Thursday, April 3, 2014


Hello Family and Friends!!

AGO!...... AME! This is a calling used to get people attention. Ago is the greeting and Ame is the response. I’ve actually only heard it in the Markets here, however on my last trip to Ghana we used it ritually with out tour guide. For my teacher friends this might be a fun way to regain the attention of your class!

Well the term is coming to an end at City of Refuge Ministries (CORM). Next week is finals weeks so the students have been busy preparing and prepping for their exams. As a result of their reviewing I was not able to take all my groups last week and this week. Well I guess I wasn’t able to take my groups this week because I have been home sick the last few days. I feel horrible not being at school and spending time with the kids before schools out. Luckily I have about 3 or so more weeks here so even once the term ends I’ll be able to visit the kids at compound! Last week on Tuesday I spent the night at CORM. I’m sure most of you saw on Facebook I now am a true Ghanaian and have Long braids!!!! I absolutely LOVE them! A staff member from CORM who is enrolled in a trade school focusing on hair was able to do my hair! She has done many others hair so I was really confident that she would do an awesome job. AND SHE DID! She said they could stay in for about 2 months if I want them to. I’m not going to lie I’m very tempted to keep them in for graduation but I’m not totally sure yet! I know I’ll keep them in for a while because I defiantly want to come back to the States with a BANG! It did take awhile to do my whole head. We started on Tuesday, then worked on it on and off on Wednesday then completely finished on Thursday! I know that seems like forever and believe me I was pretty anxious, but it was totally worth it! The total process took 6 hours. My process took a long time because I had very limited time that she could work on my hair. They have been in for a week now and I am so happy I got them done! Like I said things have been a little slow this week because I have been sick so I don’t have too much to report on in regards to my internships.

Well last Friday after my class with my supervisor I had a mini reality check. I’m going back to the States in less then a month and I have A LOT of work to do in terms of my schooling in the States. I have to complete my “thesis” by the 17th of April and I have 2 videos to work on and another class to finish up. So needless to say I needed to get creaking on my homework. So my plan WAS to stay home on Saturday. My host family planned to go to a funeral in Elima, a Aunt passed away within the family. Although it was directly related to the family, they still were expected to go and “show face”. Now for those of you who don’t recall from my last post, Elima is about 3 or so hours away, so it’s a drive. Well like I said my plan was to stay home and work on homework however, my family had different plans for me. They said I had to go because I was family and I must show face with them…. Plus homework is boring! So obviously I had to go which I was NOT opposed to at all! We traveled 3 hours there, I mostly slept but when I was awake the view was Gorgeous! The color of all the bushes and trees were such an eye-catching deep green. Once we arrived to the village where the Aunty had lived, we met the family members and close friends. The chief of the village was also present. I could spot which person was the Chief because he wore a traditional black fabric that wrapped around his body. He also had many gold chains hanging from his neck. As we took our seats a mod of small children surrounded me. Mark and Rebecca both laughed and said “ Oh no Marya is in trouble”. I’m assuming by everyone’s reactions to my presents they were not expecting an Obruni at the festivities. The children got cleared away by one of the Elders who then proceeded with the greeting. I’m not sure in all funerals but at this one we shook the hands of the immediate family about 5 times. First we were greeted as we sat down, they were all in a line (about 10 people) and shook each of our hands. We then presented our donation to the family in respect for their loss. They again made their rounds shaking our hands. After that round of shaking hands we went to a different part of the community that was the “resort” that’s were the food and beverages were offered. We sat right on the beach as we ate our DELICIOUS Fufu and enjoyed a Malt. We stayed at the tables for about an hour or so. I strolled the beach one last time before we rejoined the festivities. Once we arrived back to the main area, we AGAIN we’re greeted. We stayed for 15 minutes or so to show face, and then we decided to leave which as you probably guess we were greeted again! We stayed for a total of 2 hours and drove a total of 8 hours. I was so tired but astonished by the respect and dedication people have for funerals in Ghana. It truly was an amazing experience. Well that’s all my traveling I have done lately. I’m hoping to do a little more before I go back to the States!

