Thursday, October 29, 2015

Professional Development

In several of the recent blog posts Anna and I have alluded to seminars that we are holding with the teachers. Although this was not something we had initially planned on doing, it quickly became apparent to us that many of our teachers lacked training and seminars would be a good way to provide them with resources and tools they needed to become more effective teachers. 

Our school currently has nine teachers and we have recently hired two more that will start soon. Out of our current nine, two teachers attended a one-week training prior to the school year starting. Three or four of them taught at the former village school and have several years of teaching experience, but no formal training. The rest have no experience and no training. Therefore, Anna and I decided that one of our main focuses needed to be getting the teachers up to speed.

We have given our teachers a survey to ask about what areas they would like training in. In addition, we make daily observations and rounds at the school that we use to make notes on common struggles or challenges the teachers are facing. We are looking for areas that all of the teachers could improve on. Once we have identified common needs, we begin to develop our seminar around those one or two topics. For example, we have covered topics such as how to teach vocabulary in a meaningful way and effective ways to teach reading/English. 
This week we will be covering classroom and time management.

One of the huge struggles we’ve had at the school is in regards to time: teachers not following the timetables (schedule), lunch break lasting for two hours instead of the scheduled one, school starting 45 minutes late, teachers grading assignments during class while the students sit and stare at each other, etc. This lack of schedule often results in students being off-task or misbehaving and the teachers have little to no idea how to discipline them without using the cane (a very common practice in Ghana, but not permitted at our school). Therefore, we decided to develop a seminar based on these concerns.

Anna and I will be talking with the teachers about the importance of consistency both in regards to following the timetable and discipline. We will be providing them with a list of productive things they can have students do when they finish an assignment early, such as reading a book, math facts, writing a letter. The seminar will also encourage teachers to shift from negative reinforcement to positive reinforcement for discipline. We will discuss the benefit of setting up rewards, such as an extra break or no homework pass, if students are doing what they are supposed to. This will hopefully eliminate the need to discipline if students are motivated by extrinsic factors. Small details too such as the teacher separating problem students and moving around the classroom will help minimize problems before they arise. Most of these techniques are things that seem like no brainers to trained teachers, but may be concepts these teachers with no training never would have considered.

It is our belief that in order to truly improve learning at this school it is going to have to come from the teachers. The material being taught does not matter if it is not taught well. Therefore, Anna and I continue to be excited by the growth and the effort we are seeing the teachers make and are excited to see how this will impact our students. We will continue to identify areas of need and provide as much support and as many resources as we can to support our teachers and students.

As always, if you would like to make a donation to support the school please use the link on the right hand side of the blog. If you have questions or want more information on ways to get involved please email us at Thank you for continuing to follow and share our journey with us!


Thursday, October 22, 2015

Status Report

We have been in school now for 2 months and have made some progress in all different areas of the school! We are happy to keep checking off things on our school year to do list! Here is a brief overview of what we have been able to achieve over the last 8 weeks!
    >Each student in our school has access to at least one pencil, pencil sharpener, eraser, pen, and exercise book. Each teacher has received a class set of these utensils to ensure students have everything they physically need to be successful in the classroom setting.
          >Thanks to some generous donations we have purchased new desks for every classroom in our school (KG1-JHS Form 1). There is a carpenter in Asikuma that hand makes each desk and bench for our school. He has already completed the desks for JHS Form 1. P6, P5, P4, and P3. He is currently working on completing the regular desks and benches for P2 and P1. Once these are finished he will start working on 10 round tables for our Kindergarten (KG1 and KG2) classrooms as well as 60 tiny little chairs for our pupils to sit in!

         >Our teachers have started lesson planning! Lesson preparation is so important, which is why we have stressed to teachers that they need to be completing their Lesson Notes everyday for every subject. Although some of our teachers are having a little trouble with the format and concept of planning a lesson before teaching the lesson, they are trying!

         >We meet with out teachers outside of school twice a month for professional development. This time is so important for our school staff.  It allows for us to check in with our teachers and it gives them a time where they can ask questions, share their comments and concerns with us. We love talking shop with our teachers and demonstrating different techniques for them. So far we have covered reading strategies, how to teach vocabulary, time management, and classroom management. We will continue talking about classroom management at our teaching seminar this week since there is so much that can fall under this topic!

