| September 30, 2010

Ghana Travel Journal – An Inside Look


Worldreader.org is lucky to have many supporters who follow our progress in the press and on our blog, but we haven’t really cracked the surface of just how action-packed these trips to Ghana really are.  Worldreader.org’s mission to bring “Books to All” is an ambitious one and it involves hundreds of tiny details, helpful people, strategic planning and partnerships with many different organizations.  You have to be able to change your day’s meetings in a moments notice, give impromptu presentations and answer a myriad of questions.  So, to give you a taste of what is like on the inside, we will share with you a bit of raw content coming from e-mails from David and Colin’s recent trip to Ghana.


Lisa with her family after lunch

After an 8 hour flight the day before, we were excited to get moving.  We first met with Lisa Lovatt-Smith, founder of Orphan Aid Africa where we did our first trial in March.  She has been incredibly helpful introducing us to the local community.  I thought it was interesting to hear what Lisa’s younger daughter Fatima is reading for school.  (Answer: The Tempest and The Sun Also Rises.)  We also met with Blakk Rasta, Ghana’s most popular radio DJ, who likes Worldreader.org and could be a good supporter of ours someday

After lunch, we met with our local digital publishing partner Alex Sulzburger who is helping us with local publishers.  Serious roadblocks are being removed to getting books digitized fast.  The first ones look great and it means wonderful things for publishing in Sub Saharan Africa.

Colin and I had a quick breakfast meeting with Nana Banchie Darkwa, our liaison with the Minster of Education.  Then we moved onto the Development Partners meeting.

David and Nana at the Ministry of Education

This is a big deal: representatives from all kinds of aid and development agencies get together regularly to ask questions of the government about how their money is being spent.  Our presentation came at the end of a fairly grueling session about gender equity in schools.  Overall, there was a positive reception of Worldreader.org, but good questions too about the amount of time we’ll be asking for from schools and teachers. As with any school system, demands on staff time need to be well justified, and the government is looking at the whole picture, not just our project.  Afterward, we had a few follow-up meetings with key representatives from the Department of Education.

First meeting of the day is with the World Bank where we had a very positive discussion with Country Director for Ghana, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.  Afterward, we had a wonderful meeting with ILC, our impact evaluator team.  They’re going to be great partners in evaluating the impact of e-readers, measuring very closely whether children and families read more and read “better” with e-readers than without.  The day was capped off with a meeting with Vodafone to discuss a potential partnership.

Our amazing on-the-ground manager, Joseph, met us for breakfast before we headed to Ghana Education Service, where we present an update on exactly what we are doing.   We went on to another meeting internally to get a list of classroom reading books (Colin and I noted how many times we had to show our “Official Letter” even within the same department.  And people read it word for word before beginning conversation with us)  Third meeting with Ghana Education Service’s statistician and witnessed an amazing moment when he let loose on some furniture movers who wanted to mess with his office mid-week.  “Get out!” he yelled.  “Come back Saturday, so that I don’t lose three days of work while you move my office!”  Here was a guy who just wanted to do his job… and do it efficiently, without something getting in his way.  Joseph went to the local Government offices with pile of legal papers under arm, returning two hours later for us to register Worldreader as an official organization in Ghana. We sign anything that has a dotted line at least 12 times–we are now official in Ghana!

Colin and Joseph signing–Worldreader.org is official in Ghana

Colin, Joseph, and Alex had a full day of meeting with publishers:  Wuoli, Sam Woode.  Worldreader is getting close to announcing some pretty interesting news on this front, so stay tuned.  Afterward, we met with USAID who are committed to funding a significant part of the iREAD pilot study.

Colin and Joseph spent the whole day visiting schools and classrooms across the Eastern region.  Students  show visible excitement about having e-readers and teachers are focused on learning how to implement e-reader technology in their classroom.   This is when all the hard work starts to pay off.

A teacher at Presby Junior High during Kindle training

David and Colin are back in Barcelona and the team is immersed in the details of the iRead pilot study.   You can imagine that they might be a little tuckered out after their week in Ghana, but, truthfully, there is just too much to do and the excitement is high.