Shipping materials to Nigeria has always been problematic, with no direct route other than shipping through DHL at exorbitant cost. Enter the Rev. Ben Nnaji, Priest-in-Charge of St. Edmund’s Church in the Bronx, New York. He had befriended Bishop John several years ago; Elaine Chagnon was asked by Bishop John to contact him. Rev. Nnaji had a contact who ships regularly to Lagos, Nigeria. Through the generosity of the Women’s Guild at St. Edmunds’s, the cost of shipping one barrel was covered. AEP covered the cost of a second barrel. On September 22, Elaine and son Nate headed to the Bronx to load the barrels with books. At this point, the books are enroute and should arrive before Christmas. One of our Nigerian team members will make the trip to Lagos to bring the books north to Gusau.
Carly Hajducky, a middle school student from St. Paul’s Church, Huntington, had an idea to help AEP. After hearing that a need existed for a library, the energetic young woman decided to collect books. She submitted her proposal to the Rev. Amjad Samuel, an AEP Board member for approval...and also to the Girl Scout Council for her Silver Star Award.
After receiving the go-ahead from both organizations, the drive was on! Carly worked tirelessly to collect 525 volumes. She catalogued each volume, placing a dedica- tion label in each one. In addition, she had bookmarks, several book bins, and a binder with the catalogued list to add to her donation.
On September 17, Elaine Chagnon was invited to St. Paul’s to address the congregation with Carly. At the conclusion of the service, the church picnic provided Elaine with the opportunity to become better acquainted with Carly and her parents. The books were presented and loaded!
It was a heartwarming experience to chat with the Hajducky family and appreciate their generosity and compassion. AEP is grateful for the effort and special care Carly took to make the drive such a success. The books will provide the library space with a great starting collection. On behalf of the students at GIS, AEP expresses its sincere thanks!
We are pleased to report continued progress, that has resulted in the completion of our two major projects: the exam hall and the eight-foot perimeter wall. The school continues to grow and improve as our Nigerian partners creatively strategize and prioritize our next steps.
The summer trip was the most successful of all previous trips. Board member Elaine Chagnon, accompanied by husband Bob, were able to spend an entire week at the school, surveying the physical progress of the plant, meeting with the school board to discuss next steps, and engaging in conversation with teachers, students, and administration to gather valuable information regarding requests, improvements, and needs.
Enrollment in Grace International School is on the rise after several lean years due to the tensions and threats of violence resulting from the last presidential election and its effect on the local population. Our numbers indicate that enrolment is up across the grades with an additional 100 students– and the number continues to increase.
A Clear focus
We have a clear focus for our next steps in moving Grace International School forward. Funds have been transferred to complete the exam hall. The outside staging has been removed and the only work left is some interior plastering. This will allow the administration to move from their current location in a classroom – leaving a space for a full computer lab. The perimeter wall is also complete and the second gate is now being installed.
Our work with a grant writer continues, as we search for funding for a well and solar panels. We are in a position to move forward, as a requirement was to improve our presence on the web. Our board has worked very hard with a technology expert to recreate the website– please check out our new, improved look at africaep.org.
Please consider a holiday offering as we move forward at this most crucial time.
Don Ghostlaw, President
Africa Education Partnership held a successful "grilled cheese" fundraiser for Grace International School at St Peter's Episcopal Church South Windsor, CT, on Sunday September 24. The menu from the Whey Station offerred seven varieties of delicious gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches. The Whey Station (www.wheystation.com) generously donated all proceeds to the cause of Grace international School. We are very grateful for their kind generosity.
AEP Board member Elaine Chagnon made her eighth trip to Nigeria from July 7-21. Accompanied by her husband, Bob, she was able to spend a week in Gusau, with daily visits to Grace International. It was an excellent opportunity to gain valuable information through face-to-face meetings with teachers, students, administration, and school board members.
Day 1 was spent surveying the grounds and physical plant. Construction on the boundary security wall was in the final stages – the last two rows of blocks were being added. The final step would be to fill in sections of the wall with concrete for extra stability and then cap it off. The two openings for the gates were framed, one at the front and a second at the rear near the hospital site. The field inside the wall had been planted with rice, to be harvested in late fall, in an effort to raise a cash crop for an additional source of revenue.
