Volunteering in Ghana 2009

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

9 months of restabilizing

Although I have not posted in nine months, I have remained in touch with my friends abroad. My absence from writing has been largely due to relocating three times, working at three different jobs, and finding an operational replacement car. Additionally, I was able to respond to the contributors on the latest trip via talks, emails, and letters. ...The spring of 2011 had brought about some necessary but difficult transitions.

Updates about the school typically come from the GCS Director, Nana. We have been able to keep up to date through emails and a few periodic phone calls. The school is in good condition still, and the latest volunteer (Peter Moller, Denmark) contributed toilets to the building in addition to finishing the small office in the back. Hearing about this just before summer began, reassured me that we still are able to continue the good Samaritan flow, while the school continues to progress. There haven't been as many volunteers as last year (through the partner ngo -GCS), but sufficient attention has remained thanks to other contributors such as Crosscause and DIVOG.

Aside from the volunteer programs, GCS has been furthering their internal efforts on a water production business. The purpose of the business is to bring about more income into the ngo, but also to supplement the volunteer staff that have made several sacrifices. Below you will see the water production efforts summed in a one minute clip...

Lastly, many people have asked me when I plan to return to Ghana. I am not able to return this year. It would be great to return in 2012, but currently I cannot set anything specific. If you or someone you know is interested however, our ngo is always taking volunteers into the organization. Feel free to contact myself or simply visit the organzation website.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Nonome tata (Photos)

Here are a few pictures that i have not posted yet. The carpentry work was shown in the previous articles but all will be revisited again for summing up...

Post plastering (First week)

Cement flooring (3)

Chalkboards (3)

Finishing the face, casting lentil

Desk work (31 made for 62 students)

Painting inside


Thank you team Appleby from Canada!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Baba (I'm sorry)

After recovering somewhat from an illness that slowed me, I was able to jump back into work, hiring four masons so they could continue their tremendous work. As of today they have paved three floors, three chalkboards, and finally finished with the plastering/dressing around the frames. Additionally, I set them out on repairs to the first structure, first on the face wall, and secondly an interior support wall. While these masons have been diligently working (minus one laborer, who came in drunk after lunch), the team of carpenters have been planing and shaping more wood for desks. In the midst of their work I have been able to run around the city as usual, making purchases and transporting the goods back to the site.

I started to write this article yesterday. However, the day before was a complete disappointment, and so I needed to reset, review, and then deliver...

After discussing plans to accommodate the team of volunteers in the last week, the man whom we had already met and discussed the offer with, decided to discuss a price the same day the volunteers were coming in (Sunday). This came as a bit of a shock as the paramount chief had been the man we went through in order to secure the offer a week before anything took place. As I rushed into the village I met with Godwin and another rep from the other NGO to meet with the head of the household. After an awkward discussion of his past-disgust with a separate episode involving volunteers back in July, he declared he would not budge on the price of 500 Ghana Cedis (almost 400 USD). All the planning and organizing that had happened, quickly resulted in chaos. Leaving the household highly aggravated, we decided to frantically inquire for another option. And after a couple of let downs we eventually had to give into a cost for a low budget motel. This became the decision as it was best not to make the problems aware to the team of volunteers, or else we might inhibit their efforts of goodwill. After the day ended, I was able to sleep and regroup for next mornings work.

There is a cost that attaches to volunteering. The self sacrifice is not measurable. It is not something someone can understand from reading; it is only understood through experience. It is equally true in understanding the life of many Africans. In the case of the foreign volunteer however, each scenario of self sacrifice presents different challenges. The foreign volunteer cannot exist without a stage of tribulations. This critical stage captures the ambition momentarily and forces a decision of the volunteer. The choice they have is to diligently push through, or simply quit. Although they may be perceived as mindless, or there actions 'a waste of time', the hardships push the volunteer to act in despair or to endure. It can create bitterness, disdain, or even resentment within an individual, in helping the needy. Either way the work of a volunteer is more than a monetary, or timely sacrifice.

