The Dreamland School at Akumadan, Ghana II

By Steve Maggi

It was a moment I had anticipated since January, 2010, when my wife and I took the long bus-trip down to Accra from Offinso, solemn and on the verge of tears knowing that our magical time in Ghana was about to end, and even worse, not knowing when we see this sacred land again. The day before leaving had been hectic, as my wife had been checked out of the hospital but was still weak from a bout of malaria, and the director and I had rushed to get up to Akumadan before three o’clock so I could say a quick goodbye to the children. It had been a hurried and stressful way to end our journey, which had left a hole in my heart for not having enough time to be with them all and say goodbye one-by-one, and that regret had stayed with me for two years. I knew, in my heart, however, that this would be just the first of a lifetime of visits, it was just a question of when.

The director, James Dugger and I had a long, emotional greeting at Kotoka airport when I arrived, and after an all-night bus ride to Kumasi and a trotro ride to his house, we arrived at his door at 6 a.m. Saturday. After resting most of the day, I woke up Sunday ready to survey the campus, and the day after that to reunite with the students. As I got on the trotro headed back to Akuamadan this November 10, 2012, a lump developed in my throat with anticipation. I recognized seemingly every house, store and tree clearing along the way, between Offinso and Akumadan, from all the times I had made the jaunt on my first visit. More than 30 months had passed, time had flown by, but in that time the children and the school project had never left my thoughts or my heart.

Finally, there I was, back in Akumadan, walking around the new campus buildings I had only seen in pictures sent to me by James, someone who I now consider family. To see how the school had been transformed from the days of teaching the kids in the temporary wooden structure made up of nailed-down slats of wood and a dirt floor, to this growing campus with a multi-block classroom buildings, a bathroom facility and the beginnings of a dining hall and kitchen was astonishing. I was speechless as I saw the astronomical progress, size and scope of the campus and as James and Abraham, the architect of the project, walked me around telling me how the original plan had been expanded to include two three-floor dormitories. The only problem was, as always, finding the funding. The first step was to get the word out, so I took video and photos to later upload on to the Dreamland School Ghana Facebook page.

The next morning, as I peeked my head in and said “Ma kye!”, the children’s faces looked stunned but no screams of exclamation came out of their small faces. They were so reserved in their response that I was worried they had forgotten me, but I quickly realized that these children were not hellacious rugrats like the junior high kids I see in America, but rather young adults taught to be respectful and dignified. “Hello Mr. Steve” they said. I went from class to class saying hello, and saw many faces that had changed over the last few years. I forgot how growing up can radically alter your face and body when you are 12, 13, 14 years old!

For the next week, I spent time with the children, talked to them and practiced my Twi, took picture after picture, and soaked it all in. I spent time with my old students as well as with new friends that I made from the 4th and 5th grade classes. Ophelia, Hannah, Vera, Eunice and Phillipa, to name a few. They wrote me letters and made me bracelets, and accompanied me from the school to the trotro stop each day, before James and I headed back to Offinso. James and I collected letters from the 8th and 9th graders and took their photos for the makings of an e-book called “Book of dreams”, my wife’s project, which is designed to get sponsors for individual children. And then came the defining moment in my trip. I had grown really fond of one student, Meshach, on my previous trip, because he was so full of energy and joy. This time, when I saw him for the first time, his stare was hollow, without joy. It went right through me and I knew something wasn’t quite right. The light had gone out of his eyes, and I asked James what was wrong. He informed me that Meshach’s mother had just passed away, leaving his grandmother to raise him. It was at that moment that I said to him, “My wife and I will sponsor him.” He took me to the see the family on my last day and we paid our respects. I told Meshach my wife and I would be looking out for him and helping him along, and that he was not alone. My time was short and passed lightning-fast, but I knew Dreamland had become our family, and this time I knew I would be back soon, as soon as I possibly could.

Steve Maggi is a U.S. immigration attorney based in New York City. If you are interested in finding more about how you can contribute to the Dreamland School project, please contact him at


Posted by on Feb 21 2013. Filed under Community News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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