New Officers at E-quip Africa

The latest news from E-quip Africa is the election of officers at the 2019 annual meeting when Kenneth Wutoh was chosen as president! Kenneth (Kofi) holds a doctorate degree in Physical Therapy (PT) which he earned in the USA; he was born and raised in Kpando, Volta Region, Ghana. He and his wife Amanda and two children live in Minneapolis where Kenneth works as a physical therapist administrator. Kofi’s latest project was “Project Click-A-Mouse” where he delivered laptop computers to students in a Kpando school. Due to the current Covid-19 pandemic travel to Ghana is on hold, but Kofi still works to find ways for equipment and supplies to find their way to West Africa.

Board of Directors, E-quip Africa 2019
EQA Board of Directors for 2019, L to R: Greg Martin, Mary Wilkowske, Ellen Echenique, Doug Wilkowske, Kenneth Wutoh, Joan Kuhn, Amanda Wutoh.

E-quip Africa Projects in 2019

E-quip Africa has two projects in the works for the start of 2019:

  1. Project Click-A-Mouse
  2. Youth Crime Watch Liberia

E-Quip Africa refurbished laptop computer projectProject Click-A-Mouse is headed up by our friend and board member, Kenneth (Kofi) Wutoh and centers in the Volta Region of Ghana near the village of Kpando. Kofi’s project goal is to equip the Kpando schools with refurbished laptop computers that also could be used by the general public in a community center type facility. The Church of St. Mary, Willmar, Minnesota is a co-sponsor. Read more about Kofi’s goals (PDF) .

E-quip Africa to sponsor Youth Crime Watch Liberia projects in 2019YCWL is directed by Zuo Taylor, a very industrious young man in Liberia who has built an organization providing post-high-school education to Liberian youth. He built it on the same model as used in Miami, Florida with great success, providing vital services to young people in Liberia. Check out the Youth Crime Watch Liberia  website for details.

Container TTNU9125753 has been released from Tema Harbor, Ghana!

After a long absence from posting here, I am very happy and relieved to announce that our container has finally been released from the harbor and will be unpacked at the Tema, Ghana Rotary Center on Saturday, January 3rd!

It’s been quite an ordeal to say the least and at some future point I will try to summarize the events which took place from August 18 when the container left Willmar until today. But until the contents of the big red boxarrive in every school as specifically addressed, we will concentrate on facilitating that last step of the project.

It is very appropriate to thank all who are reading this for their support, financial and physical as well as moral. If not for that the textbooks and computers would still be on the third floor of The Barn Theatre building in Willmar!

Joan reading to school children in GhanaThis post will point out three special people who put themselves into the thick of things and traveled to work onsite in Ghana. Joan Kuhn, Candy Anderson and Greg Martin were able to complete the training described and promised in the Rotary grant. Here’s a summary:

Joan and Candy had a literal “love fest” with elementary and junior high teachers from 5 schools, demonstrating how they might use Houghton Mifflin reading textbooks and many hard won teaching techniques to increase the skills of their students.

    In the course of 16 days nearly 100 teachers, administrators and education officials attended training sessions.

  • Training was accomplished without access to the container’s treasure trove of reading materials.
  • The eager acceptance by local teachers was in direct proportion to the abilities of Joan and Candy to relate to all who are dedicated to teaching.

Greg Martin teamed up with Emmanuel Kodjo Ansah Larbi who owns and operates an IT education service, Eight System, located in Accra, Ghana to supply computer training for the teachers from the five selected schools.

  • Greg and Larbi were a team to reckon with as they engaged educators from one end of Ghana to the other.
  • No matter what part of the world computer education is conducted, trainers meet trainees who run the gamut of experience from “Yes, I saw a computer once.” to “Did you notice the webmaster used the wrong HTML tag to insert an image into this web page?” Well, Greg and Larbi handled them ALL with aplomb!
  • The computers on the container were not available so these guys quickly pulled together enough laptops to conduct their training sessions.
  • The training was done even when no electrical power was being delivered to the school. (Magic? No, just good preparation.)

Doug was extremely happy that Larbi and Greg were willing to team up, freeing him up to work on container containment problems!

