Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Baby on Board!

One of the delivery beds at the maternity clinic.

Hello everyone!

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!


After a few weeks in Accra, we are becoming familiar with the quirks and marvels of this massive city. As far as I can tell, the most dominant force in Accra is traffic – it slows us down (a 20 minute trip can take 2.5 hours at the wrong time of day), speeds us up (as we dash back from the road to avoid being sideswiped by careless motorcycles and cars), and encourages us to get to know our neighbours (cramming in next to everyone else on the small buses known as tro-tros). Sometimes, someone will stand up and give a sermon in the middle of the tro-tro, providing moral guidance and entertainment in the ‘dead time’ while people wait to get to their destination.

Long line of motionless cars fading into the distance...

My Twi is slowly improving, but I frequently wish that I knew more in order to understand the conversations, singing, and prayer that I hear around me as I walk through the city. We have found a number of small concerts around the city, and even joined in a local dance in the middle of our neigborhood! Even though Accra is a very modern city, it has a natural rhythm to it and you can find most things you need in small stores around the neighbourhood. Most people still prepare their food fresh each day, and we are woken up at sunrise by a combination of roosters and radio. So, for the most part, it doesn’t feel like a big city at all. However, we can still go to the movies or the mall - in fact, we got to see a new Nigerian movie (Mirror Boy http://www.mirrorboythemovie.com) and the stars were even there because it was the Ghanaian premier! This weekend Robin and I will be going up North to the area around Tamale for a field study, so I will be interested to see the contrast between the two regions.

View from inside a tro-tro.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Our first weekend in Takoradi

Maadwo! (Good evening!)
Sara and I had a fun weekend, and have seen a bit more of life and culture in Takoradi. On Friday night we stayed in, and the family made us fufu. We watched as our host sister Hilda cut up the cassava into slices and placed them in a pot on the floor. Although they have a stove, the family does most of their cooking on the floor in the kitchen or backyard, on what I can best describe as a small charcoal barbeque with a pot on top for the soup or meat or whatever is being cooked. One of the kids, Nub, had a long club which he pounded the sliced cassava with. More cassava is added until it is the texture of dough. We sometimes see women doing this outside their homes. A large ball of the cassava is served in a bowl beside a chicken drumstick and immersed in spicy tomato soup. You are given a second bowl of water to wash your right hand with, because you eat the fufu with your right hand (but never your left!). To eat it, you take the cassava in your hand and make a cup with it to scoop the soup into your mouth. When you’re done, you eat the chicken. It is very filling, and the combination of the sweet cassava and the spicy soup is delicious! We got very messy and felt a little childish, though fun. Ghanaians, of course, are much more graceful when they eat it, and don’t look nearly as silly as Sara and I. 

Alice, Nub, Hilda and Hilda Jr. making Fufu!

Sara with the finished product
On Saturday Sara and I were able to sleep in, which was really nice since we’ve been getting up at 6:30 every morning for work. After lunch, Hilda and her friend Peter took us to the beach to swim. The ocean was both fun and frustrating. Sara and I felt the pressures of being a minority increasingly as the day went on. Although we’ve become accustomed to being called “ubruni” (the white person) by children as we walk by, and being stared or waved at, it has always been in a friendly manner, curiosity from children, and have rarely faced difficulty. Our colleagues, people at church, family, friends of the family, and strangers we meet on the street, have welcomed us with open arms and astounding generosity. Strangers on the street often ask us how we are, offer to help us find our way, shake our hands, and introduce themselves. We discovered at the beach that women generally stay on land fully dressed, while the men strip down to their shorts and swim. Sara and I fearlessly joined the men in the water, and found the men to be very aggressive. Once we found a less busy beach to swim at, we enjoyed ourselves immensely. It was my first tie swimming in the ocean, and I loved it! The waves are quite large, and you only have to go in a few feet for the full effect, especially during high tide. We bobbed around in the waves, trying not to get the salt water in our eyes and throat (it burns!). Afterwards, Hilda and Peter showed us around the harbour.

The Gulf of Guinea

Loving the water!
On Sunday we got up bright and early for church, which starts at 7:30. Georgina, a friend of our host mom, made us traditional African dresses to wear to the service. We enjoyed the dresses, and were amused that she made them from matching fabrics. Our family attends a Catholic service, which had lively music and djembe drum music, rather than organ. There were many children, some of which sat in the row in front of us. We arrived a few minutes late, and one of the children in the pew ahead of us noticed, and a line of whispering went down the aisle as one by one, the children turned around to see us, quite hilariously. The church service was lively, and the program was very similar to that of my church at home. My favourite part was offering and communion, because many danced up to the front of the church and danced back to their seats. After church Sara and I went with the family to a birthday party of two cousins, twin girls, Joyce and Joycelynn. There were many kids at the party, and we all danced. As the twin's Mom said, "If you don't dance, you don't eat!" 

