. The shopping list: 600 pounds rice, 400 pounds white beans, 300 pounds groundnuts, 600 pounds maize, 400 pounds soy beans, 400 pounds millet, large basin dried herrings, large bag dried okra, 5 buckets tomatoes, large bag dried peppers, 50 liters raw palm oil (high in Vitamin A), 25 liters cooking oil, 100 balls dowa dowa (a seed used for seasoning), salt, 2 buckets onions, 4 carts of firewood. The goal is to feed 30 children for at least 3 months. The food cost was $1,500.

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A mother carries 125 pounds of beans into the nutrition center for storage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The food stores at the nutrition center, each bag contains 100-125 pounds of grains, nuts, or beans.

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Life Pursuits and Chieftancy

Allow me to lead you to just outside our compound door where we park our borrowed ‘political’ vehicle, then ‘moto’ you to one of the local Junior high schools for a computer class, moto you back to our compound to greet teacher Angelina on a sunny deck, and then end the day by making an evening moto ride to the Chief’s Palace.

Definitions:

Moto – a motorcycle, usually a 125 cc or 150 cc used on a variety of terrain. The borrowed one I used took about 5 trips on the pot-holed and dusty 40 minutes ride to Bolgatanga, and many an hour on usually rocky bush trails leading me to schools and dry-season farming sites.

“Can you Pick me up”? – This actually means “Do you remember who I am? We have met before.”

Here we are! We just stepped out of our rather spacious yet utilitarian compound to take a photo of some of the successful and very gratified teacher diploma students. It took some planning on their parts to come together to greet and express their appreciation. Front row: longtime friends Leticia and Sandra, back row: Simon, Moses A., Sylvester, and Moses N., and next to Moses N. is a smiling placard of the man who loaned us this vehicle for the many tasks we set out to do. He is The Honorable Boniface Gambila, the former Member of Parliament.

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We took a moment to give a prayer and thank the deceased Kongo resident Agnes Dinaa who played a key role in ‘making it happen’ for these outstanding young people, whose lives are most definitely changed because of their successful pursuit. This was one of my most rewarding and happy moments. But alas, we have a computer class to attend!

Here we are at Logre Junior High.

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I witnessed the start of the day with kids assembled in straight lines, the singing of the national anthem, saying the morning prayer, and then having their uniforms, haircuts, and shoes inspected before marching into the building while singing a French “ABC” song. I met the headmaster who asked “Can You Pick me up?” He being of good size, I quickly realized he was not being literal, and I summoned my good sense to say , “Yes, Of Course!”. He is Samuel, who I’ve known for 10 years, and it was very good to see him again. The teaching situation for this computer class is far better than the norm for tech education. Often the computer is drawn on the chalkboard with keyboard functions explained linearly. But here, though it be three to five to a computer, they actually get some ‘hands on’ experience. The teacher we see in the background is Paul Kurug, a graduate from our scholarship program. Michael Johnson, one of the contributors to the scholarship program donated a lightly-used laptop to Paul, who finds it’s use now indispensable. You see a whiteboard. They are ready to use a projector, but currently this is not financially feasible. Paul did an excellent presentation on use of ‘tools’. We must move along! Former teacher training student is waiting to greet me at the compound!

Here you see myself and Angelina Dimah shaking hands.

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Angelina is a first year teacher at a local Junior High. Like many teachers starting out, she receives no pay for an unpredicted period of months. In the past the first year teacher has been paid retroactively, but now there is talk of only paying for three months back pay even though the teacher may have worked 8 months. The process is politically driven to a large degree, with many campaign promises, some unfulfilled. She is hoping to get some source of income by getting a freezer and selling cold drinks as the weather gets even warmer than the 100 degrees it is now. She also has found the right man and hopes to marry. Presently she is dependent on her mother-in-law-to-be and feels badly that she is so reliant on her, thus hopes to do something to gain some funds. She is bright, vivacious, and hopeful. We get news that the chief of Kongo has requested my and Chareundi’s presence at the Chief’s Palace. Never make a chief wait for long!

Chareundi Van-Si, a good friend and first-time volunteer in Ghana moto to the Kongo Chief’s Palace. It seems a presentation is in order. I recall Lisa and my first visit to Ghana when, on Christmas Day 2005, we were called to the palace where our children, Michael and Kristin were presented with smocks. Though the chief receives a small stipend from the government, he somehow was still able to afford making our children very welcome and impressed. And now, Chareundi was honored with a smock on this visit in 2017!

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In fact, much to the amusement of the Kongo Chief, Chareundi declared himself “Junior Chief of Kongo”! We celebrated the event by imbibing  a small amount of the chief’s gin. The little boy on the Chief’s lap is his grandchild, who is quite fond of the Chief. By the way, the rather large bird in the background is a turkey. We gamely hop on our moto to report the happy event to Lisa and Marilyn. They were impressed!

