What a whirlwind!
Our new friend, Jennifer King, daughter of Bob and Dottie (the principal benefactors of SEED) visited Accra this weekend. We had the privilege of spending three packed days with her, the other coaches, and Emmanuel, the local SEED director. Jennifer is a warm, caring person who embraced all aspects of Ghanaian life with open arms and a huge heart.
A particular highlight was the choir competition at the SOS High School in Tema (25 km from Accra). The energy, talent and spirit of these 320 students radiated through the auditorium and ignited the audience with awe. SOS is a boarding school that educates students from sixteen African countries. Half are orphans (on scholarship) and half are paying students. It’s a boarding school where all the kids live in dorms (called hostels) and study together. All students are treated exactly the same, and their track record is incredible. Over 70% of graduates go to college in the UK or US. Several of our Ghanaian friends (and Stanford grads) are alums.
On Saturday night, the competition between the hostels was intense! As a student-run event, no music faculty or teachers had been involved in the rehearsals or the direction. Instead, each hostel chose their repertoire, designed their own costumes, and conducted their selected arrangements. The girls in the hostels even sported matching hair-dos.
A panel of impartial judges sat at a table in the front (just like American Idol or X Factor.)
At the beginning of the evening, each group sang the same cannon, “A Joyful Mozart”, in the compulsory round. Then, the fun began.
The yellow team prepared a spirited entry piece and swooshed down the aisles between the audience to thrilling drumbeats and A Cappella 4-part harmony.
The red team sang a beautiful traditional song and sported glow-in-the-dark wrist bands.
The green team belted out “Elijah Rock” (which ironically, Jan’s High School choir also sang, oh so many years ago. This version was more authentic! And, Jan’s choir was led by the music teacher.)
The blue team’s student conductor was charming and led the choir with vigor.
For each number, proud parents captured the moments on their smart phones or iPads.
Even though the red team (Vikings) ended up with the most points for the evening, we can truly say that there were no “losers” here.
But, since Emmanuel’s kids were in the Viking house, he was excited when the results were announced!
Looking at this school as an example, the future of Africa is bright!
Speaking of “bright”, we also met with several brilliant entrepreneurs who are part of the SEED program.
Visiting Some of the “Best and Brightest”
We started our Friday chatting with a charismatic business founder who enthralled us with his tales of how he and his team overcame many challenges to be on a rocket-ship growth path in the mobile market.
At the vegetable company, the entrepreneur was delighted to receive the Business Plan that was a collaboration between Ed, the Africa Fast Track team and the entrepreneur. She exudes enthusiasm for building a strong nation by building the capacity to make healthy nutritious fruits and vegetables to every Ghanaian.
And this husband and wife team showed us that “integrity, honesty and trust” can be solid building blocks for a thriving business in creation of new subdivisions for middle-income families.
We met with Patrick Awuah, the founder of Ashesi University, and the Marcia Grant, the Provost (who we wrote about in this previous post.) Ashesi is forging a new path for university liberal arts curriculum. They’ve even instituted the first Honor Code in Ghana, so currently, all exams are unproctored. Originally, the idea of an Honor Code was very controversial with the Ghanaian Accreditation Board, and required a hearing. During the hearing, an Ashehi parent spoke up, saying that the code exemplifies the lyrics of the Ghanaian National Anthem, which state, “Make us cherish fearless honesty”. This comment tipped the board in Ashesi’s favor, and the Honor Code was approved. Ashesi is also leading the way on advocating the value of a liberal arts education to the accreditation board.
Accra Ridge Church
We attended a lively church service on Sunday morning, where we were personally greeted by the congregation. A local gospel group, Joyful Way Inc, sang an inspirational series of tunes. The entire church was dancing and rocking to the music.
Jamestown: A Study in Contrasts
To round out Jennifer’s Ghanaian experience, we spent Saturday morning in Jamestown, a traditional village on the coast of Accra. Here, fishing is the way of life, and unfortunately, many children do not attend school. Bill, one of the coaches who is an excellent photographer, has visited Jamestown frequently to photograph many of the residents. He returns each week with prints, which delight the residents, and serve as a goodwill bridge for future visits.
In Jamestown, volunteers have set up a school for the orphans of the community, called Jamestown Noyaa Association Academy. During our visit, the children recited their pledge, saying “I promise to make something of myself”.
The weekend shows that there is not just one story in Africa. Instead, there are many different slices of life that are rich, colorful, and inspiring. As we posted in a previous entry: TIA … This is Africa.