Thursday, November 11, 2010


Take a look at a new video we have up about our work in Ghana. See the students you've been hearing about for so long here:

We're very grateful to our intern, Chris Brandt, as well as Joan Bogden and Yaw Agyenim-Boateng for creating this video.

Friday, October 22, 2010

New York Launch!

Next Tuesday, October 26th we'll be hosting our first major fundraiser in New York. Please join us from 6:30 PM to 9:30 PM at White Rabbit (145 E. Houston St., Between Forsyth St. & Eldridge St.) for a fun night and a chance to raise funds to deliver our services to 60 more students! It'll be a night filled with great people, fun US and Ghanaian music, beautiful silent auction items, and special guests.

You can register or make a donation here:

Please also sign up for our Facebook event group:!/event.php?eid=160222023998367

Thank you!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Initial Impressions of Dalun and of Titagya-Dalun School

The next morning, I began the first official day of my internship. On my way to the school, I started my first walking tour of Dalun, and I met many more residents, some of whom I learned were parents of Titagya students. Those who I encountered frequently struck conversation with me and even invited me inside their homes! Considering that I was still a stranger to everyone there, I was surprised by the humbleness of the environment here in Dalun. The most enthusiastic residents were the children who ran up to me and Alison and shout “deseba!,” or “good morning!” in Dagbani, one of the most widely spoken languages in the Northern Region. Perhaps, coming from a large metropolis where people rarely acknowledge each other’s presence had made living in a remote and homely Ghanaian village seem completely relaxing and secure to me. From that point on, my initial homesickness quickly turned into an affinity for the local culture.

When I finally arrived at the school after navigating my way through a maze of houses, I had made many new acquaintances in a society totally unfamiliar to me. During the morning hours, I learned more about the school’s operations, observed classes during the first and second period, and had an opportunity to meet my other colleagues. The school’s daily schedule consists of two major one hour periods from 8 to 9 am and from 10:30 to 11:30 am with built in rest and playing time included in the scheduled breaks (the times in between periods and from 11:30 to noon). Friday, however, as an extended day of prayer for Titagya’s Muslim students, stands as an exception, and as a result the school grants the students more playtime than on other days.

The school building has two main classrooms, fairly large in size, which hold the two age groups of students: one for younger students (ages 3-4) and another for older students (ages 5-6). Titagya employs two fulltime teachers, Madame Baraka and Abdul-Azeez, and allows Alhassan, a professional teacher who trained at a teaching university in Tamale, to volunteer with the older students. In the younger class, Madame Baraka teaches the English alphabet and beginning English language skills to her students (many children here speak Dagbani as their mother tongue) by using mnemonic devices and educational workbooks. In the adjacent room, the older students sit at their desks in a semi-circle around Alhassan or Abdul-Azeez for their first period Mathematics class. Although the teachers create modules that include topics from various subjects, the main curriculum centers on giving children a firm footing in Mathematics, Informational Computer Technology, and English speaking/grammar skills. One of the major strengths of the curriculum is that it allows kids to enjoy the process of learning by offering a more interactive and participatory classroom environment. Additionally, Titagya believes that rigid teaching styles are counter-productive to the students’ real needs, because such styles do not target the correct methods to stimulate enthusiasm and motivation. Some of the effective styles in practice at Titagya-Dalun School mirrored those I saw at the Gateway School (a Special-Ed school for gifted students where I interned at as a high-school senior).

From my own observations, I was impressed to see how much the teachers and students had achieved in the nine months since the school’s inception. A sizeable number of the students in the younger class could understand spoken instructions and recite poems and songs in English! A handful of students in the older class could read and write English words, and a few of the more precocious students in the group could even understand multiplication and long division! Stay tuned to hear more about my daily experiences as an intern and to learn more about my responsibilities this summer!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Arriving in Ghana and the Journey North to Dalun

Instead of feeling anxious about travelling to Ghana, a place where I had little familiarity, oddly I remember envisioning Ghana as a new home, one where I would be staying with a long-time family friend in Accra, and one where I would meet my new family (all of my colleagues) for the next ten weeks. For the few days before I headed off to the North, I spent the time touring the Greater Accra Region and Cape Coast with a family friend and gaining a better sense of the Ghana's culture and customs.