Comments/ Thoughts
It’s really hard to believe I’m leaving in less than a month. I try not to think about it but it’s always on my mind. It’s just going to be a big change from what I’ve come to know in the past 3 months. I have almost everything squared away for graduation, just a few minor details to finish up but nothing to fret over. I am excited to see my family and friends and enjoy my last month as a undergrad student at the school I love and call home.. Carthage J Also a BIG thanks to all of those who sent their love and good Vibs my way this week! I’m feeling much better so I’m sure I’ll be back to my full self tomorrow.

That’s all for now! As always thank you for your love and support through my amazing journey!

By the way this is a picture of me in my Sweet braids!!! 

Marya J

Monday, March 24, 2014


Why is Ghana the MotherLand? 

There are many reasons why Ghana is called The Mother Land, the reason that my Host family and some of my friends say, Ghana is called the Mother Land because Ghana is an Island of Peace, Despite the numerous of conflicts that surround Ghana the country has remained strong and together. I feel that this is a beautiful and pure explanation of why Ghana is the Motherland. 

So this weekend has been very busy yet relaxing at the same time! I just recently posted pictures on facebook and on an older post just to give you a visual of what my days are like here in Ghana! I really hope you enjoy them! I have many more to post as well as videos however, due to the cost of uploading photos and viedos I’m going to wait to add more until I come home!

My work at CORM has been VERY busy! I facilitate 3 groups throughout the week (2 or more times a week) I also am doing reading groups every day. The reading groups are designed to empower and enhance the student’s abilities to read. Everyday I go into at least 2 classrooms and read with the students. The students are separated into three groups (Below, Basic, and Advanced readers) I usually am paired up with the Below group. We then have a book to read which we will read until they have fully mastered the book. The other helpers in the room have the all children read aloud together. I find this is distracting because there are over 20 kids in one classroom and reading different books. I have come up with my own strategy, I have my group divided into two groups and each student will read one page if the student can read the page without any mistakes that “team” gets one point. I find making the reading into a game motivates the students to do better! In my empowerment group we discussed Positive and Negative self talk and peer pressure. I struggled with the first day to engage the students. The second day I found that acting really helps the kids to comprehend the topic. So I had different staff members place negative and positive characteristics that others can “label” you. I had the student identify the positive and negative words. We then took all the negative words we ever have been “labeled” with them we burnt the words. The students responded very well and strongly to this activity. I felt very empowered and fulfilled.


I have not been able to go to STY because there has been an outbreak of the mumps. My supervisor has asked me not to come in just in case I get sick. Even though I have had the mumps vaccination it’s better to be safe than sorry! However I did learn that 20 students have been sponsored to go to school and 12 more are in the process for getting sponsored. So that’s great NEWS!!

So two weeks ago I went to Cape Coast as my “Spring Break” I took Wednesday through Friday off of work and class. I traveled with Katy and Kirsten we left on Wednesday afternoon and I came back Sunday night. The bus/ Tro tro there took about three hours. Once we arrived in Cape Coast I contacted my friend Blankson who I met last year during my travels in Ghana. He picked us up from the bus spot and took us to Cape Coast Castel. He is the head tour guide at both Elima and Cape Coast Castles. He literally wrote the book on the castles. It was great to see him and catch up with our old friend. The castles were breath taking. Last year when I traveled to Ghana we did tour both castles so I had an idea of the history behind each castle. It was still very emotional and overpowering to walk throughout the castle that once was used for slave trade. We stayed at Elima bridge house, which was right across from the Elima Castel. We then spent the next day on the beach, we were allowed to spend the day at the Elima beach resort which had a BEUTIFUL pool and was right on the beach. We all got pretty burnt but we enjoyed our time. That night we ate at the Cape Coast Castel Restaurant. Then we were walking to get a taxi when we heard drumming. There was a performance by the group called “African Footsteps” they go around Africa and preform and teach their style of drumming and dancing. The next day was filled with sun, swimming, and shopping! I had a FANTASTIC time in Cape Coast!
This last weekend I visited Katy at her placement in Matsekope. She lives in a village outside the Ada region. It was very interesting to see how different our placements are. We visited her work place and visited with her family. The family she stays with, are apart of royal family. Her housemother is the sister of the Chief. There are also three young girls that live in the house as well. The village is very different from my home in Mataheko. I felt that life moved much slower in the village compared to where I live. I am having a difficult time explaining the difference so I’ll just show you when I get a chance to post more photos. Pictures will give you a better idea of where Katy and I live!  I enjoyed my weekend living the “village” Life however it was nice to return to my home and family in Mataheko.