At this point, I must admit this ‘day’ I just described is actually a composite of events that took place over several days. For literary purposes, I threw them into one. Now wasn’t that fun?   David Stone

Volunteers:

Feb. 2017 work trip: Chareundi Van-Si (coordinate irrigation pumps), Lisa Revell (feeding programs, clinic improvements, high school fees assistance), Marilyn Schuster (Yakote Women’s Social Center, corn grinding mill, community donkey carts), David Stone (college scholarships).

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A word from Chareundi –

“Visiting Ghana, West Africa was the thrill of my life, especially coordinating a volunteer project to assist dry season farmers with manual irrigation pump systems. The people were nice and respectful. What caught me by surprise how significantly important it is to meet and greet each other there and taking time to ask about the well being of their immediate families. The local and tribal culture is still live and intact – the funeral service is celebrated with drumming and dancing for three days 24/7. I did participate in the ritual dancing competition- that was great experience. The extended family living arrangement in a compound of mud/adobe rooms is the way of life. I enjoyed visiting people in the local market, seeing their homes, and meeting with many folks at their farms. When going back again I will resume where I have left off. Chareundi Van-Si, 1st time Volunteer” 

Chareundi meeting with dry season farmers at one of the gardens and at work operating a pump.

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Ghana Calendar 2017

OUR FACT-FILLED, BEAUTIFULLY ILLUSTRATED, MONTHLY WALL CALENDAR ABOUT THE  CHALLENGES OF GHANAIANS – Only $30, shipping included

Our work with Yakote Women Farmers is in Ghana, a West African country slightly smaller geographically than Oregon, yet with 26 million people (6.5 times the population of Oregon). While we cannot solve the huge economic challenges of a developing country such as Ghana, we do feel that by focusing our efforts on supporting nutrition, income generation, education, and farming in the Nabdam district of northern Ghana, we are able to significantly increase opportunities and ease poverty for a large number of Ghanaians. BY PURCHASING CALENDARS, YOU ARE SUPPORTING TWO SCHOOL LUNCH PROGRAMS AND FEEDING AT A NUTRITION CENTER FOR INFANTS AND TODDLERS.

THEY MAKE A TERRIFIC HOLIDAY GIFT!

Calendars are $30 each, shipping is included!  

♦♥♦To pay with Paypal or credit card:

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♦♥♦To pay by check ($30/calendar):

Make checks payable to Yakote Women Farmers Association and mail to:

Ghana Calendar     1110 SE Flavel St.       Portland, OR   97202

(be sure to include shipping address(es)

In memory of Lou

DSCF1464Lou and Marilyn with a duck they were gifted in Yakote

Over the years, David and I have worked closely with Marilyn and Lou Schuster. At times we have traveled to Ghana together, at other times times we scheduled to travel in alternate years to keep closer involvement with projects in Ghana. On Saturday morning, March 12th, Lou suddenly passed away in his sleep while he and Marilyn were in Ghana. He will be sorely missed by many in both the US and Ghana. His obituary tells of the way he lived his life:

Louis John Schuster III

February 1, 1937 – March 12, 2016

Keizer – Louis John Schuster III passed into the universe on March 13, 2016 while in Ghana doing what he loved, helping those less fortunate. He was born on February 1, 1937 to Louis John Schuster Jr. and Mary Vivien Parry in Waterbury, CT and is survived by his wife Marilyn, his son Louis IV, his daughter Megan, her husband Gunaji along with his brother Phil Schuster. Lou graduated from the Cheshire Academy in Cheshire Connecticut and later from Southern Connecticut University after serving in the Army during the Korean War. After graduation he moved to Oregon and worked as a case worker for Adult and Family Services, where he met his wife Marilyn.

Lou lived his life out loud. From his tattoos, his love of traveling and all things Japanese to the joy he found in hiking, he was most at home when working and active in the outdoors; although he preferred a Holiday Inn to a tent. He was able to express this love with his final job working in the rose garden at Bush park. The public library became his home away from home when he retired. He was a life-long voracious reader and especially loved adventure, philosophy and poetry. He was incredibly generous; during one trip to Ghana he passed a workman on the road who was dressed in rags, he walked up to the man and literally gave him the shirt off his back. He made an impact on all those that met him and lived his life with purpose and enthusiasm. One of his favorite authors was Dylan Thomas whose poem “Do not go gentle into that good night” epitomizes Lou’s spirit. Lou raged… he raged against the dying of the light and truly lived his life to the utmost.

A Celebration of Life Open House is planned for Sunday April 3, 2016 from 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm at Pringle Hall, 606 Church Street SE in Salem, Oregon. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Yakote Women Farmers at http://yakotewomenfarmers.org or by check.

