Kaitlyn Kramer graduated from Brownstown High School with the class of 2007. During her senior year, she worked for a while with special education students in a classroom, and decided she wanted to continue in that field.
She attended Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, majored in special education and graduated this past summer.
She recently studied abroad in Ghana, Africa, and worked there in the field of special education.
About Ghana, Africa
Ghana, located in West Central Africa, is a nation of approximately 24 million residents in an area about the size of the state of Oregon.
Although Ghana is rich in natural resources, it is still very poor by Western standards, with an annual income of approximately $1,500. One-third of Ghana families are farmers. Since it was originally a British colony, a majority of its residents speak English.
The Traffic and the Prices
“It was very different living in a developing world,” Kaitlyn said. “Things come very easy for us in the United States. The United States really is the best country in the world.
“We stayed in a city called Accra, and it was so packed with people. The traffic was so horrible; it could take hours to get somewhere only a short distance away.
“Also in the traffic, there were people who did what they call ‘hawking.’ You could literally buy anything in traffic from toilet paper to Super Glue, from Ramen noodles to fresh mangoes.
“However,“ she said, “if you want to buy from a hawker, you have to bargain, which may not seem like a big deal, except they try to charge you three times the price because, one, you are white and two, you are American, and they think you have a lot of money.
“Things sold in the stores are so very expensive, that you have to bargain. An example is a box of Special K cereal is roughly nine American dollars. The traffic was so slow and stopped so much, it was no problem for the hawkers to sell their wares,” Kaitlyn said.
• The Food – “The main food there is rice and then they make it different, stews to put on top of the rice to give it different flavors,” she said.
“A very popular dish was banku, which is a ball of white corn meal and okra stew, which is very thick. To eat it, you tear it apart with your fingers and dip it in the stew. You didn’t eat with utensils,” she said.
“The food was very spicy, and we could drink only bottled water. Locals could drink the water, because they had antibodies that kept them from getting sick.”
She said that there were no fast food places, not even McDonald’s.
• Living accommodations – “We lived in a hostel, which is the equivalent of an American apartment. There were college kids who lived there, as well as families.
"There was a little store by the gate that sold eggs and bread. We had a burner in our room, so we could cook a little bit,” she said.
• Her job – “My job was to work at a special school, where the students with disabilities attend,” she said.
“I worked in the academic section and had six students with a range of disabilities. I mainly taught pre-reading skills and some sign language. About halfway through, I switched and taught higher level math to higher functioning students,” Kaitlyn said.
“The school didn’t receive government funding, so many of the teachers were untrained. So, doing behavior management training and writing measurable goals for the students was another thing I did,” she said.
“The teachers there were truly amazing. Some of them would get up at 3:30 in the morning just so they could get to school on time (due to the terrible traffic conditions),” she said.
“They also had to work with very little resources for their schools. By that, I mean, school supplies were very expensive and considered a luxury.
“An example is that a sheet of stickers was roughly seven American dollars. I asked the principal what was needed most and she told me, ‘Paper.’ That was just very shocking to me,” Kaitlyn said.
• Assorted facts about Ghana – Kaitlyn shared the following facts that she thinks people might not know about Ghana, Africa:
-The national language is English.
-About 90 percent of the people are Christians.
-It is actually hotter in Illinois than in Africa. The temperature was approximately 70 degrees during Kaitlyn’s stay, because it was the rainy season (June, July and August).
-The whole country is not a desert. Ghana is by the ocean, so there are a lot of beaches and rain forests.
• Travelers have to take malaria pills.
“I really loved my job and all the people I worked with were so nice to me,” Kaitlyn said.
The experience of living and working in Ghana, Africa, seems to have given Kaitlyn a realization of other countries’ needs around the world, and an appreciation of the United States, and its many benefits , which are often taken for granted.
Kaitlyn’s Brownstown family includes her parents, Stan and Tammie (Becker) Kramer; a brother, Michael Kramer; and grandmothers, Loyce Becker and LaVonne Kramer.