Author: Lawrence Schofer

April 10, 2019 – Aging in Ghana

Cati Coe, an anthropologist based at Rutgers University, discussed the problem of aging in Ghana, a situation probably typical of African countries.

 

As elsewhere, people are living longer due to reductions in infant mortality. Even with a decline in the birth rate, 50% of the Ghanaian population is under age 30; 5%, over age 65.

 

The traditional way of caring for the elderly has been to keep the people in the family. Ghanaians still respond that in the West, particularly in America, families do not play the same role; public opinion suggests that the local society is superior to the West in this regard. However, with large-scale emigration from rural areas to the cities, and paradoxically with the growth of a middle-class, families are finding it increasingly difficult to maintain the elderly only with relatives. Most commonly, women from the outside are hired to help in homes.

 

Dr. Coe has done most of her research in southeast Ghana, which is a rural area with a preponderance of elderly families because younger persons have emigrated. What care that is provided by the community is usually church centered, often in fellowship groups, but care in the home  or in group living is rare.

 

Dr. Coe also explored some sporadic attempts to set up what we in the West call continuing care homes, but there are very few people in such homes.

March 27, 2019 – Emlen School

Meredith Sutzer, school counselor, and Tina Fields,  community partnership coordinator, Emlen Elementary school (K-5), discussed the school. The school currently has 375 children, two classes per grade. The school enrollment consists of 100% free and reduced lunch children (low income).

 

The school has a number of partnerships with community associations to provide services for the students – e.g., the Germantown soccer club, a hockey group, a community garden, computers on loan, girls on the run program (for building self-confidence). Students from Germantown Friends school have assembled a large number of books and arranged them into a library for use by all the schoolchildren. The school system currently supplies programs for gym, art, and computers; there is no music program and no formal health education program.

 

In the past our club has distributed dictionaries all third-graders in this school.

 

The school experiences a severe problem of truancy (defined as six unexcused absences). Since these are such young children, it is assumed that these absences are a function of lack of parental support for school attendance.

March 13, 2019 – Clean Water in Philadelphia

Dottie Baumgartner explained stormwater management in Philadelphia in some detail. It is important to manage the rain as it comes off of one’s property, since in this neighborhood all water flows down to the Wissahickon Creek. This is our neighborhood drinking water! The intake is in the Queen Lane treatment center, where the water is prepared for drinking.

 

The Wissahickon watershed area consists of those areas, stretching from Montgomery County through Philadelphia, where rainwater runs into the creek. This watershed is part of a larger Schuylkill River watershed area.

 

In Philadelphia, some 40% of residences split rainwater runoff from sewage; 60% have combined sewers. It is therefore important that rainwater run onto the land and not directly into the sewers. In periods of heavy rainfall, the sewer lines become full and the combined rainwater-sewage runs directly into the creek or into the Schuylkill River.

 

The cycle of treatment is as follows: runoff into the river  à treatment plant à homes à wastewater treatment à river.

 

Dottie Baumgartner was formally a science teacher. She took business courses at the Business Center (run by our own Pam Rich-Wheeler) to help her prepare for a transition to independent consultant and educator. She now works primarily for the Philadelphia Water Department and several schools.)

March 6, 2019 – W. Phila. Alliance for Children

Anisha Sinha, Executive Director, West Philadelphia Alliance for Children (WEPAC)

 

WEPAC is an organization devoted to promoting reading among elementary school children. Of the 237 public schools in Philadelphia, only seven have full-time librarians. A few schools have libraries and librarians supported by neighborhood organization.

 

WEPAC works with principals and teachers in specific schools to develop libraries. Currently 14 schools are being served, with the hope of serving 20 by the end of the next school year. The organization delivers books and coordinates volunteers to help in these individual schools. It requires $25,000 to open the library, though maintenance costs afterwards are much less.

 

WEPAC works with existing organizations, such as Team First Book Philadelphia, as well as with the Philadelphia school district itself.in order to reach its goals for the next two years, the organization must raise $200,000.

 

The organization may be supported by donations of supplies and books, by volunteer time, and by contributing the funding.

 

The current emphasis is on grades K-4.

 

It is difficult to evaluate the program, but surveys of teachers indicate that 70% of the teachers involved in the program see a positive impact on the children.

 

 

 

February 27, 2019 – Councilwoman Cindy Bass

Councilwoman Cindy Bass discussed her proposal to eliminate the 10 year tax abatement in Philadelphia. The tax abatement program in the city goes back to the 1990s, and it was successful in supporting development in Center City.

 

Councilwoman Bass feels that the program was successful in the past, but it helped only in certain neighborhoods. Now is the time to end this abatement so that funds can be raised to support the Philadelphia school system and to combat poverty in the city. She estimates that cancellation of the abatement will recover $500-$700 million over five years.

 

Other bills have been introduced that would restrict the abatement in various ways. No hearings have been scheduled on these bills in city Council, and Councilwoman Bass has taken on the task of persuading the Council to hold hearings on her proposal.

February 27, 2019 – Councilwoman Cindy Bass

Councilwoman Cindy Bass discussed her proposal to eliminate the 10 year tax abatement in Philadelphia. The tax abatement program in the city goes back to the 1990s, and it was successful in supporting development in Center City.

 

Councilwoman Bass feels that the program was successful in the past, but it helped only in certain neighborhoods. Now is the time to end this abatement so that funds can be raised to support the Philadelphia school system and to combat poverty in the city. She estimates that cancellation of the abatement will recover $500-$700 million over five years.

 

Other bills have been introduced that would restrict the abatement in various ways. No hearings have been scheduled on these bills in city Council, and Councilwoman Bass has taken on the task of persuading the Council to hold hearings on her proposal.