Empower Playground on Volta River in Ghana

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Remember how our family traveled to Ghana over the summer? Yeah, well, I’ve still got more to share! We were invited to go on a little field trip with a handful of senior missionaries (though my parents were asked to serve as President over the area, many older couples seek missionary opportunities to serve, and have more flexibility with rules and such–click the link to see a quick video on it). It was a 2 hour drive away, and I was skeptical to go on a long drive again, because we’d done a lot of driving. They talked about how we would ride a canoe down the Volta River, and see where the ocean meets the river at the Atlantic Ocean.

We’d also venture to the tiny island of Pediatorkope, one of Ghana’s most rural communities that does not have electricity or running water, see a village that lives in mud huts, and how the Empower Playground was built for school children to get energy to light lamps in the evening, through playing on the playground.

Ok, I’m in, sounded pretty cool!  Here’s a sneak peek of our experience there.

Empower Playground near Volta River in Ghana

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On the two hour drive, we got to know Gloria, who jumped in our car because the other car was full. We chatted all the way to our destination, and I learned she is there serving a mission with her husband, to help expand the literacy programs throughout several Africa countries. I loved learning from her, and I knew I could identify with her from the start. We became fast friends, and were pretty much the only people that talked to the locals and children, while others were a bit more timid. We had a thirst for wanting to understand the people, and their hearts, and we weren’t afraid to communicate, if only through our actions.

So it was my family of six, my mom, and 8 other senior missionaries on this field trip.

We parked our cars in a random field, and a guy was there to meet us, he was hired for the day to show us around.

ghana field trip

We walked through this community, and veered off through a grove of trees, which took us to the river shores.

Once through the trees, it was quite an amazing site. Piles and piles of clam shells.

pile of oyster shells in Ghana

Mostly emptied, often made for other purposes like drying clothes.

drying clothes on oyster shells in Ghana village

The villagers stared at us differently than we had experienced before. We were more remote, and they were not used to tourists coming around. For the first time, I felt strange being a tourist, mostly because I knew they knew we came from a prosperous place with our fancy cameras and gear. I felt I was invading when I took a picture, and I could tell they didn’t care for it. So I didn’t take as many pictures, or I motioned with my hands to ask permission.

island of Pediatorkope Ghana

The young children thought we were a pretty cool sight.

We hopped onto a few canoes that took us about 10 minutes away, to the remote island, Pediatorkope, to check out the playgrounds.

canoe on Volta River in Ghana

Since we’d learned that my alma mater, Brigham Young University, was connected with the Empower Playground project, I thought it was the perfect day for us to wear our BYU shirts as a family.

Brigham Young University Empower Playground

It was hot…and sunny…hence the squinty eyes and fresh sunscreen;)

We passed some local fisherman, looking for Oysters…

fisherman on Volta River

Once arrived, we saw some locals crafting the fishing boats

hand made boats in Ghana

Noted the islands emergency boat

island emergency boat

We first stopped to have lunch, which we brought from home. We sat in an open air clinic, also known as the island hospital. We found a nice step to sit to eat our lunch, and joined by a nice chicken roaming around.

lunch on hospital floor in Ghana

Though the chicken didn’t make this next shot, 3 sets of eyes were on him, as we watched him gather up our crumbs that got dropped.

BYU t shirts in Ghana

Hanging  around, waiting, as we all took turns with the single restroom. Our tour guide/friend of some of the senior missionaries on the right.

ghana island hospital

Checking out the signs on the hospital walls.

open air hospital clinic in Ghana

Humbling…while we have signs in the US about washing our hands, they have signs about Rape and the father being present in the children’s lives….oh, and Ebola. Though it never made it’s way into Ghana.

hospital signs in Ghana

Sister Terry took a video of my youngest telling a joke.

Ghana hospital

 

As we took turns going to the bathroom in the humble stall, I checked out the maternity ward next door.

primitive Ghanaian delivery room

I felt much gratitude for the sterility of the hospitals back home.

island delivery room in Ghana

It was then time to take a walk to the school grounds. I was surprised at how many children were there! For being such a small island, many many children attended school, some come in on canoe from the mainland. The first and main attraction was the Empower Playground.