After only a short time of working in any third world country, I would assume most volunteers ponder 'why such developmental problems exist' ...Or 'what can be done to fix them'. In all honesty there is no immediate solution to these questions, and often times it feels discouraging when finding out how deep the problems go, and how entangled they have become. In relation to this project and my experience, I focus on a book (about the genocide in Rwanda) that I had read while here. One particular passage seems to coincide with the concepts mentioned above.

"I often found it helpful to think of central Africa in the mid-1990's as comparable to late medieval Europe-plagued by serial wars of tribe and religion, corrupt despots, predatory elites and a superstitious peasantry, festering with disease, stagnating in poverty, and laden with promise. Of course, a key process that happened had helped European peoples pull toward greater prosperity and saner governance was colonialism, which allowed for the exporting of their aggression and the importing of wealth. Ex-colonies don't enjoy such opportunities as they tumble into the family of modern nation-states; whatever forms of government they come up with, in their struggles to build sustaining political traditions, are likely to be transitional."

Generally speaking, Africa has a trade deficit; it imports more than it exports. Ghana has that same problem. This has remained the problem since the time in which Africa became exploited long ago. Fortunately there are some reports of progress and more self-reliance around the continent. At least a lot of 'progress' in that there is less civil conflict. My thoughts about this and the concept of 'sacrifice' have often led to discussions with some of the locals. I also see why they are constantly asking to come to the U.S. as they know of a land of opportunity, little conflict, and economic prosperity. Ironically, when I ask what they would do when they get to the U.S. most of them reply "I don't know ... maybe relax."

To close the article I want to point out that without good Samaritans more hardships would exist for these people. It is because of several benevolent people (mostly of the middle class) that the third world is able to gain a small amount each year to ease their sufferings. I know that if the kids and the community of Agitome (Kpetoe/Wodome area) were able to go to the U.S. some would eventually visit their supporters, and say a big thank-you for helping them. Personally, I know that some will have great achievements and succeed in the future.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

May jay do (I'm sick)

Since my last post I unknowingly prolonged an illness for five days. After traveling a short distance from the city of Ho it became quite obvious that the hospital would be where I needed to go. So I spent a couple days learning about the health care system. I was dehydrated and not enjoying food so it took me about a week to regain my energy.

During the week I learned many things; that none of the masons showed up for work in the village, and that they wouldn't be working until they saw me again. For some reason they have started to believe that if they don't see me for a few days they won't come to work (there is a different level of trust between local Ghanaians). Aggravated and still crippled by my illness I decided to read and rest. While resting my mind wondered. Thoughts bounced around my mind; why is Africa plagued with problems? What could I be doing if I wasn't sick? From Thanksgiving and what it would be like, to how expensive health care is in U.S. my ideas soared -One major difference about the health care system I realized is that two days in hospital with drugs, multiple doctor check-ups, and nurse attention only costs around 80 US dollars -and that's without insurance coverage. Just before I left for my trip to come to Ghana I had a minor eye procedure that cost more than 300 USD.

Recently, I was drawn to a passage written by a journalist about the genocide in Rwanda and how little America hears about the specific issues in Africa. Upon recovery I began to talk to more people about what their thoughts were on the matter. Even today I was able to speak with a police friend shipping out to Sudan for a UN peacekeeping mission. Many seem to know a lot about what goes on in the U.S. but I explained that many of us don't educate ourselves enough on the matters abroad, or the media narrows the coverage not including much of Africa.

The upcoming week requires great organization as the team from Canada will be arriving. Tomorrow and Friday will be busy days and I'm thankful to be in much better health. The agenda includes meeting with another NGO for planning, bringing a carpenter to teach, hauling in paint, boards (for desks), and supplies for the completion of three rooms and the entire outside of the structure. My hope is to complete this and make a good start on the toilets -already several blocks have been molded. Once again my time and resources are limited but I know that something great will come from all of this work. Everyone's support in itself has been something great.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Fica enye e chi le fe? (Where is the bathroom?)

I purchased 35 boards for doors and windows about six days ago. As the boards came in they were worked on by an honest carpenter that I met through Kieran. He said that he was able to assist in all future projects without having to hassle over a price each time a task would be assigned. The week following the parent teacher meeting I have noticed more parents giving towards fuel for the van, which was a fuss beforehand and may continue to be one in the future. Despite that, I know that an understanding was made at the PTA, and I look forward to the next meeting in December.