Published in StatesmanJournal from Mar. 27 to Apr. 2, 2016

– See more at: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/statesmanjournal/obituary.aspx?n=louis-john-schuster&pid=179262540#sthash.xngVNY7W.dpuf

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Prepared for the dusty roads.

Before summarizing the 2015 volunteer trip in Ghana, I’d like to offer gratitude to the donors to our charitable organization, Yakote Women Farmers (YWF). They make it possible to impact so many lives through feeding/lunch programs, college scholarship/loans, irrigation pumps for farmers, and soon a basket weaving cooperative. One of our primary donors, David Revell, recently asked about the cost per student for the lunch program. With the numbers fresh in my mind, he did the calculations – a very economical 11 cents per student for each nutrient packed meal. This year the brains and bodies of 400+ primary students and 25 malnourished toddlers are the beneficiaries.

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The consequences of undernutrition are more serious and long lasting for the rapidly growing brains and bodies of younger children.

And now the rest of the story from our sixth volunteer trip:

Upon arrival in Kongo, one of the first to greet us was Agnes Dinaa, a warm welcome in her smile as she stopped by while coming home from her job as a cook at the high school.

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Agnes Dinaa

To the shock and sadness of her children and the community, Agnes suddenly died that very night, probably of heart attack or stroke. Over the years, Agnes (herself a widow) gave motherly support and advice to so many of our scholarship students (most with at least one deceased parent). It was a frequent occurrence for students to eat with Agnes and her children during school breaks, when they had nowhere else to go. The photos are from her funeral, which began with the traditional “war dance”, and was followed by a Catholic funeral.

In accord with tradition, Nabdam men keep ceremonial bows and arrows, masks, even ancient guns in their homes for use at funerals. The weapons are used to enact a war dance, acting out a “fight,” on behalf of deceased relatives, vanquishing the foes that caused the unfortunate death.IMG_4780 (1)

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Drumming for the funeral procession.

David was nearly 100% occupied in meeting with currently enrolled scholarship students, as well as those who are repaying and/or should be repaying 1/3 of their total scholarship/loan. On top of that, there were many young adults hoping applying for scholarships. Annual interest rates for regular school loans are 37%! Students are definitely looking for reasonable alternatives. In the photo are two wonderful young women & terrific teaching students using the YWF scholarship/loan program, Sandra and Leticia.

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This is the Kongo Tribal Chief sitting with his grandchildren. The Chief expressed his sincere gratitude to the scholarship donors by writing a letter to each one. Educated young adults returning home to work in village schools and clinics have been a great boon to local families and to the Nabdam economy.

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The Kongo basket weavers cooperative demonstrates why YWF is helping to establish a new basket-weaving cooperative in another Nabdam village:  As compared to subsistence farming, the work is clean and not physically demanding, those of all ages can learn to weave, the work can be done whenever there is extra time – such as during the dry season, young children can come with a parent, the end product is beautiful and globally marketable, and importantly, cash generating opportunities in the rural north are few and far between.

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And these farmers received foot irrigation pumps. Some facts: A dry season farmer using the conventional watering can pours 100’s of canfuls per garden section, hauling each can from a well, and watering twice per day. The hours of physically grueling work limits garden size to ½ acre per young, healthy farmer. A foot pump makes it possible to water 2 acres per day with a relative ease that delights farmers of all ages. YWF donations have purchased four, foot pumps to date ($200 each); we sell them to farmers at ½ of our cost, with repayments used to buy more foot pumps.

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This elderly farmer seemed quiet to the point of disinterest when we visited the farm. Later that day his son came to say that the father could hardly wait to get a pump and rest his aching bones.

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This group of farmers had cleared several acres of land together and planted tomatoes. They will share the cost of the pump.

Food for the Dry Season

Our last week in Ghana consisted of trips to and fro, buying over 3 tons of food and delivering it to Kongo-Logre Nutrition Center and Gunwarre and Agoruk primary schools. While negotiating the food purchases it was impossible to ignore the unending variety of photo opportunities. First of all, there are large cows with sharp horns wandering the market in search of a mouthful of corn:
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In the front of this Bolga market scene, you see a stick protruding near a full basin of corn – a stick for batting away the cows and goats:
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This elderly woman sweeps the occasional spilled grains of rice, millet, and corn from the dirt in hopes of having a meal at the end of the day:
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And there are the young men pushing the limits of their strength, loading 200 pound bags all day in and out of impossibly overloaded vehicles:
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This is one of the men who loaded our truck, a tough way to make $4-$5/day:

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The end of the day –  1,800 pounds of rice, 1,200 pounds of beans, 400 pounds of gari (cassava powder), herrings,  dried peppers, palm oil, Frytol, tinned tomatoes, dowa dowa (a seasoning) and salt. The man in the yellow shirt is sewing the bags closed before loading the truck:
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