Monday, July 12, 2010

The new COCONUT is here!

With Summer in full bloom, it is time again for us to release the latest edition of the Coconut, our I.S.A.B.T. newsletter.

There is a lot to share in this edition of the Coconut, including write ups and interviews about our new book club programs, Ghanaian newspaper articles about shipping resources, and colorful imagery from Africa.

If you would like to receive a full color printed version, please send us your address and we will mail you a printed copy.

Thank you again to everyone who has made an effort to enhance the education of our children around the world.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Quame's Corner

Quame Zowonu is a teacher, author, and one of I.S.A.B.T.’s representatives in Ghana. Quame is a huge help in organizing and facilitating our projects on the ground and maintaining connections with the schools and teachers we work with in West Africa. We decided to ask Quame a few questions about his experiences working with I.S.A.B.T. on educational projects in Ghana.

"Our beginnings may be small but like the mustard seed we know that with the support from like minded people who share the thought of giving back to society what God has given them we would extend and spread all over Ghana and move across to other countries in Africa reaching every child on our way.

Currently the course of improving the lives of Ghanaian children has been yielding a lot since, not withstanding our meager resources, we have made a tremendous impact in Ghana with our presence in three out of the ten regions (namely Greater Accra, Central and Volta Region.) The satellite schools we work in have reading clubs that serve as models for other schools in the area. The clubs serve as a conduit through which we reach the rest of the schools in the region.  For instance, through this influence St. James Business College, Denu (Volta Region) has set aside the first 30minutes of every day’s lesson for reading story books only. This has been dubbed “the silence time for reading”.

We have a saying that goes, “Train up a child in the way he should go and he shall not depart from it.”  With this in mind, our main focus is children in the basic schools, but we have not left out the secondary and the tertiary level students. We have made donations such as a video conferencing system to Cape Coast Polytechnic University (in the central region) to enhance their academic work with regard to distance learning. Computers and its accessories were also donated to Elmina Methodist Junior High School to enhance their computer skills while to the Teshie Southern Cluster of Schools a donation of books was made to enhance their reading and referencing.

The International School of Art, Business and Technology (I.S.A.B.T) creates opportunities to give back to humanity a token of what God has given to us. Working with I.S.A.B.T  since it was founded has been an eye opener  for me to see first hand what my younger brothers and sisters in rural and urban Ghana (and the whole of Africa) are going through to attain academic laurels for themselves and the country as a whole. When the idea or the concept was first discussed with me, by the founding president of I.S.A.B.T Jonathan Thurston, I must admit that I thought it would be difficult for Ghanaian children to create and write their own books for publication. This naivety came as a result of the structure of the Ghanaian Educational Curriculum which does not encourage much creativity and self belief, which I have been part of for a very long time. I thank God for the Ghanaian children proving me wrong and further proving to me that when given the opportunity they can take after great African writers such as Atu Kwei Okai, Ayikwei Armah, Efua Sutherland, Ama Atta Aidoo, Ola Rotimi and the likes. It donned on me that when in a class of 20 every child writes a book and then the books are rotated among them in that same class, a child would have read 20 books by the time the rotation ends. This implies that this child would have also been influenced by the different styles of writing that would have been brought to bear by the young writers. As often as they write, they would improve their vocabulary which eventually improves their language and also arouses their interest and desire to read other peoples’ work. Silently we would be bringing up an educated African with the desire to use his or her life wisely while others identify their talent in writing, hence this strengthened my conviction and commitment to the cause of I.S.A.B.T."

Monday, July 5, 2010

Nyeri Kenya Bookmaking Project

A group of volunteers from Pennsylvania State University Berks just returned from working in Nyeri, Kenya after conducting a bookmaking and publishing program.  The group worked with the Children and Youth Empowerment Centre to help their students to  make/write books and become authors. The project, generously funded and supported by the Beaver Community Service Endowment Fund and the University Office of Global Programs at Pennsylvania State University in Berks County, was a HUGE success!

“We were literally running 5 workshops per day for 5 days to give every child the opportunity (to make books) By night, I was working with the teacher and the Director of  C.Y.E.C. to develop their first math textbook and workbook combination” said project leader Andrea Pfaff. She went on to say, “Working with I.S.A.B.T.  on the RealeBooks project at the Children and Youth Empowerment Centre in Nyeri, Kenya was eye-opening and inspiring.  My students and I were impressed with the creativity of the children, but more so by their excitement to create their own storybook.  The stories that were written ranged from a basic ABC book for those children who were still just learning to read and write, to folktales and fairy tales retold, to personal autobiographies.  Some of the stories made us laugh, some made us cry, and some honestly inspired us to change the way we live our own lives. To hear about these children’s struggles and then to observe their resilience and strength left me profoundly speechless and amazed.  Most importantly for our project’s sake, I was taken aback by the great extent to which these children value education.  My observation is that a child finding a donor to fund their high school education is similar to an American winning the lottery; it is that life changing. Upon returning home, it is nearly impossible not to remind ourselves of how grateful we are to have loved ones, family and the opportunities we have been given in our lives and in our country.  Education, in particular, is invaluable and, I believe, is the key to a brighter future. Programs such as this spread that hope throughout the world so that one day education may be accessible to all those who desire it; For this, our world may be a better place. I want to sincerely thank the International School of Art, Business and Technology for paving the way with this wonderful program and for unselfishly sharing the gift of education with the world.  I also want to thank the Pennsylvania State University Office of Global Programs and the Beaver Community Service Endowment Fund of Penn State Berks for giving this opportunity not only to myself and my students, but to the children of the C.Y.E.C. who deserve it so much.”

All of the volunteers plan to return to Kenya and continue with the project. As project volunteer Kasie Lynch puts it, “I would definitely love to help the kids make more books... they have so much potential”. She later wrote to us, “I think that the book making project is great! I would have never imagined that some of the children would write stories like they did. The first day when we told them about the project, one student came up to me and asked if he could write a novel. I was shocked! ‘A novel, sure why not?’ I said we could show him how to use the software and he could keep on writing. Everything about the project was perfect. These students have never been given the opportunity to do something like this. For some, it was hard to get them to dive into their imagination to create a story, but once they did, they did not want to stop. The children are creative, smart, and ambitious. With a project like this, it will open the door to so many new experiences and opportunities." For more information on starting a book club in your community and exploring the power and potential of books, please contact us and visit

Special thanks to volunteers Andrea Pfaff, Kasie Lynch, Miriam Ellis, Mehari Ghebremicael, Owen Reitnauer, Nicole Messner, Meghann McGuire, Alice Holland, and Brittany Holland for working so hard and making such a meaningful impact in the lives of young children in Africa.