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12 March 2014

KCD group helps provide fresh water in Ghana.

 
After her most recent trip to Ghana, Jean Amick, a French teacher who’s in charge of world languages at Kentucky Country Day School, realized clean water is something “we just take for granted.”

She recalled a schoolgirl who was initially in disbelief that a newly installed water chlorination system would allow her to pour potable water into a bottle for free.
“For this girl, the fact that she would not have to buy sacks of (drinking) water every day, that was the best thing she’d ever heard,” Amick said.

Amick was one of three representatives from Kentucky Country Day who recently returned from a 10-day trip to Tamale, Ghana, a city in the northern part of the country with which Louisville has had a relationship through Sister Cities for more than 30 years.
In 2008, Kentucky Country Day formed a relationship with two schools in Tamale and has sent a group of about 10 students and teachers every year.
This year, because of other spring activities and the rising price of airfare, the group from Kentucky Country Day was fairly small, consisting only of Amick, her husband, Paul Amick, and Dexter Mahaffey, the school’s Director of Diversity and Global Studies.

But because the group did not include students, Mahaffey said, they were able to have a “busy working trip,” which was less about helping students acclimate to the different culture and more about what they came to accomplish.
“It was kind of seeing old friends, and we didn’t have to spent any time adjusting and getting used to it,” Mahaffey said. “We just hit the ground running.”
During previous visits, the school has brought supplies to Tamale and installed a computer lab at one of the schools, but the city still had unmet needs, he said.

“One of the needs that they had was a decent water supply,” said Paul Amick, the head librarian at Kentucky Country Day.
Although Kentucky Country Day had worked to provide Tamale with rainwater catchment systems in the past, the trip last month marked the first time the school had worked with WaterStep, a Louisville-based nonprofit organization focusing on making clean water accessible in other countries.
Kentucky Country Day lower school students, led by teachers who traveled to Ghana in the past, raised $6,000 to send water filtration systems to Tamale. That paid for four chlorination systems and training from WaterStep, as well as the tanks and pipe fittings necessary for installation. Travel expenses came out of pocket for the travelers.

Jean Amick said she and Mahaffey spent a portion of the trip in the classroom, observing how teachers in Tamale teach English.
Mahaffey said the population of English as a Second Language students at Kentucky Country Day has been growing the past several years. Because it’s a relatively recent shift, he said the school could learn from the teachers in Tamale to better prepare.
“Ghana has been doing ESL for all their elementary students for at least 60 to 70 years,” Mahaffey said. “The teachers there are pros at it.”

Amick said what she observed in the English class in Tamale was similar to the teaching method employed in Kentucky Country Day’s foreign language classes — language education through reading and storytelling instead of standard textbooks.
She said she brought back a few ideas to present to Kentucky Country Day’s language department, and she found affirmation for what the school’s teachers are already doing.
“It was nice to see it being done somewhere else, the very same principles in action,” she said.
Mahaffey said maintaining the exchange is what’s in store for Kentucky Country Day’s relationship with the Tamale schools.

“There’s a lot that we need that they’ve been at a lot longer and are a lot more professional at,” he said.
He also said other schools in Tamale are “hungering for more links with Louisville schools.”
“They would be ready at the drop of a hat to build a link with any of the schools,” he said.

Reporter Kirsten Clark can be reached at (502) 582-4144 or on Twitter by following @kirstenlmclark.

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