May 7, 2009–Magical Masks authors from the Home Base After School Program–Mary Rhodes Rasheed

Student authors tell of Africa trip and other adventures

A summary of our May 7, 2009 speakers, Magical Masks authors from the Home Base After School Program: Mary Rhodes Rasheed, Cecilia Mora Pitts, Randall Wilson – with program coordinator Shirley Mae Springer Staten
by Barbara Brown

On May 7, Alaska Professional Communicators were treated to a slide show and presentation by students from the Home Base After School Program, who recently authored a children’s book and presented it to children in Ghana, Africa. The Home Base program is offered to 4th through 8th graders who live in the Fairview and Muldoon neighborhoods. All students sign a contract that they will remain with the hands-on program for three years.

In polished, well-orchestrated and vivid presentations, the students told us of many adventures, including how they met a U.S. senator, the U.S. ambassador to Ghana, and a man who flew solo around the world. The book they wrote and the trip they took to Ghana are outlined here, so I will give you some of the extra impressions the students shared.

Mary Rhodes Rasheed, one of the first Home Base students to sign on, showed off yet another of their projects: “If I Could Change the World” posters. Mary’s called for “No Smoking.” Later, she shared her poem, “Dream to Reality.”

Cecilia Mora Pitts recited her poem “The Sky Is the Limit,” and explained that Magical Masks, their book, had been conceived simply as a gift to bring the children of Africa.

Randall Wilson described the expectations he had of Africa, fostered by the media in this country. He expected small villages, sad faces and ill and hungry children. Instead, he found happy kids and big cities, but he did find poverty, too. Kids didn’t have shoes, and their schools were so poorly equipped, the benches designed to hold two students had to hold four. The only technology in the classroom: a chalkboard. He also found it was so hot, he couldn’t breathe at first!

In a visit to “the slave castle”—a castle in Cape Coast, Ghana, used as dungeons in the slave trade—the students heard that pregnant women had been thrown overboard, that slaves could exercise only once or twice a week, and that if they broke into a sweat, they were returned to the dungeon. A sign over the castle door read “Door of No Return,” because once captives left, they would board boats never to return to their homeland. When the Home Base students entered, they felt that there is finally another sign: “Door of Return.”

Cecilia was profoundly moved by her visit to an orphanage. There were no diapers; they used rags and safety pins. The Home Base kids provided sanitizer, but even bathing the babies in tubs with reused water felt unhygienic to the students. They experienced the difficulties of hauling water to make the day’s porridge. But they gave out stickers to the kids and were surprised when the kids pasted them all over their faces.

To arrive at the end of their journey, a village on stilts in the south of Ghana, they all had to take off their shoes and wade out into “hot, gooey water.” Finally, Strong Young African Men (Shirley Mae’s words) took them in canoes through the forest. The village will be the beneficiary of some of the proceeds from the sale of Magical Masks, and the village chief wondered how anyone had even heard they existed.

The students saw elephants, wart hogs—and even got into horseplay with baboons. But the real impact of the trip? Randall said he’d take his own education more seriously and pray for the kids in Africa. What a testimony to the wonderful work Shirley Mae Springer Staten has done as the director of the program. She took kids out of Fairview and gave them the world!

Shir;ey Mae Springer Staten

Shirley Mae Springer Staten