    ·        >Since we started the seminars with our teachers have slowly started to incorporate these techniques into their classrooms! We have seen our teachers start using informal assessments, think-pair-shares, preteaching vocabulary, using key sentence frames, adding visuals on their classroom walls and adding them to their daily teaching, bringing in things like sticks and stones to use as a math manipulative, taking multiple student answers to in class questions, having students collaborate in small groups, and bringing in TLM (Teacher Learning Materials) that help to enhance their lessons and their students understanding.

    >Each child who lives in the mission center has a uniform to wear to school everyday! This may seems like an easy task, but I assure you it was not! Before we arrived in August someone had donated money to make uniforms for the children who were currently living in the mission center, which is amazing! Since we have had so many kids join us at the mission center we were short a handful of uniforms. People are probably thinking why didn’t you go to the uniform shop and just pick up a few more uniforms? It is not that simple here. In Ghana each school has a different uniform, our uniform was designed by Wisdom! So each uniform is hand crafted for a certain child. This means that a seamstress has to travel to the mission center and take a series of measurements for each child’s top and bottom piece of the uniform.  Someone then has to travel to Accra to gather the fabric and materials for the uniforms. Each step of this process takes time and money. The seamstress visited the mission center yesterday to take the last batch of measurements and grab the two rolls of cloth to make the Kingdom Cares Community School uniform.

          >Finally we have completed the addition onto our existing school structure. We added a new structure with two classrooms to support the P6 pupils and house our new JHS Form 1 program. JHS stands for Junior High School and Form 1 would be the first year in the program. There is also JHS Form 2 and JHS Form 3. Building this structure allowed us to better meet the needs of the students we currently have in the school program as well as expanding who our program can reach.
    Although their seems like a never ending list of things to do on a daily basis it is important to take a step back and look at the big picture and what we have initially accomplished. Not all of these things were the first on our to do list these are all things that needed to be done along the way. Like we said from the very beginning being flexible is very important in any school setting, but in the Ghanaian school system especially. Mary and I have had to shift our focus on what we are doing in the school a few times based on new challenges that have come up along the way.  Here are some of the big things that Mary and I are currently or constantly working on.

         >We will continue observing our teachers on a daily basis. We watch the different teacher’s methods as well as how they engage/interact with the students. We also hope that by being in the classrooms on a constant basis we will make sure the teachers feel like the are valued and supported within the school setting. This also gives us a chance to answer any last minute questions they have and grab any last minute supplies they might need such as a white board marker, colored chalk, a chalkboard ruler, etc. What we see in the classrooms also help us to pick the topics of our next seminars.

          > My good friend from Iowa who has been to Ghana a few times contacted us a few weeks back asking about the whiteboard situation in our classrooms. He visited the mission center in August and noticed that only two of our classrooms have whiteboards. The rest are still using chalkboards, which for the most part are big pieces of plywood covered in black paint. He generously donated money for each of our 10 classrooms to get a large whiteboard. We are currently working with Wisdom to get the whiteboards purchased and installed in the school!

    >We are also in the process of getting class sets of textbook for each grade. The tricky thing is each subject has a different textbook. The nice thing is once we have purchased the textbook for the subject you can use that textbook for multiple years. The first subject we are purchasing for each grade is reading. We feel that reading textbooks are the most beneficial for students to get their hands on.  It is easy for students to develop misconceptions about print if they never have a chance to hold a book and explore all of the print details.

    >When Mary and I first came to the KCC School we had planned on creating a new curriculum for the students. We quickly learned that this was not an option since our school has to report to the GES (Ghanaian Educational System) even though we are a private school. The GES supplies each school with a syllabus outlining what the students need to learn for that subject, thus dictating what the teachers need to teach. The school had also already purchased a series of textbooks that aligned with the GES syllabus.  So what Mary and I have started working on is creating and compiling a set of standards for each subject and grade that outlines what each student will need to know by the end of the year (similar to that of the Common Core). We will be looking at the syllabus supplied by the GES, the textbooks, and the Basic Education Certificate Examination. The basic Education Certificate Examination is what the students will need to pass to continue their education in Ghana. If a student does not pass this exam they will not be permitted to move on in the formal education system.

