Volunteer Spotlight: Don Oliver

Don Oliver

Don Oliver

Two years ago, when The Men’s Corner first appeared in the Global Market, creator Don Oliver was excited and apprehensive. This was a new level of participation for the long time PAMBE Ghana supporter who has a history of creative involvement in the community.

Don first heard of PAMBE Ghana through board member Jane Wheeler, who works out at the gym he owns: Don’s DO Fitness at 5118 N Shartel. She was looking for a performance venue for the African singer and dancer Kaberic, who was making promotional appearances throughout OKC on behalf of PAMBE Ghana a few years back. Anyone who knows Don knows he can’t say no to dance. Or to music. And if he can learn something in the process, he’s there. And if he can also be altruistic? He’s right in front of you. Don opened his spacious and bright exercise room to a crowd of all ages, and thus began this warm and rewarding partnership.

Don is one of the world’s creative people. He says he’s always been a dancer. He taught dance throughout his high school years in Guthrie, OK, and during his college years at the University of Central Oklahoma. At his gym, he incorporates dance moves into his step classes. Don has a strong sense of design, which he tapped to create the industrially chic space for his fitness center. He’s also a musician, playing drums in club gigs with bands. But then he picked up the harmonica.

“I started playing straight harp, which is when you’re playing the exact notes of the song,” explained Don. “A friend said I should learn cross harp, when you play a note that is harmonically balanced with another note: Four steps above the key of the band.”  Don never looked back. “I hear it and I feel it,” he said. “You’re flying between the guitarist and vocals. You can move in between them or back them up or mimic them – you can do anything. It’s a blast.”

Don still plays the occasional band gig. He also loves to go out dancing (you can catch him out on the floor somewhere on most weekends). But he puts a lot into his business and into his community, donating his time to PAMBE Ghana and other nonprofits. “I’ve always been taught to make the world a better place,” says Don. “Whether it’s volunteering or running my business or doing a job, if people feel good about themselves, this just goes out into the world.”

For the Men’s Corner, Don spends hours shopping fair trade suppliers for the right products. Before the Global Market opens each year, he sets up the space to spotlight the products he feels will appeal to men. Don is picky, as a volunteer who works with him will attest!  But he’s got a job to do and the experience and skills to do it with. And he’s the first to let loose with a big laugh. Because life is joyful. And Don Oliver is full of life.

Plans for the 2016-17 year

10-goalsLa’Angum Learning Center began the 2016-17 school year in September. Executive Director Alice Iddi-Gubbels provided a list of what she hoped to accomplish between now and July.

  1. Continued teacher training and support in Montessori education: Two 3-day workshops with Mr Eric Gumah from Bawku, Ghana.
  2. Continued support for two teachers to complete their North American Montessori Center/Faith Montessori Diploma course.
  3. Initiate a lending library for students.
  4. Follow up and support with our graduates who are junior high school students at Unity Junior High School in Langbinsi.
  5. Outcomes assessment for grades 3 & 6.
  6. Hepatitis B screening, followed by vaccination and treatment of infected students. This is a very important health project to continue with our new Pre-k and transfer students. This includes administering booster shots a year after the initial inoculation, to provide for a 10-year protection.
  7. Continue to raise funds for expanded water resources and improved sanitation.
  8. Complete Montessori demonstration classroom. This will be an important practical support for teachers and students alike.
  9. Leadership development plans.
  10. Increasing friend and fund raising, in Ghana.

Plans for PAMBE Ghana’s 2016-17 year in OKC include:

  1. Continue to provide funding and support for LLC, its facilities, operations, students and teachers.
  2. Diversify and expand funding sources by focusing on grants, donor development and friend raising opportunities.
  3. Help populate LLC’s new lending library with donated books.
  4. Expand and refine social media presence.
  5. Expand Global Market hours. This year it will remain open until 7:00 pm on Thursdays. The Global Market will open November 3 and close December 24.

 

Volunteer Spotlight: Linda Temple

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You could say that PAMBE Ghana started at the Temple’s home.  One Friday night, at “soup night,”  Alice talked to the friends gathered about her dream of going back home to start a school.  They’d heard it before. However, this time they pushed her forward. In the gentle but firm manner of good friends, they said, “Alice, do something about it or quit talking about it!”

