Deborah Foti - IT Teacher in Ghana
A career working in IT.
Deborah travelled to Ghana, West Africa, for 3 months, using her skills and experience gained from working in IT to teach computer skills at a church group in a disadvantaged area. This is what she had to say about the project:
"I am a type A personality and knew from previous Peace Corps experience I had to slow down my pace and most importantly had to allow each day to develop as it was supposed to rather than get overly focused on my agenda. When I did this it was amazing what interesting experiences occurred and the opportunities to learn from so many who were willing to share their life experiences."
The Project Partner
Mr. George Kwapong was the minister of the church at which Deborah worked and he had a number of staff members who also worked alongside volunteers. Mr. Samuel Amoah-Opare and Mr. Eugene Apea Owiredu were the Directors of the Youth IT Centre. All three have been working at the church for a number of years, benefiting from donations from previous volunteers to provide young Ghanaians the chance to learn about IT and computing. Both Samuel and Eugene have previous experience working in IT and they were able to help Deborah settle into the job and offer advice about communicating with the young children. At the same time, they were not expert teachers so they were keen to learn new methods of presentation from Deborah. In this way they were able to build a strong working relationship and take the centre forward.
Role of the Volunteer
Deborah’s role at the IT Centre included the following:
- Teaching classes of 4-6 students from ages 14 to 20.
- Developing three week course curricula (there were no books) for teaching Introduction to Computers, Introduction to MS Word and Introduction to Excel.
- Developing and administering course testing materials to assess sufficient knowledge levels which when achieved would result in certificates of achievement.
- Documenting teaching plans and testing exams so they could be used by subsequent instructors.
- Maintaining and restoring computer hardware which had been infected with computer viruses from previous unprotected internet access.
- Developing relationships with the church administration and the Youth Centre staff to foster intercultural understanding.
Benefits to the community
The work of Samuel and Eugene over the years and Deborah’s added help have combined to provide the following benefits to the local community:
- They maintained the running of a program which provided opportunities to local youth and would otherwise have ceased to exist due to lack of funding to pay an instructor.
- The computer skills of local students have been expanded so they will be better prepared for a wider variety of jobs.
- Relationships were developed with volunteers, students and their families to enable and encourage open dialogue about their respective cultures.
- They helped develop critical thinking skills among young people and encouraged an environment in which it was safe to ask questions.
Deborah lived with a Ghanaian family throughout her stay in Ghana. Her host family consisted of a host mother, two older brothers (Ransford, 26 and Frank, 32), two younger brothers (Charles and Sylvester, both 13) and a younger sister (Linda, 12). Frequently other new faces appeared and disappeared, staying as long as they wanted to, without introduction.
For the first six weeks of her stay there were two Swiss female volunteers (also with Projects Abroad) living at the house. They were useful because they showed Deborah how to get around the community and where to buy much-needed supplies. The host family provided all of her meals and one bucket of water per day for washing. Every evening there was a cooked meal which was different food than the family ate and eaten separate from the family. The family explained that it showed honour to your (foreign) guest to serve them dinner separately, so no matter how much they tried, the family would not permit the volunteers to eat with them.
Deborah walked, rather than taking a taxi, to the Youth Centre every day, about a 15 minute walk, so that she could be out in the community. This allowed her to talk to people as she went and allowed them to see that she was approachable. Most Ghanaians thought a 15 minute walk was too long and found it odd that she would choose to do this. However, she loved the children running up to her - so excited to see her even though they had never met before. This encouraged her to continue to mingle with as many local people as possible and blend in like a true Ghanaian.
Some of her most meaningful experiences came at work when she sat with the Director and Assistant Director of the Youth Centre (Samuel and Eugene) and talked about everything and anything. They asked questions about her culture and life and she did the same. Because they shared the same faith they were able to have lively discussions about how different aspects of their lives and faith intertwined. Deborah also learned about their visions for the Youth Centre and the struggles that kept them from moving forward in achieving their goals. In this way she really felt a deep connection with her peers and this encouraged her to work harder to achieve something meaningful for the church and the IT Centre.