I think that is all for now! I’ll post soon!
Thank you for all your support and encouragement throughout my journey!

Marya J

Wednesday, March 12, 2014


This is at the Autism Awareness Training Center  (AATC)
There are ALOT of kids to one small room, they are hoping to fundraise to move to a larger building!

 My silly buddy who not only LOVED to take my camera and take photos but who LOVED to do silly faces!

 This is on March 6th which is the Independence day for Ghana.
The cadets will march throughout the town.

 This is my pal who lives in Doryume the town next to where I work at CORM. She is such a sweetie!
This is one of the Silly girls who I work with... We were supposed to be using the bucket to fetch water but she had some other plans....

This is my buddy at Save Them Young. She is such a silly girl. All the kids at STY LOVE to play with tires either sitting in them or rolling them. It's defiantly the simple things that bring happiness. 

I'll post later this week with my day to day events. I just thought I would share some Photos! 
And just so everyone knows I did get permission to post these pictures and notice I do not add names or ages to any photos just to ensure confidentiality! 

As always thank you for your love and support! 

Marya :) 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Da yie ...... Good Night

Hello Friends and Family!!

This is my week 9 of my amazing ADVENTURE! I cannot tell you how serial this experience has been thus far. A few times a day I have to remind myself where I am and what I’m doing with my time. I love every bit of my placement, culture, and the people. I do miss home I’m not going to lie, I guess I miss more of the amenities such as water, electricity, feeling clean, easy/fast transportation, and of course faster and unlimited internet. Ha Although I miss all those things I would rather be deprived of that excessive things and extend my stay!

Things at CORM have been the same. I have my self- esteem group every day. However I will no longer be doing one- on – ones and rather I will add 3 more groups to my day! I will be facilitating an Anger management group, Respect and appropriate behavior group, and a social skills group. I will also be going into the KG classes and teach about emotions and appropriate behavior! It pretty abnormal to just be adding these groups in the middle of the term but I love the flexibility and freedom to add or discontinue my services as needed. This week my Self-esteem group and I created a large poster to hang on our bulletin. On the poster we came up with characteristics that make up our own identity. The students were really proud and excited about the project. It is now proudly hanging outside our classroom.
STY: My days always seem to be different each time I go to Save Them Young. This week I did do my individuals with the four students like usual. I also created a new project for myself to occupy my time. As I was playing with the little kids I came across a VERY disorganized room filled with donated items such as Clothing, book, toys, ect. I was so excited to see all the donations however I was confused why there was no organization to the items and WHY the items weren’t being used! So it is not my task to organize this room with a few of the older kids. I know this is not a social worker task however I see the need and I plan to satisfy the need! I still play with the children and basically hug and kiss babies all day which is TOTALLY fine with me! Some good news to share is that there is ANOTHER housemother that joined the Save Them Young team. This is so exciting to see! Within my time spent as STY I have seen 5 women join the team and provided the needed care for all the children. The orphanage is in much better condition now than is was when I first arrived. The facility is much cleaner and more organized. The children seen to have most of their basic needs met as well which is always a good thing!
SHOUT OUT TO ALL THE UK STUDENTS!!!- All the kids miss you and wish you were still there! They all call me all of your names! I really don’t know if they know my real name. You guys did such amazing work there and really impacted the kids!
I have a social life?! Haha I have been CRAZY busy that sometime I feel like my whole life is internship, which honestly I don’t mind! However, I do have a social life. Amy, Katy, Rikki, and myself often travel together on the weekends. This last weekend I was unable to travel with them to a local beach because I have a wedding to go to which I’ll talk about next! On Wednesday nights there is a bible study within the community I live in. Rikki, Amy and myself attend along with other volunteers from CORM and other Obruni missionary families. The bible study is a time when all the Obrunies can get together for a “check in” just to discuses any cultural issues or just American social time. Of course there is an actual bible study aspect to the group. I still have yet to meet up with my friend Michael whom I met last time I was in Ghana. I’m hoping to meet with him this weekend or next week! I’ll let you know how that goes!

