CEF are currently working as part of a mutually beneficial partnership with the village of Kpone Saduase in Ghana to build a training school for girls who have left school with no qualifications. The training, offered by fully qualified seamstresses, will provide girls with skills for life and a means of earning a living.
CEF has given young professionals the opportunity to visit the project and further the links we have with the village by staying in the community for a fortnight.
Kevin Vallis visited as part of the first team in July 2011, followed by Michelle McDaid and Hannah Wilkinson in September 2011. Other Cambridge Education young professionals had previously visited the village in 2008 to build the initial relationship with the community.
From the moment they arrived Kevin, Michelle and Hannah were fully immersed in the community’s way of life, trying Ghanaian dishes such as banku and fried plantain. They worked with the local labourers to build the school -which included bricklaying, concreting, carpentry and, of course, digging!
During Michelle’s and Hannah’s trip the team worked together to complete the concreting of the outside classroom floor and the accommodation block. All of the concrete is mixed and laid by hand and the labourers worked impressively hard in the heat, to get this done. The local carpenter erected the formwork (a temporary mould for concrete) for the building columns so that the bricks for the external walls could be laid. Although Michelle and Hannah had no experience of working on a building site they still had many skills which could be utilised and were prepared to get their hands dirty. The team had to purchase all of the building materials such as steel for the supports, timber for the roof and bricks. They soon learnt how negotiations can be very different in Ghana!
Here is what Kevin, Michelle and Hannah had to say about their experience:
“We have learnt so much about the importance of sharing skills, building relationships and adapting to new situations and environments.
“It was very important for us to experience at first hand the impact of the project on the community. There is a lady called Alice in the village who is pregnant with her first child. She arrived in the village to earn some money cooking and cleaning for the family she now lives with. She made sure she came to find a way to talk to us and tell us how grateful she is that the building is going up and the opportunities that it will bring. She is excited that she will be able to learn new skills and then earn a living for her and her child.
“We were overwhelmed by how welcome we were made to feel. Stella, who works in the water factory, made sure we were happy and well looked after and cooked us some amazing meals. If we were sick we were well cared for, and someone was always on hand to help.
“The work/life balance is in Ghana is certainly very different to UK! Everyone wants to work hard to provide security for their loved ones, but they also recognise the importance of being fully involved with their family and with the community as a whole. They have a much more relaxed, stress- free work ethic: they just do a good job and go home to spend time with their families.
“We would love to go back to Kpone Saduase and see how the school is benefiting the community. Everyone was asking when we would be returning and we felt very sad to leave. James, the village Assembly Man, would very much like us to come back once the building is up. He was pleased that we were trying to help and ‘learn’ how to do things; he was especially impressed to see girls learning how to dig!”