This video, created by Ryerson University (Toronto, Canada) film studies students Miles Jay and David Whillans, chronicles the story of the building of a new kindergarten in the farming and trading village of Kpedze-Todze, located in a rural part of the Volta region of southeastern Ghana, close to the border with Togo.
In 2009, some thirty students and alumni from five Ryerson University departments (Architecture, Film Studies, Early Childhood Education, Fashion Design, Interior Design) along with several faculty and friends travelled to west Africa to undertake a design/build project in collaboration with the chief, elders, and villagers of Kpedze-Todze and with the assistance of Spatial Dimension, an Accra-based project management firm. The goal was to realize not just a new kindergarten building, but a model kindergarten complex, one that would set a new and higher standard for the design of school facilities in Ghana as a whole.
Projects of this kind are difficult to realize. Significant economic hurdles are to be overcome, and socio-cultural differences resolved. Misunderstandings will be all too frequent. Weather can and generally will wreak havoc. Logistics will be hugely problematic – from housing, feeding, and motivating on a daily basis a large and diverse team of foreigners, many of whom, over the duration, will become ill and/or work-fatigued – to finding the right building materials – at the right price – and having them transported to the site, when needed. And, of course, there is the problem of time: there is simply never enough of it.
But, at the end of the day, a success this project was.
As chronicled in this video, over the course of some thirty days, the Ryerson team alongside their Ghanaian colleagues realized, on-time and roughly on-budget, the first phase of a two-phase project that would ultimately comprise four cross-ventilated classrooms, an all-weather-protected colonnade, several play and “learning” grounds, and a hygiene court replete with compost latrines and a rain-water retention tank adapted for hand washing, a village first. Some six months after the team's departure, following completion (on time and (almost) on budget) of the second and final phase of the work, the facility was officially inaugurated.
Today, little more than two years after the project began, some eighty, four- and five-year-old children attend the school, drawn from Kpedze-Todze and surrounding areas. Named in memory of the project director's late mother, The Shirley Bryden MacBurnie Memorial Kindergarten has already begun to fulfill its promise to help a new generation of children to get a better start to life. And for that we are all grateful, and proud.
At the end of the day, as the video recounts, projects of this kind, though never easy to achieve and never without their fair share of pain, are absolutely worth doing – worth doing, because they are, quite simply, the "right" thing to do.
For those of us who seek to make a better world, for those of us who are willing to work hard to achieve a more just tomorrow, this kindergarten project is a testament to what, in just a short while, can be accomplished by those who persevere. And it provides tangible evidence that it is indeed possible for us to make a difference – a real difference - in people’s lives.
In a world so divided by race, by class, by ethnic and tribal conflicts, this one little kindergarten project is proof positive that we can, when we set our minds to it, achieve great things together when we reach out, across the divide.
NB: Please note that the version now playing will be replaced in late August by a final cut featuring a new musical soundtrack.