July 6th, 2012
We never know the worth of water until the well is dry. – Thomas Fuller
One of the most impactful outcomes of our inspiration has just come to completion, although the benefits will go on forever. As you may have read earlier, a group of amazing 8th graders at Paideia School in Atlanta took their lessons on water, our Spring focus last year, to heart. They started a blog “We Dig Water” and become change makers with their recent discoveries about water issues around the world. In 6 short weeks, they raised over $4,500 dollars for a well with The Water Project. They originally chose Sierre Leon, as it was the closest neighbor in need to their Ghanaian friends they shared water lessons with. Since they were backlogged in Sierre Leon, they then inquired as to where the need was greatest. They were informed Rwanda and didn’t blink twice about where their goodwill was spread.
Construction was recently completed on a well in the Rurama Village in Rwanda. Here is a link to the photos and coordinates, as well as a small story on a village of 408 people that now has clean water. Well done Ellery, Leah, Daniela and Ben! We remain inspired by your compassionate action for unknown faces in our global community.
April 20th, 2012
We began the full circle reconnections with Mrs. Ross’ 5th graders at HIES in Atlanta. This is a class of unity and teamwork, most of them introducing themselves are part of the team of 501. Gratitude was the overriding sentiments shared, for their food, the variety, and that they rarely think about the need as the pantries are full. Eyes are glued and smiles spread the room, as they see their family traditions recipes in the hands of RC Mixed 4th graders in Ghana. As we pass the projects out, they quickly look through their own, and then are up and sharing with the rest of the team.
In the next building, Dear Mother Earth Letters have been delivered to Ms. Green’s 4th graders. The usual positive comments and connections are made: “Their handwriting is good”, but more so, “I love the creativity of their art.” Groups huddle, some reading ever so carefully, while others overflowing with exuberance in sharing with delight the creativity. The similarities are discussed on taking care of the environment, as well as, some of the different needs. Their letters connect them in many ways, and bring thinking globally, yet acting locally, to life.
Does this impact their global view and compassion towards others and the Earth? Don’t take our word for it, here are some of their feedback survey comments:
“I feel so much sympathy for other people in other countries that are not as fortunate as ours. I will definitely do a lot more to help people in the world. One connection can …really inspire you to be accepting to deal with other cultures and to realize that YOU are fortunate and you can help and communicate.” – Aaron
“Yes, because I feel that I made them happy by sending them projects , and they made me happy by sending projects.” – Christopher
“Children Inspiring Hope is special to me because I get to communicate to people across the globe and get to know that it isn’t just paper we’re sending back and forth. One connection can… change the way you look at life.” – Sam
“Children Inspiring Hope is special to me because I get the chance to find out about other places and what they do there. It lets me connect and it brings our the good qualities in everyone. One connection can… change the way I see things. I see the world as a different places, and everybody is connected.” – Sydney
April 4th, 2012
Many emotions surround our closing classes for this 9th exchange. There is some confusion on the EP JSS campus, as all former leaders from EP Primary begin to gather with us. We realize the teacher misunderstood us, and rather than gathering the small group, alerted all classes. While we are thrilled to say hello to all these familiar faces from our beginnings, some are a little disheartened to see that this is just miscommunication. We find our rhythm easily with the group paired with Paideia, as we have worked with most of these students since our exploration trip when they were completing their P4 year. Many of them are bigger than we are now, yet their focus remains for the new lesson before them.
We share with them that this will be the last time we work with them in a group in this way, as the logistics – and noise – have become too much to navigate on this campus. Patricia yells out, you are breaking my heart, while others’ faces do the speaking with a couple softer ows (no). Sometimes as we progress, we must let go of the beginnings in order to move forward. The emotions pass quickly as they take to creating their projects, which mirror their friends in Atlanta. They love using all the sticker letters, and of course, the joy of glitter never fades, even with teenagers.
Our last class to present to, RC Mixed 6A, receives letters from the Vail Mountain School 6th graders, as well as a poster of Food Festivals in Savannah, Georgia created by Mr. Finley’s 6th graders at Ogelthorpe Charter School. Being the final class, we have now met with 1,600 students between these two countries. Of all these students, this class is the first to list “tools” as one of many influences in how where we live affects what we eat.