Although everything seemes flawless in this first trip, things quickly took a nasty turn when I experienced a severe case of food poisoning. A rough night and subsequent trip to the hospital might send many travellers searching for the earliest flight home. However, the excitement of plunging into my project in northern Ghana helped me remain optimisitic during this event. At that point, the only agenda on my mind was getting to Dalun, which was not a short or simple journey.

When the day came to begin my intership, I drove with my family friend to the STC bus station in Accra. Once I arrived at my destination, I stood on the bus platform among a crush of passengers preparing to board. When the bus finally pulled in, everyone including myself rushed toward the porter near the entrance of the vehicle's main door. As soon as it became my turn, the porter checked my ticket and then crammed my large suitcase into the bottom compartment of the bus next to a cage of chickens and a stack of other tightly packed bags. While I stood gazing in amazement for a few seconds, it quickly dawned on me that it was inappropriate to stare at this uniquely Ghanaian but humerous sight (something that I forgotten to do in the heat of the moment). Although this event is different from anything I have seen in the U.S., I instead viewed it as a way to acquaint myself with the culture and to prepare myself for what I would observe during the next two months. Shortly after, I decided to walk away from the scene and then board the bus to take my assigned seat. Bracing for a 12 hour trip to Dalun, a village located roughly 650 kilometers north of Accra, I looked out the window and took in the scenery as the bus left the station.

Later that evening, when I finally arrived in Tamale, the first leg of my journey, I stepped off the bus to see both Fatawu, my Managing Director, and Habib, my Project Manager eagerly waiting for me beside a nearby car. With ominous rain clouds hovering above, I hurried into the car and rode to Dalun before the sky had unleashed a torrential downpour upon us. Stay tuned for information about my initial experiences in Dalun and my first day interning at the school!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Classroom Snapshot: Reading with Nursery 1

Chris and I brought all of the expected amenities to Ghana: light clothing, bug spray, flash lights, and our computers, but we also each brought a bag of books given to us by Andrew, to be added to the Titagya library. Although these tote bags of books proved to be a cumbersome carry-on, the inconvenience was completely worth it when the teachers and students at Titagya saw the new additions to their library. Titagya School is currently the proud owner of over 70 books, giving us one of the best school libraries in northern Ghana.

Last week Madame Baraka took some time in her Nursery 1 class to teach the children how to treat the books with care, and allow them each to “read” a book. We are only in the pre-reading stage with the Nursery 1 class, but most of the books have wonderful illustrations and interactive aspects like added texture to elements of the page or pull out sections; perfect for a beginning reader! The students were so fascinated by what they were finding in the books, and were excited to show me different animals, numbers, and letters that they were reading.

A particularly memorable moment for me occurred when I sat down with Abiba to read a book with her. This book uses vivid photographs from around the world to demonstrate different colors. As I pointed to photos and told Abiba the English word for each object, she began to repeat the English word to me, and then tell me the Dagbani word for the object. Soon another student, Irene, who knows another local language called Ewi, was telling me the object in Ewi as well!

This moment stands out for me because of the generative exchange that happened so naturally between the three of us, despite all of our differences (including language, age, position in the classroom, culture). It is not always easy to break down the hierarchy that somewhat naturally exists between teachers and students, but opening a space for the exchange of ideas between students and teachers is very rewarding for both groups. This interaction while reading exampled a way these hierarchies can be surpassed with positive results. I was also happy to see the idea reinforced that everyone, no matter what age or background, possesses valuable knowledge to pass on to others. Although I’m sure none of this was passing through the minds of Abiba and Irene as we continued teaching each other, I could tell that they were also enjoying the moment and that they recognized it as a special one.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Introduction and My Tasks for this Summer

Welcome to Ghana, or "Akwaaba," as Ghanaians would say in Twi, one of the most widely-spoken languages in the nation. My name is Christopher Brandt, and the other Titagya Schools intern, Alison Crawford, and I have been volunteering for Titagya this summer. I'm hoping to use my first post to share a little bit about my background and to tell everyone about my experiences this summer at Titagya.

