This project aims to raise funds for a mushroom farm in a remote rural school for disadvantaged children in Ghana. The objective of the Mushroom farm is to provide a steady source of income to fund the development of the school in a sustainable way. It is hoped that this will enable the school to be truly independent. In 2014, I visited this remarkable school in a very remote part of Ghana as a volunteer. The extraordinary man who ran this school, Agbesinyale Ansah, inspired me with his selflessness and his personal generosity. The school was so remote there were no vehicles except the school bus which brought the children to school in the mornings, Agbesi built the school initially to feed young boys and girls in the marketplace who seemed to have no regular work or means of sustenance. These students were subsidised by the other students. The school has very basic facilities: they grow much of their own food and even make their own soap. Most remarkable to me was the fact that Agbesi didn't have a vehicle or even own his own home. He lived in the school with his family. During my four months there, I was so impressed by the students who were enthusiastic, polite and so appreciative of the smallest kindness: they constantly asked me for simple things like pens and exercise books. Such was their enthusiasm to read children's readers like 'The Hungry caterpillar' that, on one occasion, at breaktime, I had to lock the students out of the reading room because I thought they might break the door down!...just to get a look at a few readers ! The students were all taught by senior students. I was staggered at how dedicated these young untrained teachers were. When I walked around the school, there was an atmosphere of calm and studiousness about the classrooms which I know many more prosperous schools would envy.
Furthermore, the school achieved better academic results than the official schools in the area! All this, in spite of there being no running water and electricity being intermittent. (not to mention the stifling heat) There were no problems of drug-taking, alcohol abuse or misbehaviour in the school. The students didn't even smoke! There was no truancy problem as the students didn't want to leave the campus! After a few days I was stunned, almost mesmerised by this jewel I had found.
From time to time volunteers have helped the school , but what the school really needs is a constant source of income which can be invested in the development of the infrastructure of the school in order to make it self-sufficient and independent of volunteers . New classrooms, stationery, textbooks and learning materials are urgently needed as well as basic facilities such as a dining area. To obtain these, Agbesi had the ingenious idea of starting a mushroom farm in the school and selling the mushrooms. This will provide the capital needed to improve the school. With his own money, Agbesi has already built a small pilot farm which was a great success. He now wants to build a larger farm and needs money to buy the mushroom spawn and the building materials.
I know that if you could visit this school, as I did, you would be as inspired as I was . It is unique. I have never seen a school running so well with almost zero resources and infrastructure. Any donation , however small, will be much appreciated. If 'The Hungry caterpillar' can cause a stampede , what can 50 dollars do!
If you would like to read more about this project please continue below, or, if you would prefer to hear the story told on video and see some pictures of the school, please click this link
Kpando is a very small town on the shores of Lake Volta in the central region of Ghana in West Africa. 20 minutes from Kpando by car is a tiny village called Kpando-Torkor and a school sitting in the middle of nowhere. The school is home to 50 orphans from Kpando and the villages in the surrounding area. There are approximately 200 other students who live within walking distance of the school.
The local economy is subsistence farming of maize and fishing on the lake.
75% of children in Ghana complete primary school. However, orphans don’t attend primary school at all because they can’t pay for the books, stationery and uniforms. These children are destined to a life of child labour and drudgery both within and outside the ‘home’, if they have a home at all. Many of these orphans congregate in the market area to try and find food or some work
History of the school
As a young child, the school’s founder, Mr. Agbesi’s life wasn’t easy. He lived in a hamlet close to Kpando and had to walk barefoot, 3 Kilometers to school on a bush track every morning with a load of cassava on his head on an empty stomach. He was carrying it to market for his mother. This was the sole income of his humble family. ‘I didn’t think this was a dignified life’ ‘Agbesi’ remembers. So, when he was about eight, he decided that when he grew up, he would build a boarding school for orphans.
Volta Meridian academy is a “private” school with few resources. Nevertheless, the costs to parents are less than at the government school. and the fees from the students who can afford to pay are used to support the Orphans. In 2003, ‘Agbesi’ built two dormitories and a toilet block and an outdoor kitchen. This was the beginning of the school which offered home to the orphans who used to gather in the market to look for food and odd jobs. He then started building classrooms for a school.
Currently the school has 250 students out of which 50 are boarding orphans. The school has one classroom for each grade from Kindergarten to grade 9, a total of nine classrooms. Most classes are taught inside but there are no ceiling fans or air - conditioners and, to make things worse, the electricity is intermittent. Sometimes, the teachers take their classes outside under the mango trees. Indeed, ‘Agbesi’ will often be seen after 11.am seated himself under his own Mango Tree running the school. Hence the name of the project!
Today, students pay 70 dollars per year to the school. This is less than half of what a student at a Government school has to pay. In fact, the main expense covered by this money is food.
The facilities at the school are basic and only one third of students can afford textbooks. Four years ago, some primary readers were donated, and the children became so excited the teacher had to lock the door to get them to line up to come in and look at the books in an orderly fashion. Readers, not gadgets!
Education is the key to bringing hope and the real possibility of a dignified life to the orphans of Volta Meridian Academy. In order to keep operational costs low the school is run by inexperienced teachers who may in some cases may have completed only three years of high school themselves. Teacher turnover is very high, the average stay being about 6 months. It is practically impossible for a private boarding school to offer a competitive salary.
Mushroom farm project
A mushroom farm would provide a reliable source of income so that this school can not just survive but develop. It would offer students the chance to learn from experienced teachers and study in appropriate facilities.
In the past, some generous souls have made donations which have been used for specific projects, but such help is intermittent. What is needed is a more constant, reliable source of income so that the school can fund its own development. A truly independent source of income is required -a sustainable income. This project is crucial for the maintenance and growth of the school.
According to the Centre for Scientific Research in Ghana (CSRG), mushroom has high nutritional and medicinal value making it in high demand in both the local and international market thanks to the climatological conditions. Mushrooms can be grown all year round making them potentially a constant source of income.
Some volunteers are partnering with ‘Agbesi’ to help build a mushroom farm. Unfortunately, these volunteers can only offer labour, not funds. Therefore, we need your help to provide the funds to complete this project.
The structure has been built by students and volunteers. The only missing part now is funds to buy the mushroom ‘spawn’ and complete the construction of the farm.
We are looking for some generous souls to fund this. Any help will be very much appreciated and will contribute to a more hopeful future for unsupported children.
This pilot farm took 2 months to build. It will generate approximately 100 dollars per month. It is projected to last 5 years and part of the profit will go towards building another larger facility. It is for this larger facility that we need the money to buy the mushroom seed or ‘spawn’.
This project will then provide a reliable income to cover the most urgent needs of the school which include pens, pencils, books, stationery and eventually more classrooms.
The School has taken the first step towards becoming a certified Mushroom Grower by becoming a member of the ‘Full Circle Mushroom Growers Association of Ghana (FCMGA)’ in the Volta region which will provide support and advice for the farm once it has been established.
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