Monday, August 15, 2011
I have been in Ghana for 2 and a half months now. During this time I have been able to learn and appreciate Ghanaian culture. I owe a lot of my experience here to my host family. They work hard to ensure they are integrating us into the Ghanaian culture. For example, they serve us Ghanaian foods such as fufu, banku, and red-red. They also invite us to attend church with them and have taught us some phrases in Fante. It is all the little things they do for both Caro & I each and everyday that we are extremely grateful for.
Before I left for Ghana I received the contact information for my host, Hilda. I had emailed her before leaving and from our emails I learned that she was a third year university student like myself and so I assumed she was living alone and had an available room for Caro & I. Back on June 10th, I arrived in Takoradi and saw that my assumption was way off! There are 13 people living in my house (including Caro & I)! That being said there is never a dull moment and I wouldn’t have it any other way!
Each of my family members has played such an important role in my experience here in Ghana and I would love to share with you all a bit about each of them.
My host mother is Alice. She is dedicated and hardworking. She works full-time as a registered nurse at the Regional Hospital. On top of that she raises the children, some of which are her brothers children but he had to travel to France for a job and since she was the eldest she took on the task of raising the children. One of mine and Caro’s favourite things about Alice is the way she is always complimentary. She comments on our hair braids and our dresses. “You look so nice! AYYY!” It’s hilarious and we look forward to seeing her off to work every morning just so we can say “woho ye few” (you look beautiful)!
Alice comes from a family of 10 children. 2 of her siblings live with her. One of them is Emmanuel. Caro & I refer to him as “Mr. Mom”. You never see him sitting down relaxing. He is always in the kitchen cooking and cleaning. He also runs his own business installing curtains and blinds. Emmanuel has a beautiful singing voice and it is rare to not see him dancing around and singing! It always starts the day on the right track when Caro & I wake up for breakfast and he is singing away!
Abe is the second sibling of Alice’s that stays in the house. He has one son, Anthony, who also lives in the house. Anthony is 11 or 12. He changes it each time we ask him! Abe works for Pepsi and spends his days delivering Pepsi to various towns.
Alice has 4 children. Her first born is George who is 26. He is our “big brother”. He is always looking out for both Caro & I and has been a great friend to us. Her second child is Charles who is very quiet although he will speak to us if we ask him a question. Then there is Kingsley who lives in Accra. We met him once when he came home to visit and he was very friendly. Lastly there is Hilda, Alice’s only daughter. Hilda is the woman who applied to QPID to host us for the summer. She is on summer holidays from University where she does financial & accounting studies. Hilda wakes bright & early each and every morning and works around the house all day. She is always trying to help Caro & I with whatever she possibly can and we are very thankful to have her as our Ghanaian sister.
Then there are 4 other children who I have not mentioned yet. They are Ruby (who goes by “Moe”), Timothy (who goes by “Nub”), Godfred, and Hilda Jr. These children stay with Alice as their father has gone to France to work. He comes home to visit them every now and then. I am not sure when they saw him last. Their mother is in Ghana however I am unsure why the children were not able to stay with her. The children are always helping in the kitchen and with the laundry. It is very rare to see them sitting around! When we first arrived in Takoradi the children could not even stay in the same room as Caro & I because they were terribly shy. Now they are still quiet around us but they don’t run and hide! We often play football with them or watch TV. Lately we have convinced Moe to give us some Ghanaian dance lessons!
Lastly there is Chi-Chi & Tiny: the cats. Chi-Chi is a cute cat who loves to roam around the kitchen in search of food. He has a broken hip though and as a result drags himself around the floor. Tiny is a kitten who seems to be permanently small. She really likes to cuddle with Caro!
This is my Ghanaian family. They all have a special place in my heart and I am dreading leaving them next weekend! They have helped me create many fantastic memories and I am going to miss each and everyone of them when I return to Canada. I hope to be able to visit Ghana again one day!