    Finally Mary and I will continue to teach lessons in the different grades and subject areas. Sometimes we teach because a specific teacher asks us for help on a lesson and sometimes we teach for the enjoyment of teaching!

    Please continue to follow us on this journey and share what we are doing. We are always more than willing to answer questions or give more information. If you feel compelled to make a donation or support the school in some other capacity please either email us at or visit Kingdom Cares International.

    Peace and Blessings,

    | Anna |

    Thursday, October 15, 2015

    From Drake to Asikuma

    When Anna and I take a break from our crazy life and stop to think about where we are at and what we are doing, we can’t help but think how lucky we are. Lucky to be a part of these incredible lives. Lucky to have such a great team that we are working with both in Ghana and in Iowa. Lucky to have each other to embark on this crazy journey with. Lucky to have the support from our family and friends back home, especially our Bulldog family.

    As Anna and I were preparing for this journey we spent a lot of time talking to professors and staff at Drake. We were seeking their support, resources, and expertise. We were both amazed at how the connections we made over the last four years came together to support the KCC School and us. Our incredible friends that we had made over the four years also have banded together to support us in anyway possible.

    However, what really left me speechless was when the Bulldog community extended beyond our specific networks. Maddy Gildersleeve, a sophomore at Drake, who neither Anna nor I had ever met before, contacted us this summer after one of our mutual friends explained to her a little bit about what Anna and I were up to this year and advised her to reach out to us. Maddy expressed her passion for the education of girls in developing countries and her desire to increase awareness and attention to the cause on Drake’s campus. She expressed its importance to her by saying “I think it hits home for me so much because I realize if I was born to a different set of parents in one of these nations I could be in the same shoes as the girls struggling there. These girls have husbands twice their age, multiple children and little to no education. And so many of them are so strong and still fight to earn an education and make a better life for themselves and I am so impressed by their strength.” And so she asked us if there was a way for her to get involved in Kingdom Care’s efforts from Drake’s campus.

    Front of T-Shirt
    Back of T-Shirt
    The three of us exchanged many emails and brainstormed several ideas of how to make something like this come to life. Maddy suggested getting Drake’s Greek Life involved and although both of us were never in a sorority, the support we have received from the community has been overwhelming and we have been running with the idea ever since. For the past four days on Drake’s campus there has been a Panhellenic Philanthropy going on. Shirts are being sold with the majority of the proceeds supporting the KCC School. 30% of the proceeds are also going to the philanthropy of the chapter that sells the largest percentage of shirts. In addition, Maddy has created a GoFundMe ( to raise additional funds. Anyone can buy a shirt or make a donation. If you are interested in a shirt please email us at

    While funds are important, we really worked hard to create an event that would hopefully mean something more to both our students in Ghana and the students on Drake’s campus. Therefore, in mid-November the girls from all of the sororities will gather to write Pen Pal letters to the students at our primary school. The goal of their letters will be to introduce themselves and convey to our primary students the importance of education and working hard. Once we receive these letters, Anna and I will teach writing lessons in the various classrooms and our students will compose a response. Our goal is to make this a sustainable event that continues even after we have returned to the states.

    Anna and I cannot express our gratitude and thanks to Maddy and the Drake Greek Life Ccmmunity enough. The funds that have already been raised and continue to be raised through their endeavors will go a long way in supporting education here. They will go toward providing the school with textbooks, school supplies, and other learning materials. Additionally, the positive message and role models our students receive will leave a lasting impact.

    As always, if you are looking for more ways to get involved, have an idea of your own, or have any questions please contact us at Anna and I could not do this alone and we are grateful to each and every one of you for following and sharing our journey and all the little things you have done for us along the way!

    Thursday, October 8, 2015

    Mark My Words

    Mary and I have the pleasure of interacting with the same handful of people on a daily basis. We have introduced to you Comfort, out housemother, and Wisdom, our make it happen man. The final member of our three-man team is Mark. It would take me days to express all that Mark does for Kingdom Cares International, the Asikuma community, the volunteers, the teachers and of course the children, but I am going to try and highlight some of the amazing work he does.
    It is easy to tell when Mark in on the compound. The first thing you hear is the roar of a motorbike, which is immediately followed by the chanting “Doctor, Doctor, doctor”. It is not just the kids who are chanting either. I have caught Comfort chanting for Mark a few times too. The children love having Mark around and we do too. He ALWAYS maintains a positive attitude and keeps a cool head. Whenever Mary and I have questions he is more than willing to answer them or lend a hand if a situation comes up.