Most of my friends and relatives back home refer to me as Chris, so anyone reading this blog is invited to call me that as well. I am 19 years old, and a rising sophomore at Davidson College, near Charlotte, NC. Growing up in New York has been an incredible and exciting experience, and one that has had a significant impact on my personality and world perspective. As a result of living in such a multicultural environment, I am motivated to explore new surroundings and to immerse myself in foreign cultures. My other interests include Political Science, Classics, Communications, Davidson Basketball, and the Yankees! Currently, I am an undeclared major at Davidson, but I plan on focusing on International Relations during my three remaining undergraduate years.

I've helped in a number of ways so far in Dalun this summer. My main tasks have been creating three videos about Titagya's work and writing grants for fundraising. Preparing for the video has yielded many interesting and new insights. For example, interviewing Titagya's parents, teachers, and local supporters has demonstrated the increased buy-in for our project, and how people view the changing educational landscape of Dalun. Additionally, speaking with the video's participants has elucidated the community's contentment with our students' accomplishments and strong performance levels in school.

My other responsibilities include volunteering as a teacher at the school. For two days each week I serve as a teaching assistant in Mathematics and English language and grammer in one of our classes to our full-time teachers, Abdul-Azeez and Alhassan. Throughout the next two weeks, I will continue to write about my experiences in both the community and in the school. Stay tuned for more!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Trip: USA to Dalun

On May 28th I flew out of John F. Kennedy International Airport in NYC on a 6:30 pm flight. First, I would fly from JFK to Amsterdam Schiphol. From there I would go to Kotoka International Airport in Accra, Ghana.

The plane landed in Amsterdam around 8 am local time, which made it very early in the USA. My cell phone was no longer working, so I called my Mom from a pay phone to let her know the first leg of the trip was over, and had gone well!

I was very exhausted at this point, so once I boarded the next plane I slept most of the way to Accra. Every now and then I would wake up and realize “I’m almost in Africa!” and as the sun moved lower and lower in the sky my nervous excitement grew. It was dark when the plane landed and as we walked onto the tarmac I breathed in African air for the first time. There was a dry freshness to the air, and we were emerged in an orange glow from the lights of the airport.

My guesthouse was located near “Circle,” the shortened name for the Kwame Nkrumah Circle, which is a very busy area of Accra named for one of Ghana’s first President. Circle was bustling with people selling things, others just strolling and making noise.

The next day I explored Accra and had some interesting conversations with locals about their perceptions of education and northern Ghana. A man I met in my guesthouse lobby expressed that in the south of Ghana public education is inadequate, the teachers are not being supervised by superiors, and the students are not being supervised by the teachers. He said that if you want your child to have a real education you have to pay for them to go to private school, which is very expensive. His perception of education in the north was that the free public education was much better, but families do not push their children to go to school and do not take advantage of the “free” education. He also mentioned that he has never been to the north before, and I left our conversation very interested to see how his opinions of the north meshed with my experience of it.

I bought my STC bus ticket and prepared to make the ride to the north. The next day we left Accra on the STC bus around 8 am. I felt very lucky to be in seat number two, right behind the driver, with a spectacular view out of the front window of the bus. I quickly learned a lot about driving in Ghana, foremost that horns are used very frequently to move people, animals, and other vehicles out of the way. Horns are also used when passing, which happens often; I soon learned not to be scared as our bus careened into the opposite lane to pass a car in front of us. As we rode over bumpy dirt roads towards Tamale I took in the gorgeous lush landscape, very jungle-esque in parts, and less so in other parts. Villages appeared suddenly out of the brush: mud huts with thatch roofs dotting the road and disappearing as quickly as they appeared as the bus flashed past.