Tuesday, August 9, 2011
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
“Ghanaian Hospitality” is a phrase that I have thrown around a fair bit since I started writing these blogs. Our homestay mother Bernice shows us what it means to be hospitable every day, as does just about everyone else we meet. But this weekend in particular, as I wandered around Accra by myself as a big-eyed, directionally-challenged foreigner, the outcomes of my travels were invariably positive only because of the many, many strangers that took time out of their day to help me. The end result of the weekend: I made it back in one piece to greet Sarah and Caroline with Ghanaian hair braids, a smile on my face, and a giant pizza when they arrived in Accra =) (see below).
2. Mercy, Juli’s grownup daughter. As Juli was braiding, Mercy left what she was doing to come down and neaten my hair braids for me so that we would finish faster, cutting the stray hair extensions so that my braids looked nice and smooth. I know that she did a great job, because some of the Ghanaians at work commented on how smooth they were.
3. An acquaintance of Juli’s in the market. He let her use his phone for free so she could call around to find out who would have the hair extensions we were seeking.
4. The “mate” (individual who works on the tro-tro collecting fairs and yelling out the destinations) at 37. He left his tro-tro to walk with me to where I could catch a tro-tro to Kaneshi market, just outside of 37 station.
5. The mate that “dashed” me – to “dash” is to pay someone else’s fare for the tro-tro (or in this case, waive the fare) as a chivalrous, romatic gesture.
6. The lady that was going back to my home village in the same tro-tro I was. When the tro-tro mate randomly decided he didn’t actually want to go that far anymore, she bartered for both of our fares back, then took me by the arm and moved us to another tro-tro that was going in the right direction.
Thursday, July 21, 2011
There were 38 women at the clinic when I arrived there that morning. The midwife was telling me that they run this same antenatal clinic every Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday and that each day it is a different group of women that come in. It is definitely a busy clinic since they have to do vitals, HIV screening, tetanus shots, palpation, and give malaria pills to each of the women.
Later on that afternoon we delivered a baby! It was a girl! From what I have seen a baby here receives two names. One will be their everyday name, for example Mary. Then their second name will be their Ghanaian name which is given according to the day they were born. This little baby’s name will be “Abina” meaning Tuesday born. Nurses at the clinic often refer to me as “Sister Aba” which is Thursday born.
The midwife that was working that day spoke English very well which allowed me to ask her questions about the deliveries that I have seen at the clinic. She told me that it is a cultural custom here for the woman to keep her placenta after it is delivered and to take it home with her to bury it. According to her they have a small ceremony and celebrate the new life. She also told me that they don’t practice putting the baby to the mom’s chest right away at this clinic as they believe it will induce shock in the woman. She said that they take the baby and clean it and keep it separate from the mother until the mother is all cleaned and is in a ward bed comfortably resting. I found that very interesting since at school I was taught how putting the baby to the mother’s chest right after birth was important for attachment and for regulating the baby’s temperature to the new environment. She asked me if we gave the mom the baby right away in Canada and I told her that from what I have seen they do and that I was taught in school that it was beneficial. She could not believe that so it was fun to compare our cultural practices, although both of us can only speak on behalf of what we have seen during our time working with patients.
Tomorrow is the end of another work week! I can’t believe how quickly time is going by! This weekend Caro & I are travelling to Kumasi. We are leaving bright and early Saturday morning that way we will have plenty of time to explore the Kejetia market. Apparently this is the largest open market in Western Africa! Watch out we are both ready to shop!!
We are also planning on going to Kofofrom which is a small village nearby where we are going to take part in a sculpture workshop! The sculptures are made from beeswax, clay, and coconut hair. Caro & I aren’t artists but who knows, maybe we will discover a new talent of ours at this workshop!
Well that’s all for now! I’ll update again soon!
