Transforming Lives – an interview with Joanne Provo

September 14, 2017

How did you first get involved with Adanu?

Several years ago, I joined a group of work colleagues involved with Habitat for Humanity’s Global Village Program. It was an opportunity to get together every couple of years and renew our friendships by exploring new places and have meaningful impact in the villages we visited. For 2013 we chose to work in Ghana. But when we discovered Global Village would not accept our children as volunteers, I searched the internet high and low for alternative NGOs and came across DIVOG (now Adanu). So in 2013, we ended up working with the Adanu leadership team in the Volta Region building urinals in the rural village of Kuigba.

How did Adanu and the experience affect you?

That first trip convinced me of the power of the Adanu model. Adanu works closely with the communities they support to ensure the elders and the residents of the village take ownership for the success and ongoing upkeep of the projects.

We were embraced by the community and were overwhelmed by how hard everyone worked in the building process. We saw firsthand the power of education transforming the lives of the children and in turn the viability of their village. We were welcomed into people’s homes and joined them in their daily activities, ceremonies and worship services. It was a very moving experience, made even more so as I watched my nieces embrace the moment and become attached to the children. I knew it was an experience that would change their lives forever.

Working in Kuigba also had a life changing impact on my life, especially on our last day, as the village bestowed upon me the honor of Queen Mother. While I was truly touched it was only afterwards I realized the importance of their gesture. It was at this point I made a commitment to continue to engage with this community.
Joanne Provo Group

Can you describe your Adanu project contributions and fundraising efforts?

The impact of that initial experience stuck with me; I couldn’t shake the depth of attachment I felt to the village and its people. I continued conversations with the Adanu leadership team to learn more about what else we could do.

As is their practice Adanu first wanted to gauge how the village was utilizing and maintaining the original project before investing more. When the time was right, we proposed building a school but, as the village already had a serviceable building, the decision was made to build a library. The library project was near and dear to my heart and once we had a timeline and a price we set about scoping it out and raising money. While I was willing to make a substantial personal commitment I also had the great support of family and friends. These people supported us in raising money, collecting books and spreading the word about the work we were doing. Along the way, I was able to get one of my nieces, Chelsea, to return with me. She convinced her mother, my sister Betty, to join us along with another friend and her daughter. The five of us – and as much luggage as the airlines would allow – set off for Accra in May of 2015.

It was wonderful to be back working with the Adanu team and in the warm embrace of the people of Kuigba once again. The building of a library was a larger undertaking and the work was much more physical. The men dug the trenches and poured cement as the women carried heavy loads of water, cement and bricks on their heads, often with a baby strapped to their backs. We worked alongside them for days and were buoyed by their smiles, songs and encouragement of each other and us. We made incredible progress in a week, thanks to the efforts of the Adanu team who had worked to prep the site and procure the materials.

The work continued throughout the summer and I was back in Kuigba in September to dedicate the building.

We felt that in addition to the books we were bringing from the U.S., it was also important to include books that had familiar names, locations, situations and characters to the children of the village. Adanu worked with a local book seller to buy books that were published by local authors. When one of the older girls started reading a book, the children crowded around her so closely she barely had room to turn the page. Seeing the books on the shelves and sitting with the children as they paged through them was one of the most moving experiences of my life.
Joanne Reading

What message do you want to give other potential volunteers about working with Adanu?

The beauty of Adanu is that they selflessly work directly with the village and as a volunteer, you get to see the direct impact of your efforts. They do not take large administrative fees, instead ensuring that the villages, particularly the children, benefit the most.  I know that whatever money and supplies are raised will go directly to supporting the continuing education of the future of Ghana.

While I have no current plans to return to Ghana, I will continue to support Adanu and fundraise on their behalf – in fact this spring, in partnership with Adanu, Africa Library Project and friends, we were able to ship 25 boxes of books to the Kuigba library.

For those considering volunteering, GO! It is an incredible experience, and Adanu is an organization that understands the needs of their communities and volunteers alike.


To GO to Ghana with Adanu, get information HERE on what you need to know!


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What does it take to build a school?

August 28, 2017

An engaged community, donations for materials, Adanu (means ‘wise collaboration’ in Ewe), and LOTS of hard work from everyone!

Land is donated, work committees established, rules for work are made, and the community provides all the labor, sand, water and anything else they can.

The Chief and Elders set the tone by showing up early every workday. The women start collecting water, men start mixing the concrete by hand.  Blocks are molded, lines are set, foundations are dug, walls slowly rise.  In about 4-6 months, a school building is completed.

Sound easy?  NO WAY!

We spent a week in Hehekpoe trying to be helpful to the workers, but we mostly slowed them down.  Even something as simple-sounding as collecting water had us begging off after 4 trips. Try carrying a massive bowl on your head for a ¼ mile without spilling – it’s heavy, requires a model’s posture, and strong neck muscles (luckily the other women lifted it onto our heads so we didn’t have to start in a squat position!).  Carrying bricks this way is better as they don’t slosh around!

I tried putting my expertise in mortaring bricks to good use (I watch my husband do DIY jobs), and while I was pretty pleased with myself, the men soon encouraged me to take a seat in the shade.

In the week we were in Hehekpoe, their progress was tremendous – walls were climbing to the invisible ceiling, and the entire back wall had four courses of bricks laid.

The best part of watching the school go up was the participation of the community. Those that couldn’t work onsite still gave valuable help.  One man who ran a very small store in the community asked our Robert Tornu how he could help.  Robert said he could pay for an extra mason (from a nearby village) to come work for one day. The man disappeared for a few minutes, then came back with the needed amount – 40cedi, or $10.

Building a school is about empowerment, commitment and communication; empowerment so the community knows they can do it and own it, commitment from the community and Adanu to see the work through, and communication between everyone to ensure challenges are resolved and successes celebrated.


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