That did it. Alice put a group together and they created PAMBE Ghana.  Linda offered to do a global fair trade market for PAMBE Ghana nine years ago. Her volunteering commitment to PG continues as strong as ever.

Linda still brings a wealth of talent and experience to our organization. She coordinates the Global Market, including overseeing the buying of merchandise from Fair Trade organizations and training of volunteers.  Linda also serves on the Public Relations and Marketing committee of PAMBE Ghana.

Linda has worked with Fair Trade since the 1980’s.  She developed a strong interest after she heard Sister Leona Leucke from the Peace House speak to the local weavers guild about her work with weavers in Guatemala.  The weavers were widows and mothers selling their work to support their families. After the inspiring talk, Linda and Anne Murray started buying yardages and selling them at coffee shops, churches, and parties in homes.  They collected $200 from local weavers to get started with the project.

After a couple of years,  Anne and Linda visited the project in Santa Apolonia, Guatemala. It was a dangerous trip because of the brutal civil war ongoing at the time.  Looking back, Linda wondered if the trip was the best idea, but explained it by saying, “The things you do in your youth! “

When they returned, they kept selling until everyone they knew had as much Guatemalan  stuff as they could use or give away.  So, they expanded to a “Market Day” concept. They got  Oklahoma State non-profit status and bought through Fair Trade groups, which had developed in the decade since they first heard Sister Leucke. They used the proceeds to benefit different groups, such as a school in Nepal and artisans in Haiti. And they always sent something back to Guatemala.

Linda and Anne went on to help World Neighbors with their Fair Trade gift shop, coordinating and keeping it stocked and organized.  Eventually, Linda worked for World Neighbors in their publications department, while still doing the shop. She and PG Board Member Patti Tepper-Rasmussen,  did the purchasing for their annual “World Fest Market.” When World Neighbors decided they no longer needed their help, they shifted energies and converted it to the PAMBE Ghana Global Market.

Linda’s drive to help others is a value  instilled in her by her parents. Her parents  were activists, taking up for the rights of others and taking care of those in need.  As a high school student,  she witnessed these values in action, as her parents, especially her mother, became more involved in civil rights and feminist issues during the 1960s. They also fostered many children over the years.

After graduation from Muskogee High School, in 1964,  Linda attended OCU on an academic scholarship.  She was an elementary education major, which was selected for her by the administration. After student teaching,  she realized that she didn’t want teaching as a career path. “Student teaching should come at the first, rather than the end of school,” Linda said.

Linda met Tom, her husband, at OCU, and the pair moved to New York City for a couple of years to work with the Catholic Workers Movement. Linda also worked as a secretary for the vocational rehabilitation unit at Harlem Hospital. After leaving New York, they moved to Peabody, Kansas, where she worked for the local paper.  Linda remembers, ”I got to do everything at the paper from running the printers to photographing for the stories.”

However, events caused Linda and Tom to grow up fast.  When they were 25, Linda’s  mother died leaving two young brothers, ages 8 and 11. They came to live with the young couple. It was time to settle down and provide for the kids. Linda ran a day care center and Tom went back to school.

They eventually moved back to Oklahoma City so Tom could work on solar energy projects with architect Jon Robison. Linda started work as a secretary at Red Rock Behavioral Health Services and worked her way up to the Director of Administration.  Although working at Red Rock was very rewarding, Linda wanted  to diversify her resume, so she got a job as the Director of Development at the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence. Later, she worked in the publications department of World Neighbors and at OU, where she was assigned to work in technical writing at the Department of Human Services.

After that, she was able to go to Library School at OU, earning a Master’s degree and fulfilling a childhood dream. After completing her degree, she worked for the Oklahoma City County Metropolitan Library in Midwest City.

Linda gives her time and talents to PAMBE Ghana and other worthwhile projects, including editing a quarterly textile newsletter for Weave A Real Piece (WARP).

