Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Bricklaying Begins

October 16, 2011

Congratulations to everyone involved with Project OKURASE on coming to the phase of bricklaying for the vocational school that is part of the Nkabom Centre for Skills Training and Formal Education.  People from Okurase village learned to make the compressed earth bricks in a training program in the village. They then made the bricks that are being used to build the vocational school. The bricklaying is going well and rapidly bringing the first floor of the building together. We offer our strongest thanks to Mother Earth for providing the raw materials.

This is what creating change is all about – taking charge of your life’s direction, setting goals for what you know will work to bring change and save lives, creating partnerships for resources, and doing whatever it takes to realize those goals. Sometimes this process can be intense and long and takes great patience. Project OKURASE has been a great teacher of patience for us all.

 There is an African saying, “If you want to go fast go alone; If you want to go far go together”.  Together we can make it happen. Never give up hope.

Congratulations to the people of Okurase  – keep up the good work!

Bricklaying Begins


Bricklaying Continues


Bricklaying Takes Off!


Packing for Village Health Outreach Ghana 2011

June 12, 2011

Part of the team is heavily engaged in packing for the Village Health Outreach. This is the second packing session. How do you get 30 boxes of medicines and supplies into 7 suitcases?  Plus there are clothes and books.. So much. People have been so generous and we are deternined to get it all in. Thanks to everyone and thanks to the packers who are on the floor carefully organizing everything.  Sending a big hello from those here at the moment  – Eve, Clif, Kate, and Doreen… Ghana here we come!


June 6, 2011

Working in England for a few days. Got a call to come to Belgium. The Men’s Group of the Ambassador Club Westland had included us in their New Year’s Eve fundraiser and would like us to come and pick up donations and speak with a journalist.  So, my friend and colleague, Brigitte Squire (Dehouck) and I set out in her car for the train to tunnel under the English Channel and make our way to Belgium. Like all good African-related trips, a story was in the making that we did not realize. The first thing that happened was we began to smell an “oil-like” smell. The next thing that happened is the car stopped. Luckily we were able to get it to the side of the very busy motorway. After two hours of standing on the roadside and lots of phone calls we were rescued by a car rescue service and Brigitte’s friend Geoff. The car service took off with Brigitte’s car with promises that this was probably the end of the car’s engine. Geoff (after a lot of work to enable Brigitte to drive his car) took off with the car service and we proceeded to Belgium in Geoff’s car.  It was interesting being on the side of the motorway and having to quiet our minds and when you do that you notice things like beautiful wild flowers, a castle in the distance, a clear blue sky. The gift of slowed down time is rare and that was the positive side of this.

 We arrived in France and made our way to Belgium.  First we stopped by to visit Alice, Brigitte’s mother. She is in a retirement home in the city of Poperinge.  Alice feels very much that she is the grandmother to baby Afia in Ghana. She has pictures of her up in her room and talks to other residents and friends about her. Although Alice is on a very tight pension, she gave me money to help with Afia’s care. This will go to Ghana to help with the raising of this very special baby.

 Next we made our way to the home of Brigitte’s brother and sister-in-law – Damien and Brigitte. Very rapidly an afternoon and evening that would always be remembered began to unfold.  It seems that a very lovely man named Freddy Dereckx decided to make a sponsorship for Project OKURASE. Freddy is a brilliant man who designs and makes machines (conveyor belts and such) and he has a very giant heart of solid gold. He told us that it meant a lot to him to give a sponsorship directly to a person affiliated with Project OKURASE and he could see exactly where the money is going.  Freddy is a person who wants to make a difference and is looking for a way to do this that he can feel sure about. He feels sure about Project OKURASE.  Freddy shared with us some life lessons that I think are so important. Every day he sees people make money and spend it on getting more and more things for themselves but this does not result in happiness. He finds that reaching out to others, sharing and having a generous heart does result in happiness. These are important lessons for us all to keep in mind.

 We spent the afternoon talking, hearing about Freddy’s family that he is so proud of, and had a toast on behalf of Project OKURASE and to give a very big Akwaaba to Freddy into the Project OKURASE family. Now Freddy is part of an even bigger family.  Thank you so much Freddy for helping us continue the building of the vocational school that is started. We are extremely grateful for your loving heart, human kindness and consideration of others, and generosity.

 Along with Freddy was another very lovely man named Pieter-Jan  Breyne. Pieter-Jan is a journalist who came to talk with us for two reasons. First, he wanted cover the nomination and selection of Brigitte for Member of British Empire. This is an amazing award based on her work with youth offending in England and bringing Multisystemic Therapy to England. At some point she will receive the award directly from the Queen of England. The second reason for our interview was for Pieter-Jan to learn about Project OKURASE and get the word out in Belgium about what we are doing. Pieter-Jan is no stranger to Africa. He has conducted work with street children in the Congo and is quite knowledgeable. We look forward to seeing Pieter-Jan’s article. Thank you sooooo much Pieter-Jan.