 All right everybody so my wish came true! I went to A Ghanaian wedding which was AMAZING! The bride and groom are friends my Mark and Rebecca’s (House parents). They went to Secondary school with the couple. There were many similarities and many differences between a wedding in America and Ghana.
The bride wears a white dress with a vale. There was a mother- son; and daddy- daughter dance! I thought that was really sweet! The wedding took place in the church that we attend on Sundays. The reception was outside at the Marina University. It was BEAUTIFUL! During the ceremony, which took about 2 hours, there were 10 bridesmaids and 10 groomsmen. The church was FILLED! People were even outside listening to the service. The color scheme was white and royal purple. One difference I noticed immediately was that guests wore all different types of clothing ranging from prom dresses to jeggings and a nice top. Also the guests are welcome to wear any color. I saw people in WHITE dress, which in the States is not common for anyone besides the bride to wear white. Also close friends of the couple wore purple (the color scheme) to signify their close relationship with the couple. I wore purple because Rebecca told me to. It was a beautiful ceremony. Although in true Ghana fashion the service was to start at 1 and didn’t start till 2:30. Also the guests were welcome to come at ANYTIME even in the middle of the service. This is much different than the States! We only stayed for a short time at the reception because we had Michele and Elisa with us and they were getting restless. I was SO honored and blessed to take part in the wedding and experience a true Ghanaian Wedding! I wish I took pictures, although it was completely acceptable to take photos I felt uncomfortable taking pictures because I did not know the couple.
Other Comments
This experience is honestly indescribable. I am so blessed to have this opportunity. I just saw on Facebook that we will be graduating in less than 3 months and somehow I don’t believe its true. Maybe it’s because of the distance and the fact that I’m not on Campus but I cannot believe I will be leaving in 2 months and graduating in less than 3 months. TIME IS MOVING BY WAY TO FAST!

Well I think that’s all for now! I’ll post again hopefully next Sunday!

As always thank you for your love and support as I continue my amazing journey!

Marya J

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Me ma wo aha.........Good Afternoon

Hello everyone!!!

I hope you all enjoyed the pictures I posted! I will put more up in a few weeks. Downloading and uploading items takes a lot of credit for Internet so I will post pictures periodically! I never really described how Internet and phones work here in Ghana. I purchased a modem, which looks like a thumb drive and add credits to the program, which allows me Internet access. I buy about 15 Cedis every 3-4 weeks depending on how often I use my Internet. For the phone my supervisor provided me with a phone (the old old Samsung), which is very basic, used for calls and texting. I do the same thing as the Internet; I have to buy credits, which I buy every 2 weeks.