    One of Mark’s many roles is disciplining the children. The only time a child is hesitant about going to talk with Mark is when they know they have done something wrong. The children respect Mark immensely, so having to talk to him about their poor choices is daunting for them. Again, Mark always keeps his cool and talks with the child about the situation at hand and decides the best was to discipline the child. He firmly believes that there is a difference between discipline and punishment.

    Another one of Mark’s many roles is a translator. Mary and I host bimonthly seminars for the teachers in our school. Mark is always at our seminar taking notes and helping to re-teach areas he thinks the teacher will find difficult to understand. Mark also helps to translate for the few kids in our house that speak only a few words of English.

    Mark also handles most of the medical needs for the children in the house. If someone gets a cut playing soccer or trips over a rock Mark is there to pick him or her up, dust him or her off, and bandage him or her up. He also handles more serious complaints like headaches and severe stomach pains. He talks with the child to find out their symptoms and then quickly makes the best decision for the child based on his medical experiences. The children feel safe and trust Mark’s opinion on what would be the best thing to make them feel better. Every “patient” also gets a healthy dose of love and sympathy as part of their treatment.

    The final and most important role that I see Mark filling day after day is a loving caregiver. When the children come into contact with Mark they feel valued and loved. Living with 33 other children can be hard sometimes, but it is people like Mark who will make a lasting impression on these children’s lives. He is there when they need to cry, cheering them on with they are promoted in school, checking in on them in the middle of the night when they are sleeping, and kissing their boo-boos.

    I am truly amazed and humbled by the work that Mark does for the Kingdom Cares Community School and the mission center. This place would not run a smoothly as it does without Mark. My hat is off to the man that wears many.

    Please continue to follow us on this journey and share what we are doing. We are always more than willing to answer questions or give more information. If you feel compelled to make a donation or support the school in some other capacity please either email us at or visit Kingdom Cares International.

    Peace and Blessings,

    | Anna |

    Sunday, October 4, 2015

    Thing One and Thing Two

    Just less than a month ago, we posted what at the time were the last of our introductions. However since then we’ve added two incredible girls, Malwin and Esther, to our mission center family. I love how the other kids welcomed these new girls with open arms and did everything they could to make them feel comfortable. I love watching these girls flourish and grow as they are receiving love, food, and medicine. And above all else, I love getting to love these remarkable girls.

    Malwin was the first of the girls to arrive. She was very quiet when she first got here and spent the first couple of days on the couch. After getting some food, sleep, and medicine in her she was a brand new girl. Malwin can now be found trying to keep up with the big girls. She almost always has a smile on her face and can usually be found near the kitchen asking for you name it…biscuits (cookies), ice cream, or chips. Malwin still loves to spend time on the couch watching TV, but now she likes to do it snuggled up in your lap with her friends around her. Malwin also likes to make those around her laugh by making ridiculous requests for things such as a kid cell phone! Needless to say she has a little bit of sass and knows exactly what she wants! Malwin loves going to school, eating junk food, and laughing at the movie Benji.

    Esther arrived at the center about a week after Malwin and though shy at first she quickly opened up.  Esther has a smile that can light up the room and it usually makes an appearance when she’s doing something sneaky or being tickled! She has a very kind heart and hungry belly. Esther can almost always be found with the big girls behind the house where the cooking is taking place. She may occasionally be helping to cook, but usually she is serving as the professional taste tester.  Esther also loves playing unofficial games of hide and seek, especially when it is time to take her medicine! Esther has made friends quickly both at school and at home which shows just how amazing her kindness and sense of humor is. Esther enjoys spending time outside, playing with her friends, and laughing.

    It has been a joy to get to know and spend time with these girls. Anna and I both feel very blessed to get to be a tiny part of their life and are lucky to have such a supportive network to share that with! Please continue to follow our journey about both the incredible kids we work with and the school. If you want more information on any of these amazing kids, the work we are doing, or feel called to make a donation in some capacity please email us at or select the donation link on the right.


