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A Little Help for My Friends, Lynn and Skip

August Folk Dance Camp 2013

August Folk Dance Camp 2013

Shortly after I returned from New Zealand, I was on the road again.  This time my destination was less than 100 miles away, to Socorro, NM where I attended an annual Southwest International Folk Dance Camp!  We stay in the dorms at NM Tech, and dance our little toes into the floor!  It is so much fun and I get to reconnect with friends I see only once a year!  Such was the case this year too!

Lynn St. Pierre

Lynn St. Pierre

Lynn was showing off these handmade dolls that she was selling as a fundraiser for a project to raise funds for women in an rural community in Berekuso, Ghana, West Africa.  Last spring, Lynn taught at the primary school in the village, while her husband, Skip Ellis, taught at Ashesi University,  in Accra, Ghana.  Lynn’s school, in a small village, was constructed of cinder blocks with small or no windows (for security).  There, the children sit at rickety desks on chairs full of splinters and rusty nails.  The teacher has a book and blackboard or concrete wall to write on (if she has chalk) and the students have no books or any educational materials at all.

Lynn teaches her students

Lynn teaches her students

The educational system there is based on the U.K. model that the Ghanaian government continued after they became independent in 1956.  Unfortunately, caning was common when Lynn first worked at the school (the practice of corporeal punishment using a long stick 1/2 to 3/4 inch in diameter to beat the children if they give a wrong answer, are late, their parents have not paid their fees, or they misbehave).  After witnessing a caning of the entire first grade class, she spoke at length with the head master and was invited to do  in-service trainings for all the teachers, kindergarten through 8th grade.  The teachers learned respectful discipline and classroom management as well as engaging the children in active learning via a Waldorf curriculum.

Orphanage in Kpando, Ghana

Orphanage in Kpando, Ghana

At the end of the semester – the teachers chose Adinkra symbols, virtues from their culture, with stamps carved into calabash gourds and ink derived from native tree bark. Each teacher choose the symbols they wanted emulated in their classroom, and stamped them onto woven kente cloth (made in their village of Berekuso).  We then hung the fabric on their canes and placed them in the classrooms, transforming the cane into a meaningful piece of art and a reminder to use better ways of teaching and disciplining the children.

Like many African countries, a large percentage of the children are orphans, or are raised by their grandparents.  Nearly all of the parents of these children have died of AIDS which remains rampant in Africa.  Lynn and Skip are returning to Ghana to teach again in December 2013.  Skip will return to the university and Lynn will again teach at the  school in Berekuso. When I learned that they were taking up a collection to gather school supplies for the children in these schools, I just knew that I had to help!

Stay tuned . . .

 

 

 

One Response to “A Little Help for My Friends, Lynn and Skip”

  1. Maryse says:

    I’m making arrangements to be in Ghana next fall.!ets connect I would love to visit the school and see how we can help,Thx for your care and compassion for these children

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