Uplifting Experience

Letter to the editor, The Oklahoman 11.23.16

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.

Alice in Oklahoma: What’s It All About?

Alice speaks to students at Heritage Hall Middle School

Alice speaks to students at Heritage Hall Middle School

Dressed in her traditional Ghanaian attire, Alice Iddi-Gubbels enters the lecture room at Oklahoma City University Law School and hands her flash drive to the technical support person. He will get her Power Point up on the big screen so that Alice can tell the PAMBE Ghana story to a new audience.

“It’s important to broaden our support base,” says Alice, who spends a large chunk of her annual fall visits to OKC drumming up support for La’Angum Learning Center, which today has 266 students from pre-K through grade 6.  “It’s an intense time. We have new challenges as the program has gotten bigger and more complex, and expanding funding sources is extremely important.”

Alice spends roughly 4-6 weeks in Oklahoma City each year, usually from November through early December. Her visits coincide with the seasonal opening of the Global Market, where she is a regular visitor with volunteers and shoppers. That is, when she’s not otherwise engaged in the scores of visits, appointments, meetings and presentations on her calendar. There is no typical day. Or week.

“I visit with many old friends who have been committed supporters over the years. It’s a chance to have one-to-one conversations,” says Alice. Other days she might be preparing to speak to first graders at Heritage Hall, whose art show proceeds have been a regular contribution for several years. Or engaging with a local church congregation at coffee hour alongside a mini-Global Market sales table. Or participating in a radio interview.

A big component of her visits is in-person time with the board, to provide briefings, examine resources and discuss program priorities. She is the bridge between the OKC-based nonprofit headquarters, and the Ghana-based school. She is a cultural bridge as well, ensuring understanding and appreciation on both sides of the Atlantic.

What about the nuts and bolts of life? During her visits, Alice is a guest in the homes of supporters. This year she’ll spend the first half of her visit near downtown, and the last part of her visit on the Northeast side. She drives a borrowed vehicle while in town (and has to readjust to driving automatic vs. stick). She uses a temporary pay-as-you-go phone, which requires her to get a new number each year. And she comes prepared to cover her traditional, tropical African attire with serious cold weather gear for Oklahoma’s winter, which, like Alice, arrives each November.

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.


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.


Hepatitis B Virus: Screening, Vaccination & Treatment at LLC

Hepatitis B virus has spread and become more prevalent and severe, especially among young people in our communities.  There are many myths about the cause of this viral disease, and modern medicine is often sought as a last resort, when the infection is at an advanced stage.  Sadly, most of such patients die within 6 months.  Indeed, this was the cause of death of our beloved teacher, Issah Musah, in 2009!

Happily, Hepatitis B screening, vaccination and treatment are increasingly available in many government and private health facilities. Screening costs Ghc 5 ($1.30) and the 3-dose vaccination costs Ghc 25 ($6.50) per dose.  If infected, the medication for the 6-month treatment is Ghc 50 ($13.00) per month.  These costs are not covered by the National Health Insurance program.  Thus, these services remain out of reach of many people.

It is in this light that we embarked on a Hepatitis B screening, vaccination and treatment project in LLC.  In mid April, Alice initiated a collaborative relationship with a nurse at the Gambaga Health Centre and a Lab technician (private) to undertake screening of all 250 students and all PAMBE Ghana staff, volunteer cooks and the two caretakers.  Staff could bring their families, but they would pay the cost.  The team generously reduced the cost of vaccination to Ghc 14 ($3.65) per dose for LLC.6-vaccine

The first day began with a Powerpoint presentation by the health team on Hepatitis B, with lower elementary students and their teachers, followed by those of upper elementary. We learned that the liver performs vital functions in the body to keep us healthy and strong, that Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver, and the signs and symptoms of a sick liver. We learned that there are many types of Hepatitis but the focus was on Hepatitis B.

6-vaccine2The computer lab was transformed into a laboratory; the summer hut became the injection room and the library was the consulting room. The nurse drew blood samples and the lab technician did the testing of each sample.  It is worth noting here that our solar system provided power for the lab works.

All who tested negative moved on to the summer hut to be vaccinated by the community nurse.  The screening and vaccination was completed the following day.  Nine of the students tested positive.
We had a small intimate talk with the students, explaining why they could not be vaccinated and asking them to come to school with their parents /guardians the following morning. The Head teacher and Alice were able to contact the parents directly and invite them.

