Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Ghanaian Hospitality

“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).

So, I will use this blog to say “meda ase” (thank-you), for all the simple acts of kindness, and the people who did them, that I can remember receiving this week – I hope that it will paint a clear picture of the daily generosity that keeps us smiling and mostly comfortable in a country so different from our own.

1. Juli, the hair lady I met on the stairs by Kaneshi market while on a quest to get my hair braided on a Sunday – this is quite difficult because most people close to go to Church. She happened to be working, but all the bigger hair salons that stock coloured hair extensions were closed ; the single hair ladies usually just have black extensions. Juli walked with me all around Kaneshi market, going to each of the hair places looking for hair extensions. When she couldn’t find any in Kaneshi, she took me on a tro-tro back to her home village and went to a friend’s salon to buy them. Then she braided my hair right then and there at her house! When we were finished, she insisted on taking a tro-tro with me back to Kaneshie market, where she found me a tro-tro back to where I live.

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.

7. The girl with the beautiful name that I can no longer remember. As I was trying to navigate to a friend’s house in Haatso by describing nearby landmarks (since Ghana generally does not have street signs), she got in the taxi with us to show the taxi driver where the landmark was. When she found out that I was seeking a friend’s house, she kindly took me straight to the only house in the area where white people lived – and it was the right one!

8. Bernice, who kindly let Caroline and Sarah stay over yesterday night. “Of course!” she said, “you’re family now”.

9. Sophie, Bernice’s sister. When she heard that the seamstress up the road was trying to overcharge me, she took me to her own seamstress and bargained the price down for me.

10. Theo, the secretary at KITE. Somehow, the day after I told a friend in the office that my favourite food was Red Red (a vegetarian dish with fried plantain, black-eyed peas and groundnut oil), it magically appeared on the lunch menu the next day. Coincidence? I think not.

RED RED! So Yummy!

11. Jackie, who also works at KITE. She both invited me to a wedding she was going to so that I would have the chance to experience her culture better, AND offered to make me a dress if I could acquire my measurements. All in one day.

12. Paula, who also works at KITE. She has patiently answered every question I have asked her with a smile (How do taxes work in Ghana? Does Ghana have a commodity index? What’s the best way to contact NGOs? How much should I pay to get my hair braided? How do you say in Twi?....) .

13. Amanda, Davina’s housemate, who offered to come back with me to the market to keep me company while I got my hair braided – even though it takes 3-5 hours!

14. Loretta and Amanda, both Davina’s housemates, who frequently take extremely inconvenient routes so that I am not taxiing alone at night.

15. All the ladies on the road back from work who are teaching me Twi one phrase at a time.

16. The many,many people who are currently trying to save my soul with the love of Jesus Christ.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

A day at the clinic!

We had a great system going at the clinic last Tuesday. One of the nurses was seeing patients and then after they would go see her they would come see me for malaria pills. At this clinic they give all of the pregnant women 3 tablets of sulfaxdoxine mixed with pyremethamine three times throughout their pregnancy. They are anti- malarial tablets, so they are given to protect the mother and the fetus. They receive their first dose anytime after 16 weeks of pregnancy, then 1 month after the first dose , then again after another month. I had to learn a little dialogue in Fante to be able to give the tablets to the patients. This way I could ask them questions and to be able to communicate with them. They all got a kick out of seeing a white girl attempting to speak their language and would smile or sometimes even break out into laughter! I would say good morning which is “maakye” and then say their name. Then I would ask the woman if she had eaten which is pronounced “ way - dee- dee?” If she said “aane” I could give her the pills and “nsu” which is water and ensure that she took all three in front of me. If they answered “daabi” which means no, I had to send them to eat something and to come back which is “wo co di aba”. The pills would make them very nauscious if they were taken on an empty stomach. I was reading about this pill and apparently it is contradicted during pregnancy but I suppose the risks outweigh the benefits. There are other anti-malarials available in the area but one of them has been known to have developed some resistance now so they don’t use it as much.

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

"Living to Love and Loving to Live" - Lessons from Ghana

Six weeks. Short enough that time goes by in the blink of an eye yet long enough to form lasting memories, friendships across races, religions, backgrounds and regional borders, and learn lessons and life skills that have the potential to change me forever. As I sit in the airport, part of me feels that I never even arrived in Ghana, it is all one whirlwind, dreamlike memory of time that flew by as though it didn't exist. But as I start reflecting further into my experience and notice how I have changed, what I have learned, and what I have been part of, I realize how valuable this short time was and what an impact it has made.

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

Ghana log of AWESOME

Inspired by "The Book of Awesome" Team Ghana met during our mid-summer retreat and made note of some "awesome" moments we've experienced so far in our daily lives and the special and memorable moments that happen outside of the office.

