Back home — Westtown Senior Projects

March 25 2017 I’ve been back from Ghana for a little over a week and I’ve been reminiscing about my time there. It is crazy how things are so different but some things are so similar. I wanted to write my last blog and let you know what I learned. What I loved about Ghana […]

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March 14th – Dance Off — Westtown Senior Projects

14 March 2017 In a totally un-Rachel-like fashion, I opted in to going to church this past Sunday. Let me just tell you that it was nothing I had expected or even experienced before in my life. Though I’ve been to church numerous times in the past, my family identifies now as Quaker, so I’m […]

via March 14th – Dance Off — Westtown Senior Projects’ Blog

March 6th – Ghanian Independence Day

6 March 2017 The 4th of July to Americans is what the 6th of March is to Ghanaians–Independence Day. This day 60 years ago, the British relinquished their control over Ghana. Like any Independence Day celebration, there were parades and parties. Our day started with a short walk across the street to where the parade […]

via March 6th – Ghanian Independence Day — Westtown Senior Projects’ Blog

Ghana, here I come — Westtown Senior Projects

Hello, my name is Margaret-Alice Tree and I am a senior at Westtown School. For my senior project, I will be embarking on a trip to Accra Ghana where I will be teaching middle school students English during the week. I will be teaching at our sister school Heritage Academy, which was founded by a […]

via Ghana, here I come — Westtown Senior Projects’ Blog

Final Days — Westtown Senior Projects

We have now been home for a couple days and other than getting used to the time zone, I have found myself missing many aspects of the life-changing trip. I miss my wonderful students, even if some of them did constantly talk over me in class. I miss our reading groups where I could see […]

via Final Days — Westtown Senior Projects’ Blog

ABOUT THIS PICTURE

NelliganClassroom

In January 2014, I taught a class on International Human Rights and Leadership to 8th graders at Heritage Academy in Ajumako, Ghana. At the beginning of the class, I asked the students to identify important qualities of leaders. Afterward, I asked them to vote on whether or not they believed the qualities listed on the board are something that leaders are born with, or something that leaders learn throughout the course of their life. Their initial votes are indicated in the first and third of the four columns. I then opened the class up for discussion, where students explained why they either voted “born” or “made”, and then had them re-vote, which is indicated in column two and four. By the end of the class, we discussed the specific qualities of the leaders they identified (to the far left of the board), and the ways through which leaders obtain these qualities (faintly written on the right-hand) side of the board. After realizing that leaders learn to have these particular qualities through various experiences, I wrote the following question on the board – “Who thinks they can be a Leader?” Students jumped out of their seat, their hands extended high in the air. Each of the students screamed “ME!”. The students were so excited and enthusiastic about this lesson that they wanted me to take a picture of them in front of their work. I will never forget these students or their enthusiasm that day. Upon leaving the classroom, I felt that I had accomplished my goal of inspiring the students to realize that they too can become leaders like the individuals they had identified.

— KT Nelligan, F&M Trip 2014.

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On Our Way Home

On Our Way Home

After a wonderful day around Accra, visiting the Botanical Gardens and the National Museum of Ghana, we all boarded our flight to come back to the United States. Here we come! See you all soon!

Tree of Life

Shoutout to our homies, last blog comin’ atcha,

Although we thought this trip would never come to an end, here we are. Today we finished our last day of teaching at Heritage Academy, and let us just say its bittersweet. Many of us wrapped up our lessons with final projects and presentations. Today had a familiar “last day of school” feeling: taking pictures with students, giving out addresses, and saying our goodbyes. At the end of the day we attended a school-wide assembly in which we sang the Ghanaian national anthem with all the students we had met over the week. Each of us shared a lesson we learned at Heritage, including the values of creativity, friendship, and role models, and gave our sincerest thanks to everyone at the school for giving us such an amazing experience.

Along with goodbyes came promises to students to keep in touch. We personally take these very seriously and are committed to writing to the kids, but we also worked hard to impress on the students the limits of our communication abilities. The pen pal system at Heritage can take about 4 months for a letter to be exchanged, leaving a student feeling forgotten or as if our relationship wasn’t genuine. We expressed our dedication to the kids, and discussed in our reflection the way that keeping in touch with these amazing students will be a constant reminder of our time here and also help us be mindful in our home lives.

Speaking of being mindful, your four current blog writers cannot forget to be thankful for the opportunity that F&M has provided to us to come on this trip through the Marshall Scholarship Program. The Marshall Scholarship creates a fund that can be used by students to perform community service or research projects. As recipients of this scholarship, throughout the trip we have been thinking critically of service and our role as volunteers, and we wanted to be sure we were using this award thoughtfully and as it was intended. As two weeks have now past, we can see in our experiences and reflections of stepping outside our comfort zone that we have truly grown as people and learned more than we can say. We acknowledge the apprehensions that go along with service trips, and in some ways we agree with the self-interested nature. However, due to this group’s awareness of this flaw, we try not to be passive participants and constantly question the appropriateness of the role we are playing. This mindfulness has contributed to an experience that undoubtedly made the most of our winter break.

