Timber- Nkwanta

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No one will know where Timber-Nkwanta is, other than those who live or work there. But it could be anywhere in Africa, a small village, most of the people still subsistence farmers, with the village well being the only real concession to a more modern life.

We had signed up with The Volunteer Corps to assist with teaching and football coaching in an area of their choice, and on Monday we headed north from Accra to the village of Timber-Nkwanta. The Volunteer Corps have visited there before, and have started building a primary school to replace the open-air facilities currently used. The Volunteer Corps is a  NGO set up by  Edward Adeli and a  group of friends  living and working in Accra, none of them older than 30 or so, who have decided to give back to the wider community  of Ghana with their skills and time, as well as raising money for worthy projects. Many of them are students, and are certainly by no means well off by Western standards, but are happy to spend a considerable amount of time and effort in this work.

 The volunteers with Edward Adeli next to Stew and ifo the local Headman

 

We had decided to take Stan with us, to provide us with a home whilst we were there, and after we arrived we set up camp next to the basic four-walled unit being used as the Volunteer base. Besides the two of us, there were Edward, Ishmail,  Terry, Eric , Ebo,  Daniel and Tina from Accra who were there to continue building the school.

 Creating a soccer field!Bath time& Coach Stew
As the first of hopefully many international volunteers  The Volunteer Corps has brought to Ghana, the local Headman and the Elders had arranged a special ceremony to welcome us and the returning local volunteers to the village, and we were made to feel very welcome by everyone we came into contact with. The Headman was very grateful  to have them back again for the 3rd time, pointing out that many half-finished projects were testimony to other NGO’s that had not lasted long enough to finish their  initial projects.

"Home!"Homework time

Goats, chickens, a duck and her brood of ducklings, dogs, cats, and 1 000 000’s of bugs in all shapes and sizes were our immediate and constant companions throughout our stay here, joined by the village kids, any movement by us turned into a public spectacle.

We also had the eyes of the village on us, intrigued not only by us, but also Stan and all his gadgets and modcons that we take so for granted. Annaliese, who also helped out in the Kindergarten for those children too young for formal school, soon had her permanent hangers-on of children tailing behind her everywhere she went.

Seesta, A's shadow!Tina cooking supper, at least no spices on this!!

With only the well for “fresh” water, no running water or electricity, no amenities and constant unbearable heat , life is very basic here. Despite this, Tina managed to keep a constant supply of cooked food going. Unfortunately, most of the stews and sauces were typically spicy, and we struggled to get used to them, not to mention bush rat meat(apparently a delicacy), dried fish for breakfast and cow skin in the soup! As we wanted to try and fit in, we tried many of the local types of food, such as Banku (similar to putu-pap/sadza), Fufu, and of course the local speciality in the drink department, distilled palm wine! Loudly applauded by the volunteers, we had to join them in the celebrations every evening.

 
We taught English to classes 4-6 every morning, and then Annaliese helped out in the Kindergarten, whilst Stewart coached football every afternoon. Some of the young talent from the 40 or so youngsters that turned out there was clearly evident. Some of them immediately attracted nicknames for the style of their play, such as Samuel “Ronaldo” for his silky play down the left flank, Kwame “Essien” after Ghana’s local hero, and tough tackling Fred “Gartusso”. Ranging from ages 7 to 16, the enthusiasm was clearly evident, although Stewart’s rugby-style fitness training was a bit of a shock to their systems!

 How to choose a team out of so many hopefulls!!   

It is sad to see that malnutrition is mostly the cause for no stamina or strength which makes any endurance game difficult. Despite this, the soccer practices were hugely successful and it was a difficult task to choose only 2 teams. The final match between these two teams was the highlight of the week.

 
A bit of background of the schooling system will help explain the problems being faced in rural areas. We were impressed by the standard of education of the locals we met in Accra. It now turns out that all the guys in the Volunteer Corps actually attended private schools, hence their high level of education. The teachers in Ghana have to do a public service year in rural areas after qualification. Needless to say, they find the living conditions just as difficult as we did, add to that a small income and you have a recipe for disaster and non-attendance.

 

Due to the lack of proper teaching, most of the kids could not speak a word of English not to mention do or understand any other subjects. Unfortunately the teachers saw us being there as a golden opportunity to do even less and promptly decided it is best not to show up at all! What blew our minds however, was the fact that these kids turned up for school day after day and sat in the makeshift classrooms with no teacher present. The one class that Stewart taught had no teacher for 2 weeks!  The other thing is the willingness of these kids to learn. One of the little girls in the kindergarten could not draw a triangle and was immediately ridiculed by the rest. I (Annaliese) took her aside, sat her down and we did the exercise together over and over till she got it right. From that day, she did the same with all her work and persisted, sometimes throughout breaktime and after school till she got it right…..all this at the age of 5.

 One of the local stars we do hope he will be assisted and a little star!!!

As to be expected, it is only natural to fall in love with these amazing kids. One little girl, Angela (4), better known as “Siiiiesta” , arrived at our tent the first afternoon with her homework, made herself at home and never left our sides since. It was hilarious to be mimicked all the time, even down to paging through a magazine (kindly donated by Petra) brushing your teeth or getting dressed.

The villagers truly have nothing, but we were showered with gifts of local fruit, avo’s, some unknown local dishes and friendly smiles and “good morning’s”