Both parents /guardians of affected students responded to the call. Here too, the health team was very generous.  They offered to test all the parents /guardians and any child who came with them, free of charge.  After a health talk on Hepatitis in general and HBV in particular, and question-and-answer period, the lab technician and his assistant proceeded to test all the parents and the babies and toddlers who came with their mothers.

All but one of the positive adult cases were women. Two siblings of one of our students also tested positive, while their father was negative. These results led to the conclusion that most of the infections were from mother-to-child.

The lab technician visited with both parents where possible and discussed their test results and the way forward with them.  He encouraged the couples to seek treatment for affected partners as soon as they could and advised the rest to take the 3-dose vaccination, both available in Gambaga for purchase.

6-vaccine3He also discussed the treatment schedule of the LLC students with parents and arranged to meet them the following day with the necessary medication to begin treatment.  PAMBE Ghana took charge of these medications. The nine children will be tested at the end of the 6-month treatment and, depending on the results, will begin the 3-dose vaccination or continue treatment.

Your donation today will help pay for this community-wide screening, provide students and family members with preventive vaccinations, and treat those already infected. Please help - click on the DONATE button.

Motor King arrives

Thank you to the marvelous donors who helped us purchase a Motor King!

motor-king3 motor-king2On Tuesday, our Motor King arrived, all assembled and ready with drums for hauling water. There was so much excitement and many teachers tried their hand in the school compound, and found out very quickly that driving a Motor King is quite different from a motorcycle. Wuni Baani, the Lunch Program Coordinator will be in charge. With Charles’ help and local entrepreneur with expertise in these vehicles, I drew up a simple contract /guide for the Motor King driver/caretaker. He’s practicing this weekend and will have scheduled time with students to bring water to school.

Refresher course at Faith Montessori in Accra

montessori-training8-15Just a quick note to let you know that all 17 PG field staff arrived in Accra safely on Sunday and began a 5-day workshop at Faith Montessori School.  The course timetable includes theory and demonstrations in the morning and practice in the afternoons.  Yesterday, we began with an overview of Montessori philosophy and practical life activities. Today, the focus will be on numeracy/arithmetic, followed by literacy and language, and cultural studies to Thursday.  Friday is reserved for Outdoor, Cosmic Education and Art & Creativity. Our first day went very well.

There was a 2 hour practical practice in a Montessori classroom. Participants had so much fun and participated all throughout. One remarkable observation made was that all teachers of the Faith Montessori served well as guides in all the practical lessons we understood.

Madam Emma, the director of Faith Montessori has really made efforts to make us as comfortable as possible.  The accommodation is adequate and we have 3-square meals.  There’s also a bus that takes us from the hostel to the course center.

Progress toward drilling a well to supply water for La’Angum Learning Center

PAMBE Ghana has received a generous donation from Hope H20 Foundation to drill a well at a site near the school. Alice has contracted with John Osman of Watersites Company Ltd in Tamale, Ghana to perform a geophysical survey to identify potential sites for the well, and to drill the borehole. drilling-well-anthills Alice writes: Did you know that anthills (termite?) are a good sign for potential underground water? John says this is because the ants (termites?) get all their water right where they build that formidable piece of architecture. He and his party arrived in LLC arrived 9:00. After a survey of the land all around the school, he identified two sites that have potential for underground water and staked them out for more detailed study, one after the other. The most promising point is right at the termite hill and around it. Both are quite some way from the school, but closer than the current water source (past the village, close to the river). First, we pray for abundant clean water source and the issue of distance later. drilling-well1

Memorial Celebration for Dorothe Schneebeli on Dec 31, 2014


On December 31, I hosted a gathering of close friends of Christian and Dorothe Schneebeli in my home in Bongbini. We had worked and lived together with Dorothe and her family in Walewale in the late 70s/early 80s and the bonding that happened during that time continued to hold this core group together in spirit, if not physically. Baba, Mary and the Head teacher represented PG. Three people from Bumboazio community, including the PTA chair were also present.  Last but not least, my Mother and family members partook in the celebration. During her last visit to Ghana in Dec. 2013, Dorothe insisted she must see LLC and my Mom in the village and, she did.  PG staff called her “the laughing woman”.  I was in OKC then. The gathering was simple and personal.  We ate and exchanged fond memories of Dorothe: her large heart and her infectious laughter and joy. She was with us that day and will always be.

Learn more about the Dorothe Schneebeli Endowment Fund


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.