I first went to Dzogadze in 1999 during my first visit to Ghana with my teacher Frederick Kwasi Dunyo. I was staying at his village named Dagbamete but one day we went to his mother's village which is Dzogadze. He wanted to show us the cultural groups that exist there. I still remember the bumpy and dusty drive there, a road I would walk many times over the course of my visits. That day I was astounded at the power of the music and dance of Ghana and especially the Ewe people (that is the ethnic group/"tribe" of this area). I immediately knew I wanted to spend more time in this place to absorb some of that power.
When I returned to Ghana in 2002, one of my goals was to spend time in Dzogadze which I did for 2 of my 5 months. During that time I met one of my best friends in Ghana, Ledzi Agudzemegah whom I lived, ate and slept with. He was my teacher and introduced me to many people, young and old, in Dzogadze and surrounding areas. He was my guide and source of solace while away from home and he is now one of the trustees of the foundation. Over the two months during that visit I forged many special relationships and learned a tremendous amount about the people, land, culture, music and myself. In some small way I hope I taught something to the people there as well, but not nearly as much as I had learnt from them.
When I was planning to return to Ghana in 2007, 5 years later, I had the idea in my head to try and help the village in some way. Already I had contributed some money towards the purchase of electricity poles to facilitate electricity coming to the village, but I knew I could do more. I mentioned the idea to Kevin Giles of All Hallow's School in North River, a school I had done some teaching at. He was supportive of any venture I conjured up. After returning to Ghana and visiting Dzogadze again, I made a meeting with some chiefs, elders and Ledzi (as translator and "youth representative"). I told them I am in a position to help the village and asked them what is needed most. After some discussion they said that another school block would be the thing most needed at this point as some classes are being held outside under trees or inside of the church. Also, if the village was to build a structure, the Government of Ghana would absorb the cost of paying the teachers for those classes.
With this info in hand, we decided to create the Dzogadze Education Development Foundation which is overseen by two chiefs (as President and Secretary) and Ledzi (as treasurer..he is the person I trust the most and is training to be an accountant as well).
With fundraising carried out over a two year period, we were able to raise over $10,000 and the school block is now built!!!!
Since that event, yearly fundraising efforts have been carried out in Canada with funds going towards numerous causes and needs in the village. Some of these include:
- purchase of hundreds of “consumables” such geometry sets, pens, pencils, notebooks (which most students can’t afford and keeps them from attending class)
- school uniforms
- purchase of 100 mosquito nets for nursing mothers and children in the village
- we put electricity in the junior high block
- created a computer lab in the junior high block (JSS) (with a few laptops/desktops from Canada)
- helped contribute towards the water reservoir project (which ensures a constant and clean water supply for the village)
- major renovation of the 50+ yr old JSS school block. It is the oldest building in the school complex (about 50+ years) and it looks that way and was in danger of having the foundation erode
But a major initiative that is under a trial basis is the implementation of a scholarship for the students graduating from the village's schools who must venture to the senior high schools outside of Dzogadze. What this means is that they must incur a great expense to travel and/or live in another town, pay school fees and feed themselves. This cost is at times too much for the family to bear and many students do not go past the JSS level.
Our scholarship will award the top ranking boy and girl with 80% of their tuition for their 3 years at Senior High School.
At present, there are 6 students from the Dzogadze area receiving support for their secondary schooling. They are as follows:
Olivia Makafui Gidi, Victoria Atineku
Nelson Azaglo, Solomon Amegayibor
Miriam Bavor, Raymond Baragbor