Our eyes fill with tears as we share with this class the passing of Taft, and our visit with VMS students during that tragic week. We share how, for a short while, students were smiling when receiving their letters from Ghana. Wisdom was paired with Taft, and receives a copy of the memorial service program as well as a letter from their teacher Mrs. Kate Blakslee. He shares poignant sentiments, having also been touched by this loss. “I would like to say to Taft Conlin, rest in wonderful peace. May God have you in beautiful heaven. We will meet one day.” The rest of the letters speak just as sweetly – Dear Lilly, I thank you for your wonderful letter… Your friend in Ghana, Rita. I wish you the best. Other students take to the floor, and enjoy covering posters with some information about Yam Festivals, and local crops.
The atmosphere will turn more festive, as there are preparations everywhere taking place for the Easter Holiday weekend. We will sing and dance with the students tomorrow, as we say our final goodbyes on the campuses. We will conclude our time with a trip to the Koforida Bead Market and by making final arrangements with our scholarship recipients. My how times when we are having fun!
April 1st, 2012
We travel slightly outside of Ho on Wednesdays to be with EP Primary Sokode-Bagble. Red Sandstone Elementary students send Food Wheels with foods they love and the ingredients in them. The concept of two pages, turning and revealing culinary treasures is eye opening for them. They take some time to absorb the process of working with the wheel themselves, and sharing in their own delights.
Next door, a class also connected to the Vail community, puts together puzzles of agriculture in CO. Letters are joyfully received from and the students smile as they share the photos that are attached of their VMS freinds. We are quite surprised to learn that 7 students are no longer in this class since our last visit, and there is also a new teacher. Hanook jumps right in, completing his own puzzle, and helping students interpret their letters. They share about their own favorite foods, and brainstorm for the mural they will create.
At EP JSS later, we are working with two classes paired with Georgia schools, St. Andrew’s School and Galloway. We joke about an Iron Chef cook-off, as the SAS students have shared a cookbook “We Can Cook”, and Galloway students have also taken photos, in some cases step-by-step, of some of their family favorites. We are interrupted by the bell for break, and let the students dismiss for snack time. This is a good opportunity to also photo some of their daily snacks. A good many students remain in the classroom to take a deeper look at the projects and the books we have brought with us.
We share the measuring cups and spoons sent form the Galloway 6th graders, and chuckles fill the room. The concept of measuring is foreign, especially for the large meals that are cooked for extended families here. We catch them later, taking a closer look with a little more curiosity. In addition to returning letters, and sharing foods, some take to working in groups to draw farms, crops, and the trade routes in West Africa. Duck tape is shared, for the posters of a more complex transportation system in the US, and posters about food waste, are hung on barren grey walls.
While we all certainly eat to live, as we have seen in the sharing of these projects, our connection to food, and how we gather together in growing, shopping, and preparing is more of a celebration of culture and place. We enjoy the bustle of the busy market days, and the familiar faces of the vendors and farmers we give thanks for with each meal. We have to admit, we are looking forward to returning to the abundant variety we have at home, yet we remain thankful for the nourishment that helps us live in Ghana.
March 31st, 2012
Riverside Middles School 7th graders in Augusta, Georgia have been cultivating generosity for some time now, expanding their borders of compassion. Mrs. Petty’s students, as shared earlier in Hearts of Hope, raised funds to support our scholarship fund when they heard of how little it takes to help a child stay in school.
On our first day here, we ran into Fred, a recipient that had been pleading for support for his older sister after the passing of his mother before Christmas. As we expressed our condolences for his loss, sadness washed over him. We parted ways. We have since seen him several times, in and out of the classroom, and he seems to be doing well. We find him laughing with friends and studying hard. Matilda, his younger sister on the EP campus, also seems to be doing well. We will take both of them this Friday to see their older sister Bernice, about 20 minutes outside of town at her boarding Senior Secondary School.
Riverside students’ projects also reflect their kindness. They sent handmade maps of Georgia/Southeast, Ghana/West African region, the United States, Africa and the World. They wanted the teachers and students to have something for their walls, as they observed in some classes how empty and grey they were. They are now filled with educational materials that are colorful and a reminder of the connections to the US. Students and teachers alike love them!
They didn’t stop there. In the course of conversations in the fall, they learned what prized possessions their projects can be here as the children don’t often receive such creativity that they can take home as their own. They made small pins, with bright foam, as gifts for their friends. All classes loved making them in return, and proudly placed them on their shirts.