Additionally, Linda is a Master Gardener and spends a lot of time in her yard, especially propagating native plants. She still identifies herself as a weaver, although these days she mostly only does tablet weaving bands. She and her husband Tom enjoy traveling and are frequent tent campers and hikers.  They travel to London a couple of times a  year to spend time with their son, Blaise, his wife Melissa, Nicola, 9, and Quinn, 7.

PAMBE Ghana is just one organization that has benefited by Linda’s boundless commitment to help others make their way in the world.  Thank you,  Linda!

Alice Azumi Iddi-Gubbels Before PAMBE Ghana

10-aliceAlice arrives on Nov. 2!

Most of us are familiar with Alice Iddi-Gubbels accomplishments in Oklahoma City: graduating from OCU with a Masters degree in early childhood education and Montessori Teaching Certificate, teaching at Westminster School and starting PAMBE Ghana.

However, Alice’s education and experience before PAMBE Ghana goes far and wide.

Alice was among the first in her village to go to school and is one of the fortunate few to go on to college.  She has a diploma in Home Science and Nutrition from the University of Ghana, Masters degree in Social Development Planning and Management from the University of Wales-UK.

The common theme throughout her professional life has been education and social development in marginalized communities. Her work has been in health care, water supply, functional literacy and local leadership.

From 1980-82, Alice led a community-based health care program in northern Ghana, organizing and training volunteer community health promoters and traditional midwives.

Alice worked as the World Health Coordinator for the Integrated Rural Development Program in Bassar-Togo from 1983-86, and as Family Health Advisor West Africa from 1986 to 1987.  She worked with Oxfam-GB from 1987-1997, first as Deputy Regional Representative for West Africa and later as Country Program Director for Burkina Faso.

Alice moved with her family to Canada in late 1997. In 1998, she managed the francophone Africa program, which included West Africa, the African Great Lakes region and Madagascar for the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace based in Montreal.  She provided management and support to Oxfam Canada’s food security program in Ethiopia from 1999 until she moved with her husband to Oklahoma City in 2000. Since then, Alice’s career path has shifted to early childhood education,  with the starting of PAMBE Ghana and La’Angum Learning Center.

 

2016 School Enrollment

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Ibrahim Bukari Issah and Chief process enrollment at the start of the school year.

Grade Boys Girls Total Teachers Teaching Assistants
KG1 20 13 33 2 1
KG2 22 14 36 1 1
Pr. 1 24 15 39 2 1
Pr. 2 15 19 34 1 1
Pr. 3 19 16 35 1 1
Pr. 4 17 8 25 1 0
Pr. 5 9 19 28 1 0
Pr. 6 17 15 32 1 0
ICT for P1-P6 1
143 119 262 10 5
Head Teacher 1
Exec. Asst. 1
Exec. Dir. 1
School Security 2

From World Neighbors to PAMBE Ghana: Richard Williamson

9-williamson-richard-400One of the best things to happen to PAMBE Ghana in 2009 was that Richard Williamson, CPA became Treasurer. He has helped us navigate the tricky waters of international exchange rates, which can wreak havoc on our dollar-based budgets. He’s guided us through salary issues tied to Ghana’s high inflation rate. He prepares our 990 tax returns and heads our very prudent budgeting process. And he’s done this all as a volunteer.

Richard’s day job is with the American Cancer Society’s probate and trust department. “The planned giving people get donors to put us in their wills and trusts. I’m at the end of the process, when we’re collecting the money people have left to us.” This familiarity with the nonprofit environment has been one of Richard’s contributions. Before his ten years at American Cancer Society, Richard spent ten years as the chief financial officer at the beloved Oklahoma-based nonprofit, World Neighbors.

“I met Alice through this, because her husband Peter and I worked in the same office for about six years,” recalled Richard. “Peter introduced me to PAMBE Ghana because they needed someone to help.” Richard wasn’t sure at first if the small organization would survive financially. Today, he is pleased with what we’ve accomplished. “It shows what a person can do if they want to, “ he said. “A lot has been accomplished by Alice’s determination. Somehow she finds a way.”