By 9 pm we were in Tamale, where Fatawu and Habib picked me up. They brought me to the Simli Center, my new home, and I was so happy and relieved to have finally made it to Dalun!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

My Role as a Titagya Intern

My role as a Titagya intern these past few weeks has been very classroom-oriented, for which I am very happy! My basic work includes co-teaching in the classroom, creating curriculum modules, and working with the teachers on their pedagogy and teaching methods. However, I believe an unwritten role I have been carrying out is working to really “get to know” Titagya School, since all schools, just like the people that compose them, are nuanced and unique. For this reason I have worked to understand Titagya School through careful observation, participation, and by asking a lot of questions. I view this as a crucial part of my role as an intern because it has aided me in carrying out my other roles. Observing through the lens of someone new to Titagya Schools has allowed me to ask: “How is this being carried out? What are the pros of this? What are the cons? How could this be improved? What are the challenges in changing this?” and truly knowing the school, the students, and the teachers has helped me begin to answer those questions.

The trust that has developed between the teachers and me has allowed us to exchange ideas openly and provides a wonderful atmosphere for discussion. I have found their knowledge invaluable since we discuss topics ranging from the school, to the students and their families, to Ghanaian and American cultures at large! All of this gained knowledge comes together when I am brainstorming activities for the curriculum modules, or thinking about how a lesson could be carried out for the next day. Furthermore, actively engaging in the classroom and sharing about my own experiences with the teachers and students has made me feel like I am not simply an observer at the school, but a part of it. This feeling I have gained of being a part of the Titagya family has been the most rewarding part of my internship thus far, and makes the work I am doing feel very meaningful and gratifying!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Intern Introduction: Alison Crawford

Hello from Ghana! My name is Alison Crawford and I am one of Titagya’s two summer interns. I am a rising senior at Haverford College in Philadelphia, PA, where I am pursuing a major in English and a minor in Education. Outside of class I am a student-athlete, I work in the Admissions Office, and I am involved in a mentoring program for students in West Philadelphia. Through the education courses at Haverford I have worked at several Philadelphia area schools, and this experience has led me to particular interest in early childhood education and special education. It is in the pursuit of my interests in education that I found out about Titagya Schools.

I first heard of Titagya School in Professor Alice Lesnick’s class “Empowering Learners” in Spring 2009. The organization was mentioned to me a second time when I began working with Haverford’s Center for Peace and Global Citizenship with the aim to find a summer internship working with children in Africa. Haverford’s Center for Peace and Global Citizenship (called the CPGC) funds student volunteer projects internationally and domestically that address issues of social justice and relate to a student’s academic interests. They suggested that I get in touch with Andrew Garza (Haverford class of 2008), and after speaking with Andrew a few times on the phone I was very excited about the prospect of being one of Titagya’s summer interns!

After hearing from Andrew that Titagya would like to have me as an intern, I began the long but rewarding process of applying for CPGC funding. Haverford Professor of African and Africana Studies, Professor Ruti Talmor, aided me greatly in independent study of Ghana, and provided me with both essential academic and practical knowledge garnered from her research experience in Ghana.

I was ecstatic to hear the news that I received funding, and the real planning for the trip began. Despite all of the work I was doing to prepare for my departure, the concept that I would be spending 10 weeks at Titagya School was too surreal for me to conceive of fully, and I had the feeling that the reality would not hit me until I set foot in Ghana.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Arrived in Ghana

I just arrived in Ghana for a month-long trip. It was great to touch down at the airport, and Ghana has come to feel like a third home, after the US and parts of Mexico. My first day included stopping by BusyInternet, an internet cafe, to let family know I arrived safely, exhanging money, finalizing logistics with Fatawu about travelling to Dalun on Sunday, meeting a potential donor, seeing a friend, and having one of my favorite dinners: mushroom and spicy pepper stew with Star beer.

On Sunday I'll be travelling North with Yaw, a member of our Board of Advisors. I've been eagerly awaiting this month and look forward to sitting in on classes at our school, working with our staff, interns, and advisors to enhance our curriculum, meeting with government officials about our partnership and its vision for early education and interactive education, visiting potential sites for future schools, and helping to establish fundraising operations in Ghana. It will be a busy month, but one of the good things about finite visits is that they add an extra sense of urgency for staff to work effectively and quickly to get a lot of things done by the end.

