Midtown visionary Marva Ellard partners with PAMBE Ghana at The Sieber Apartments

Marva Ellard is a woman with a mission: revitalizing Central Oklahoma City’s aging older buildings. She’s tackled some real challenges, including the Midtown showplace: The Sieber Apartments at 1305 N. Hudson. When she took it on in 2005, the 1920’s-era Sieber Apartment Hotel had been vacant for years and was in poor condition, but she knew it could be brought back to life, and it’s now a complex of 30 apartments and 8 loft-style units. This year, she extended her hospitality to the PAMBE Ghana Global Market, which opened November 9 in the ground floor of the Sieber, in a space some remember as the hotel’s restaurant.

The Global Market, a holiday-season fair-trade market, raises money for an Oklahoma City-based nonprofit organization that supports a pioneering bilingual primary school in rural Ghana. A completely volunteer-run enterprise, it is always housed in donated space, so to have benefactors like Ms. Ellard and her partners come forward is a true boon.

Ellard’s imagination allows her to see potential in unlikely places. She and partner Billy Woodring recently purchased the former Villa Theresa school in Midtown, closed since 2012. They plan to develop the striking former convent into a boutique hotel, with for-sale townhouses and condominiums planned on the site, as well. Steve Lackmeyer, reporting in The Oklahoman September 6 2017, quotes Ellard:  “There were rampant rumors about them wanting to demolish part or all of the Villa Theresa campus. That was not going to be the right thing to do. . . . Those buildings are important to the social fabric of our city and of my neighborhood, Heritage Hills. Keeping them matters.”

This philosophy meshes well with that of PAMBE Ghana, which believes the lives of children in rural Ghana matter, and that they have great potential.

A New School Year for 276 Students at La’Angum Learning Center

The new school year has started. Just imagine: each morning 276 girls and boys walk the paths that lead from their various home villages to La’Angum Learning Center. The 36 youngest, pre-kindergarteners, who are attending school for the very first time, will soon become familiar with their routes, the routines, the process of learning how to read and write, do sums, think critically and master the official language of English. They’ll see the sixth graders, the 29 children who will graduate from LLC next summer after completing their eighth and final year of primary education: bookends to the story of individual opportunity. Education opens doors. A new school year begins.

FAST FACTS:

Grade levels: 8 (pre-K through grade 6)
Total boys: 145
Total girls: 130
Average class size: 35
Total teaching staff: 16

 

La’Angum Learning Center Graduates Second Class

We are so proud to announce that 31 students graduated from the 6th grade at La’Angum Learning Center this summer! The 15 girls and 16 boys started as pre-schoolers and successfully completed the course of study for the elementary grades. These young people are academically prepared to move on to junior high school, which includes the ability to read and write in the official state language of English. They have joined our first graduating class at Unity Junior High School.

Hakeem Bukari (l.) and Akosua Pudimniba, students in the 2017 graduating class.

LLC Graduates, Class of 2017:

Girls: Abibatu Yakubu, Agnes Nabila, Akosua Pudimniba, Amuda Kadiri, Ayisha Abdulai, Dorcas Sule, Essie N. Nanzobila, Esther Kuntoba, Fuseina Abdul-Rahaman, Lashakatu Issah, Latifa Mohammed, Lydia Alhassan, Mmalebna Tindanzo, Sawkiya Mohammed, Suzana Zuuri

Boys: Abdul-Malik Issahaku, Barikyi Tohiru, Bassit Yahaya, Ezikiel Do’adow, Fataw  Mahama, Fataw Issifu, Ganiu Musah, Hakim Bukari, Hasamiu Iddi, Huzedu Fusheini, Illiasu Issifu, Kabiru Musah, Kawilu Dahamani, Rafiu Abdul-Razak, Wadudu Sumani, Warisu Mahamadu

Board Member Barb Reid Believes in Education

PAMBE Ghana Board Member Barb Reid

The door to adventure swung wide open for Barb Reid when, as an undergrad at Texas A&M, she declared her major to be Wildlife and Fishing Science. “I have always had this passion for nature,” explains the long time PAMBE Ghana board member.  “And there’s a bit of an adventurer in me, too.” These qualities have taken Barb all over the world, living in really tough conditions, doing difficult jobs with minimal support, and relying on her own resourcefulness.

