Travel For Books: Lauren’s Volunteer Adventure in Ghana
For the last few summers, we’ve run a program called Vacation Reading School. It’s a simple idea that goes a long way in keeping kids reading during the long school break.
This year, we extended the program and invited more volunteers to learn how e-readers are used in schools in Africa, become reading mentors and work directly with the kids. You’ll be hearing more about this program and our plans to further expand it soon.
In the meantime, we’ll be giving you a glimpse of the volunteers’ first-hand accounts over the next couple of weeks. This excerpt is from Lauren Brady, the winner of our Travel for Books sweepstakes.
Having never really had any experience of working with children before, that first day I mostly just observed Beatrice [Worldreader’s operations manager for Ghana] who was looking after the Grade 2 class (7-12-year-olds). The first part of the morning was spent on ‘Individual Reading,’ so our job was to ensure that every child had an e-reader that was fully charged and then they would sit quietly (for the most part) reading whichever story they chose. Break time soon came around which was a welcome distraction for some of the younger children who were starting to get a little fidgety. Twenty minutes running around the dusty playground was just about enough to let off some steam, ready for the next part of the agenda, OCE or out-of-classroom experience.
Whilst Beatrice looked after Grade 2, Mohammed, the head teacher, took me into a class with some of the older students. We each took it in turns to read out loud from the book Mohammed had selected, stopping every few paragraphs to discuss themes in the book or for Mohammed to explain some of the Ghanaian traditions for my benefit. At one stage, he even asked the girls to demonstrate one of the traditional games played by the children in the evening.
During the next break, some of the older girls gathered around and began asking questions about my life in the UK. They’d noticed me taking pictures and asked to pose for some, flicking through some of my photos from previous trips and stopping to enquire about my friends and family. Their curiosity was endless!
My second day at the school I felt much more at ease and enjoyed the experience even more. I’d gotten over my initial shyness and learnt to speak a little slower so that my accent wasn’t as difficult for the children to understand.
I started to notice some of the little traditions of the Ghanaian way of school life. I loved how each morning all of the children would greet me, “Good morning Madam Lauren” and the boys do a little salute. I felt so welcomed after just one day.
Thursday is market day in the village, so instead of the usual 60 students in my class, I had around 30 as the rest were busy helping their parents out on the stalls. We arrived at the school earlier than usual and first headed to the market to buy some fabric to take to the seamstress, bumping into many of the students along the way.
As we headed through the bustling crowds, I heard more than once the term “Obroni,” which is the word for white person in Twi, the local language. The Worldreader team had already taught me to respond with “Obibini,” which got a giggle or two.
Back at school, once the individual reading session was over, I decided to teach my class how to play Pictionary. Recruiting Kate, a local volunteer, to act as “interpreter,” we soon had the children taking part and laughing good-naturedly at some of the drawing attempts including one “whale” which someone guessed to be a “tiger” (we tried our hardest to hide our laughter.) Next, we had a spelling bee which seemed to be a favourite activity in the OCE sessions.
By Thursday I couldn’t believe how quickly the week had gone. Although excited to head back to Accra and discover a bit more of Ghana, I was sad to be leaving the children. I’d had a wonderful experience living and working in the village; the Worldreader team were fantastic at supporting me throughout my time there and I’m so thankful to have had the opportunity to experience the wonderful people of Ghana.
Want more details about her trip? Head over here for the full story.