    Thursday, October 1, 2015

    A Day in the Life

    It is crazy to think that 6 weeks ago Mary and I embarked on our long-term journey to Asikuma, Ghana. Since that day Mary and I have both found tremendous joy living in the mission center and working at the Kingdom Cares Community School. Going into this journey we know that things do not always go as plan and it would be important for us to stay flexible. This is a new experience for Mary, the KCC School staff, the mission center staff, and myself. We have spent the last 6 weeks reestablishing what everyone’s roles will look like with in the house. It seems like we have finally gotten into routine.

    An average day for us starts around 6:15 am when Mary wakes me up to get ready for the day. I am very fortunate to have Mary as my personal alarm clock. After Mary and I are ready to face the day we help to ensure that the kids have bathed and are dressed in their school uniform. Sometimes I am sewing buttons that mysteriously break off when everyone is supposed to besleeping. Once everyone is dressed we all eat a quick breakfast. Once the children are finished eating Mary and I hunt for the 5 children we have that are currently receiving HIV medicine on a daily basis. Once all of the medicine has been given we make sure the children have their exercise books, pencil, eraser, pencil, sharpener, and homework before we start marching kids to their classrooms. By the time we get everyone situated for class it is 9:00am. Mary and I spend the next hour observing the different teachers in their classroom. Then the students disperse for break. During this time Mary and I walk around and try to talk to the teachers about what we are seeing in their classrooms. We mention what the strengths were for that lesson as well as the areas of improvement. We also use this time to demonstrate a few different strategies they can use in their specific classrooms based off of our observations. For example, when one of our teachers was teaching his ICT (Information Communication Technology) lesson to the P2 students he was talking about using a mouse to click on a computer screen. After the lesson we brought up the point that some students have never used a computer before so this is a foreign concept to them. We then suggested that he try to find a computer mouse to bring into class so students can actually touch the mouse and use their fingers to make the mouse click. Students tend to remember a concept when they can relate an action or experience with the new information.

    After lunch we try to spend time teaching lessons in the various classrooms. Sometimes our lessons are planned and other times we will be observing when a teacher will ask us to step in and teach the rest of their lesson for them. After we teach the lesson we have a conversation with the teacher about what they observed us doing and how they think the students responded to the different teaching methods. We then observe the teacher and offer support as they try to implement some of the new strategies into their teaching.

    After school we wrangle the kids into their rooms for siesta time which usually ends with the kids then having to pick up their rooms. Once the kids are done siesta-ing we spend our evenings out side on the porch gathered around a book, dancing in the rain, chasing the children around the compound, and trying to keep up with these enthusiastic kids. Mary and I try to enjoy an evening walk every now and then. Once everyone has been bathed for a second time and eaten the home cooked meal we give the kids with HIV their second round of medications. Then it is off to the school for studies time. During this one hour we work one on one with the students who need special or extra attention, prompt the students working in small groups, and read to the children who have already completed their homework. Just recently we started to bring out puzzles for our younger primary kids to work on their fine motor and problem solving skills. I am not sure who enjoys this more: the kids or Mary. I really enjoy seeing all of our kids working so hard towards becoming a better student. It warms my heart to see some of the older kids helping the younger kids complete and check over their homework. Have we mentioned that we absolutely love these kids?

    Once everyone’s homework has been completed and checked we venture back to the house for an hour of entertainment. This could be the kid’s settling down to watch part of a show or movie, board and card games, or some sort of crafting (coloring or bracelet making). Most of the younger kids fall asleep before bedtime so they need to be carried to bed. Occasionally we will have an older kid who “falls asleep” and needs to be carried to bed. We spend the next chuck of our night making sure everyone winds up in a bed, school uniforms are ironed, and the teeth are brushed. Once every child has been kissed and been whispered medo (I love you in Twi) the lights go out. Mary and I then patrol the hallway to make sure the kids are staying in their rooms before we head back to our room. We take minimal time to brush our teeth and go over the day before our heads hit our pillows and our lights go out.

    Please continue to follow us on this journey and share what we are doing. We are always more than willing to answer questions or give more information. If you feel compelled to make a donation or support the school in some other capacity please either email us at or visit Kingdom Cares International.

    Peace and Blessing,

    | Anna |