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
• milo
• surviving Boti falls
• birthday breakfast and biking
• avocado
• dancing to a drum circle in Pig Farm with pineapple
• chicken walking into the office
• drum lessons
• lizards
• things people sell on the street
• whipping hair!
• eating sugar cane
• the ocean
• James' music
• Mangoes!

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!

Tamale-Part 2

Robin standing in front of one of the EBC Centres.

It has been a week since we got back from Tamale, but I feel like there's a lot that I never got around to writing about. The most important aspect of the trip that I haven't mentioned yet was that Robin and I have also inherited the EBC project from previous QPID interns (see my first post for a full description), so while we were up in Tamale we had the chance to speak with some of the entrepreneurs about how their businesses are going and how we can spend the portion of our time that is devoted to the EBCs most effectively. The Easy Business Centres were filled with bright colours and familiar technology, and we were greeted with warm smiles and enthusiastic Ghanaian hospitality. Each business owner had a wealth of comments on changes they’ve made to their business, recommendations for when KITE expands the project, and suggestions for how we might spend our time with the EBC project. I was so impressed with the creative ways that they have used their equipment - one person promotes events on the walls of his EBC and does computer repairs, another runs a stationary business, another a secretarial business... Talking to the entrepreneurs, there are definitely mistakes that have been made along the way (and I’m sure that I will add a few of my own during my own time working with them) but I was struck by the genuine enthusiasm of the entrepreneurs for their businesses and their willigness to keep working away at the difficulties that face them. The best part about the project is that it builds the capacity of everyone it touches – the entrepreneurs, who build their own resourcefulness and business savy to make their centres a success, the community members who are learning how to use these trecherous but powerful machines for the first time, and the Ghanaian companies that make most of the technolgy used. Even KITE has embraced technology not previously used (for example, Microsoft Access), as part of implementing the EBC project.

You know it's "rural ICT" when....there's a goat scratching its butt against the EBC centre =)

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

Feeling It Out


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.

-Robin Koczerginski

Monday, July 11, 2011

Tamale – Part 1

Robin and I spent all of last week in Tamale, a large city in the North of Ghana. I was a little bit intimidated, because in amongst the mix of perspectives on the Northern Region that I had heard in Accra, some suggested quite a dangerous, narrow-minded place. But actually I found it to be quiet, clean, peaceful and far more respectful of personal space than Accra– although I was advised not to be in some areas for fear of being mugged. Many of the women were dressed in beautiful soft and colourful cloth with intricate veils over their heads - some of them reminded me of colourful birds because they were so carefully put together, and I tried many times to take pictures as we drove through the city but we were always driving too fast! We visited the Kintampo Waterfalls on the way back (see the picture of Robin and Clement in front of the falls to the left), which were beautiful and peaceful, just like the rest of the trip.

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.

One of the farmer's houses in Jana

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.

It was also incredibly difficult to “get inside the heads” of the farmers we spoke to, because their lives and their thinking was so different from ours. Even though we’d borrowed many questions on our questionnaire from similar studies, we soon found that some of our questions were hopefully inadequate – “how much money do you spend on firewood per month” rapidly turned into “how long would that pile of firewood over there last your family? How much would it cost to buy that much firewood?”. We often ended up switching from Cedis to bags of rice or maize, since for the most part that is the currency of the farmers lives. Asking if anyone was intended to start a business turned out to be an entirely useless question, as virtually all of the farmers we interviewed said “yes”. “What business?”, we asked. “Any business!”, many of them replied. By the end of the study, our questionnaire looked quite different than it had when we started, but I do think that we left the community with a detailed description of the various ways in which electricity could affect their lives, and decent estimates of their ability to pay for it. There are many decisions we are going to have to make as we analyze the data, and quite a bit more research we must do to make sure we get it right, but if nothing else the farmers' passion will insure that we do the best job that we can to make sure we have left no stone unturned in detailing the potential impacts. Of course, we’ll also need to be very sure to double check the feasibility of much of what they told us – for example, if they had an electric pump, does a water supply even exist that they could pump from?

Fabric galore!

I’ve been in Ghana for a month now, and I can hardly believe it’s going by so quickly! Last week at work I was allowed to follow around some of my colleagues to see the different meetings they take part in. I’m finding the operations of FoN very democratic: they invite representatives from religious groups, women groups, business groups, the district assembly, chieftaincies, and NGOs to the forums, and they are almost always open to the public, unless productive decisions must be made. The community is always consulted or surveyed as well. Although these processes make the workings of FoN more tedious perhaps then just an executive decision, I am appreciating the bottom-up grassroots approach FoN takes with all of their projects and learning a lot about community participation and consensus building.
I see that Sara has updated the blog on our weekend adventures already. She's a speedy one! I also had a fantastic weekend. I also love my new hairdo and the new foods we got to try. On Saturday we also explored Market Circle looking at fabrics. The popular dresses here are very beautiful, so Sara and I have been browsing the large array of fabrics and dreaming of the dresses we'll have made. 
How will we ever choose?
Have a wonderful week, wherever you are. 