Early on she was in Alaska as the biologist onboard a commercial fishing vessel, responsible for ensuring compliance with the fishing laws. Some of her work involved observing shipboard activities, but she also worked with the catch, identifying species and taking biological measurements. “It was a fascinating job!” recalls Barb.

She stayed in Alaska to do fieldwork with the Bowhead Whale Project out of Barrow, located 300 miles north of the Arctic Circle. Barb did aerial survey work her first year, flying in a small plane 500 feet above the ground. Her second year was land-based, during the Arctic summer. She camped on an ice pack, collecting data that helped determine how many of this endangered species the native people could harvest. “We’d take a snowmobile from camp to our survey point,” said Barb. “It was light 24 hours, but it was cold: 32 felt warm. We’d work 6 days a week, 24/7, on 4 hours then sleep 4 hours. We’d even use the same sleeping bag!” On day 7 she’d go to town, bathe and sleep in a bed.

Eventually Barb moved south, completing a Masters in Conservation Education at Texas A&M, and then joining the Peace Corps. Barb’s assignment was in the remote villages of Guatemala’s Cuchumante Mountains. “The first time we hiked up from the main town it took us about four hours. We got so we could do it in two.” Her job was to help with reforestation after illegal logging left the slopes bare and topsoil eroding. “We set up tree nurseries in each of the villages and worked with the farmers,” she said. “I’d teach them agricultural techniques like terracing and planting along the contour of the slope.” Although Barb speaks Spanish, she needed a translator to communicate. The villagers were indigenous Mayans who spoke Mam. “It was in Guatemala that I learned what it was like to be a teacher in a remote location,” says Barb.

Barb’s experiences don’t end there. She was in the Crisis Corps responding to a devastating hurricane in the Dominican Republic. She married another adventurer and Peace Corps alum, Steve Reid (who had worked in Northern Ghana), and the couple taught school in Madagascar for two years. She taught elementary school in Oklahoma City’s dual language program at Wheeler Elementary. And she worked at World Neighbors, where she met Peter Gubbels and his, wife, Alice.

Alice was just completing her degree at Oklahoma City University. PAMBE Ghana didn’t yet exist, but Barb felt a kinship with Alice. A few years later, Barb joined PAMBE Ghana’s board. “I was just thrilled,” she remembered. “I would actually like to be out there working in Ghana, but being involved here is the next best thing.” Barb continues, “I think I have something to contribute, having lived in the Third World. I know what it’s like for those teachers to teach, and what reality is in such a place, no matter where. We all have similar stories.”

Bricktown Rotary Club grant funds important LLC literacy projects

PAMBE Ghana is dedicated to teaching children to read both in the local Mampruli language and in English. One hurdle is the paucity of early readers written in Mampruli, as it is primarily a spoken language.

Shortly after La’Angum Learning Center opened in 2008, PAMBE Ghana teamed up with Ghana Institute of Linguistics Languages and Bible Translation (GILLBT) to produce early readers in the Mampruli language. OKC’s Bricktown Rotary Club funded the project, providing the early readers for La’Angum Learning Center (LLC).

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A new grant from Bricktown Rotary Club funds three important projects:

First, the grant will provide replacements for the first books, which have worn out after years of exposure to the climate in rural Ghana and many little hands. In addition to the replacements, the Club is funding more story books and alphabet/phonics books for LLC.

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Second, To support English language reading skills, PAMBE Ghana recently partnered with a British organization “Let’s Read Ghana”, which conducts 2-day teacher training courses for teaching phonics and reading skills to young children. Funded by the Bricktown Rotary Club grant, LLC teachers traveled to the nearby town of Sirigu and participated in the training course last summer. The funds also allowed LLC to purchase early reading primers in the English language, including Have you seen the girl?