The meeting with the other volunteer organization went well as free labor has been promised in exchange for accommodations to house at least seven Canadians. We will be setting up a painting and desk building project while they stay near the school.

More discussion in regards to future plans occurred, such as when and where the toilet placement would be on site as well as repairs to the existing structure. As far as labor was concerned several days were wasted by laborers claiming to come and finish but then not showing up.

Yesterday could have been the most difficult day so far. The start of the day was slow but had me skipping lunch to stain frames in the school structure. While staining, a student frantically shouted my direction in ewe about some kind of scuffle near the road. As I approached people gathered and explained that one of the students had thrown a rock at a passing vehicle, which struck a girl in the head. After using very basic first aid, and being disgusted, I traveled back to Ho for a meeting. However, before the meeting began I got pretty sick. Just before going to the meeting, police decided to raid the home my friend and I went to, falsely accusing us of a drug deal. They insisted on a search and then attempted to take us away. We almost were taken to jail but my friend (Kakra) knew two of the officers who instructed the other officers to leave us be. Thursday (today) could not have come any sooner...

Ending on a positive note, the carpentry is coming along great, thanks to Deon and his team.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Me dekuku mije suku fea (Please give money for school fees)

The last several days have been a whirlwind of events and meetings. After learning plenty about water sanitation and production, I moved to Kpetoe and readjusting. I noticed it took me about five days to get acclimated to the food, climate, people, transportation, and of course, the toilet. Last week, I traveled to Wodome, which is a very small village nearest to Godwin Amway School. While there, discussions of what to do next ensued, and the plastering took place almost immediately thereafter. Currently, we are working on the frames for the doors and windows. All the frames, doors, and windows will be set in place by the end of next week.

Good news came early last week as I was able to meet with several familiar faces. DIVOG (another volunteer organization based in Ghana) will be assisting in the completion of possibly two projects; painting the outside, and building desks. This was certainly a great thing to know, as more volunteers can give their support to this very cause. Organizing such a project takes quite a bit of effort, so I am already attempting to set things up -purchasing, cutting, and transporting wood. I was also able to meet with a rep form CrossCause (Kieran), who has been very helpful to me, and a great contributor to Godwin Amway School.

As usual that day was followed by another day of frustrations. Discussing the project with one of the carpenters didn't exactly coincide with my hopes, and has slowed the project. Even another frustration is that we must wait for the dry season to be in full swing before digging for the start of toilets. Again it seems as though time is not working for me, but I'm certain that these important tasks will come to fruition in due time.

Monday I traveled to Accra to bring another volunteer (Tianna) to the village of Wodome to volunteer teach in the school. And as usual the transportation system in Ghana isn't reliable, as I arrived much later than anticipated to the airport. Ironically, they don't give out tickets to everyone that purchases them, but then later in the midst of your trek they decide to check for everyone's tickets...

To finish, today was another important day for the school. When I first arrived I requested a parent teacher meeting (PTA) to take place relatively soon. Today, Thursday, the PTA was able to start somewhere between 9 and 1030AM. Little by little the parents were able to gather in the room. Unfortunately, not all could make it to the meeting but roughly 36 were able to attend. The agenda consisted of being introduced to the parents, explaining what I was there to do, and then describing that I do not have all the money to support everything (as is the case with the other foreigner investors), so I introduced the idea of small school fees, which would be a great accomplishment in relieving some of the financial hardships.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Ichee lay-jaja (It is raining)

I have arrived during the wet season. My arrival happened without any problems or delays. In fact it went so smoothly that I was able to start at the site immediately, and witness fast progress. Being in Ghana for nearly one week and seeing progress is amazing -at least that's all I had hoped in my arrival... Each airport I was at had at least a one hour delay, followed by a two hour wait in Accra, and finishing with a congested road to Ho (the city near Kpetoe) which lasted lasted four hours. Exhausted and tried, I greeted several familiars when I made it in. Perhaps it wasn't the best greeting, but it was positive nonetheless. During the next few days I slept and then hauled bags of water at the volunteer organization (GCS). The organization is trying to be more self sufficient by launching this water project, while continuing to maintain the lowest fees to volunteers.