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
In addition to the hard skills that have developed through this experience and through my role as Site Director, I have gained as much or more through daily interactions, immersion into a different and new culture and my insightful and intelligent group of cooperants. Most of what I have learned cannot be measured on a scale, and how I have grown and matured is hard to pinpoint. It is the feeling of being at home in a place so different from what I'm used to, halfway around the world and the feeling of waking up each day with wonder and excitement and going to bed in state of content thinking back to the sights, sounds, tastes and memories of the day that has come to a close. It is these feelings that held my mind open to learning day in and day out.
I have learned about the universality of a smile and to never undermine its importance.
I have learned the power of the mind to control your mood and outlook and the impact of positivity and optimism on yourself and others around you.
I have learned a unique form of hospitality.
I have learned about faith and about finding sources of inspiration even when it seems that all is gone.
I have learned that “not talking to strangers” may be a harmful childhood lesson that could limit your realm of experience and knowledge. (within reason)
I have learned about trust.
I have learned about giving people chances and believing that each individual has something unique to offer.
I have learned about my own true personality and what I have to offer, to my immediate surroundings and to the world at large.
I have learned about different values and notions of family, education and religion.
I have learned about inequality and privilege.
I have learned more about “development” and the associated difficulties and complications.
I have learned the importance of grassroots initiatives and participatory development.
I have learned about openness; about letting yourself out and others in.
I have learned that our shared humanity is a source of unity around the globe.
I have learned about living to love and loving to live.
Thank you to everyone who made my experience possible. To Kira, to QPID and to Robin, Heather, Caroline and Sara! I wish them all the best as they continue to learn, share and grow in the remaining 6 weeks.
MEDASSE! (Twi- Thanks)
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
Here is our list so far and it will only continue to be added to by the cooperants!
• reggae on the beach
• tstssing at strangers without being rude
• making fufu and getting ghanaian approval
• riding on trotros
• carrying a baby on my back
• playing with food (fufu/banku)
• refreshing koobe from the street (coconut)
• baby goats
• football with the family!
• fan ice and fan yogo
• exchanging French and German phrases for Twi lessons
• surviving Boti falls
• birthday breakfast and biking
• dancing to a drum circle in Pig Farm with pineapple
• chicken walking into the office
• drum lessons
• things people sell on the street
• whipping hair!
• eating sugar cane
• the ocean
• James' music
Stay tuned for a more detailed post about the Mid-Summer retreat weekend in Cape Coast and a reflection post about my experience in Ghana as my time with this fantastic crew has come to a close!
Many times during my own work at KITE, I have found myself armed with little more than a google taskbar and just enough basic knowledge to understand what I was reading. It reminds me every day of the value of the ICT that we are bringing to the rural communities. So far using little more than the internet I have fixed a webcam and 3 problems with Microsoft Word, taught myself how to use Microsoft Access, convinced a Nigerian NGO network to promote a KITE project to their thousands of members, and am building a guide on analyzing and ranking development projects that uses the same practices as the Asian Development Bank (which they were so kind as to post online). There is such a wealth of information on the internet, and I am left wondering how to bring more of it to the community members that for the most part are only using the internet for email ....
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
So.. I have spent a long time deciding about what it is I was going to write for my first blog post nearly a month into the trip. There is a lot that I could say. I could go on for pages about the work and different projects that Heather and myself have been working on (but it seems like Heather is covering that quite nicely). I could go on about the countless and interesting people we've encountered here (some due to our bright personalities, most due to our skin color). I could tell you about all of the exciting sights and smells and food and culture that has filtered its way in to our everyday lives. And everyone reading this post will tell their friends, "Wow! Did you hear all the things that Heather and Robin are doing?" But I wont. Not now at least. For now I want to focus less on the 'doing' aspect and fill you in on the aspect of travel that is what keeps my heart pumping and hits with me with the unbelievable fix that the travel junkie in me craves from this beautiful rock of a planet. Because everything we 'do' can be a rushing experience at the moment, an amazing story to tell a friend and ideally and most importantly build a platform for positive effects in Ghana. But ultimately, these actions true effects are how it effects us and our perspective on the world. So this is why I want to share some of the feelings that have ever slowly crept into my brain as a result of all the wonderful things we are doing, tugging at the many thoughts that rattle around in my head.
