Walker Bookstore Journeys to Ghana, West Africa!
Walker Bookstore is making a difference in the international community by donating tens of thousands of books a year to Books for Africa. This winter, two of our sales and purchasing representatives were sent to Ghana, West Africa, to see how those books were being distributed and what they could do to help further with the needs there. Here's their story:
It took two days to travel to Mampoteng, Ghana, a village about 45 minutes outside of the city of Kumasi, in the central region. We arrived to rousing applause from the local parish community, where they sang and danced with such fervor that we usually only see reserved for concerts here in the States. Afterwards, we were led to meet the local chief and queen mother, where there were speeches by all the elders and tribal dancing. Ken, one of the representatives who went on the trip, was coerced to participate in the Ashanti tribal dance, and with little timidity, he tossed away his sandals, rolled up his pant legs, shook everything he had, and bounced up and down, all to great laughter and joy for the audience he had to entertain.
Each day of the trip was filled with activities, ranging from helping to build a preschool, to painting a home for priests, to visiting locals and learning the plight of the people. We visited many schools and gained greater understanding of the obstacles they face: the lack of textbooks, limited teacher resources, no continuing education for the teaching staff, and extremely low teacher salaries. They were still using chalkboards--no dry-eraser boards, no projectors, no ipads, no smartboards. The walls were often bare, if they even had walls. Some classrooms had no desks, and the students sat on the cement or dirt floor.
They kicked around soccer balls that had no air in them, sometimes because they had no pump, and sometimes because the balls had too many holes to patch. Some did not use a ball, but instead used plastic bags rolled up into a ball-like object. There were no nets on the goals, no lines on the field, but play well they did, some in sandals or even barefoot. Most of the fields had little grass, either worn away from playing or because the livestock ate it. Goats, chickens, and dogs roamed freely, yet, if they belonged to someone, everyone knew to whom.
Homes were mostly made out of mud block, or cinder block if the person could afford it. We found many people rented their home and only a few owned the place in which they lived. Houses and other buildings were half-built everywhere you looked. There are no mortgages, so people build as they can afford it--slowly, slowly.
Slowly, slowly. That was the pace of life in the villages, but this allows for deeper relationships. People knew their neighbors, they had community, and took care of one another. They knew each other, not just by name, but really knew their neighbor. Despite the poverty, they had faith, love, and joy. They reminded us that the best things in life are free to those who pursue and decide to enjoy them.
As we neared the end of our travels, we visited the collection of schools that had received one particular shipment of books that we had donated the year before. We were pleasantly surprised to find the material in a brand new library that they had just completed before we arrived. Teachers and students were unaware of the books’ presence as they were awaiting our arrival to unveil the treasure of material. It was such a blessing to get to see the excitement in their eyes when the doors were opened for the first time!
The administration decided that they would use the textbooks and leveled readers as library books that the youth could read after school, on weekends, and during the summer. Children can come to the library to further their knowledge, reading skills, and overall education, instead of wandering the streets. In addition, the school staff will have access to the material in order to integrate the curriculum into their own classrooms. There were some big smiles when they realized they would now have the tools and resources to further develop the minds and hearts of the youth entrusted to them.
The needs still remain immense in Africa, therefore we plan to continue to work hard to give as much as possible toward assisting them with their education. Textbooks are few and far between throughout the villages on the continent, but change is happening, and YOUR books are making a difference!
Education is empowering the youth, and with our continued collaboration, we’re going to be able to bless more students in Africa with the books they need to help them rise out of poverty and better serve each other. We greatly appreciate your trust and partnership, which allows us to make this great impact locally, nationally, and internationally!
A fun farewell from Africa!