Much more to come soon, including posts about our interns' work and experiences within the next week.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Inspiration From My Abuelito

From talking with remarkable individuals who have started other organizations, I've noticed that people often have more than one motivation for starting organizations. This observation may seem intuitive, since humans are multi-dimensional creatures that can be driven by several ambitions at the same time and since starting an organization is a huge, personal decision. However, for lack of space and other reasons, you might not always find out about all of these key underlying drivers just by visiting an organization's website or seeing a PowerPoint about it.

In our case, I know that Fatawu's motivations include an ambition to create positive change in his community and to "pay it forward" by giving young people in northern Ghana even more chances to succeed educationally than he's had. At some point, Fatawu may talk more about his sources of inspiration in his own words on here.

I share with Fatawu the vision of many more early educational facilities throughout northern Ghana, improved overall quality of early and primary education, and better access to school for economically-poor children. Working towards accomplishing these goals every day is part of what gets me up in the morning. And, like Fatawu, I recognize the incredible family and community support networks that helped me succeed academically, including attending high school in Switzerland and a top liberal arts college in the US. And I, too, want to pay that foward.

In addition, I draw inspiration from various family members who have worked hard to support other family members and contribute something to great people who happen to have less financial or political resources than them. My grandfather (Abuelito in Spanish), Juanleandro Garza, in particular, is one such person for me. Although a large portion of my family on my dad's side are from Monterrey, Mexico, the business capital of the country, my abuelito moved his nuclear family to a much poorer part of the country to start and become the principal of a school. Children at the school excelled, and he worked there for many years. As a retiree, he offered bilingual counseling and a friendly face to Mexican immigrants and others in a San Diego hospital. Two of the lessons I draw from the way he has lived his life are: 1) that we should seek opportunities to empower others, especially in such long-lasting ways as high-quality education and 2) we should view people - regardless of geographic background, color, etc. - with the respect and desire to serve - in an unpatronizing way - befitting our common humanity, and act accordingly.

Unfortunately, my abuelito has fallen ill with a terminal condition and may not be with us much longer. However, even though I am deeply sad about that, I'm simultaneously grateful that his legacy will live on through lessons that he has taught to others. I think Nelson Mandela's quote about inspiring others through your light applies here in spades. Thank you, Abuelito.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Q2 Discussion

Hi Everyone,

We'll be having a get together for all of our supporters, volunteers, and well-wishers in the NYC area this Friday. It will be a great chance to update you in-person on our latest progress and to brainstorm together about our 'launch' fundraiser in October and other issues.

We'll meet at 6:30 pm at Pizzeria Uno, on 86th St. between 2nd and 3rd Ave. in Manhattan. I hope to see you there!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

NJ Fundraiser on Thursday

Hi Everyone,

The Kiwanis Club of Sparta, NJ will be hosting a fundraiser for us this Thursday, April 29th at 7 pm at the Lafayette House restaurant in Lafayette, NJ (Located on Route 94). The event will feature a five-course meal and wine pairings with the courses. A local wine expert will make suggestions on which wines to pair with various meals. Attendees will also have the chance to purchase cases of wine they like at a reduced price. The suggested donation is $60.

We'd love to see you there if you're free Thursday evening! Thank you so much to the Kiwanis Club of Sparta for organizing the event and to Burke's Liquors for providing the wine!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Bryn Mawr / Haverford Visit

Happy Easter and happy belated Passover!

I recently visited Bryn Mawr and Haverford College, where I attended college. One of the most innovative aspects of our work is our close partnership with the Bryn Mawr / Haverford Education Program, and I went to meet with Dr. Alice Lesnick's Empowering Learners class. The class incorporates an experiential component, and as part of this aspect of it, five students with experience in another early education classroom are partnering with Titagya this semester.

The group has been researching ways that we can further improve our curriculum. They're doing this by writing two two-week long sample lesson plans for us, from which we will incorporate especially promising elements into our actual lessons. When the sample lesson plans are complete at the end of the semester, the group will post them here: - A big thank you to Maggie Powers for setting up the blog for this partnership!