When we first got there, we hopped on to check it out, while the school children watched on.

Empower Playground Merry Go Round

We quickly called them over to join us in the fun, and show us how they spin on it.

Per usual, our group was quite the spectacle. The children loved seeing my children. My kids weren’t quite sure how to respond to the attention, but I urged them to get in there, and play, and if nothing else, SMILE. It’s universal.

Empower Merry Go Round

merry go round in Ghana for power

We took turns pushing and riding, and the kids really got into that.

Merry Go Round in Ghana

Without electricity on the island, the energy from the merry go rounds helps to power the lanterns the kids use to take home to do homework. Energy=Power!

I tried to get all the kids to look at the camera with us, but that didn’t work out too well–ha ha! I’ve got my own kids trained!

energy playground in Ghana

I love this picture of my new friend, Gloria playing with the school children.

playing with Ghana school children near Empower Playground

They spoke a native island dialect with a tad bit of English, but fun and games and being silly is a universal language. I love how she jumped right in to play, and taught them “Jesus LOVES you” with some hand signs to go along with it. If you can leave the briefest of messages, that is it. I loved it. I have a hard time with silly, but I can do LOVE and HUGS. I jumped in, chatted, and followed her lead, and she gave me one of the greatests compliments that I hold dear. She said to me, “you really have a humanitarian heart” which I’d never thought much about before. I haven’t had the opportunity to do much in the way of “humanitarian” and it really got me thinking as to what that really means. I’m still trying to figure it out, but I think she noticed my love for connecting with people, and if that’s what it means, then I’ll take it. Truly meant a lot, especially coming from her, whom I came to admire from her story, and actions.

The kids rushed back into school, and I loved noting the paintings on the outside of the building with the English and native spellings.

schoolchildren in Ghana

We took a walk back deeper into the island, and saw the homes, mud huts.

mud huts in Ghana

This little trio of boys kept sneaking around corners watching us, and I fell in love.

Ghana children

I gave them some of the rolls we had, and they loved it.

I found this single blue painted window, and it was just a splash of happy to the brown walls I saw everywhere.

blue window in Ghana

Around the next corner, I found them hanging in a tree…

monkeys in a tree

We kept walking around, and I saw these older men off in the distance, and I wanted to get closer to see what they were making.

basket weaving in Ghana

They were weaving baskets!

man weaving basket in Ghana

So beautiful…

baskets in Ghana

As we kept walking, I saw this mother and baby, melted my heart.

Ghanaian mother and baby

It’s hard to truly capture the scene before us, but I’m so grateful for the opportunity to open my eyes, and the eyes of my children.

Ghana village with mud huts

As we left, we passed by the school children again

Ghana schoolyard

We saw a few soccer balls laying around, kids playing soccer, and from my sons soccer Eagle Project a few days earlier, we knew that Ghana loved Soccer {futbol}. I encouraged my boys to jump in and play, juggle the ball, ask the kids to juggle, and this is my husband showing off his skills. The kids loved it.

juggling soccer ball in Ghana

They were the sweetest children, I’m so grateful we had even a short time among them.

waving goodbye to Ghana school children

waving goodbye to Ghana children

I’ve got more to share about this trip, our canoe ride to the end of the Volta River to the Ocean, but that’s for another day now!

To see more about our family travel to Ghana, check out these links:

 

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Comments

  1. Jacqueline says:

    A playground to produce electricity?! That is such an awesome idea!!
    Funny that you said you don’t do silly well. I don’t either, except if I’m all alone with little kids. But you do do silly poses in pictures, which never quite works for me! 🙂

  2. Oh wow, this whole trip just seems to be truly amazing! It’s really great your kids got to see and experience it

  3. Always inspiring Kristen. And the smiles on the kids faces are precious…even with so little they seem happy!

  4. Mackenzie Welker says:

    What an experience!? Really makes me count my blessings and also really makes me want to somehow help and serve the people there. That playground was so neat-definitely an inspired idea.