My experiences in Ghana Trinity Wilkening & Caitlin Zailak
The moment we arrived most of the kids gathered around the bus to greet us with their warm smiles. The team and I hopped out of the bus and started unpacking.
Once we were all unpacked and settled in for the day, the kids quickly got into their lines and had the assembly. After they finished the assembly, everyone went to their assigned classroom ready to either learn or teach. Since I’m an assistant for the teachers, I just run around from class to class hoping the teachers will need my help with anything.
Today, I started off in Mr. Neumann’s room. The class reviewed the poems from earlier on in the week and began to learn the poem of the day. The kids seemed to get the hang of it after reading the poem about 2-3 times. After they read the poem a few times, they were given a piece of paper with the poem of the day printed on it so they could glue it in their notebooks. Then, they were asked to draw 2 maybe 3 animals that were mentioned in the poem. By that time, it was time for me to switch classes.
I was off to Ms. Janet’s class, the advanced class. Her class was heading to art by the time I left Mr. Neumann’s room. In art, the kids drew on two cutout pieces of fish shaped paper that were stapled together. Once they finished coloring their fish, they painted their fish and had it stuffed with foam. After that, the fish were put on little rods, ready for the kids to take them home.
After art, the kids in Janet’s class had to go over the poem a few more times, had them glue their paper into their notebooks and had them draw 2-3 animals that were mentioned in the poem. That pretty much took up most of the time during this period of the day.
Soon, lunch was ready for the kids. Everyone lined up in a single filed line and waited patiently for their food. I put water on everyone’s desk and waited for each kid to come back into the classroom. Once everyone got their food and made their way back to the class, we all prayed and they began to eat their lunch. During lunch, I was running back and forth between Mr. Neumann’s class and Janet’s class to see how each of the kids were doing.
Once lunch was over, I went back to Janet’s class to help out with the reading again. Janet read them a book called, One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish. When she finished, she had to go over some of the words in the book with the class, but she didn’t exactly know how to do so. I gave her the idea of letting them play a game called, Flashy Flashy. I taught the class how to play and I will say so myself that it turned out a lot better than I thought it would. The kids seemed to really enjoy the little game and I’m sure Janet did too.
After we played the little game, it was time to read in small groups. I took four of the boys into the library since no one was in there. I was kind of expecting all four of them to read together, but they just ended up reading at different paces, which was okay too. I walked around making sure that they weren’t having trouble with any of the words. Two of the kids finished before the others, so I gave them the option to either go back to the classroom or sit in the library with the rest of the group and read a different book. I guess we were in there for a while because out of nowhere I start hearing kazoos. About 5-6 other kids came in playing with their kazoos which made the two who were still reading run out of the library to get their own.
I quickly packed up, locked up the classroom and hopped on the bus along with the rest of the team. The ride back to the hotel wasn’t bad. We stayed at the hotel for about 45 minutes and left to go to Auntie Vivian’s house for dinner. The dinner they served us was absolutely amazing. They served us this goat stew and bread for the first course. For the second course, we had options to choose from. I ended up just getting some rice and chicken and had watermelon for dessert. When everyone finished their meal, the team and I said, “thank you” and headed back to the hotel.
We got settled and about ten minutes afterwards we all met up in Bruce and Becki’s room to help pack bags for the helpers and teachers. Packing all the bags last minute was all over the place, but once we finished I was relieved to be finished because I was ready for a shower and bed. Trinity Wilkening
This is my first time out of the country and the first time as a missionary, I came into this experience very open minded, but nothing prepares you for the whirlwind of emotions as the tro-tro pulls into the village.
As a middle class American, I have been given the opportunity to succeed from the very beginning. I can’t imagine having to go through the hardship that these children have to experience every day and yet we pull into the village to their bright, shining, smiling faces. Their excitement for us to be able to come here and work with them creates a drive for the team to be able to do their best.
At the beginning of this journey, each missionary was given a bracelet that says, “I am second.” I have used this as my theme for the entire trip. It’s not about me or the people I am here with, but the children that we came here to serve. To be able to share with them the gift of knowledge and the gift of lifelong learning is rewarding for us, but absolutely priceless for them.
Throughout the camp week, I was able to work with the children that had the least amount of experience with reading. We read through a series of poems, songs, short stories, and children’s books. These pieces all related to our theme, “God Created Me to Read.” By helping the children recognize letters and their sounds, they were able to sound out a variety of short words. It was amazing to be able to see the amount of progress the children made in just five days.
While most of the children started out quiet and timid, by Tuesday and Wednesday, their personalities were out in full force. You could tell that the children were falling into the camp routine and were loving the change in pace from their usual school experiences. A typical Ghanaian school day consists of lecture style teaching with very little encouragement. Our teacher training last week instilled that positivity and encouragement is key. So, our team made it an absolute purpose to be as positive and encouraging as possible.
The last day of camp was a hard one. To see all the amazing progress these children made throughout the week and then to have to say goodbye to them without knowing when or if we will ever see them again is difficult. It is a beautiful thing to see children so excited about learning and reading. It’s even more beautiful to see that they’ve excelled at what you’ve been teaching them and for them to be able to use the skills you’ve taught them. It is a hope for everyone on the team that they continue to build on those skills to become even better.
This experience as a whole has been the most rewarding thing I have ever had the pleasure of doing. I am so glad I was able to be a part of something so much bigger than myself. I pray that not only are we empowering the children we’ve directly worked with, but their families, their villages, and eventually all of Ghana. It is a blessing for our team and everyone involved for us to be able to do this mission and we are all grateful. Caitlin Zalak