To start, "one month" is a bit of an odd way to describe the length of my trip so far. Anyone that has been thrown into a new world of culture can relate to the idea that time gets very funky when abroad. In one sense, I cannot believe that (in the "real world" calculation of time) over one month has already passed and we are almost at the half way point. Where did the time go? It has seemingly disappeared. Yet, at the same time, the streets of Accra, and more specifically our neighborhood of Pig Farm, seem like home. I can't even remember the time when eating with your hands was thought to be rude or navigating through the city on a 'tro-tro' seemed more complicated to me then Heather's engineering homework. The differences of culture have quickly became a normal part of life in relation to my previous Western existence. Here, extra time has been created out of thin air.
The feeling of opposing forces has certainly been a strong theme amongst my dueling emotions as well. Experiencing living a developing country is one that will shake all your tallest highs and shortest lows together. It is no secret that there is a lot of poverty in Ghana, and our work definitely highlights many serious issues within the country. But then you meet some of the happiest people on the planet. It might be the diet of fufu here, but there is a contagiously deep laugh that explodes out of the bellies of Ghanaians that is just unexplainably heart warming.
And of course, there is the ever looming experience of being the 'obroni' in Ghana. 'Obroni' simply means 'white man' in Twi and it is a name that is shouted at you almost everywhere you go. For the most part, there isn't a negative connotation that is attached with it, just a friendly recognition that, yes, we are white. There are some times after a long day at work that you just want to walk around with a shirt saying "My name is not Obroni" (which I swear I actually have seen an obroni wearing), but for the most part it is an unbelievable feeling being able to make an entire group of people smile and laugh because you can say a couple phrases in Twi. You can make a kid's day by just waving back at them when they call out to you. There is a 'celebrity-esque' feeling walking through many streets here which again, has its ups and downs. Many people do want to talk to you and learn about where you are from, which is always a great way to meet new people.
Hopefully this pushed readers slightly into the headspace of an obroni in Ghana. At the end of the day, it is this newly forming perspective that becomes are biggest asset. We can try and change Ghana as much as we can while we are here, but ultimately it is Ghana that is changing us for the better.
Monday, July 11, 2011
We were there to visit Jana , a small rural community which is not part of the electric grid (see a typical house pictured below). The farmers must therefore travel to Tamale every time they need anything which requires electricty. Jana has a lot of crop residue from maize and rice, which could be converted with a gasifier into electricity for the community – they were selected through a study trying to find a good community to be a prototype for using this technology. Robin, Clement (a permanent staff member at KITE), and I were there to assess whether the social, economic, and environmental impact on the community is enough for it to justify the investment cost of the gasifier. This information is usually communicated to a funding agency with something called the Economic Internal Rate of Return (EIRR) – basically, make the best possible estimate of everything that would happen if we installed the gasifier and attach a numeric value to it, which they can then use it rank it against other development projects. We were also assessing the relative wealth of the farmers, to figure out how much of the cost the funding agency could get back from the farmers themselves.
I soon found myself with a translator by my side, listening to a farmer passionately describe how much his community needs electricty, and rapidly realizing what a giganguan task this will actually be. How do you convert into a number the suffering of a farmer when the stream runs try and he can’t get water, but he could if he could install an electric pump? What’s the value attached to children who could now study at night? There are so many industries that electricity could bring to their community (butcher, welder, dressmaker, carpenter, agricultural supplier, chilled water supplier, hairdresser...), but somebody needs to be able to pay the startup cost for them to actually be realized. How do you therefore put a number on a business that could happen? There were times when it was heartbreaking to talk to the farmers, who for the most part seemed to have utter faith that as ‘Obroni’ (foreigners) we could fix everything for them if we so chose, but had also been interviewed so many times for projects like these which never happened that they were beginning to lose hope completely. Even in the poorest families we spoke to, nobody ever lost the legendary Ghanaian hospitality. One women, in the midst of detailing how since her husband had died she could no longer afford hospital fees for her children, saw her friend come by with fried goat’s cheese – she stopped the interview and took great pleasure in offering us the goats cheese so that we could taste the local cuisine. At the end of the interview, she blessed us for coming to speak with her, even though all we had done was take time out of her day that she could have been using to farm. I don’t think I have ever been been so revered in someone else’s eyes, or felt quite so helpless all at once.
