A team of volunteers from Elgin just
returned from a 10-day visit to Ghana where they helped start a
school lunch program and library, and visited an orphanage they
The projects are supported largely through
the fundraising efforts of fifth-graders at Sycamore Trails
Elementary School in Bartlett and members of First Baptist Church in
We raised a total of $8,200 for the lunch
program between my church and a school in Oswego and Sycamore
Trails," said Jim Reed of Elgin, who teaches fifth-grade gifted
students at the school and is leading efforts in the West African
nation through his charity, Two Pennies Ministry.
The money will feed 300 schoolchildren from
3 to 14 years old in kindergarten through ninth grade in the town of
Katakysie through November, Reed said.
"We're giving the money to them as they go,"
Reed said. "We've sent them $2,300 so far so they could get that
While most public schools in Ghana don't
provide lunch, students at the Katakysie school are now being served
full meals -- black-eyed peas stew, sweet potato leaf stew, cassava,
yucca and fried plantains.
"The kids loved it. There was not a morsel
leftover," Reed said. "It probably was much better than the food
kids eat here. There were quite a few students who are now coming
because they have lunch, which is really encouraging for us. The
teachers were also saying the students were much more alert after
Three women from the town prepare the
lunches, providing those families with steady income.
"We were creating some industry there, which
is nice," Reed said.
Reed said his group is working with a
teacher and middle schoolers at the school to create a more
sustainable, locally sourced lunch program.
"It's up to the students to decide how they
are going to do it," Reed said. "They can either start a garden, or
they were talking about (having) chickens or pigs. They could either
raise money or trade for what they needed, or grow what they
Once students present a business proposal,
Two Pennies Ministry will provide the seed money, Reed said.
Gift of knowledge
The volunteer team -- including two Judson
University professors and members of the Elgin church -- also set up
a library with roughly 2,000 storybooks at the Katakysie school,
where students previously had access only to government-issued
Sycamore Trails students and First Baptist
Church members shipped more than 7,000 books to the Cape Coast
region last summer that were distributed to schools in the area.
"Most of the library books were still in the
boxes because teachers didn't know what to do with them," Reed said.
"We set up a real rudimentary library system ... showed them how you
would use library books and how you engage students in learning."
The volunteers and some upper-graders
organized the books by reading levels on two bookcases in the
headmaster's office. At first, students were allowed to borrow one
book each for a day.
"They were just absolutely glued to these
books," Reed said. "The next day, we almost hit a girl on the road
who was walking reading 'Dora the Explorer.' She had taken it from
the library. The headmaster said, 'Never in my whole life have I
seen a kid walking down the road reading anything.' Kids who didn't
like to read, you couldn't get them away from reading the books."
Teachers were coached on how to engage
students by reading aloud and asking questions, a fundamental shift
from their learning styles of rote memorization and chanting, Reed
The group also donated 200 electronic Boogie
Boards with LED screens on which students could write answers, erase
and reuse 50,000 times. They were an instant hit.
"We saw it immediately click with the
students and teachers," Reed said. "You get 100 percent
The care students took when handling the
books and their eagerness to learn was inspiring, said Nancy
Farquhar, 59, of Elgin, a First Baptist Church member who became the
de facto librarian.
It was Farquhar's first and the charity's
fifth mission to Ghana.
"The library itself was extremely rewarding
... more so because one of the teachers really took it to heart to
take it over," she said.
Farquhar said she was struck by the warm
welcome the group received from the students and townspeople.
"I really was just overwhelmed with the
love, friendliness and affection," she said.
Reed's ministry, with help from First
Baptist Church members, provided $115,000 in funding to build an
orphanage in the town of Asebu, about 25 minutes from the school.
The five-room house, completed in early
January, includes separate dormitories for boys and girls, a study
room, a waiting room, separate boys and girls bathrooms, and space
to house more children.
It is run by a Ghanaian couple, Ebenezer and
Comfort Obiri, who are caring for 10 orphans. The visitors brought
along books and gifts for the children and spent time playing,
reading and talking with them in hopes of deepening relationships.
Reed's goal is for members of his Elgin church to sponsor individual
orphans, helping supplement their education, textbooks, school
uniforms, and other expenses. Sponsors would get progress reports on
their charges and connect with the orphans through future missions.
The Katakysie School's headmaster, Aboagye
Prah, who helped get the orphanage built, also has started a
nongovernmental organization that will serve as the Two Pennies
Ghana branch, Reed said.
"His vision is to be able to provide health
care or healing for people who can't afford it," Reed said.
As for the Elgin volunteers, he added, they
are planning another trip to Ghana, possibly in August or over