SUSANNA WILLIAMS, 28, Northbridge, and HALLEY ALLEN, 46, Holden
WENT TO: Ghana, an English-speaking country in West Africa
WHEN: 19 days in July
WHY: "We teach at a private K-12 school [Bancroft School in Worcester] and we noticed that the big gap in social studies was Africa and slavery," Williams said. "We wanted to look at life not only during the slave trade, but what modern Africa was like."
LEADING THE WAY: The women used Aba Tours, operated by Brookline resident Ellie Schimelman. "We stayed at a house outside of Accra [the capital] and every couple days wed head off in another part of country," Allen said.
NEW EXPERIENCES: "Neither of us had been to a developing nation. The poverty is just so pervasive, systemic. It really gave us an appreciation for immigrants of all countries, how much it takes for Ghanaians to come here," Williams said.
GROUP SUPPORT: "One of our group, Anthony, was a black American from Oakland, Calif. People welcomed him with open arms in ways we werent. We would have thought about race and class anyway, but Anthony was talking about it all the time. I think we were incredibly lucky to have him with us," said Allen.
TEACHERS GO TO SCHOOL: "We observed classes and helped out some," Williams said. "Every time we walked in, they performed for us. Recitations, short songs," Allen said. "We kept saying how it reminded us of 19th-century America."
SORROW AND CELEBRATION: Of arriving in the village of Dzodze, Williams said, "there were probably 100 women all dressed similarly and chanting, dancing, and drumming. ... it was a funeral."
A SENSE OF SLAVERY: The women visited two former slave forts on the western coast, Cape Coast and Elmina. "It was profound," Allen said. "Susanna kept saying how chilling it was. We were overwhelmed by the injustice."
ON THEIR OWN: "Ellie put us on a public bus to Kumasi with George, a nephew of a friend who was going there. We found a hotel in downtown Kumasi, but we forgot our guidebook," Williams said. "It was teeming with people," Allen said. "Susanna loved it. I found it really chaotic."
FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD: "George took us to the craft villages where we could see cloth woven and carving done, and buy things for our classroom. We saw kente and adinkra cloth, Ashanti stools carved out of a single piece of wood," Williams said.
MEAL PLAN: "We ate a light breakfast and then a main meal in the evening just as the Ghanaians do. "We had a lot of cassava, a starchy root that is pounded, boiled, mashed, ground."
BACK IN WORCESTER: Allen and Williams are writing a curriculum that will focus on Ghana. Materials will include photos, taped sounds from schools and marketplaces, and crafts. "We brought back a lot of fabric so the children can use and make things out of it," Allen said. "Part of what we want to do is educate the children about the slave trade and to be more comfortable with people from a different culture. Our goal with the curriculum is that other elementary schools will be able to use it too."
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