How many farmers store their crops.
|How will we ever choose?|
Sunday, July 10, 2011
Caro & I with the lovely ladies who spent 5 hours braiding our hair!
Every Friday since we have been staying with our host family they prepare fufu for us for supper. It is a Ghanaian dish made with grounded up kasaba (like a potato) and is served with palm nut soup. Our family usually puts chicken in the soup but Friday night they added crab. Caro & I have both gotten the hang of eating fufu and we have gotten really good at scooping up the kassaba with our right hand and then putting an indent in it and scooping soup into the indent. It actually was tricky to do when we first tried it a few weeks ago! Friday night however was a challenge for us because both of us had never eaten crab and did not know how to eat it! Our host mother, Alice, came and sat with us and showed us how to do it. She removed the crab from the shell and showed us the meat inside. We both were nervous to eat it but ended up enjoying it!
Work went really well this week. I went to the clinic in Shama on Wednesday and Thursday. I worked at the general health site so I was able to see people of all ages this week. On Wednesday I took blood pressures for the nurse while the patients were sitting in the waiting room waiting their turn to be seen. On Thursday I helped with needles and dressing changes. I am learning a lot at the clinic and I am really enjoying my days there. Many of the patients that I have seen come in to the general health clinic are diagnosed with malaria. The second common issue from what I have seen is skin infections. My biggest challenge at the clinic currently is the language barrier and that they use different drugs than we do in Canada. I have a lot to learn! Fortunately I am working alongside wonderful nurses who teach me about the medications and also teach me phrases in “Fante” which is the most popular dialect spoken by people at this clinic.
I also began working on a health talk at work. There are other interns at Friends of the Nation from the University of Ghana and the University of Cape Coast. A few of them have been visiting a primary school & a junior high school to speak to the children and to try and promote community awareness. On Friday they gave a talk on coastal issues and next Friday they will be taking all of the children to Esei Lagoon to help plant mangrove trees. I will be giving a talk next week on sexually transmitted infections, malaria, and cholera. I began working on it last week and the plan for this week is to go over it with the other interns and to create learning games & activities to make the presentation fun & exciting for the children.
All in all both Caro & I are really enjoying our time in Ghana! We have been here for a month now, even though it feels like we just got here! We have been enjoying our stay with our host family and have also been able to travel on the weekends. We even went and got our hair braided yesterday! It took 5 hours to complete! Davina also had her hair braided last week. Caro & I are now planning to convince Heather to braid hers and for Robin to get dreads!
Next weekend is our midsummer retreat! Caro & I will be travelling to Cape Coast to meet with Heather, Robin, & Davina! We have to go over our midsummer report. We will also talk about our work experiences so far and set goals for the rest of the summer. We are going to do a little exploring too! We are planning on going to the canopy walk in Kakum National Park where will be able to see some Ghanaian wildlife! I can’t wait for that! We are also going to go to Elmina Castle!
Caro & I are both going to the office tomorrow for the day. She might be travelling back to Jomoro on Tuesday, but she won’t find out until tomorrow. Only 5 days until retreat!
Bye for now!
Wednesday, July 6, 2011
It has been a while since my last post so I decided it was time for an update! Caro beat me to describing our wild weekend so I will focus on the work I have been doing and some of my own adventures in Accra!