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Fufu & Hair Braids!

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

From Ghana with Love

Hello everyone!

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

Work and travel= fantastic!

I’ve had an exciting week of work, travel, and celebrations. From Monday to Wednesday I went to the Jomoro district of Western Ghana to sit in on some open public meetings on the development of fishing communities. FoN in collaboration with KITE (where Heather and Robin are interning) is going to two communities in each of the ten zonal regions in the District to hold these meetings. Some are held at the municipal government level. I am learning a lot about the process of development at the grassroot community level. I will be returning to two or three zones to evaluate and research on consensus building and community participation and communication, as well the role of the NGO in civil society and government.
I am also preparing questionnaires about water usage in Ngyeresia, and starting to climb on board with some other interns on surveying ecological impacts in the Esei Lagoon, where we’re (hopefully) planting mangrove trees soon. While I was in Jomoro this week I stayed in Half Assini. I was able to spend some time exploring the beaches, which were beautiful with palm trees, fishing boats, sea shells, and crabs. I met some fishermen and was able to see close up the types of boats, netting, and techniques used in fishing I’ve been learning about.

Friday July 1st was not only Canada Day but also Ghana Republic Day which is a national holiday here, so there was much celebrating to be had. Sara and I left for Accra on Thursday, after I returned from Half Assini. Davina met us at the hustle and bustle of Kaneshi market, one of the larger markets in Accra, which also serves as a tro tro station. We stayed with Davina over the weekend, who has an apartment in Haatcho. We loved becoming familiar with her neighbourhood, cooking for ourselves, and taking tro tros around the city. On Thursday evening, the Canadian Embassy in Accra was hosting all Canadians in Ghana for a barbeque. It was very strange to see so many “obrunis” (white people) in one place! They served burgers, poutine, local beer, and even gave out Tim Hortons coffee as door prizes. I met many Canadians doing interesting things in Ghana- from volunteering, to working, to dancing.

On Friday we rose early  and boarded a trotro to Boti falls, which are famous for being the tallest waterfalls in West Africa. It is also the site of umbrella rock and the three headed palm tree, as well as a very very large Ghana Republic Day celebration. To say it was crowded is an understatement. TWe went on a challenging hike to see umbrella work and the three headed palm tree. The landscape was challenging enough, but the real difficulty was that thousands of other Ghanaians were trying to do it as well. We were more pushing than climbing, and it was easily the most chaotic situation I’ve ever been in. That said, the landscapes and views were beautiful, amongst hills and mountains, lush and green. To heighten to challenge, Team Ghana and myself were the only obrunis there, and for the first time, we dealt with significant racism. I’m glad we went to Boti Falls, because we experienced the festivities of Republic Day, but we faced many of the difficulties of being a minority, and learned some important lessons about our own tolerance. In the end, we were unable to see the falls, it was too busy and we were feeling overwhelmed from our hike.

On Saturday, we spent our morning buying fruits down the street and making our selves a delicious birthday brunch. Davina’s roommate made us her famous delicious French toast which we topped with fruit and syrup. We then met up with Robin, Heather, and our new friend from France, Chloe, to go to Aburi, a town about an hour from Accra. On a side note, one of my favourite things about tros tros, and driving in general, is the array of products available for sale from women selling things in the station and on the road. They walk right up to the vehicle, products on a tray, basket, or crate on their head, and pass them through the windows. I commonly purchase water, plantain chips, gum, and snacks this way, though you can easily get minutes to top up a phone, toothbrushes, soap, razors, toys, bread, fruit- anything really! Sara was very amused by the inflatable beach toys being sold one day. Once in Aburi we went to a bicycle rental place and made went on a guided tour to a waterfall- we were thrilled that was an option and that we got to see one waterfall on our weekend. I enjoyed the mountain biking the best, but we also had some easier sections through fields and villages. We then parked our bikes and hiked the rest of the way to the falls. Once at the waterfall, we jumped right in and went swimming! We spent an hour or two taking photos, swimming, chatting, and relaxing in the beautiful area. A bike and trotro ride later, we were back in Accra finding the ingredients for Davina’s delicious avocado alfredo at the vendors in Haatcho and celebrated my birthday with cake. I am so thankful to Davina and the rest of the team for preparing it for me!

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! 
Hope all my Canadian friends had a fantastic Canada Day!

Caro (as the Ghanaians call me!)