Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of December 8, 2008
Drayton Valley parish building school in Ghana
Former pastor lit the fire that has parishioners donating labour and dollars
BY RAMON GONZALEZ
- Photo supplied
Art Frey, Betty Frey, Mark Thesen, Fr. Paul Mensah, Danula Thesen and Ed Hutzal were the Drayton Valley group that went to Ghana in October
So far the group, with full support from St. Anthony's Parish, has raised $225,000 toward the project, including $65,000 they raised at a silent auction in May. They have sent about $125,000 to Awaso to cover the cost of labour and materials.
The group began to work on the project some four years ago at the suggestion of Father Paul Mensah, a Ghanaian priest who served in Drayton Valley some seven years ago. He is currently studying in St. Jose and will become the school administrator upon completion in a couple of years.
The project is a huge improvement for the area because existing schools look more like rundown cattle sheds than schools, noted Hutzal, 61. They are small, have no windows or doors and children sit three in a desk.
The majority of children in rural areas like Awaso attend school up to Grade 3. "And lots of kids don't go to school because they don't have the money or they don't think it's important," Hutzal observed.
The new school will change that because it will offer all grades from K to 12 in three rotating shifts during the day. The idea is to prepare students to attend trade schools, institutes and universities in the future.
Hutzal said St. Anthony's Parish used to send food and clothes to alleviate poverty in Awaso but Menzah said the only way to get Ghana out of poverty is education.
Once the school is completed, the Drayton Valley group may consider sending qualified volunteers to teach. There is a lack of well-trained English instructors in the area.
- Photo supplied
A teacher sits in her classroom in Asoma Ghana. Few students currently receive more than a Grade 3 education.
Eight members of the group visited the school site last year and five in October for 21 days. Group members include electricians, carpenters, plumbers and architects.
The purpose of the visits is mainly to mingle with the local population and supervise the work, which is being done largely by locals under the supervision of a project manager. An architect from Accra designed the school based on a blueprint provided by the Drayton Valley Group.
In the last few months, local labourers built the approximately 13,000 bricks needed to build the school, said Hutzal, who has partaken in both visits and chairs the group's building committee.
Workers also dug a 150-foot deep well and got a 1,000-gallon water tank up in the air.
"By next year the walls will be up," said Hutzal. The following year the electrical work will be completed and the desks will be ordered.
Local workers are being paid $4 per day, which is double the average wage in rural Ghana. There are between 17 to 30 people currently working on the project.
"We are creating jobs there," Hutzal said. The school may open by September 2010.
Iona Hutzal, Ed's wife and the group's bookkeeper, is planning to travel to Awaso for the opening. She said she got involved in the project because she is committed to eradicating poverty in Ghana through education.
"When God calls you, he puts it in your heart and you feel it's the right thing to do," she said.
For donations or more information about the Ghana school project call Ed or Iona Hutzal at 780-542-3170.
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