But some of the behind the scenes, non-sexy things that Richard does help. He insists that PAMBE Ghana budgets a year out – so we raise money in year 1 for year 2. The money we’re spending this year is already in the bank; the money we’re raising today is for next year. “I’ve seen both large and small nonprofits go out of business the other way,” says Richard. “If you’re fundraising to make current expenses you’re always on thin ice.”

Before moving into the nonprofit sector, Richard’s world was oil and gas – for 20 years. He was born in a small Oklahoma town, got his BA and MBA from OU then, after four years in the army, he got his CPA. For nearly the next twenty he worked in the oil and gas business. The first several years in the 1970’s were boom times, when oil and gas was a fun business. But the last years in the 1980’s were the worst the industry has even had. Jobs dried up as companies folded. Richard got a job with a trucking company where he prepared bids for contracts. He had to figure out how to make the low paid workers work harder and faster so that the company would make more money. This experience led Richard to think about what would really satisfy him. That’s when he moved to nonprofit.

He explained that in accounting, the actual job that you’re doing is the same from place to place, but in the nonprofit setting, the mission of what you’re doing is much more satisfying. “You work there because you believe in what they’re doing.” But when the work you’re supporting is in the third world, you are removed from actually seeing the fruit of your labors. Richard has had the good fortune to see first hand some of his results. He’s traveled to Central America twice and Africa three times. This last trip, to Ghana in 2015, was to see PAMBE Ghana’s La’Angum Learning Center.

These trips, to see how the money is being used, make all the difference in the world in understanding what is actually being accomplished. Richard explains, “There is always some skepticism about how the money is being used, and if it’s getting where it needs to go. When you travel overseas and actually see the school building, that there are kids running around smiling and happy, staff members, outfitted classrooms – you get to see what the money is being used for, and you can report back to your donors. Most donors don’t have this opportunity, but we can go, and report back to them.”

Richard has always worked for what he believes in, and helped build strong foundations for new endeavors. As a soccer dad, he was central to building the soccer fields west of Hefner Parkway. He was literally in charge of getting the fields ready for their first season. That meant getting a sprinkler system installed. And grass. But before that, picking up rocks. The site was covered with rocks that had to go before any other work could occur.

Most recently he helped his wife Susan build her retirement dream – a nonprofit duplicate bridge club that welcomes and teaches beginners. With Richard’s help, she opened Fun and Games Duplicate Bridge Club earlier this year at OKC’s Northpark Mall. “We call it our lake house,” jokes Richard, “because instead of a lake house, we have a bridge club!” Richard and Susan’s youngest son, Stuart, a software developer and his wife Kristin, Director of Children’s Services for the Metropolitan Library System (and PAMBE Ghana supporters) went with him to Ghana to visit the school last summer. Their oldest son, Clint, and his wife Natalie, are both radiologists with Integris Hospital. The Williamson’s have six grandchildren.

Twenty-Something Volunteer Fully Engages in Service to the Community

Rachel Apple first heard about PAMBE Ghana three years ago while leaning over a cocktail table at a Ronald McDonald House gala, sharing getting-to-know-you stories with a fellow attendee. “It sounded like important work and it was the right time in my life. I figured I’d like to help,” said the Renaissance woman in her mid-twenties.

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Rachel (l) with her sister, Rylee, at the PAMBE Ghana Fest

Thus began a wonderful relationship between Rachel and PAMBE Ghana. Well, Rachel and almost everyone she came in contact with. She’s a giving sort of person who doesn’t do things half way. Rachel started volunteering at the Global Market that fall, and brought several friends in as volunteers, as well. When we needed a photographer to document a fundraiser, she volunteered her services – she’d majored in photography and had a business doing photo gigs ranging from weddings to food spreads for magazines. She also proved a terrific bartender at the first PAMBE Ghana Fest, along with best friend Drew Apple, whom she married in 2011. And she helped launch our social media efforts. “I grew up in a church. It’s natural for me to do fellowship through service. When the Moore tornado hit, it wasn’t even a question of whether I would volunteer – it was ‘Where’s the volunteer center?’”