Joan teaching students, using newly donated educational materials.
Joan helping local educators with curriculum planning for newly donated educational materials.
E-Quip Africa receiving handmade gifts from the locals in Ghana.
Joan reading to school children in Ghana
Locals in Ghana using newly donated computers, collected and refurbished by E-Quip Africa.ica.
Locals in Ghana using newly donated computers, collected and refurbished by E-Quip Africa.ica.

Working in Ghana

Greetings friends,

We are working hard in Ghana. There is much to report, but no time to blog on this trip. We are often without power which is not good for communication–phones need to be recharged and access to the internet depends on it.

The training team is hard at work with two schools as I write this. They are thrilled to have over 40 eager teachers ready to see how thextbooks and computers can work inside their curriculum.

All for now, as my internet minutes are fading fast.

The people of Ghana that we know are wonderful. If I had to live with the constant struggle of daily life like they do, I would be a total wreck! As it is, I am only partially wrecked.

Everyone in our group is fine and remains eager to complete our mission.


Tonight our container lies offshore Tema Harbor, Ghana

The headline says it all. I spoke with the Honorable Della Sowah, Member of Parliament from the Kpando District, Volta Region this morning. She is working with officials at Tema Harbor and the Tema Rotary Club to make sure the container is processed without delay. We are keeping our fingers crossed!

It is scheduled to be discharged tomorrow, but the harbor traffic looks heavy so there may be a couple days wait until they are “tugged” into a slip. Tema is the second stop since leaving Port Algeciras, Spain, the first being Lagos, Nigeria.

Four weeks from today, Greg Martin and I will be in Ghana. Five weeks from today Joan Kuhn and Candy Anderson will join us.

Thank you all for your support! The container’s contents would still be in Willmar if not for your generous donations.
container current location, map

Long Overdue Update

The grant submitted to Rotary International was approved in Chicago; receiving the announcement on July 28, we have been scrambling ever since. Writing and tweaking the grant application, then being put on the hot-seat to explain and clarify it has proven to be only the beginning.

The first priority after approval was to finish organizing, packing, labeling and documenting everything going into the container. That big red box left Willmar on its first leg of a journey to Ghana on Monday, August 18. A rain storm that weekend almost spelled disaster for it (see photo of leaning container) as one of the support legs slowly sank into the wet ground. Thanks to Rytel Moving and Storage and Larry Bruss, disaster was avoided!

A HUGE THANK YOU goes out to the many volunteers who did the lifting and carrying so the container was filled to the brim by its scheduled time to leave. And another THANK YOU to you, the many donors who made this project possible. Without raising the money locally, there would have been no grant, no project!

The professional firms we hired did an admirable job, both here in Willmar (Rytel Moving and Storage–Stan Rytel and company) and for the journey (Mission & Relief Logistics, Inc.–Paul Pereverzoff, agent). Thank you for doing your jobs so well!

The ground-work in Ghana has begun and schools are adding security, ventilation and electrical supply to the classrooms they have chosed to house the computer labs.

One of the hurdles to overcome is the international wire transfer of funds. While Western Union has traditionally been the least expensive way to send money anywhere in the world, their recent charges have skyrocketed to over 20% of the amount sent… at least to Ghana they have. Yes, that’s correct, to send $1,000.00 costs over $200.00! So now the flat rates of banks seem much more reasonable. However, just like voice communications, transfers from a local bank into a foreign account 6,500 miles away can be a bit tricky!

Tonight the container sits in the harbor of Savannah, Georgia and is soon headed toward the Port of Algeciras, Spain with an ETA of September 13. Algeciras is a huge staging area where containers are sorted, stacked and then placed on ships bound for Europe, Afirca and the mid-east. We’re looking at an October 7th arrival in Tema Ghana… if all goes well.

More updates to come.

E-Quip Africa volunteers pack donated school supplies for shipment to Ghana, West Africa.
E-Quip Africa volunteers organize collected donations of computers and school supplies for shipment to Ghana, West Africa.
E-Quip Africa volunteers organize collected donations of computers and school supplies for shipment to Ghana, West Africa.
Loading the shipping container headed for Ghana (West Africa), from Minnesota (USA).
A fully loaded shipping container is a beautiful thing! Header from Minnesota, USA, to Ghana, West Africa.