A solar company has established itself in Gusau, and a request was made for pricing. Solar panels, installed on the roof of the computer lab at the very least, would greatly improve productivity for all.
Travel from Kaduna to Gusau
We are picked up in Kaduna mid-morning by our friend George and the our driver Adam. Husband Bob and I settle in to the school van along with our armed guards and head north. It is a four hour drive to Gusau, depending on traffic and road conditions.
The roads are generally in fair condition and we dodge the roadblocks set out by residents of small villages to slow down traffic so people and livestock can safely pass. The roadblocks consist of logs or large rocks set out each morning and pulled in at dusk, as there is no lighting on the roads. We continue on and pass through the southwest corner of Katsina State where the roads deteriorate rapidly. The roads have potholes large enough to swallow small cars!
We continue on to Zamfara State and up to Gusau where we see camels used to carry goods and plow fields. We are dropped off at our hotel- it is good to get out and stretch! We get to freshen up and then go to dinner with George, Bishop John, and his wife Helen- so good to see our dear friends!
Day 2 was spent in conversation with administrators, teachers, and students. Elaine and Bob presented the administration with six suitcases full of supplies including textbooks, microscopes, sports equipment, and general classroom supplies and teacher guide books. These were unpacked, inventoried and stacked in the principal’s temporary office. We also donated money to have bookshelves built to accommodate the additional books...they should be ready in about a week. Discussion regarding classroom supplies was held and teachers and students were included.
Days 3 and 4 were spent preparing for and delivering teacher workshops. The elementary teachers were provided with instruction and activities on Day 3 and secondary teachers received training on Day 4. We reviewed lesson planning, moved on to respect agreements in classrooms, and ended with room strategies.
A list of priorities was compiled and given to the Bishop and building committee. Included on the list was the completion of the computer lab as a top priority. Costs estimates were provided – please refer to the menu of giving options provided in this newsletter. In addition, reference books and shelving for the library were requested. Teachers expressed the need for classroom bookshelves and visual aides for the walls. They also requested ceiling fans to alleviate the afternoon heat. While the buildings are wired, there are no fans, which raises the need for a sustainable source of power.
One of the activities teachers liked best was the opportunity to collaborate with each other– they reported that this is not part of their current practice. After sharing with administration, the principal said that he would try to add collaboration time to the schedule. A template for reporting critical information to AEP per trimester was also established.
Actually being at the school and having the ability to separate the teachers by grade level proved much more efficient and productive. Teachers have improved their practice over previous years and it was gratifying to be a part of the higher level of dialogue and questioning that they brought to the sessions.
At the close of the day, the board of education chair-woman addressed the group, along with Bishop John. What a day!
Bishop John and Helen Visit
Arriving on September 22, Bishop John Danbinta and his wife, Helen, embarked on a whirlwind visit before departing from New York on October 6.
After a day of rest, the Bishop joined the AEP Board for an all-day meeting to discuss progress and next steps. Board members Angela Dimezza and Paul Frank joined us, having driven up to Connecticut from our sister church in Akron, Ohio. Aside from being a wonderful reunion, it was a great day of fellowship and dialogue. We were able to outline a clear vision of our next steps and determine costs and a possible timeline.
After meeting with the Board, Bishop John and Helen attended churches in New London and Bloomfield, leading weeknight bible studies. Free-will offerings were collected and connections made for possible partnerships in the future.
A potluck dinner was held at St. Peter’s Church, our home base, to serve as a meet and greet for supporters from both St. Peter’s Church and Trinity Church, Tariffville. About forty guests were in attendance. A wonderful time was had by all, with time to talk with the couple and share experiences.
For the final few days, Bishop and Helen traveled to New York, where they stayed with pastor friends until their departure early on Friday morning, October 7. Connections were made for networking with another church in the Bronx. The couple returned safely to Nigeria and has taken time to settle back into a routine, after the wedding of their daughter on October 22.