 Damien, Brigitte and Brigitte spent some time in the evening talking about Afia, the baby in Ghana they helped save one year ago. Brigitte Squire had printed out photos of Afia and we looked at them and talked about the miracle of this baby who was near death. We were brought into her life by Project OKURASE and now she is a thriving baby of about a year and a half.

 After having a meal together (brilliantly prepared by Damien and Brigitte), we went to Freddy’s workshop to see some of the machinery he is designing. He is quite impressive. The next day we made our way back to England with an added richness from the time we spent with the wonderful people of Belgium.

 In closing and on behalf of Project OKURASE and the people of Okurase, I offer a great degree of thanks to Freddy, Pieter-Jan, Damien, Brigitte, Brigitte, and the men of The Ambassador Club Westland. May you see good health and long life and may you forever feel you are part of the family of Project OKURASE. We hope to see your continued involvement and we hope to see you in Ghana.



Cindy, Freddy, Brigitte Squire


Freddy and Cindy discussing Project OKURASE

Party With a Purpose to Support Project OKURASE

May 20, 2011

Come to the beach for…


 Wednesday, May 25, 2011 ~ 7:00pm – 9:30pm

712 Carolina Blvd., Isle of Palms

 Please join us for an unforgettable African cultural adventure!

 Djole West African Dance Co. will entertain with an energy-filled performance at 7:45pm.  Experience African rhythms on true, authentic handcrafted African drums, shop the boutique of artisan-created Ghanaian handcrafts …

and so much more!

Light refreshments provided. Lowcountry Barbeque available for purchase.

Happy Camper Snoballs will be partnering with Firefly Vodka to serve Sweet Tea Vodka Snoballs!

This is your chance to make a difference in the lives of children in West Africa. All donations are tax deductible.

Hosted by:  Dr. Cindy Swenson ~ Drs. Jim and Eve Spratt Edwards ~ Dr. Joseph and Melissa Bianco

Please RSVP to

Casual Attire

Miss Peggy

April 19, 2011

Miss Peggy Ravenel of Charleston is going through treatment for breast cancer. She is tired but getting through each day. Djole visited Miss Peggy tonight to check on her and to thank her. No matter what her struggles in life, Miss Peggy makes a $25 donation each and every month to Project OKURASE and has made this commitment for well over a year.  She wants to help make a difference. Please keep Miss Peggy in your thoughts as she continues on this health journey. Let us all be inspired by her life lived of generosity. We thank you Miss Peggy. We wish you speedy recovery, good health, and a long life. We need more people like you in this world.

Bernice – RIP, We Love You

March 18, 2011
Another of our wonderful children gone. Precious 9-year-old Bernice became ill and died. The cause of the sickness is unknown. There are so many possibilities. Bernice is one of the children that Project OKURASE sponsored for school through Holy Cross Church on Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina. She was a lovely girl who enjoyed going to school. She will be missed by all in Okurase and all of the Project OKURASE family everywhere.  Bernice – Rest in Peace. We love you.

Bernice in her school uniform made at Okurase Sewing Centre

It is time for Okurase to have quality medical care. It is past time. On behalf of Bernice, Rachel, and the other children who have died not having had the benefit of medical care or clean water –we are not giving up, we are moving forward. Your life has been an inspiration to us.
With Love,

ISLA – our hearts are with you

March 16, 2011

Project OKURASE sends our love to Kathy and Carl. We are deeply saddened to learn of the loss of your son Matthew. We will work with you to carry out his vision. ISLA and Project OKURASE families are one.  All our love to you – PO


March 5, 2011
 Dear Okurase family and interested folk:
I am here in the village and am writing to you because the building has been going on every day, people have been working their hearts out and we have come to a situation where we are out of resources. It’s not just a matter of stopping building for a bit. It’s a matter of committed village brick makers not being able to earn a living, feed their children and the strong possibility that we will lose our engineer who is on site to oversee the building. More than ever we need your back up. What do we do?
The bottom line is this – We need about 20,000 US dollars or 12,290 Pounds to keep going to the point that we can lay bricks. Donations can be made through the website
For the past weeks, as you all may be aware, we have continued to build the middle part of the building and work on finishing touches of the lower and upper parts, filling in with dirt/filling sand. We still have more filling to do. The next stage is to construct the top of the middle part that would be suspended to allow the water to freely flow under it.
Here are the needs:
Iron/steel rods
*5/8″ 2 tons GHC1038.50X2= GHC 2077.00
*1/2″ 4 tons  GHC 990.00X4= GHC 3960.00
*3/8″ 1 ton    GHC 684
* binding wire 1 bundle  GHC 35
Total GHC 6756.00 (GHC = Ghana Cedis)

