Tuesday, May 08, 2012

MTC and Playground-filled River Islands (April 28)

As I’ve probably mentioned several times already, BYU’s MPA program has really close connections to Empower Playgrounds (EPI), the organization that gives rural village schools special merry-go-rounds that generate electricity to charge electric lamps that kids can use to do their homework at night. Like, really close connections. Their executive director, Chris Owen, is a 1st year MPA student and is one of the students on our Ghana trip.

This morning we left Ho early to visit a couple of EPI’s installations in the Volta river. Half of our group came to Ghana a few days early to live on a tiny, poor island with one of the first merry-go-rounds, and EPI has since installed another more modern one on a neighboring island.

The last member of our group, Dr. Facer, was supposed to land at 11:30 this morning, so we planned to meet up with him before going out to the islands. We made it back to the Greater Accra area fairly early, so we went and visited the Ghana Missionary Training Center (MTC). We met with the MTC president’s wife, Sister Graham, who showed us around the building and explained how the Church uses the building (which hasn’t changed since last year). LDS missionaries who are sent to West or Central African missions and who don’t need language training in English or French are sent to the Ghana MTC for 2.5 weeks where they learn how to teach the gospel and, um, be missionaries. They then go out to one of the dozens of LDS missions in Ghana, Nigeria, Togo, Benin, Ivory Coast, Cameroon, or DR Congo. We didn’t get to see any missionaries this year—they stayed in their classrooms—but it was still a fascinating visit.

We left the MTC and headed out to Big Ada, the mainland city/village closest to the Volta islands, hoping to meet up with Dr. Facer on the way. However, his plane was 45 minutes late, so after waiting on the bank of the river (in the hot sun) for our fancy chartered oversized canoe, we went without him to the first island.

As our boat was pushing off, a little 12-year-old kid jumped on, assuming the boat was going to take him home, since the boat we were using was owned by the main school on his island. Worst decision ever. We ended up spending almost 4 hours trawling the river and visiting islands, so he sat (and fell asleep) on the boat, probably bemoaning his great idea to hitch a ride. Silly kid.

The first island we visited was a lot smaller than Pediatorkope, the main island (and first of the Volta-area EPI installations). Because it was Saturday and some sort of extended school holiday, the school was completely empty, which meant we could play on the merry-go-round and make power. Woot.

Chris just needed to check something with the equipment, so we only spent 10 minutes at the school before we went back to the boat. We floated back to our initial launch point to pick up Dr. Facer, who had finally arrived, before heading upstream to Pediatorkope.

As terrifying as the idea of staying on the poverty-ridden island is for me, I enjoyed spending a few hours there. Our visit was a lot simpler than last year’s, where we got to go to an engagement party and visit the local medical clinic. This year we only visited one village family (the same people I visited last year) and had some fresh coconuts (they climbed up the trees and cut them down for us… so, yeah… fresh).

We also played on the playground equipment (after shooing a goat away; he was having fun, but not making enough electricity).

We finally left the island a few hours before sunset, which made for a beautiful and relaxing float back to the mainland. It was dark by the time we got back to the Alma House in Accra, our wonderful home-away-from-home in Ghana. I’m glad we get to spend a few days here before heading back out to visit Kumasi and Cape Coast. This place rocks.

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