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‘Mama Peta’ helping dreams come true in Africa

The opportunity to learn became a dream come true in a desperately poor African village - thanks to Bloomfield's Peta Hall and the support of friends, groups and foundations - many from Prince Edward County.

Bloomfield’s Peta Hall is the petite powerhouse behind massive change in a small village in Africa. But she is quick to say support from Prince Edward County to the tune of about a quarter million dollars has helped pave the way.
The arts activist is well-known in the County for her colourful, whimsical pottery and initiation of events such as the popular annual PEC Studio and Gallery Tour and the Maker’s Hand events. For the past four years, her focus has turned to cultivating hopes and dreams for men, women and children in her hometown country. Hall is Canadian, but grew up in Zimbabwe.

Peta Hall

“I always say that the smells and colours of Africa are seared into my soul,” says Hall, who began giving back through marketing and development of artisans in Africa in January, 2008 setting up a women’s textile co-operative called Dzidefo, meaning “there is hope”. At Kpando, in Volta region of Ghana, she worked with 10 young women who use traditional Ghanaian fabric to create toddler’s clothing and home accessories. Their colourful work is also marketed in the County, Cobourg and the U.S. as well as retail outlets in Ghana.
“The income they earn goes to provide food, education and medical supplies for their families. In three years of operation they have become self-sustaining,” Hall reports.
Buoyed by this project’s success, Peta was asked to go to Atorkor, on the east coast of Ghana, a desperately poor village facing massive unemployment. Today, she’s project co-ordinator of The Atorkor Vocational Training Centre in a small Ghanaian village with approximately 2,000 residents, with the surrounding area population of about 12,000. Approximately 40 per cent are youth facing an unemployment rate of about 92 per cent. The unemployment rate among women is more than 70 per cent.
“The training centre started as a dream two years ago to assist these youth and women in this desperately poor coastal area with skills training and educational opportunities,” said Hall.
Though she’s the person on-site, she calls it “a Prince Edward County project as the architect, Brian Clark is from here; the funding is from here; the Picton Rotary Club support is from here and I am from here though I have been living there for a year now.”
Peta will explain the entire project and plans for the future at an “Azadudu” (celebration) Ghana Open House at the Bloomfield Town Hall, Tuesday, Jan. 24 from 6-9 p.m. Everybody is welcome and items from Ghana will be available.
It was almost one year ago, in February, when the building team broke ground.
“The team was from the village, a wonderful group of young men, (all unemployed) our suppliers were local, right down to the round orange quartz stones set in the floors, and the sand that came from the beach. The use of local resources and commitment was and is paramount, right down to the local farmers who much to my horror sprayed grass killer on our front pasture whilst I was away, in an effort to please me and ‘tidy it up’” .
Hall reports the building was completed in six months and is a delightful mixture of Canada and Ghana.
“It is this distinctive Canadian design and cantaloupe colour, with Ghanaian twists like wonky pillars, and quirky burglar bars and traditional symbols set into the quartz floors, including the note “we love you mama peta”!
“The building is set to capture the sea breezes , so is cool and now has shrubs surrounding it. I bought 63 shrubs and bougainvillea creepers for less than $35. Everything is so easy to grow in Ghana.”
In August the centre was commissioned by Kofi Humado, the Minister of Youth and Sport in a ceremony full of colourful pomp and musical ceremony.
“The excitement has been tinglingly amazing for me, as the AVTC greeted its first staff and then its first students. I see the classrooms filled and hear the chatter, the laughter and watch the eager faces. It is like a dream come true.
“Our first students were a group of women, ranging in age from teenagers to 70-year-olds in the adult literacy class. They are finally learning to read and write. Their joy, their determination and dedication is boundless. After the first class, one of the older women, she sells sweet potato chips at the roadside, clasped both my hands, and with tears brimming said, ‘Mama Peta I have been waiting all my life for this day.’
The centre has a staff of five and programs include Information Communication Technology, Dressmaking, Tailoring and Batik – all specifically designed for the needs of the community.
“We have over 50 students, all but four of them are women and the second term just commenced. I hear that new students are arriving daily. The whole idea behind this centre is to give the students skills so they can either go out and establish their own business or further their studies at other institutions. Consequently every student takes courses in English, Math and Entrepreneurship (business studies) as well as their core subject, and our syllabus is set on the National Vocational Training Institute curriculum, allowing the students to obtain NVTI certificates upon graduation. NVTI is a national government vocational training organization with schools across Ghana, so if the students decide to further their studies they have a recognized certificate to do so.
THE NEXT STEP
“We are now actively pursuing funding for Phase Two. This will house the programs for welding, masonry, carpentry, plumbing and electrical installation – what I call the ‘dirty work’! The men are in desperate need of training. They have no skills, most of them left school with just elementary education as they were unable financially to continue their education, or were required to work for their families in menial jobs.
“There is a high demand for skilled labour in the area with a projected vast new harbour scheduled for 2012/13 being built and other major community development projects being implemented. There is no other training facility available in the area. The men have no other way to earn trade skills that will allow them to earn sustainable livelihoods.
“We are fund raising for Phase 2, and hope the construction will commence in September 2012, with completion six months later and the first student intake being scheduled for April or May 2013.
“My fund raising will cover Ghana and Canada. I will be talking to oil companies and corporations in Ghana and in Canada as well as churches, groups of grannies, clubs, lunches and just to wonderful ordinary people wherever I can! I have a big mouth and I guess I have a passion and a dream to make things happen in Atorkor.
Donors can also provide scholarships or bursaries to the students to help with tuition fees, books, supplies and pocket money for one year. Each donor receives their students’ contact information and photograph and records of their achievements. The student selection is dependent upon an interview, academic record, need, and the desire to learn.

“Azadudu” (celebration)

Ghana Open House
Bloomfield Town Hall,
Tuesday, Jan. 24 from 6-9 p.m.
Everybody is welcome and items from Ghana will be available.

Contact: Peta Hall, Project Coordinator,
Dufia House, Atorkor, Volta Region.
Tel: 233.54 996 8156
Email: peta.hall@adfatorkor.org
(Box 24, Bloomfield, Ontario, K0K 1G0, Canada).
Visit: http://petahall.com/Atorkor_Centre.html

For a full look at the project from its beginning, visit the Picton Rotary website:
http://pictonrotary.blogspot.com/p/atorkor-project_13.html

Below, Peta tells her story to PECI student Cassidy Allison, entrepreneur with her business Frame X Frame Projects. Visit her youtube site at: http://www.youtube.com/user/FramexFrameProjects?feature=watch

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