Our dresses for church
Sara and I have been keeping an eye out for religious business names. Some notables are Christ in You Chemicals, God is Able Enterprise, Good Sheppard Building Supplies, and Divine Right Hair Salon. Our favourite so far is Blood of Jesus Barbering Salon. See the irony? 

THE FRUIT! Mangoes, bananas, pineapple, oh my! They're totally different than at home, and I love them! Sweeter, richer, juicier! Mangoes especially are our new favourite snack. You can buy all these things on stands on the road, as well as coconuts, tangerines, etc. I can’t wait to try my first coconut!

We've been enjoying our placement at FoN, and either Sara and I will be updating on our week's adventures at the office soon!

Down to business!

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

With a smile on my face

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

Its the weekend already!

Mààdwó! Good evening!

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!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

First few days at FoN

Hey friends,
FoN, or Friends of the Nation, is where Sara and I are doing our internship. We've been here since Monday now, and I'm really enjoying my time here so far. The office is about a 30 minute drive from our home, so we take a taxi each way. The office is surrounded by gardens, and behind the building is a road that goes up a steep hill to a secondary school. Sara and I adventured out for a bit, but got stuck in the red clay before too long. Sara and I have our own office, which is large and sunny. The people at work are incredibly friendly and sweet. They go out of their way to do stuff for us. So far, it’s unclear exactly what we’ll be doing, but it seems that I’ll be working with Kyei (pronounced Chay) in Natural Resources on a Fishery project called Hen Mpoano (Our Coast). Sara might be working with Kwesi in Population, Health, and Environment, perhaps doing some work in reproduction and maternal health. We have mostly been reading so far, and I have learned a tonne, and I mean A TONNE, about fisheries in Ghana.  I especially love that as I read I recognize concepts and organizations I have studied at school. I feel so in my element, and I am both applying my degree at school and learning new material about natural resources in Ghana and fishery issues. Kwesi also had be edit a proposal for a program on Child Labour, as everyone in the office has English as a second language, which I really enjoyed as it kept me busy and I learned about the issues as well. Lunch at work is awesome. A woman comes with buckets of rice, salad, pasta, hard boiled eggs, and so far either chicken or fish. For only 1 cedi (66 cents) I get a large plate of rice, salad, and an egg. Today we got to get out of the office for a bit. We had a staff meeting outside under a tree, for all the new interns. There are five of us in total. They have about 5000 mango trees that need transplanting near a lagoon, that suffers soil erosion, pollution, and water shortage. We checked out the area where we'll be transplanting in a couple of weeks. From the shore line we could se the new oil rig. Oil was discovered in Takoradi a few years ago, and many people have great hopes for the wealth this could bring to the area. Many are worried it will bring over exploitation and poverty as well, as gold, diamond, and bauxite mining has. The oil rigs are also causing additional problems for fisheries, and it seems from the articles I've read, the fishermen are troublesome to the oil lines as well. We then headed to a slum area off the shoreline where FoN has recently implemented a new latrine project. We asked people in the community if the latrine worked, if they were being used, and if they'd like more. 
My lunch break is just about finished and as always, I have loads of material to read!

Reading about Hen Mpoano

Saturday, June 11, 2011

5 Passengers, 3 luggages ... good start!!!


We have all arrived safe and sound in Ghana, despite some Tornado warnings and electrical storms in Toronto, some misplaced luggage and some wonderful roads, we are all having an excellent time getting settled in.

We all stayed a couple nights in Accra, the capital of Ghana, where Robin, Heather and Davina will be staying. We did a tour of the city, learned the ropes about cell phones, money, internet and tro-tros (the method of transportation) and made some fantastic Ghanain friends. Today we took a bus to Takoradi to drop of Caroline and Sara with their host family. It was supposed to be a 4 hour journey...ended up being a bit over 8 as we waited for some bus delays and crazy traffic!

We will be heading back to Accra tomorrow for Robin and Heather to meet their host family and for Davina to settle into her house. Everyone will be starting their internships on Monday morning; Caroline and Sara at "Friends of the Nation" and Robin and Heather at "Kumasi Institute for Technology, Energy and the Environment." We are all very anxious to get started, and fully emerge ourself in Ghanain culture and see how we can both learn from and contribute to these incredible NGO's.

Keep following us as we dive into our adventures!!

-Ghana Crew