Yesterday I went to the village of Madavunu to see the first installation of the power generating whirl.
The 80-kilometer drive from Accra to our destination took about two hours. As the city vanished to the south, we drove through small villages in the coastal plains of Ghana. We were headed for Madavunu, a community of 500 people and about 150 students – and at least 10 kilometers from any semblance of what I consider civilization. Dawa, Tsopoli, and Sege were a few of the small towns we passed, complete with road side shops, and hawkers selling everything from phone cards, locally grown peppers, and “fresh” cow meat.
At the end of an eight-kilometer dirt road, we were met with smiles and waves. The children were tentatively peering out the concrete windows to catch a glimpse of the
“Obrunos” (white people). We quickly made friends through countless handshakes and a shared finger snap, the local greeting. Ben Markham and the Empower team got to work quickly as I toured the school and greeted the students with pencils and rubber balls. They also loved having their pictures taken.
It’s not easy to describe the village. Imagine having only life’s most basic necessities. Now imagine less. There’s no electricity and the government supplied water pump has been broken so long, no one can remember when it last worked. “Drinking” water is fetched from a pond two kilometers from the school. The bathroom is nothing more than a concrete hole in the ground with tin privacy walls. And goats and chickens are the measure of one’s worth. Yet the smiles were plenty.
I also toured some of the local homes. Mud huts, with thatched roofs are preferred over tin because they’re cooler. When the home eventually crumbles, they simply build a new one next to it. The church has been under construction for the last 15 years, but they hope to finish it this year. The nearest town store is a world away.
From my standpoint there is nothing overwhelming about building the whirl itself. But as it was being constructed it hit me how many obstacles had to be overcome to bring this opportunity to these children. When we finally finished, it didn’t take long for the equipment to disappear in a swarm of children. They jockeyed for position for hours, and when they finally found a spot, the thrill of play was obvious by the looks on their faces.
We celebrated the new playground for two hours. Songs, stories and speeches, which had been rehearsed for weeks, were shared with joy. The Headmaster, the Deputy Director from the Ministry of Education, and the Regional School Supervisor were all on hand. Finally, with great pride, the village elders presented to Ben Markham and me a full grown male goat. A genuine sign of gratitude. For the time being, he is eating the grass back at the Empower Playground workshop.
Tomorrow on to Akyremateng…
More pictures on the Playworld Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/PlayworldSystemsInc