One of my responsibilities as Site Director in Ghana this summer is meeting with various NGO's to determine if they would be suitable potential partners for future internship placements with QPID. This has been an extremely exciting opportunity to meet with incredible people and organizations passionate about development and motivated to make a difference in their country. I met with "DAAPU"- Defence Against Aids Poverty and Underdevelopment and was invited to spend a day following the CEO to the various activities of their work . The activities I observed included HIV/AIDS education at a school in a neighbourhood referred to as an "urban slum" and community mobilization to get tested for HIV on the corner of 2 different busy markets. It was extremely interesting and eye opening. The next organization I met with was called "Pro-Link" which focuses on empowering women and children and other typically disadvantaged or marginalized groups in order to promote human rights, health and development. Both these organizations are part of the Coalition of NGO's in Health in Ghana which all work towards the common goal of reducing and eradicating HIV, malaria and TB and work towards basic health, nutrition and sanitation. I have also met with the Gender Development Institute of Ghana which also aims to promote gender equality and women's rights and the African Centre for Human Development, whose main project right now is advocating against Child Trafficking. I have a few more meetings lined up and I can't wait! So far I have been nothing but overly impressed and inspired by the work being done around the country. I am excited to make lasting partnerships with these organizations and provide future interns the opportunity to contribute to the work being done by them.
I am also doing some work with KITE, the organization the Robin and Heather are interning full time. I am helping to review and edit their Strategic Plan which is under revision and preparing a Fundraising Guidelines Package to provide tips and strategies about applying for grant funding and securing project funds. I am happy to be able to contribute some of my own experience and training to this organization! Other than that I have been working on preparing evaluation methods and tools for our current internship projects and planning the Mid-Summer Retreat for the cooperants which is taking place at Cape Coast next weekend!
I am still walking on sunshine with a smile spread from ear to ear as I continue to get more comfortable and engaged in my community in Accra. I love having my familiar street vendors who recognize me and know my name as I walk by! I have started learning the Ghanaian drum, have gotten my hair weaved Ghanaian style, have had some dresses made in local fabrics and designs and have really begun picking up the language (helped by the 14 year old daughter of my hair lady who spent the 4 hours it took teaching me Twi and having practice conversations!..I'm glad I could provide her with entertainment). All in all I am trying as much as possible to dive head first into the experience and make the most out of the short time I have here.
I can't believe we have been in Ghana for a month already! So far it has been an absolutely unparalleled learning and growing experience and I know that it can only continue from here.
Stay tuned for more adventures and updates!
Monday, July 4, 2011
I have some photos I would like to share, but my internet connection is poor, so I will add them to this post as soon as I can!
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
One of the delivery beds at the maternity clinic.
Last week Friends of the Nation decided to have me start going out to a clinic in a nearby town called Shama. They are affiliated with this clinic and its surrounding fishing communities. I study nursing at school and once FON found out they decided to switch me from the original project I was supposed to be on and put me with Kwesi, who works on a project titled: Population, Health, Environment (PHE).
I spent today and last Thursday at the clinic. Both of those days I was stationed at the maternity building. So far at the clinic I have seen many deliveries! I have also helped with injections and have observed nurses doing HIV testing. Last Thursday I saw one delivery and today I saw 3! It was a busy day! I am enjoying observing the practices and routines of this clinic. I think spending time there is going to be an excellent learning opportunity!
On a sad note I did see one unsuccessful birth today. It was a baby boy and he was premature. His mother was only 30 weeks along. He weighed 3 lbs (1.5 kg) at birth. We knew something was wrong because he wasn’t crying and his skin was very pale. He had a slight cry initially but then it stopped because he was struggling tremendously to breath. The midwife used a small nasal bulb syringe to try and clear any mucus that may have been causing him difficulty breathing but it didn’t work. I feel terribly for the mother and father of this baby. The midwife told me if the clinic would have had an incubator they would have been able to do more to save the newborn but that without the resources it would never make it. They were right as he passed away within an hour after birth. I hope the mother and father will be ok, I am really feeling awful right now just thinking about what they went through today.
