Josh Hardesty ’13 and Emmy Robichaud ’13 teach English in Ghana
July 19, 2012 By Elizabeth Trollinger
summer teaching English in Ghana through the Cheerful
Hearts Foundation, a local charity. Above, the two walk on a
canopy over the rainforest while camping in Kakum National
Park in the Central Region of Ghana.
“I try to prove to my students that each one is irreplaceable,
brilliant and independent,” says Robichaud (above, in Ghana).
“Becoming a part of this structure has provided me with
knowledge and insight and interactions that I could not have
found anywhere else,” says Hardesty (above, teaching).
With the assistance of Cargill Fellowships and stipends through the Bonner program, Centre students Josh Hardesty ’13 and Emmy Robichaud ’13 are spending the summer in Ghana working with the Cheerful Hearts Foundation, a local non-profit.
“As education interns, we are placed in local schools not only to teach, but to advocate a higher standard of education and uphold human rights,” Robichaud says.
Hardesty and Robichaud traveled to Africa together once before, which inspired them to return.
“Emmy and I both went to Cameroon with Dr. Hartmann-Mahmud for Centre Term 2011, so we have both had an interest in this area of the world and have been interested in coming back. Cameroon was just a very brief taste of what West Africa has to offer,” Hardesty says. “The opportunity came about unexpectedly. Emmy and I had both been looking for internships for the summer. I knew that I wanted to be abroad, and Emmy told me that she found an internship with a nonprofit in Ghana, so I decided to apply as well. After a lot of research, planning and parent-convincing, we finally got everything together and set off for seven weeks in Ghana.”
The two are teaching English at schools in Kasoa, Ghana.
“I’m the only English teacher at a school of about 250 students, so I teach an average of nine or ten classes per day,” says Robichaud. “I teach everything from beginner ESL to more advanced English grammar classes. While the official language of Ghana is English, the one most prevalently spoken is Twi. The language barrier can be difficult at times, but we always seem to figure it out.”
“I currently work at two schools, so this either means walking 45 minutes or taking a trotro—which is like a mini bus—depending on which school I'm headed to. Once I am at school I teach anywhere from three to eight hours a day and switch off between teaching English and French,” Hardesty says. “When I'm not teaching I am usually supervising a class or sitting in on another teacher's class. Teaching is so much more exhausting than I had ever imagined.”
Beyond their teaching duties, Hardesty and Robichaud are working to create a better learning environment at their schools—especially for children who are victims of child labor, who make up a large part of their classes.
“Despite having so little, the children are full of joy and resilience. One of my personal goals for the summer is to leave the school a better and safer place, one that protects and cultivates the growth of its most vulnerable children. My major project involves working closely with school officials to design sustainable after-school programs tailored to the needs of rescued child labor victims,” Robichaud says. “Most importantly, I work to ensure that these programs are self-sustainable and will continue long after I return to the U.S.
“I collaborate with the headmaster to implement various policies, such as the banning of beating children in the school and giving students a grace period if they are unable to produce school fees,” she continues. “With the help of a few dedicated students, I've also started a spelling bee club and a human rights watch club, both of which are great ways for the students to learn but also have lots of fun. All of these steps are small, but I have high hopes for what they'll lead to.”
Hardesty appreciates what the experience has taught him about Ghanaian culture and education.
“My interactions with both teachers and students—as well as the interactions between teachers and students—have given me an incredible look into the lives of the people in Kasoa and the culture in which they live,” he says. “Becoming a part of this structure has provided me with knowledge and insight and interactions that I could not have found anywhere else.”
Hardesty and Robichaud are thankful that their Cargill and Bonner awards afforded them this opportunity.
“This experience wouldn't have been possible without the funding, so we're both incredibly grateful,” says Robichaud.
Both of the students enjoy that their internships with the Cheerful Hearts Foundation are giving them the chance to put their education and experiences from Centre to work in Ghana.
“The past three years at Centre have instilled in me a passion for education reform, specifically involving underrepresented and minority populations,” says Robichaud. “My experience as one of the directors of the Warehouse After-School Program on campus led to my love for working with children who are often invisible. To spend every day of my summer teaching and advocating for such students really does often seem like a dream.”
“Studying is one thing, but actually being able see what you are studying in real life and apply your knowledge on the ground is entirely different,” Hardesty says.
All in all, Hardesty and Robichaud appreciate the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of the children they teach.
“They all have big goals: to be pilots, doctors and presidents. But they’re far too often convinced that they have no future in Ghana or elsewhere,” says Robichaud. “I try to prove to them that each one is irreplaceable, brilliant and independent. My favorite part is when the child realizes that he or she is indeed capable. In an environment that so often tells them that they can’t, my job is to prove to them that they can.”
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