When we first arrived at the guesthouse, our jet-lagged and relatively unacquainted group took a walk down the road and discovered what could only be described as the Tree of Life. We all stared in amazement and took an excruciatingly awkward first photo (choosing to pose as trees instead of actually touching each other). Today, we ceremoniously returned to this epic vertical hunk of wood, this time in our Heritage Academy dresses (and one shirt for Kyle) and students in tow. The picture from this afternoon lacks any awkwardness, and instead shows the true friends we have become over the course of the trip.

Thanks for seeing us through to the end,

Carey, Chloe, Erika, Jen, and everyone else

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Cloudy With A Chance of Yams

We hesitate to begin this blog post, as it forces us to reflect on the impending end of our trip. As you all have read in our previous blog posts, we are having so many great experiences; we have all witnessed changes in both ourselves and our students. This trip has impacted (and will continue to impact) who we become as we continue in college and beyond. Here are some highlights from today:

Today was our second to last day of teaching, and unfortunately most of us feel that it may have been just the beginning. In our reading groups, we look forward to seeing the kids sitting anxiously in anticipation of our arrival to the library to read the stories we have come to share with each other.  As we read our favorites with these children, we wonder if our enthusiasm and nostalgia for these books will instill the curiosity in our students to continue a novel (or series!) in our absence.

In our classes, we will finish our lesson plans with the presentation of final projects or recaps of the week, which will hopefully display the growth of our students, both academically and creatively. As we begin to say good-bye we collect little “love” notes where students express how grateful they are that we have become their friend. As opposed to the American view of friendship, often defined by Facebook, Twitter and texting, a Ghanaian ‘friend’ takes a much different form, carrying much more weight than many of us are used to. We hope to be able to maintain these relationships through the pen-pal program that has been established.

As we head back to the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave (yes, we did sing this song to our 7th graders today when describing what a baseball game is like) Ghana has led us to question the definition of ‘poverty’ in America. While it is easy for us to pinpoint poverty in Ghana because it looks so different from poverty in the United States, we reflected on what the “image” of poverty actually is. We realized that it doesn’t always look like a child in tattered clothes in another country; it could also be a homeless child in our own city. We thought back on a Common Hour presentation where the School District of Lancaster Superintendent gave astounding statistics about the number of children in Lancaster who were homeless. Since we will only be in Ghana for a short time, perhaps our impact can be continued in our own neighborhoods. As participants of our discussions, we challenge the readers of this blog to question what poverty may look like to you, and what role you would like to play in thinking or acting on this issue.

To end our day, we bravely challenged a group of Heritage students to a game of soccer.  It was exciting to interact with our students outside of the classroom and to show off our competitive spirits.  With a final score of 10-5, we were proud to walk away with second place in this fierce game.  After a few shirt tugs, questionable calls and well-calculated comments to our opposition, we were all smiling at how quickly we all bonded over our mutual interest in camaraderie.

Tomorrow, we are excited to have a final day with the students we have come to love.  We are happy to report that this experience has NOT been a Series of Unfortunate Events (yes, our life is now defined in children’s story titles), but more so Cloudy with a Chance of Yams.

Goodnight Stars, Goodnight Moon, Goodnight Goat Jumping over the Moon….

K, K & Co.

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Mutual Respect

As our time winds down in Ghana, it feels like just now we are starting to get in the rhythm of things. The open-air classrooms at Heritage have no solid doors or windows, just frames, causing many children to wander in and out throughout the day. Today one of Erika’s students, who she didn’t even know left the room, suddenly popped in through the window and casually sat back down in his desk. Elee finally discovered the perfect solution to all of our combined frustration; a Les Mis style barricade in front of the entrance to the room.

The daunting feeling of teaching is behind us as our lessons have come together and we are organizing final topics and projects. Our students also seem to be acclimating to our teaching, even making connections between our individual classes. After a health lesson on relationships with Jennifer and Carey, Molly taught the same students about animal behavior. When asked what a zebra looks for in a mate a student responded “mutual respect.”

Although we knew from the beginning that our stay in Ghana would be short, we are truly starting to feel the emotions of creating connections with students and then picking up and leaving just days later. Although many of us plan to stay in touch, we also understand how difficult it is to maintain these connections through sporadic letters that can take months to travel back and forth. We are used to relying on technology to maintain long distance relationships, which is not an option for most students at Heritage.

We are not just forming new bonds in the classroom. Our guesthouse, Jimmy Com, has also provided a community for us. Whether it be Lilah and Katie teaching yoga to Emmanuel, Bright, and Michael (all Heritage students staying here to help), or having a ping-pong tournament with the staff, we are continually forming friendships here in Ghana. Even our little neighbors, who would scream “Obruni!” and run whenever they saw us walking by, are now hanging out with us on the back porch. It is these simple encounters that are going to make it that much harder to leave. Hope you are all fairing the cold weather in the US. Many thanks to all our commenters, please keep them coming! For those who have not commented….we know who you are.

Peace, Love, and Pineapples,

Carey, Samantha, Elee and the gang

P.S. Pictures will be posted upon return!

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