Eventually Rachel joined the PAMBE Ghana board. Although she didn’t know much about education or Africa, she contributed an important perspective and voice, as well as knowledge and experience. “I’d never been on a board and I didn’t know a lot about education or Africa. But if I felt I could contribute, I just did. I wasn’t brought up to be a warm body. If I’m doing something, I want to really be there – I want to engage.”

8-coffeepotRachel grew up in Edmond, OK and attended the Kansas City Art Institute before finishing her BFA at the University of Oklahoma with minors in ceramics and art history to go along with her photography major. But when asked about her passions, Rachel added fiber arts (“Lots of the women in my family are talented fiber artists.”), pets (“We have two dogs and two cats.”), family (“My family is the greatest!”), tattoos (“Which one?”), food and coffee (“Since 2014 I’ve started to move into coffee as a career”).

True to form, Rachel parlayed an entry-level position at OKC’s Elemental Coffee into the role of Chief Roaster. She started with a high level of knowledge from past work in the field, but took it to another level. Today she is the coffee educator at George Howell Coffee in Boston. “I host classes, cuppings, education, palate trainings, brew method classes – all sorts of things.”

 

Being in Boston is a permanent move for Rachel and Drew, one which opens up many wonderful professional opportunities for both. And while Rachel won’t be available to assist PAMBE Ghana on a regular basis, her contributions have made a significant impact. As for Rachel, she says she, too, has benefitted from her three years of volunteering with PAMBE Ghana. “I’m grateful. I learned a lot, I got the chance to help, I got to know some wonderful people, and the experience has set me up to contribute somewhere in depth in the future.” Thank you Rachel – we wish you well!

LLC Graduates First Class of Students

They started seven years ago as preschoolers. Now, three days of festivities honor them as La’Angum Learning Center’s first graduating class.

20 HARUNA TOAHIRU-sm

Haruna Toahiru

With these boys and girls began a powerful journey that hundreds of children in this remote portion of Northern Ghana will follow. They have completed their elementary education and are academically prepared to move on to junior high. LLC’s bilingual curriculum enabled them to master English sufficiently to move on to the all-English public schools. They have a future that was not available to them or children in their villages just eight years ago. This is, indeed, a cause for celebration!

4 HAADI ADAMBLA-sm

Haadi Adambla

There are 27 students in this graduating class: 14 girls and 13 boys. As a graduation gift, the PAMBE Ghana board has offered to pay the seventh grade school fees those who go on to attend junior high this fall. This amounts to roughly $100 per student, which is a substantial amount for these students’ families as most are living at subsistence level. These scholarship funds were donated by PAMBE Ghana friends and supporters. Our board hopes to repeat this gift for every graduating class in the future.

The celebration begins July 25 with activities and games, such as sack races, egg races and popular bread-eating competitions. This is a friend raiser, and also a fundraiser, so participants will pay a small fee to enter.

16 DANIEL NYABA-sm

Daniel Nyaba

The ceremonial graduation event is July 27. In true Ghanaian fashion, it will last for several hours. Scores of people will attend, including parents and families, dignitaries from the area’s business community, Ghana Education Service, local and regional government, NGOs such as CARE International, and religious, tribal and village leadership. “Travel Around Africa” is the day’s unifying theme. The program will include several cultural dances, story telling and dramatic performances by the students, and the awarding of certificates.

Graduation of LLC’s first class of students carries tremendous significance. To the graduates and their families, it is the opening of a door to a completely new future. It fuels the aspirations of younger students.  To LLC’s teachers and staff, it is the culmination of a seven-year process in which they have been central players. To PAMBE Ghana supporters, it is the exciting final act that affirms our efforts to establish a unique school in an underserved community. It is also the first act in PAMBE Ghana’s future, as we continue our work to help shape the ever-evolving community that is La’Angum Learning Center.

A Family Commitment to PG

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Kelly Pearson

Kelly Pearson, longtime supporter of PAMBE Ghana, recently spoke with Judy Federa and Jane Wheeler about her work with PAMBE Ghana and other organizations as a “professional volunteer.” An Oklahoma City native, Kelly and her husband Paul have two children, Emily and Evan, still at home and two adult children. When Emily came along, Kelly decided to get out of the 8-5 rat race in order to spend more time with Evan and Emily. This gave her more time to volunteer in the community and put her strongly-held beliefs about “giving back” into action.