Third, the Bricktown Rotary Club supported our lending library project at LLC, by funding the shipment of 1750 donated books on a cargo ship from OKC to Accra and the materials and labor needed for construction of library bookshelves by local artisans.

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Susan Kovats: What is the mission of the Rotary International?

Chuck Shirley: Rotary International is a civic service organization that began with an international focus. One of their first goals was to eradicate polio. Rotary fosters connections between communities, and local clubs often reaching out to provide aid via other national and international clubs during disasters. For example, Rotary Clubs all over the world supported recovery efforts after the devastating Moore tornado in 2013. This spirit informs the Bricktown Rotary Club, which works on international projects as well as projects in the OKC community.

SK: Tell us about the Bricktown Rotary Club and the motivation to support PAMBE Ghana.

CS: One of the 6 pillars of Rotary International is literacy. Our first grant to PAMBE Ghana supported the printing of early readers in the Mampruli language. We saw the impact of those books on the children’s reading skills and we were impressed by the accomplishments of PAMBE Ghana as the first cohort of children graduated from 6th grade last year. Our members were excited about the opportunity to once again work with PAMBE Ghana to help the children of La’Angum Learning Center acquire literacy in the Mampruli and English languages. Bricktown Rotary is a club of younger professionals who are do’ers. We are committed to the community and to each other. In addition to fundraising, members enjoy “hands on” volunteering for local projects. This year members hope to volunteer at the PAMBE Ghana Global Market.

SK: Which factors underlie your personal motivation to work with Bricktown Rotary Club and serve as president?

CS: As I progressed toward a Master’s Degree in Business, I was exposed to volunteering, and I realized that I wanted to be more involved in the community. During an internship in OKC, I was invited to a Bricktown Rotary Club meeting. I found a group of young professionals who wanted to make a difference in the community and to be involved in ways more than simply writing checks. I knew then that I didn’t want to sit on the couch anymore!

SK: What sort of local projects does the Bricktown Rotary Support?

CS: We have supported Chain Reaction – a donated bike program for the homeless and North Winds Living Center – a hospice for persons living with HIV/AIDS. We also sponsored the dragon boat team of NewView Oklahoma - an organization of the visually impaired, and built a tree house for the Boys and Girls Club.

Suzanne Parker’s Commitment Benefits the Children of L’Angum Learning Center

3-suzanne-parkerSuzanne Parker has been a loyal PAMBE Ghana volunteer for many years. She brings knowledge of Africa and years of teaching experience to the organization. As a young child she loved school and read about Africa, dreaming to go there one day.  Her dreams came true!

Suzanne and husband Bill (PAMBE Ghana board member) lived in the Ivory Coast, where she taught at the International School.

After 42 years of teaching Suzanne retired.  She increased her time helping at the PAMBE Ghana Global Market and recently organized a group of volunteers to select and catalog nearly 2000 books to be shipped to La’Angum Learning Center.

I met with Suzanne and asked about her background and history with PAMBE Ghana.

When did you become involved with  PAMBE Ghana?

I met Alice when she came to  Westminster School to apply for a teaching position in the French Department.  The director of the lower school, Cathy Waldo, interviewed Alice and introduced her to me.  Cathy knew that Alice and I had something in common; I had been in West Africa and spoke French. I was on a break at the time, so we spent some time together and got to know each other.

Cathy and I were impressed by Alice and agreed that we needed to find a place for her at the school.  Although Alice didn’t get the teaching position,  Cathy offered her a job as a second grade assistant.

Because of our background working together at Westminster,  Alice invited me to an early group meeting at her house. We all spent the time brainstorming about her dream to open a school in northern Ghana.

 

It seems that  Alice’s work at Westminster School strongly influenced  her dream of starting a school.

