John Donnelly Trip Report

June 29, 2007

From: John Donnelly
To: Board of Directors – For One World, Inc.

Report on Trip to Ghana
April 29 – May 15, 2007

I flew on North American Airlines from JFK. They had the best price. Checking in was a bit of an ordeal primarily dealing with the number of bags to be checked and the weights of the checked bags plus carry-on bags. It’s important to arrive early to permit time for packing and repacking to get the weights right. The flight got off pretty much on time. The plane was full. In flight service and food wasn’t all that bad as airlines go.

On the flight I met a young lady, Melynee, from California that was teaching school in Ho. Ho is in the Lake Volta region. She was coming back from a vacation to the US. She told me about another organization she was involved with. The name of the organization is the Rohde Foundation, Inc. whose mission in some respects compliments that of the Ayi Owen International School. Rhode provides scholarships as well as training to aspiring nurses and health professionals in a village somewhat near Nkawkaw called Asakraka. You pass through Nkawkaw on the way to Techiman. Many of the students at Ayi Owen have expressed an interest in pursuing a career in health care. Hopefully, sometime soon For One World and Rohde can collaborate on the health care training program and perhaps bring the program to the Techiman Learning Resource Center.

After about a ten-hour flight without much sleep, I arrived in Accra at around 6:30AM. Passing through customs was uneventful. Gathering the luggage is another story. It’s a free for all. People gather around the conveyor belt like bees around the hive. When the belt gets overloaded with unclaimed luggage, they just start throwing bags off in a pile. Eventually, I retrieved my luggage that consisted mostly of books for the school and some goodies for Bill from his sister Jane, and stuff for my girlfriend’s family.

Bill couldn’t make it down to pick me up at the airport. Malaria reared its ugly head again. (See the most recent edition of National Geographic that carries a lead story on Malaria.) My girlfriend’s taxi driver and her brother George were awaiting me at the exit. We went through the usual drill with the boys trying to carry your bags for a Dollar. Everybody wants a Dollar even if they didn’t do anything. We brought Melynee over to the bus depot where she got a Trotro ride to Ho. It was fairly warm and humid in Accra and the traffic was intense. We ran around Accra for the better part of the morning exchanging money, dropping off stuff that I brought from the states.

Finally arrived at her folk’s place around 1PM. I was pretty much shot by that time. Everyone was happy to meet me and I was likewise happy to meet them. The Ghanaians are very friendly and hospitable as far as I can tell. They showed me to my room where there was some light snacks and tea. I took a shower and spent a little time on the patio speaking with the family. Mom doesn’t speak English but Dad does a little and George is pretty fluent. I pretty much crashed at around 3PM so I took a nap. I got up around 6PM and had some Fufu and stew. It was very good. We spent the evening between hanging out on the patio and watching TV. The programming was in Twi so it was difficult to follow the plot in the telenovela we were watching. I turned in fairly early.

I was up around 4AM the next day to catch the bus to Sunyani. The bus to Tamale that passes through Techiman was full so Sunyani was the only alternative. I took the State Transportation Company bus. The better choice is O & A. O & A has better buses and goes to Techiman. The bus I took reminded me of the busses circa 1950. There was no A/C, the shock absorbers were shot, and there was a jump seat in each row of seats. So the bus was overloaded by design.
The bus ride was pretty uneventful. I guess eventful would mean the bus ran off the road. There were a couple of planned stops along the way. One is at Linda Or where there is a fairly nice restaurant and other facilities. The state controlled facility in Kumasi is a dump. About the only thing you can purchase there is a sachet of water.