Tomorrow I will be returing to the clinic but I believe I am going to be doing a general health clinic working with patients of all ages. It should be a very interesting day!
When I am not at the clinic I will be travelling to various communities to collect data in order to create resources for PHE. Kwesi has asked that I also create resources for the clinic and the community. I have been brainstorming and I think I would like to create pamphlets for the clinic to give to expecting mothers about pregnancy and their health. Kwesi has also asked that I produce reports on nutrition however within some of these communities that will be challenging because their diet needs to be based on what resources they have available to them. I am looking forward to creating these resources and visiting with people from the different fishing communities! I am hoping that over the summer I will be able to create resources that Friends of the Nation will find useful and implement as part of their PHE project!
My partner Caroline has travelled with work this week. She left yesterday for the Jomoro district with Kwesi. She is going out there to visit different communities and participate in data collection. Caroline is also currently working on a proposal about one of FON’s previous projects in a community called Ngyeresia. They installed 11 toilets within this community and a water kiosk back in 2009. Now they need to followup and build off of this project. Caroline’s proposal will be aiming to demonstrate what people thought of the toilets that were built as well as how accessible they are finding the water kiosk.
This weekend Caroline & I will be travelling to Accra. We will be meeting up with Robin, Davina, and Heather. The Canadian Embassy in Accra will be holding a bbq for all Canadians in celebration of Canada day! We are anxious to attend this bbq and meet other Canadians who are travelling and working in Ghana this summer!
Bye for now!
Long line of motionless cars fading into the distance...
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
|Alice, Nub, Hilda and Hilda Jr. making Fufu!|
|Sara with the finished product|
|The Gulf of Guinea|
|Loving the water!|
|Our dresses for church|
We have been at the Kumasi Institute for Technology, Energy, and Environment (KITE) for just over one week, and the few days of quiet reading with which we started off last week with feels like a distant memory – KITE is a bustling organization and we are definitely part of it now. The main project for Robin and I that was the basis of KITE’s proposal to QPID earlier this year is called the EBC (Easy Business Centre) project. Entrepreneurs can apply to start an ICT business in an under-serviced rural area – they receive a set of basic supplies (computer, router, etc.) as a loan from KITE, and must pay back its cost through monthly instalments once their business is running. Earlier this year it had seemed that the EBC project would be ready to start expanding this summer from the 20 EBCs that were implemented over the last few years to the eventual goal of 100 EBCs, but unfortunately the project has slowed down because a some of the first entrepreneurs are still struggling to get their businesses established. So, starting in a few weeks, Robin and I will be travelling to a number of the centres to help spread best practices from the successful businesses to the less successful businesses, do some simple troubleshooting, and set up a new bookkeeping system software to give KITE a better sense of where the businesses are making and losing money.
In addition, Robin is working on a policy brief that provides relative information concerning the need for non-fossil fuel based, low cost, safe and reliable lighting products amongst rural communities in Ghana that are currently off the electrical grid. By doing so, we hope that certain revisions to the Renewable Energy Bill in Ghana will help provide a better quality of life for the roughly 40% of Ghanaians that do not have access to electricity. While we are up north, I will also be working with a member of KITE staff to do a socio-economic benefit study as part of a proposal for biofuels plant in Jana that converts crop residue into electricity to the community. For the next two weeks, I have also temporarily taken over a project called Evidence and Lessons in Latin America (ELLA) from a member of the staff that is on sick leave – it is an online learning alliance funded by the UK Development Fund for International Development (DFID) that is trying to spread innovations and best practices from development in Latin America to African and Asian NGOs. Finally, I have unofficially joined the IT support time – so far I have fixed one webcam and two problems with Microsoft word. All in all, lots to do, and all of it incredibly interesting and varied.