It became obvious immediately that Alice had a talent with children, although she hadn’t worked with young children. She had planned a school for older children, but I suggested that she start with young children and see how it worked out.

As she worked with the second graders, she began to see how starting with young children would be the best, particularly when teaching a second language.

What is your teaching background?

After obtaining my degrees, I taught for 42 years all over the world, including Paris and Abidjan, Ivory Coast. In Abidjan, I taught at the International School. I always taught the young children; they are so fun! When I taught,  I tried to implement the Montessori philosophy in every class.

What took you to these exotic places?

My husband, Bill, worked for a non-governmental organization,  the Institute for Cultural Affairs. His job took us many places.

How have you been involved with PAMBE Ghana over the years?

My volunteer activities have been primarily with the Global Market, working at the store or helping with ordering of products.  After I retired,  I had more time to devote to volunteer work and the store.  I try to work in the store at least 2 times a week during the season and help with other things when needed.  Lately,  I have been working on PAMBE Ghana’s book project.

And, when Alice comes back to OKC we sit and talk, teacher- to- teacher, about what education should look like in Africa. We talk about how you can teach the Montessori method using things that can be found in Africa.

How do you feel about the success of La’Angum Learning Center?

I feel proud and amazed, but sad that I can’t be there.

Have you thought about visiting?

I visited Ghana several times when we lived in the Ivory Coast. However, traveling is harder and harder these days.  We did things when we lived there that we couldn’t do today!

What do you remember about Ghana?

The people were so lovely in Ghana and the Ivory Coast, as well. I assumed that the people would be speaking in English in Ghana, but quickly found out that Ghana has many tribal languages.

Thank  you, Suzanne, for your service to PAMBE Ghana over the past ten years!

We value your ideas, expertise and commitment, which contributes to the success of La’Angum Learning Center.

Listen to Alice and Linda Discuss PAMBE Ghana

Listen to Alice Iddi-Gubbels and Linda Temple discuss PAMBE Ghana's mission and the Global Market in a video made by Nate Fein, of OU Nightly. Shop at the Global Market this week until Dec. 24. Located at 6516 N. Olie, OKC.

2016 Year End Letter

Dear Friends,

year-end16-1Wow – look what you’ve done! Together, we have had the courage to create a school that now serves 266 students. We have 25 graduates attending junior high (right). We’ve never had a student drop out. We are building a library. We have outfitted a solar-powered computer lab in a locale without electricity. We teach children how to read and write English. We have dealt with surprises and crises with honesty and hard work. What a feat. And what a responsibility!

year-end16-2Eight years ago, Yaapoa Miba (left) was a timid little girl in the village of Bumboazio, Ghana with no prospect of getting an education. There was no school nearby for her to walk to. Her parents, themselves non literate, could not afford to send her away to a distant school. Today, Yaapoa (below) has completed her elementary education at La’Angum Learning Center. She is now a young student in seventh grade, with many dreams of a brighter future.

You made it possible for Yaapoa and 24 of her mates to complete their elementary education successfully and to embark on the next phase of their education journeys, stepping into junior high confidently. Your continued support has given Yaapoa and many other children in this rural community in northern Ghana the audacity to dream of a better future not only for themselves but also their families and their community.

year-end16-3This last year has brought challenges that we never envisioned. Yet we had unwavering support from you, our caring friends, who generously stepped in with emergency funding. Thus, our water crisis is over. The big tanks no longer leak, we have some temporary supplementary containers, and the school can continue to function. Is this enough? Unfortunately, no. We still need significantly more water storage capacity. It is part of our infrastructure that has not yet kept pace with the growth of the student body.

Similarly, the computer lab is a wonderful asset, but its six computers are not nearly enough for all 266 students. Your previous gifts built the lab building, which will comfortably house more computer stations. But our solar electricity generation is at capacity. To add more computers will also require additional solar panels and battery storage. The payoff? A much richer experience for each student in this important, and necessary technology.

