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North Trip Travel Journal: Stitching Skirts and Learning French

We are in Tamale after a seven-hour bus ride from Kumasi. What a wonderful time to once again reunite and meet the people we serve!

I was picked up by a new friend, Emmanuel, who is from Bunkurugu. This is the region where donors helped start a one-week training for women in the craft of Batik, after which the women will be given a loan to start up a trade. The north is already getting dry, but smiles are on the faces of the people we serve. When I travel here, I always stop first to see the families before checking in at the guesthouse. My first visit was Monica’s shop. Monica is the seamstress who trains Hudu. My visit was a bit of a surprise to them. Though they knew I was coming to see them, they didn’t except me rush to the seamstress shop on arrival. Hudu is learning her craft very quickly. She has moved from practicing with papers to stitching skirts. Though she is still learning how to sew a dress, she is now perfect in sewing the skirts. Monica tells me Hudu learns quickly and does well when given an assignment. Hudu is planning to complete her training in two years and start her own business. We had a chat on her future and she is hopeful. I gave her the assurance that Rising Village will always be there to watch her success and encourage her work and goals. My next and final stop for Day One was to visit Martha, our newest sponsored student, in the high school where she is boarding. It took me a while before seeing Martha. Students went on a mid-term break today and most students who lived nearby were going home. I spoke with Martha by phone yesterday and informed her I was going to visit her in school today and she was so happy. She reported to school on the first Monday in September, far away from her friends and in a completely new environment. She said, “I was close to tears when it was evening that first day, and I felt like going back home.” She felt lonely in her new environment and without her friends. Here, in this faraway place, she would see new faces and need to make new friends. As she said, “I met people from other regions, even from the Ashanti Region, yes, people from Kumasi. I then realized I was not the only stranger here”. Martha like any other freshman, had to go for prep even on the day she reported. She wondered what she was going to learn as she got to class, with all the new students staring at one another. She is taking French, a subject she didn’t learn in Junior High. “Sir, can you believe I am now learning how to write A, B, C, D and 1, 2, 3 in French?” she asked. We had a good laugh and she realized she was not the only student in the class who is new to French. She couldn’t stop telling me everything that has happened and is happening with her education and new life on campus. She also introduced me to some of her friends. Martha is working hard to make good grades in her first term exam. She misses Victor, the Rising Village After-school Program Coordinator who was also her teacher in Junior High. We made a phone call to him and she was so excited to talk with him again. She is taking the advice he gave her on studying and acclimating to her new school. Martha is excited for an opportunity to come back to the Ashanti Region for a visit so she can meet her friends in Rising Village’s Education Program.

After these visits, I searched for a guesthouse. I had tried to arrange accommodations before the trip, but all the guesthouses I contacted were booked. Some promised possible space by the time I arrived in Tamale, but my search for a place to stay was another story altogether. I had to secure a Jollof Rice before continuing on the search, but I finally found a guesthouse. It has been a long, but very good day. Tomorrow, Day Two, we will be in Bunkurugu and will meet the women who are in our newest program, Janet and Comfort. I am ready for another day in the North!

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