Monday, June 20, 2011
Its only been a bit over a week but already I have become extremely comfortable in my new home in Accra. So far my focus has been on ensuring that everyone, host organizations, host families and the cooperants, are settling in and doing well. I spent most of last week sending out mass e-mails to various NGO's around Accra to meet with to perform "Project Identification" sessions to establish partnerships for future QPID projects. I am excited to have my first meeting with a very promising organization this afternoon and another one set up tomorrow! I am extremely impressed with the quick turnaround of these organizations in response to my request!
Life in Ghana has filled me with nothing but joy and happiness. I find myself walking around with a permanent smile on my face as I take in all the sites around me. As I am stuck in constant traffic jams on "tro-tros" (small little vans that act as busses around the city that cram as many people in as possible) I could chose to be annoyed at how long it takes to get anywhere or do anything, yet instead I find myself observing the daily life and hustle and bustle of the city, people watching and enjoying the beautiful fabrics and dresses on the women, the items for sale from the street vendors that line the street and walk between cars with buckets of water, snacks, phone credit etc balanced on their heads and the constant interaction of people walking around the street that I just would not see at home.
I have thoroughly enjoyed my daily walks, stopping to buy fresh mangos, banannas, coconut, pineapple etc. just on the street. I am constantly amazed at the hospitality of every Ghanain I have met who all seem to have hearts of gold and want to ensure that they welcome this "ubruni" (white girl) into their country with open arms. In addition to the incredible host mothers that are hosting the QPID cooperants, I have had countless interactions with people who are excited and willing to help me navigate the streets, teach me Twi (the local language around the Accra region), show me where to get good Ghanain food (and come by the restaurant during my meal to ensure that I found the restaurant and that I am enjoying it!), offer to give me tasters of freshly made food and a taxi driver who gave me his Ghanain music CD after a ride home during which I commented on how I was enjoying his music! I joined in with a group of young boys playing street soccer on the street; proving, despite their insistence it was impossible, that an ubruni girl can play soccer with sandals on! I had a great time with them and told them I would be back regularly to join their mini-league! Robin and Heather and I went for a walk around their neighbourhood (Pig Farm) and ended up taking part in a music jam on the street corner and learned some Ghanain dance moves and provided some great entertainment to the locals watching us!
I look forward to publishing more posts on the types of organizations I meet with, the work that the cooperants really start to do as their orientation week has come to a close and more stories from daily life in this warm (literally and figuratively) country in West Africa.
Friday, June 17, 2011
Caroline & I had a very interesting week at Friends of the Nation! As she was mentioning in her post the other day we did A LOT of reading however it was all very interesting & informative! We both have learned about the current issues challenging the fishermen and fishmongers in the western region of Ghana. Today we met with our partner organization - The Coastal Resources Centre. Their office is attached to ours and they are collaborating with Friends of the Nation right now on a project titled Hen Mpoano- “Our coast”. We went to the CRC director’s house for an all team meeting today. He has a big beautiful home up on a hill overlooking the sea. The home has been renovated to include electricity and running water. Caroline and I were excited to see running water in the taps in the kitchen and bathroom. It is funny the little luxuries we don’t tend to appreciate at home because we are so used to always having them.
All in all we are settling in well and we are both grateful for our terrific host family as they have been very welcoming and helpful to us. We are also thankful for all of the workers at Friends of the Nation as they are all very friendly and a pleasure to work with. We are looking forward to next week as we are expecting to be getting more projects and learning experiences at Friends of the Nation. I am hopefully going out to a town just east of where I am staying in now called Shama where I will be helping at a clinic with issues concerning family planning and maternal/ reproductive health. I am very excited that I will have the opportunity to use some of my nursing skills this summer! I am also enjoying my placement with this NGO as I have not learned a lot of development theories before and I find it all very interesting! I consider myself lucky to be partnered with Caroline though because she studies development at university and can always thoroughly answer any questions I have!
Tomorrow and Sunday are our days off. We are planning to go explore downtown Takoradi. Caroline and I think alike and we have decided that our goal while we are downtown is to find ice cream! Hopefully our mission will be a success! Then on Sunday we are going to go down to the ocean with our host brother and his friends!
Bye for now!