After our volunteering experiences in Nepal, India, Sri Lanka and South Africa, we recognised the importance of resources to support the local education projects. Whilst some consumable items are readily available in-country, some are either too rare or more expensive than simply purchasing them at home and carrying them with us.
Why buy items in the first place?
Our time volunteering during our first RTW trip highlighted the impact that carefully selected resources can make to student learning. Given that many of the schools we volunteer at support students from poor backgrounds, textbooks and similar resources are a commodity few can afford. Furthermore, as our conversations with the school we planned to volunteer at in Ghana included proposals to undertake teacher-training: a number of resources to enhance this package would therefore also be a useful accessory.
How we got our money
We decided to crowd fund amongst our family and friends to raise the funds needed to make the purchases we identified. We used the Just Giving platform to enable maximum exposure – this is a recognised fundraising brand, can easily be shared on social media and is quick and straightforward to set up. Whilst we realistically aimed for £50 to support the projects, the platform required us to set a minimum fundraising target of £200 – more than we planned for but would make a massive difference if we could achieve it.
Things were promising from the outset – within five minutes of sharing our profile on Facebook, we’d already received £10 in donations from fellow volunteers who appreciated the impact that this money could make. This steadily increased and, by the time we went shopping on our penultimate day in the UK, we’d reached £100 – double our original target. Shopping time!
What we bought
We raided PoundLand for a majority of our resources, including for direct student use:
- Student workbooks covering English, Maths & Science from ages 3 to 14 for teachers to draw on for planning.
- A series of five early readers each with five stories for student self-reading or teacher-led activities.
- Four books from a ‘fact or fib’ series covering topics: animals, dinosaurs, the oceans and the human body for project work.
- Eight books from the ‘Horrid Henry’ series for independent reading by older primary students or younger junior high students.
- A student world atlas and more detailed science book on the human body for those at junior high level.
- A set of fake UK money for teaching money-based transactions requiring purchases with coins and notes.
- A foam clock to support teaching time.
- Two skipping ropes and three Frisbees.
- Three Kendama sets to train students in their hand-eye coordination skill and something fun too!
For the planned teacher training, we also bought:
- Three packs of balloons for teaching science including static electricity, forms of energy or forces and as potential rewards for hard working students.
- Two sets of lollipop sticks for developing questioning techniques that maximise student participation by getting everyone answering.
- Three blocks of post-it notes for review activities and sharing knowledge.
- String to produce washing lines – a versatile lesson activity (plus some spare to leave behind).
- Two packs of cards and two packs of dominoes (with dice) to use for grouping students (that could also be left behind either for staff to use or as student games).
We also got a digital video camcorder with SD card and spare batteries for our Bénin project which will focus on supporting street orphans (not a PoundLand purchase).
Where the items went
As you may have read previously, our intended Workaway project fell through soon after our arrival in Ghana. Unfortunately, we realised soon after we arrived at the project that almost all of our resources would be of little use to them as they were chronically understaffed, were fully dependent on the government textbook and had yet to make use of any of the previously donated resources that sat on the office shelf gathering dust. Ultimately, we decided that the toys we brought (skipping ropes and Frisbees) would provide a satisfactory starting point to their sports kit and took the remaining resources with us to donate to future projects instead.
Through our friend Maggie, we have managed to secure some accommodation on the other side of Kumasi and contacted a local technical senior high school to volunteer there on a daily basis. Given that our resources were purchased with a primary/middle school in mind (like the GEMS School we volunteered at in India last year), this school wasn’t suitable either. Fortunately however, Maggie had contact with a combined primary/junior high school where she herself was running projects with a Ghanaian NGO. We visited this school and spoke to the headteacher, met a number of the students and decided that they would be a more appropriate audience for the resources and, most importantly, would be most likely to make use of them to support student learning.
So on Thursday afternoon we took the resources with us and, surrounded by lots and lots of smiling students handed the resources over to compliment their library and teacher resource bank. Whilst we would have preferred to have given these resources to a school we were volunteering at ourselves so that we could implement their use, this seemed like a happy compromise that would see young Ghanaian students benefit. Keeping a few of the teacher training resources back, we hope to share some of our teaching ideas at the technical high school where we are currently volunteering. Having started to teach energy and electrostatics to Form two we have already made great use of the balloons which the students were thrilled to use.
The digital camera we’ve held on to as this will go (visa dependent of course!) to the street child project in Bénin when we get there.
Although we fully support buying local resources for local projects we knew that often English resources are hard to come by and thus opted to take these with us. If you’re heading abroad to volunteer it’s often worth communicating on what resources are difficult to obtain locally so that what you take can make a real difference. Plus it’s a great way to see where the money you raise goes. If you would like to support our chosen organisation: GEMS in Sainji then please head over to their website to see how you can help.