We are touched by these classes’ depth of taking in and reflecting more deeply the connections they have made this year with Ghana. Their enthusiasm for the process is also evident in opening friendship circles, which Mrs. Petty reports are used beyond Children Inspiring Hope visits. We see the blossoms of the seeds of kindness you continue to plant and look forward to sharing more with you soon in America.
March 28th, 2012
“UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. Its not.” – The Lorax, Dr. Suess
In our first week of exchanges, we introduced Ms. Green’s 4th graders at HIES project with Anita’s class. While the school yard was filled with the rest of the school children playing in Friday games, these students stayed captivated with hearing the story of the Lorax translated. Brightly colored construction paper and letters to Mother Earth where the projects shared between these classes, inspired by the message of the Lorax. A highlight for these students was using scissors and all the design paper.
We were impressed by the concerns expressed by these 4th graders, and the sincerity and heartfelt messages they wrote in their letter to Mother Earth. Their words speak for themselves…
Dear Mother Earth,
“I am very sorry to say that stealing the forest is a bad things. I just want to help you, I want peace to be in the world.” – Mighty
“I want to inform the people of my community to stop polluting please.” – Alie
“Try to stop bushfire. Stop bushfire birds are worried. When they lay their eggs in the trees, the fire spoils their eggs. S please people, let’s come together and stop bushfire. “ – Flora
“I want to inform the people to stop polluting the rivers because without water we will all die and the crops will dry up and we won’t have anything to eat. I look grouchy when I see everywhere dirty and untidy. Lets united and keep Earth clean.” – Rashida
“I was worried about you. I wanted to make you a special place. I wanted everybody to make you beautiful. I will tell my friends that you are very special. If you are happy we will also be happy. Lets all care for animal and plants.” – Esther
“ I am very worried about you. I want to help you so that the Earth would be a nice place. From your caring caring friend, “ – Precious
March 23rd, 2012
Step into the garden/lift your face to the sun and just breathe/it will help you remember all that is beautiful and right in the world. – unknown
We close our week with a drive through the lush forest to get to Ziavi village, as memories of trips past fill our minds. We notice differences immediately, as we are greeted by the Headmaster, and teachers are with us in the classrooms. Last trip, there was a day-long PTA meeting, and the campus was chaotic. Senior students are sitting around a huge pile of rocks- cracking stones- for a new block of classrooms. Likely the next time we return the tiny huts that have housed the primary students will be gone. Growth is good.
Some familiar faces are missing, but others- surprising- have returned. In these small classes, we get to know these students well and see their bonds of community and friendship clearly.
Red Sandstone Elementary students sent pictures of foods and some in a picnic basket. The picnic basket in particular is full of processed sweets- candy fish, gummy bears, ice cream and coca-cola-these items require some exploration, as these students here are not used to dosing themselves with jolts of sugar, salt and artificial flavors. Their meat intake is generally relegated to holidays and special occasions.
These students are their farmers, and for the majority of their intake, they have their hands in growing and harvesting the food. We have learned with the schools we work with here, the further from the city, the closer they are to the earth and the greater the number of famers. They grow maize, cassava, occra, tomatoes and yams. Mango trees surround their classrooms and we are given a bunch to take home. They recognize “we are fortunate” as the Headmaster reports, to be so close to the land and the source of their sustenance.
After school, a swarm of nearly 80 students – comprising only a few more than 10 extended families- follows us under the mango tree. Students line up from small to large to receive toothbrushes donated by Dr. Manveen Sahni, DDS. These are a perfect gift to follow our lessons on food and Earth stewardship. We have just enough for everyone!
We follow the students home as we wait for our driver to arrive. We sit in the shade of trees and watch them enjoy local Baboab ice-cream as their after-school treat. We watch as an adolescent uses a mortar and pestle to crush palm nuts into oil that is used, quite readily, in Ghanaian cooking. We are looking forward to a restful weekend to reflect and share more of the journey with you all at home. Ntifafa nami.