Iron/steel rods
*Filling sand
*Concrete sand
*funds for transport of material etc
*Fund for payment of salaries for the month of February and March
*Funds for the payment of SSNIT and IRS for the months of February and March
*Funds for payment of Carpenter and Mason

Most part of the needs are estimated and stated below

1. 4 trips of stones from Quarry (88 cubit meters X GHC29 per cubic meter ) = GHC 2552.00

2. 250 bags of cement GHC12.20 X 259 = GHC3050.00
3. Transport for cement   (not yet known)
4. 250 pcs of board        250 X GHC4.00 = GHC1000.00
5. 20 trips of sand for concrete and more blocks (likely to be more) 20X GHC50.00 = GHC1000.00
6. 4 more trips of water 4X GHC70.00 = GHC280.00
7. 120 pcs of 2″x4″ wood (Excluding support woods for the decking. For the support we are looking at getting some bamboos around the area, which we expect to be cheaper than 2″x4″ woods)  120×3.50 = GHC 420.00
8. Transport for stones from Quarry GHC300.00×4 =GHC1200.00
9. 9 boxes of 2″, 3″ and 4″ nails      9xGHC 20.00 = 180
10. Not less than 15 more trips of gravel for filling (could be more) 15x GHC50.00 = GHC750.00
11. Salary for February and March-estimated at GHC1800.00X2=GHC 3600.00
12. SSNT and IRS for February and March-estimated at GHC 110.00
 14 transport for iron rods etc. Estimated at GHC 150.00

When we are done with building the middle part, we would need to hire a rumping machine to rump the inside of the building before we start laying the bricks.

Total budget for needs as estimated and stated above minus cost of transport for Cement etc is GHC 21048.00. So we need to plan around a budget of GHC 25000.000 or $17000.00 to complete the current stage of the building which is where we are now ( building the middle part in the wet area, that would be suspended to allow the water to flow under it, and to complete other parts to get the structure ready for brick laying in the next stage)

No money to pay salaries, SSNIT, IRS.

So help us God!!!



March 4, 2011

Okurase Brickmakers made 60,000 compressed earth bricks before the machine that was on loan to them was returned to its owner. There were not enough bricks to build the Nkabom Centre for Skills Training and Formal Education, which is the goal. It was a dark day that the machine left Okurase and we all wondered how to move forward.

Partnerships are about sharing knowledge and resources. As it turns out, the next step was the design and completion of new brickmaking machines that Project OKURASE would own.  So, in August 2010 a steamship left the Charleston, South Carolina harbor carrying 4 new brickmaking machines designed by Clemson University Architecture Centre, funded by Holy Cross Church of Sullivan’s Island, shipped by the Medical University of South Carolina, and moved to the village by His Excellency Alhaji Nantogma Abdulai, President of the Canadian Business Association Ghana. The journey was long and we all wish the machines could tell the story of crossing the ocean. But the story we tell together with the machines that are now in Okurase, Ghana is amazing.

 The Okurase Brickmakers have now tested the machines and THEY WORK!!!!  Thank you to everyone involved. We are now back on track.

Okurase Brickmakers test the new machines

Nkabom Children’s Cultural Troup Performs for TV3 in Accra, Ghana

March 4, 2011
Six months ago when the children of Okurase village were brought together to learn traditional dance and drumming, no one would guess that On February 19, 2011 they would make their television debut as a formal cultural troupe on TV 3 Sunrise show.
For many of the children this trip was their first time to Accra and the first time to be away from home overnight. So we were determined to help them have a great experience. We thank producer Sizalo from TV 3 for making this event wonderful. Fifteen of the children traveled to Accra and danced with all their hearts on the 7 am show along with their teachers, Atta Darko and Powerful. The performance was well received by the TV3 staff. We truly believe that the Nkabom Children’s Cultural Troupe has now been publicly launched in Ghana.

Okurase Children at TV3

After the TV 3 performance, we took the children on a tour of the National Theatre, Independence Square, and the Arts Centre.  At Independence Square they were quite taken with the flowers in bloom. At the Arts Centre we had the opportunity to walk down to the beach to fulfill their special request – to see the sea for the first time. Then, our children joined with the Street Children’s Academy in an event and performed on stage. We welcomed Drs. John and Traci Lynne Brewer and their children to the event. John is in Ghana serving as a physician for the American Embassy.
The children were very well received at the Arts Centre performance. Nana and Auntie Esther prepared lunch, which was enjoyed at Powerful Drums Shop. Then the children boarded a trotro back to Okurase. We thank all involved in making this journey happen – Ben, Honourable, Alhaji, the parents and families of the children.. and many more.

Okurase Children By The Sea in Accra

This is a day that none of us will ever forget. It was a day that changes lives and puts children on a path that they were previously not on.
Go Nkabom Children’s Cultural Troupe… We are proud of you!!!