Last Step of the Beginning

We received this email content on Thursday, September 4th:

Dear Rotarians,

I am Ida Moumeni, the payment coordinator for GG1420490. Thank you again for your wonderful collaboration on this grant! I would like to inform you that GG1420490 has been fully funded and processed for disbursement (in the amount of $27,523.00 USD) on Thursday 4th of September, 2014.

Please note, once grants submitted to Accounts Payable for PAYMENT are approved, it may take up to 5 to 7 business days for funds to be deposited into corresponding projects’ bank account. Should you have any further questions or concerns, do not hesitate to contact me.

Kind Regards,

Ida Moumeni, Regional Grants Payment Coordinator | Rotary Grants

Current position of the container

Grant # GG1420490 now in the hands of Rotary International

As of this morning, our grant proposal was electronically submitted at the highest level for approval at Rotary International. The Rotary’s “World Fund” created by donations from Rotarians all over the world provides the bulk of the grant funding after our local club raised $15,000.00. Hopefully we will hear of its approval shortly.

The official grant budget is $42,568.00 to cover packing, shipment of a high capacity ocean container, upgrading Ghanaian classrooms to adequately house computer labs plus travel, food and lodging for a four member Vocational Training Team. However, the budget does not address the value of donated, refurbished computers and accessories and thousands of textbooks and library books as described below.

All books–textbooks, library books, teacher manuals $13,305.00
Desktop computers $13,800.00
Laptop computers $1,500.00
Donated LCD monitors (reducing need to purchase) $5,750.00
Keyboards, mice $920.00
Other computer accessories $358.00
Other school and library supplies $702.00
Total In-Kind value $36,335.00
Total budgeted items’ value $42,568.00
Total Project Value $78,903.00

Rotary International Global Grant Submitted July 1

A grant to match and increase local fundraising by $27,522.00 was submitted to Rotary at the district level (Minneapolis/St. Paul and central Minnesota) by the Rotary Club of Willmar’s grant committee on July 1, 2014.

The Willmar club used information and background knowledge supplied by E-quip Africa to plan the project which will create computer labs in seven schools and supply four more with reading textbooks so each student will a copy.

A total of 2,800 students will benefit from these gifts which many of you good donors have made possible. The schools were vetted in 2012 and 2013 by travelers (Candy, Joan, Greg and Doug) reporting to E-quip Africa. The information gained by these trips was central to the project plan.

The project calls for a four member “Vocational Training Team” that will travel to Ghana to conduct workshops in the use of reading textbooks to increase the basic skills of learning from the knowledge level to higher levels such as comprehension, application, analysis, syntheses and evaluation. The team, consisting of Joan Kuhn, Candy Anderson, Greg Martin and Doug Wilkowske will also work with teachers needing to learn basic computer skills. These skills are mandated by the Ghanaian national ICT curriculum, but teachers in these seven schools have had no computers to work with so they have been drawing diagrams of keyboards and monitors on the chalkboard trying to teach what it is that computers do. The team will travel to and work in Ghana in late October and early November.

Before these computers can be installed, many of the classrooms receiving them need upgrading in ventilation, security and electrical supply. Funding for those improvements will also be covered by the grant.

E-quip Africa donors contributed generously to the Rotary Club of Willmar to carry out the project. Those donations, both in-kind and monetary, were added to other major contributions from local organizations and individuals, including the Willmar Rotary Club, the Church of St. Mary and a generous individual who prefers to remain anonymous to raise nearly $15,000.00 needed to generate the Rotary International match. Combined, they create a budget of over $42,599.00. The Willmar Rotary Club wants to thank you and its own members for your generosity!

The container will leave Willmar on August 15 packed by Rytel Moving and Storage of Willmar. A lot of work needs to be done between now and then if this grant is approved. Even more work would be required if it isn’t!

What are the chances of success? The Willmar Rotary Club’s grant committee believes they are quite good. Your thoughts and prayers will help the process in this win-win project.

Stay tuned… the first hurdle comes tomorrow, July 9. The second and major one will hopefully be cleared by the middle of the month.

When you have time, take a look at the attached documents. Hopefully they will provide clarity to the project.

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