Work/ Internship

My past couples of weeks have been very busy with meetings, travel, field trips, and more! At Save Them Young, I have been pretty busy with individual sessions! My friend Katy went with me to the agency and took a few pictures of me working with the kids so I’ll have her share those ASAP! It’s pretty exciting at Save Them Young right now because they just recruited three more housemothers! Even within the past weeks or so there is a big change is organization, sanitation, and overall well-being of the children! There is still a lot of chaos however it seems to be more manageable chaos now. At my placement CORM I am making a lot of progress with my group. We have officially moved on from emotions and progressing towards the meaning of self-identity and increasing self-esteem. I have a great relationship with my group we joke, chat, and play a lot of Futbol (soccer).
This week at CORM the students had mid terms so I did not have my group, this week I focused on my curriculum planning and future ideas for groups. I finished all my work by Wednesday, which gave me a day of free time. I had a great idea to visit an agency that I have previously visited while I was in Ghana last year. Autism Awareness Center Training (AACT) is the ONLY program in Ghana to cater to children with autism. I called the Director Aunty Serwah and asked if I could come to visit. My visit turned into a full staff training session and a collaborative meeting with a speech pathologist, Special Education Specialist, and a disability “lobbyist” from Accra. All the professionals have either helped at AACT or have a child in the program! I had the opportunity to share my personal experience of working with children with Autism/ other disabilities; I also led a staff training session demonstrating effective communication skills and sensory therapy for the children. I felt very empowered throughout the day at the center; I felt that the staff and other professional really valued my information and suggestions that I had to offer. Days like that are the days I know I made the BEST decision to complete my final internship in Ghana. I am so fortunate to have this opportunity to experience a completely different culture and amazing people.

On Friday my class, which consists of Katy, Beth, and myself took a fieldtrip to a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center.  We participated in the morning rituals and took part in the reflection. I have never experienced any AA or similar meetings so this was a first time experience for me! At the Center they base their program and The A.A. Curriculum. It was very inspiring to see a program like this be successful in Ghana. The awareness of AODA like many other diseases are very limited and not acknowledged in the culture. This may be due to the stigma, cost, and overall knowledge of addiction. 

Two weeks ago Katy, Amy, Rikki, Janet, and myself traveled to Adafuo. We stayed at a resort, which the sand was our floor and palm branches were our roof and sides of the hut! It was such a fun experience. We stayed right in the middle of Volta River and The Ocean! It was such a beautiful and relaxing place! I finished two of my books in our time spent there. I also had AMAZING tilapia which I’m sure was caught that morning! We met some other foreigners from the U.K and U.S.A. The next weekend Janet and Rikki met up with our new friends and traveled together to Okosombo. No matter where you are from people always are so friendly and interested in your story of what brought you to Ghana. I’m hoping to travel to Cape Coast in a few weeks as my Spring Break to visit a friend of mine whom I met last year while I was in Ghana! I can’t wait to tour the Elmina and Cape Coast Castel which both were used in the Slave Trade.  I’ll keep you posted on my travels as I continue my blog! Yesterday (Saturday) I traveled with Amy, Rikki, and Kristin to the Accra Art Market! We arrived early so it was a relaxing day to shop. I purchased some jewelry, paintings, and clothing! The Markets here are relatively cheap you just have to know how to haggle. The sellers will give you the Obruni price, which is really high! Most will settle for about half the original price. 

Other comments
I haven’t been too homesick as of now. I did facetime with my family yesterday, which made me really miss them! My niece Ebba is getting SOOO Big so it’s really hard to miss out on those major mile stones like rolling over which she’s doing!! My host family makes me feel right at home and apart of the family so it’s makes it easier being away from my family. I was counting the weeks until I’m back home and it’s only 9 weeks away!! I cannot believe it’s that soon, I am definitely NOT ready to go home yet, I still have so much to do and achieve! I feel like I just arrive.

Well I believe that is all for now! I’ll be sure to blog next week sometime to keep you updated on my journey!

As always thank you for all your love and support!

Marya! J  

Friday, February 14, 2014


 Hello everyone I have finally uploaded pictures! There are only a few but there are more on Facebook if you want to see more! ENJOY!

Every morning at CORM the staff and students attend Assembly and then march to their classes. 

This is a young child from Save Them Young Orphanage. 

Another happy boy from Save Them Young! 

These are the two precious little girls I have the wonderful privilege to live with! Elisa (10 mo.)  is on the Left  & Michelle (4 yrs) on the right! 

Just a picture with Michelle playing with the Photo Booth on my computer! 

Alright everyone these are just a few photos from my experience so far! I'll upload some more soon! As always Thank you for all your encouragement and support!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Wo ho te sen?.... Me ho ye (How are you.... I am fine.)

Hello Friends and Family!!