Another crisis from the past year has yielded a new line item in our budget: screening all incoming students for Hepatitis B. This wasn’t in our first year-end16-4budget, eight years ago. But when we discovered this destructive illness in some of our students, we were confident that you would help us with the immediate problem, and you did. Through your special gifts, we screened and vaccinated every student and teacher. And we treated those who were infected. And we’ll continue each year, screening all incoming students. For some, this will be life saving.

This next year will be an important time to focus on what happens inside the classrooms, developing, strengthening, and enriching the quality of our students’ learning experience. Because a school is far more than a building. This work will involve individual teacher coaching, formal training with curricula and materials, demonstrations and workshops. We will continue to pursue and refine assessments and comparisons of our student outcomes for grades 3 and 6. We’ll also continue to follow the progress of our graduates to ascertain how LLC can best prepare students for success in junior high.

Most of these items are contained within our annual operating budget – they’re what we do. While they’re not flashy, they are crucial. Your continued support today for these bread and butter items enables us to deliver what we have pledged to our students. Long term, through our endowment fund, we aim to create a reliable source of income that will sustain the school’s normal operations. This will take years to build, but we’ve already started that important work, and we welcome your participation.

La’Angum Learning Center became a reality because of your generous spirit. It has grown because you continued to care about the children and their futures. You expected your dollars to work hard, and they have yielded so much more than anyone originally expected, because your gifts impact more than the students – they help families and communities grow stronger together.

We say at La’Angum Learning Center, “Sirinsaa yani, la’angum ka toom,” which means, “Many hands make light work.” We welcome you to join our work - together we will make another year come true for today’s 266 students. Reach your helping hands across the Atlantic to ensure a sustainable future for those students who come next. By your caring gifts, we bring to life our hopes and dreams for the future.

I speak for our children, now and in the future,

Thank you.

alice-signature
Alice Azumi Iddi-Gubbels
Executive Director, PAMBE Ghana

We greatly appreciate the support of our PAMBE Ghana donors and friends!

This group is volunteer driven, so your feedback is always appreciated to ensure we are doing our best for the students in Ghana. We hope you had a chance to review the end-of-year giving letter in December. We hope you felt as inspired to give as our friend, Frank. We love hearing from you!

"Please pass along to Alice how much the PAMBE Ghana annual appeal letter impressed me. No pics of the executive director receiving an OKC Citizen of the Year Award or shaking hands with local politicians, or of board members with a proverbial shoulder to the wheel; no emotional "poor us" language and no sleep-inducing budget report. 

Just straightforward, matter of fact details based on what needs previous contributions have helped meet in the past and what needs additional contributions will meet in the future. Good stuff. Alice's letter stood out. Well done! Carol and I didn't hesitate to double the small donation we intended to make. (The little bio on the young lady who had just completed seventh grade didn't hurt either.)"

Uplifting Experience

Letter to the editor, The Oklahoman 11.23.16
http://newsok.com/article/5528131

Every year at this time, I return to Oklahoma City to assist with fundraising for the Oklahoma City-based nonprofit, PAMBE Ghana. I founded the organization in 2007 to start an elementary school in a rural part of northern Ghana. My dream was to give children a chance for an education near my home village. As a result, the La'Angum Learning Center has been in operation since 2008, graduating the first class of sixth-graders this year. My dream was supported and continues to be supported by kind and caring Oklahomans who shared my dream. Recently, I was reminded of the generosity and kindness inherent in many Oklahomans. As I drove down NW 23 Street early one morning, my car broke down. I was immediately surrounded by several people offering to help. These Oklahomans were clearly different in ethnicity and culture. However, they all worked together to help an African woman get herself and her car safely off on the street.

I was truly uplifted by this experience. This letter gives me the opportunity to thank these and all the wonderful Oklahomans who have helped me over the years.

Alice Azumi Iddi-Gubbels, Ghana
Iddi-Gubbels is executive director of PAMBE Ghana.