After about an 8 or so hour ride, I finally arrived in Sunyani. I had my girl friend’s cell phone so I was able to keep Bill posted on my journey. Bill and Abiba were there to meet me. It was about an hour’s ride to the school.
Ayisatu and a bunch of kids were there to greet me when we arrived. Bill brought me up to speed on the goings on at the school and in Techiman, and other matters. Of course, I believe we did this over a cold beer or two. Bill informed me the school construction program had stopped due in part to the PTA’s desire to purchase a couple of fairly expensive school buses to transport the students to the new location. The good news is now construction has recommenced. I believe we turned in early that evening after a wonderful meal prepared by Ayi. Her pepper sauce (Shitoc) is absolutely outstanding.
Each day usually starts around 7AM. You hear the sounds of children running around the yard and the tennis courts. The students are required to clean the school grounds every morning before school begins. Every student wears a blue and white uniform with the Ayi Owen emblem sewn on it. The students are neatly groomed and their clothes are clean and pressed. Sounds like a typical American school, doesn’t it? I greeted the student body the first day. They greeted me with a song. I also donated around 9 or 10 blue and white used soccer shirts with numbers on them to the school football team. The kids were ecstatic. I wonder what the response would be to new ones?
School had just started back in session so things were a little topsy-turvy. Classrooms were being rearranged and furniture was being moved around. Cabinets and shelves were being cleaned out or reorganized. The library was being transformed and new books were being put on the shelves. The first week of school after a trimester break is usually non-productive from what I understand in many schools in Ghana. Ayi Owen to its credit was conducting classes before the week was out.
There was some change in curriculum and several teachers were severed to reduce the operating costs. There are a fair number of students receiving full or partial scholarship. The loss of revenue due to scholarship has to be replaced from tuition of paying students and other sources. Consequently, my time at the school was concentrated on introducing a fairly user friendly automated bookkeeping system to provide general ledger control over the finances of the school. I spent the bulk of my time, when power availability permitted, with Grace, the librarian and bookkeeper. Although Grace was not familiar with computers, it was obvious she was eager to learn. The first few sessions required a fair amount of patience. Type A personalities would not have done well in this setting. After a couple of days, Grace started to pickup on the system and was entering and editing information on her own. We reconciled the bank statement after we recorded practically all the transactions to date. Since most of the financial transactions are made in cash, I prepared some written procedures to account for petty cash transactions. I suggested tuition payments be segregated and deposited timely (i.e. no commingling with other funds or drawing funds from tuition payments to cover expenses). I was unable to record the entry for property, plant and equipment because the software doesn’t provide enough room for the number of digits required for the old Cedis. This problem will be taken care of on July 1 when the existing Cedi looses 5 digits. I made some additional suggestions regarding adequate documentation to Bill that will make the audit much easier for the outside accountant. I plan to review the books when I return to Techiman in early January.
I was able to get out a little while I was there usually when the power was off during the day. We went to Bono Manso, a village north of Techiman of historic interest, to check out the kids in the reading club that were reading the books Bill picked up at the Tema Rotary club warehouse. There were three groups of kids sharing the books in shifts. It was nice to see youngsters so happy to be able to read a Peter Rabbit book or something similar. Bill gave me some books printed in Ghana that cost between $ 2-$ 5 to bring back to the US. The idea behind this is to get Rotary clubs to raise some money to buy books of African origin for the students. Another idea is to solicit orders for the books from parents and grandparents at a cost of $ 15 – $ 20 with the difference going to the purchase of these books in Ghana.
We met with the Queen Mother, the Paramount Chief, and the Hansa Chief. The purpose of our meeting was to introduce the idea of forming a Rotary club in Techiman. The Paramount Chief was in favor of pursuing this idea further. We had an initial meeting at a hotel with a fair attendance. The chiefs weren’t there. There have been several meetings since thanks to Bill’s persistence and it looks good that Techiman may be in the Rotary business. That’s good for all of Techiman because Rotary International can provide funding for community projects, etc. that go wanting for lack of funding today. I plan on attending a meeting in January.
We celebrated Ayi’s birthday while I was there. She didn’t tell me her age and I didn’t ask. We had dinner at a local hotel with a friend from London who had come back to Techiman to bury her 43-year-old son who passed away unexpectedly.
It was touch and go as to whether Bill was going to be able to make the trip to Accra due to the lingering effects of Malaria. As luck would have it, we were able to leave late Sunday morning. We took the route that got us around Kumasi. It was a very scenic route and we encountered very little traffic until we got closer to Accra. We stopped a couple of times along the way. We arrived in Accra later in the evening. There was a fair amount of traffic and getting to my girlfriend’s parents’ place took a little time.

I stayed with them for the evening. When I got there the power was out but it went on at around 9PM so everybody was happy. We watched some TV and then turned in for the evening. Thank God the power came back because sleeping without a fan would not have been pleasant.
The taxi driver got me over to the A & C market in East Legon around noon where I was to meet Bill coming from his physical Korli Bu hospital. We had a little lunch and headed off to a bookstore and then to the Attorney’s office to discuss the NGO application and Rotary matters.

After that we went over to a woman named Felicia’s house for supper. Felicia is responsible for the promotion of culture and heritage through a non-profit organization. One of the big programs she has developed is the renaissance of the village of Bono Manso as a cradle of history and culture in pre-colonial Ghana. Felicia is also a wonderful friend of the school and as I understand been helpful in assisting the school with various matters in the past.

After Felicia’s, we went back to East Legon to my girl friend’s house to see her daughter who lives there with her Auntie. Everything was well with her that was good news for her mother to hear.
Bill got me to the airport around 10:30PM. It took about three hours to get to the ticket counter. I must have opened my bags 4 times for inspection. Apparently the drug traffickers have been using Ghana as a conduit to Europe and the US so therefore all the checking and rechecking at the airport. I flew out at about 2:30 AM. Flight was about 10 hours with about the same bill of fare as the flight over. I didn’t meet anybody particularly interesting on the way back which is good because if I did then I’d have another organization that I’d get involved with.
Bill is doing a super job without a whole lot of support. He and I spoke briefly about a succession plan but nothing substantive was discussed. This is an issue the board of directors will have to consider in the relatively near future if Ayi Owen International School, or rather the Techiman Learning Resource Center, is going to become a permanent part of the Techiman landscape.

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