The first day working with the new water project we taxied 30 bags of water (15 liters each) down the roadways repeatedly. In the midst of delivering water we got a flat tire, which wasn't a real big deal. But it happened again the next day during more deliveries -an abrupt reintroduction to their lifestyle. I also learned the few things there is to learn about the water project. There are three main components: distribution, storage, and production. Production has two branches which require more thought; purification and packaging. A machine drops an enclosure of 500 ml water about every three seconds. 30 of these are then manually, and uniformly packed into a larger bag. The large bag is stacked and eventually distributed. I have read that clean water is becoming more scarce and it's true. In a way one can see that in the high demand for water here, even in such a new project as this one.

I am really hoping to readjust soon. Work at the school started today and I will be 'picking' another volunteer from the capitol later this week. I have noticed that some things have not changed over the last year... time is still a casual concept in Ghana, the kids in the orphanage still go to the school, work hard, and always look forward to visitors. Delile is still a considerate caretaker at the orphanage. The kids at the school continue to stare and chant "yavoo" (white). Two teachers remain from nearly two years ago; Israel and Madam Francisca. To contrast all these similarities are a few noticeable differences, both negative and positive. One of the regular visitors to the orphanage had been murdered months ago, a girl (Innocent is her name) at the orphanage had a baby boy, and everything at the school has progressed!

It is great to know that the community has taken to the school. There is much more work to be done in the upcoming months, but it feels great to be a part of another growing and beneficial institution in this community. "the school looks beautiful" -many have said.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

My return

With another busy summer coming to end I was able to speak at a couple more places. The Kiwanis club of the Dells, and the Lions of New Lisbon were a couple of the groups that gave me opportunity and support. Additionally, there was a fundraiser that brought in a large amount of donations. Thank you ladies of Curves, Thrivent Lutheran, and everyone else for your efforts and support!

Since the start of September, things have slowed down enough to allow me to refocus and get more organized for my trip. I purchased the plane ticket for October 26th, returning just before Christmas. The goal I set out for is within reach but not quite there. I am a few hundred dollars short but as I learned in the previous trip I will have to be patient and see what happens.

I will be writing one more time before I leave, and plan to keep more updates on a weekly basis while I'm there. I don't know what surprises will meet me this time, but I know I have more experience going forward.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Delayed update

Work has definately come full swing yet again in the summer, making it more difficult to update. I had previously hoped to return to Ghana in June for completing most of the project I originally set out for, however I have received much less support in the late spring.

I needed to move again from Eau Claire and have been searching for more places to speak at in order to raise funds. I am planning on; a fundraiser in July (Adams area), speaking at a couple places in July and August (Dells/Mauston areas), and having a raffle. When I am able to have more time away from work, and the time approaches for these events, I will release more details.

A few weeks ago I received several messages from Godwin in regards to a broken alternator, blown tires, and unpaid teachers... He received some funding last week, from our raised money, to help keep the project afloat.

Sidenote- Godwin's birthday was a bit over a week ago. Additionally, the team from Ireland should currently be in the area yet agian to continue assisting this project (late June-early July). Finally, Ghana in fact won against the mens U.S. soccer team.

In the meantime there are still young students on the other side of the earth attempting to learn. There are still disorganized days of school due to a lack in supplies. Ultimatetly this means there are still things that must be done to alleviate these needs, so please continue to help! Currently we are just above 2,000 dollars with a goal of around 5,000 dollars.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Recent pictures

Lately I have been busy, working (fortunately). I also have had the opportunity to speak at a couple places in the upcoming month and a half. About two days ago, I received some recent pictures of the school. One of the Peace Corps Volunteers (Thanks Dan!) was able to send me a few, which are also posted below...

Although this looks great, the project is not yet finished, there are more items that are needed, please consider giving again.

I am hoping to return again this year to finish the structure/organize the site more; add desks, add books, add a bathroom, and possibly put in a well at another location. Please help finish this project and help place a few students into a more organized public school.