I am sorry for the long delay in my posts. I have been extremely busy and have not found the time to post! I have almost been in Ghana for a month now! On the 7th of February it will officially be a month! My days are so filled with so many activities, interactions, and TON of walking that my days go by so fast! I have been so busy these past few weeks with The City of Refuge, Save Them Young, Social interactions, and travel!

My work at City of Refuge has been very productive so far. As you know I am facilitating an empowerment group with three students. I do have a curriculum that I have previously used in my past experience however when I attempted to use it here it was not successful. The concept of empowerment, self-confidence, self-identity, and self-esteem are not fully understood or prevalent to the youth here in Ghana. I had to take some time to think of how to present these concepts in a way that Ghanaian students would understand and relate. I spoke with the Administrative assistant Sir Stanly, who gave me great advice and direction of how to approach these topics with the students. So as of now I am going back to the basics! In the class we have been discussing different emotions and their meanings. This has been very successful; the students now have an understanding of emotions. The next step in my “progressive” Program is developing a sense of what “Identity” is to the students. I find that the more literal and basic I am the more the students tend to understand. This program is defiantly a work in progress. Throughout this process of amending my original curriculum has made me evaluate the difference in the cultures and how children learn differently based on their experiences and environment. This placement has defiantly been challenging, thought provoking and has given me the opportunity to be creative!
At Save Them Young, I have not completely defined my role, goals, and purpose for working there. I do have those three students, which I work individually with for an hour on social skills, sensory development, and cognitive development. However, there are so many children at Save Them Young I feel guilty working exclusively with those three students. I have divided my time there into two categories; 1. Social work Practice- Individual work the four students 2. Love and Attention - during this time I spend time with all the children showing all the children attention, love, and maintain the Chaos. The children there rarely see an Obruni (white person) and they have very limited exposure to affection and love. My only conflict with the second part of my day is answering this question… “Is it better to show the children to love, attention, affection for a limited time, then when I leave they will most likely not receive the positive attention (quit Cold Turkey). OR is it better to not show attention, love, or affection at all and when I leave it wont be any different?”
For those of you who know me, you know I love children and not giving the children attention or love would NOT be easy for me! The more and more I think about how the children will be affected once I leave the more I pull back. I have stopped thinking about how I am affected when I’m with the children, and focused on how they will feel in the near future when I leave. Other then my internal conflict I am doing great there. It’s still very chaotic and disorganized however; I love my time there. Also if you have a comment about internal struggle please SHARE!

Well so far my travel has been pretty limited. Last weekend I went to Cohobate beach about an hour outside of Accra. It was more of a resort for tourist. The trip took about 3 hours to arrive to the hotel. Sadly my friends and I were not the smartest and neglected to make reservations. We ended up sleeping in TENTS! What was defiantly an experience, I mean when else can you say “yeah I slept in a tent off a Ghanaian beach!” It wasn’t too bad actually. The beach was beautiful, although the day was cloudy and the sun didn’t shine as we’d hoped but it was still very relaxing! At the resort we met a group of English students who have spent the last three weeks touring Ghana. They worked at the local schools in Tema and they also helped out at Save Them Young! It was exciting to share stories of the children and our ideas about how to help the orphanage. This next weekend I am hoping to travel with a few friends and a teacher for City of Refuge, we haven’t decided where yet but I’ll let you know ASAP!

Social Interaction!!
So I have Three American Friends that I’ve met through Beth (supervisor).
Katy is from my school and in the same program that I am in at Carthage so we previously knew each other.
Amy- She is working for Beth and her husband’s non for-profit organization in Accra. She is a Social worker from Portland and will be going back to school to get her MSW.
Rikki- She is a family friend of Beth’s and is completing her student teaching at City of Refuge. We travel to and from work together so that’s nice to have company!
Michael- I met Michael in Ghana last year when I did the j-term trip with 27 other students. He was one of our tour guides and now he is working at the University of Ghana with exchange students.
Well that is it for now! I will post sometime next week!

As always Thank you for all your love and support though my adventure!

Marya J