Volunteer Spotlight: Diane Parker

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Diane Parker brings her considerable experience, persistence and dry wit to PAMBE Ghana. She has been working with PAMBE Ghana since the early days, recruiting her sister, Mary Ann Johnson, to volunteer at the Global Market. Recently, I talked with Diane about her life and work. — Jane Wheeler

JW: I know that you work in the Global Market, but also volunteer in other ways. What keeps you coming back?

DP: I like the “expressive” volunteer activities: telling everyone I can about the Global Market. I wanted to get the word out to businesses on Classen Boulevard, so I drove around collecting addresses, following up with cards and posters advertising the Global Market. It gave me a chance to spread the word.

JW: Have I ever asked you to be on the Public Relations and Marketing Committee?

DP: Yes and I told you no.

JW: You have been involved with PAMBE Ghana from the beginning. Were you in the Temple’s living room with the group that encouraged Alice to make her dream happen?

DP: I was there from the beginning, but not in the Temple’s living room that time. I wonder where I was? I knew Alice personally, but didn’t know about PAMBE Ghana’s birthing until it was born. And I knew Patti Tepper-Rasmussen and Linda Temple from the World Neighbors days, so it was natural for me to join the group of volunteers working to make the dream a reality.

JW: Are you from OKC originally?

DP: Oklahoma City is my hometown. After graduating from Harding, I attended OU. While I was in college, I got the travel bug and spent my summers working in projects in San Francisco, Roxbury, MA and Yellowstone. After OU, I got a job teaching in Oakland, California. Being young, I didn’t know how to set boundries, so I got overwhelmed and in too deep. It seem like a good time to vacate the premises, so I bummed around Europe for a year.

JW: Only a year?

DP: Well, Mom called: “Would you come home for your sister’s wedding and stay awhile?” So I did.

JW: What path did you follow when you came back?

DP: The city hired me to work with Roosevelt (“Rozie”)Turner. We created the Mayor’s Action Youth Organization (MAYO), a program for disadvantaged youths. I continued this work with the City of Oklahoma City, the Community Action Program and the YWCA/Job Corps from 1968 until 1974.

JW: Where did you meet your husband, Charles Parker?

DP: Charles was working as an investigator in the Legal Aid office, which was across the street from our office. He would come over and flirt with all the girls. He was looking for a new wife, so I took the job. After we became a couple in 1970, I convinced Charles to go back to school. This took us to Miami, Florida, where he studied industrial arts.

JW: What adventures did you find in Florida?

DP: We both taught school. I worked at a vocational school in Homestead teaching migrants at night. I had a wonderful time! One girl couldn’t read at all, so I taught myself phonics and taught her how to read. That was really rewarding.

The plastic frantic lifestyle in Florida drove me to graduate school looking for some kindred spirits, so I went to Florida International University. There, I got a masters’ degree in public administration.

Then, the Department of Defense hired Charles to teach in the base schools in Germany. We got married so I could go overseas with him. When our son, David, was old enough to go to school, I applied for a position as budget analyst with the Army. We were there for 15 years until the Berlin Wall fell. Charles’ school closed and I transferred to Tinker, AFB.

After 30 years, I retired. It seemed like the right time.

JW: Besides PAMBE Ghana, what are you passionate about now?

DP: I like to learn by reading and taking classes. Recently, I attended a class on neuroplasticity, learning that we have a lot of choice as to what goes into the mind.
I love to laugh, exercise, and listen to live music. And, travel, of course! Mary Ann and I went to Hannibal, Missouri recently. We learned all things Mark Twain.

I am not ADD, but I do have ants in my pants.

JW: We love to laugh with you, Diane! Thanks for sharing a bit of your life with me today.

Donate Today

Your Donation Today Will Help PAMBE Ghana Provide:
-- Teacher's salary
-- Children’s health insurance
-- Montessori materials
-- Teacher education

PAMBE Ghana is a 501(c)(3) registered charitable organization.


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