March 22nd, 2012
“Our aspirations are our possibilities.” – Samuel Johnson
If you were given the property to design your own sustainable community, what would it look like? Where would you place the gardens in relation to the schools and the markets? What kind of housing would you design and which jobs would be the most vital for the vibrancy of your community? Vail Mountain School’s 7th graders colorfully filled graph paper with their own ideas about community landscaping. This task was a little more daunting for the P6 students at EP Primary Ho-Bankoe, and yet, many hands went up eagerly when we presented this as one of two creative choices to produce. Rulers came out and noses inched closely to the paper as the students demarked locations and defined boundaries. The Ghanaian students’ villages highlighted big areas for both farm and market, drawing inspiration from their lived experiences by literally mirroring their personal villages and towns.
Other students opted for an easier exercise to share with 6th grade students at VMS. They each completed the phrase “If I were a seed I would be…” by filling take away plates with colorful images of local fruits, vegetables, plants and flowers. Many also wrote letters to describe their favorite foods. Matilda even pulled out a special plastic folder filled with her previously received CIH projects to compare her new letter, and the name therein, with the ones from past exchanges; she seemed to hope that this letter came from the same friend, and she will, undoubtedly, cherish it and keep it safe within her personal archives.
Nearly everybody was a little more edgy today, as the power was out for most of the night. This was a popular topic of discussion today given that most of us tossed and turned our way through the evening because the outage spread through the entire nation and parts of Togo and Benin! If we were creating more sustainability for this community, keeping the luxury of comfort in mind, we would line the buildings with solar panels to harness the intense African sun. If this environmentally friendly power source were in place, not only could we all have rested better in our homes, lulled by fans, we all would have been a little more lively with fans in classrooms instead of the saunas we were sweating in this afternoon.
March 22nd, 2012
The art of encouragement is the art of creating community and celebrating friendship. – Candy Paull
The third graders at CT Walker know a little about baking for good. In December, they held bake sales to raise money for Children Inspiring Hope. The two classes raised nearly $800! Their projects are as sweet as the goodness they were baking, and were received with both excitement and gratitude.
Dr. Painter’s students sent beautiful poems for the Earth, some of which rhymed, others that were raps, all giving thanks to the Earth for all the bounty, each in their own unique way. We chuckled at the Earth Dance Party drawing in one, Earth with dancing arms and a disco ball, expressing how Earth is the best planet for the life it sustains. They also shared friendship recipes. For example:
1 C Kindness
½ C Fairness
¼ C Honestness
We all took time to share the recipes and poems, and help the students read in their second language. In return, Beauty’s P3 students shared “If They Were a Seed They Would Be….”
Next door, in Emma’s P3 class, Ms. Evans’ Friendship Garden was shared and the students cultivated their own ideas and creations of their gardens filled with colorful representations of their favorite foods, how they are made and family stories attached to them. The simple act of cutting colored paper lights the faces in the darkened room, as students work closely together to exchange ideas, and friendship, cross-culturally. Love is encouraged and grows here.
March 21st, 2012
Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity. -Simone Weil
On this humid Wednesday morning, we reconnect with Elizabeth’s P4 classroom matched with SPARK Elementary School in Atlanta. The students, although this is only their second time with us, are eager as they form the large circle. Shoes come off quickly, just as they did last time, in anticipation of getting down on the floor to create. Attention is focused and anticipation fills the air.
Colorful profiles filled with foods the students eat are passed around the room. This is seen as a little silly, and also fascinating at the same time. The teachers are particularly shocked to hear the inspiration is a 16th century artist, Arcimboldo. We are just as delighted to watch the students trace profiles from shadows on the walls and floor as they are to be doing so. After this commotion of excitement passes, they settle on the floor, feet kicked in the air, and begin their own stylistic masterpieces. Crayola crayons (made from solar energy) brighten the grey floors, and fill profiles of local fruits and vegetables. The profiles reflect a culture steeped with messages, which are written everywhere in Ghana from chairs, to windshields, and walls.
For better or worse, if we are what we eat, these reflective profiles show that Ghanaians are a lot more natural and local, and Americans are more processed and from greater distances, when it comes to food. The rhythm of their eating is connected to the seasons, and therefore the weather. We have watched farmers at this time of year, contemplatively pace and take stock of the fields, and gamble on the right time to plant the seeds. Whether or not the rains come, means a lot more than the clearing of air, or the cooling of temperatures. Right timing is survival. At home, bounties of fruits and vegetables can be found nearly year round even though they are not in season locally. Some more food for thought, reflected in the cross-cultural exchange of art.