Judy & Jane: How did you first become involved with PAMBE Ghana?

Kelly Pearson: Emily was in Alice’s class at Westminster School. We were looking forward to Evan being in her class the next year, but were surprised when Alice notified us that summer that she wasn’t coming back for the fall session. However, the reason was intriguing: she wanted to go back to Ghana and start a school.

Nicole Bondurant (former PAMBE Ghana Board Member) and I decided to help with her project. We made a pact: we were going to jump in just to get our feet wet. PAMBE Ghana offered us the chance to do things that we hadn’t done before.

J & J: How did your work evolve?

KP: We had a family meeting and decided that we wanted to consistently support PAMBE Ghana. After we decided on an amount, we committed to an annual donation for 3 years. Then, 3 years turned into 4. Then, I was asked to join the board. I’d never done any fundraising, but started just doing it. I didn’t have any experience in retail either, but I decided to volunteer full time at the Global Market so it could be open in Midtown during the weekdays. The family supported PAMBE Ghana too; Paul set up tables at events and Emily continues to volunteer at the Global Market. My older daughter, Kiley helped design the PAMBE Ghana logo and helped with the newsletters and graphic design for many years. At the time, I was only working with PAMBE Ghana, but later I started working on the the Edgemere School Project, devoting half-time to each project. Later, I found I was working mostly on Edgemere School, so I decided to resign from the PAMBE Ghana Board to work exclusively with Edgemere School.

J & J: Why did you decide to contribute so much to PAMBE Ghana?

KP: One reason was our kids. They both have an ancestral connection to Ghana. We wanted to show that even though they are being raised by white parents, we acknowledge their background and culture.

J & J, What has it been like to start at the first of the project and then see it mature?

KP: When you start a project and it grows, you see the real benefits. With PAMBE Ghana it was the benefits to the children. It means that all the time spent went to good purpose. The best part of volunteering is seeing something grow. I don’t want to waste the time I have on the planet. I want to be useful.

I feel it is important to spend some time giving back. Some people give dollars; I give me. It is rewarding to work toward a goal along with like- minded people.

J & J: What are some things you are proud of or things you learned?

KP: I am proud of getting Heritage Hall involved. It was really more Emily than me. Emily was studying celebrations in first grade. She asked her teacher, Delaine Evans, if she could bring Alice to talk about the Fire Festival. The teacher was quite happy to have Alice come. Mrs. Evans got very excited and suggested that they start doing the annual first grade art show as a fundraiser for PAMBE Ghana.

Another thing was working with the Bricktown Rotary. We went to give a presentation and didn’t know what to expect, but immediately afterwards, a woman walked up and gave us a $100 check in memory of her mother. She gave us a check every time we came. Their involvement has continued throughout the years and they have even partnered with the Rotary in Ghana.

During my volunteer time with PAMBE Ghana, I learned so much about fundraising, public relations and retail by just jumping in with both feet and learning along the way!

Rainbow of Hope for Children Provides Funding

Thank you to the Canadian Rainbow of Hope for Children (ROHFC) for providing funding to support the PAMBE Ghana Health, Nutrition and Sanitation Program! rainbow-hope1 The objectives of the project are:rainbow-hope3
  1. To provide mid-day lunches for the students to include purchasing food, the salary of a school lunch coordinator, and hauling and transport of foodstuffs from the community and local markets.
  2. To provide basic health care to the 250 students to include paying the National Health Insurance Annual Premium and purchasing first aid products for the school.
  3. To foster sanitation at the school to purchase soap and sanitary related cleaning products.
rainbow-hope2 Previous support from ROHFC in 2013 and 2014 included the funding of particular staffing and operation and maintenance programs at the La’Angum Learning Center. In 2014-15, ROHFC provided PAMBE Ghana with new infrastructure to improve the facilities, specifically building a library and a technology lab, including a system of collecting and storing rainwater for those using these facilities. ROHFC also assisted the Rotary clubs of Wainwright, Alberta, Watford, Ontario and Tamale, Ghana to install solar panels and computers in the technology lab.

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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