I also met with representatives of two student groups at Bryn Mawr that are financially supporting us, IMPACT! and Project Educate in Africa. I updated them on our activities and we talked about fundraising events in the future.

In addition, we recently found out that the two interns we selected to come to Ghana this summer both received funding from their respective schools, Haverford and Davidson. Our intern from Haverford, Alison will also be developing two sample lesson plans as research preparation for her time in Ghana. Luckily, she will be able to correspond a fair amount with the Bryn Mawr class and Alice Lesnick as she works on this. You will hear more from her and our other Ghana intern, Chris when they blog over the summer.

Lastly, I invited Alice Lesnick to join our Board of Advisors, in recognition of her depth of experience in and knowledge of early education and her great advice to us. We were very pleased that she accepted. I get butterflys before asking someone to join our team in some way. We have an amazing team, including people in formal and informal roles, and we'll tell you more about them in updates coming soon to our website.

Thank you also to Nene, Gail, and Chelsea for very helpful recent comments about our blog and site!

Friday, March 26, 2010

NYU Event Monday: "African Development: Whose Ownership?"

On Monday, March 29th, I'll be speaking on a panel at NYU covering the subject of "African Development: Whose Ownership?" We'll be discussing the roles of major stakeholders, such as governments, international financial institutions, businesses, NGOs, and the African Diaspora in development efforts in sub-Saharan Africa.

From Titagya's perspective, creating partnerships between communities in Ghana, the Government of Ghana, and outside volunteers, supporters, and experts has been a key aspect of our model. In addition, one of the unanticipated, very positive aspects of our work has been the growing involvement of Ghanaians living or studying in the US and Ghanaian-Americans in our projects. Several of our most important volunteers come from Ghana and are now living temporarily or permanently in the US.

The backing we have received from members of these communities in some ways reminds me of targeted remittances from Mexicans and Central Americans living in the US to projects in their home countries. However, a distinction between much of these aid flows and our work is that many of our Ghanaian and Ghanaian-American supporters come from southern Ghana, and thus are helping a region (the North) other than their home region. The above-mentioned aid flows to Latin America are generally organized by people from a particular town or village and then directed to that municipality.

Coming back to the talk, it will also include former ambassadors from Zambia and Rwanda and an expert on the legal aspects of investment in Africa. With these diverse perspectives, it should be a great discussion. Please join us if you will be in New York and are available on Monday from 6 pm - 8 pm. More details in the link below..

Friday, January 8, 2010

New Year, No Limits

We at Titagya Schools hope your 2010 has started off well! The end of 2009 and beginning of this year have been busy but gratifying for us.

We really appreciate the outpouring of support by friends and partner organizations during the end of the year, and our fundraising campaign left us with enough to cover many of our operating costs during the first half of 2010. We also appreciate the many ideas and warm wishes people shared.

In addition, we had great December workshops in Dalun on accounting with Excel and how to use children's books as a basis for interactive activities. Those were led by one of our Advisors, Yaw, who has a background in management consulting and teaching and a long-time supporter, Debbie, who founded Project Educate In Africa and The Baobab Prize to promote education and African literature.

We're excited to keep the momentum going in the New Year. Our classes resumed this past week after a week and a half of holidays. We'll also begin constructing an administrative center and computer lab early in the year. The computer lab will allow our children to become familiar with the basics of how computers work from a very young age. Experiences like this help to shape children's definitions of what is "normal" and "comfortable" in a positive way that emphasizes the importance of technology as one component of their lives.

On the US side, one of our top priorities this month is completing and submitting our 501(c)(3) application to the IRS. Obtaining 501(c)(3) status will ensure that donors can deduct their contributions from their taxes and enable us to work with larger foundations and corporate giving programs.

In terms of plans for the blog, we're going to add some interesting new features this year, like profiles of our teachers and students, little-known (or at least great!) info about the culture and history of northern Ghana, and reflections by summer interns. We'd also love to hear what you'd like to see in this space - If anyone would prefer to share thoughts in private, please email

Thanks for staying tuned! With your continued input and support we'll build more schools and reach more children this year! More to come soon...