Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Last Leg

Its definitely been too long since I have had a chance to blog - sorry for the temporary hiatus.

Up north in Damango went extremely well. Our group spent 10 days working with the Redemption Childrens Home - an orphanage of 50 children under the age of 18, but mostly under the age of 13 - helping with the daily labor that is of paramount importance in maintaining the orphanage. Personally, my tasks included changing diapers and hanging out with the babies, giving the Aunties a much needed rest. We also helped with painting the outer orphanage walls, which took a few days. The northern regions of Ghana are very hot and sunny, and they lack the refreshing breezes of Accra and Winniba. While we were in Damongo, the group also took a trip to Mole National Park to see the antelope, elephants, and baboons. The natural, essentially untouched landscape is very beautiful and lush, especially in this rainy season.

While we were in the north, I also got my first taste on the work (or lack thereof) NGO's in the region are doing. There is a great need for clean, filtered water - water-born illnesses are endemic in this area. It was frustrating to see the various failed projects that organizations such as International Aid and the Rotary Club had implemented. It seems that these groups lack a cultural sensitivity of truly understanding the villagers needs and desires, and, accordingly, their projects are anything but sustainable. It was very frustrating to come up against the wall of idealistic faith in philanthropy and the brutal reality of western "charity."

On our last day up north, before the flight home, our group ran into good ol' Uma Mishra, one of the co-directors of the GVSU Nsu Clean Water Project. After much deliberation, Uma and I thought it would be a great opportunity for me to further my knowledge of NGO's and sustainable philanthropic work by spending the remainder of my Ghanaian journey working directly with her. Hence, I forfeited my ticket back to Accra with the other GVSU students in favor of a 12 hour city bus ride through the Ghanaian mountains and jungles. It was absolutely incredible to see the vastness of the land here; it truly is a beautiful place, despite the city poverty and other forms of injustice. After a long day of driving and talking and hashing out some ideas together, we made it back safely to Accra to stay with a new friend in the military barracks in the big city.

Since arriving back in Winneba, Uma and I have been going to plenty of meetings and it never ceases to amazing me how easly she has made some very powerful contacts in Ghana. We spent one afternoon at the Ghanaian Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC) trying to get a bit of financial support for the water filter project. We have also been busily working in the village of Atekyedo (ott-ey-chair-drrro), the communuity that will be recieving the filters in the next few weeks. We have also gone to meetings to form connections between universities and the GAEC to help establish a location where university students can actually research their theses in a lab envirionment, a luxery American students take for granted. So much work still needs to be done, and I only have a little time left to see as much as I can see. So much good work is begin done by the GVSU team and the contacts they have established with NGOs in Ghana, as well as Ghanaian organizations themselves, it is a honor to be a part of this process and I am excited to get home and create something with all that I have seen and done here.

Tomorrow we are all leaving for a weekend in Cape Coast, a huge tourist area with historic slave trade castles and canopy walkways. It will be a nice break from working, but I would also like to spend my last weekend with the family we live with in Winneba. It will be an expensive, final pleasure trip, but well worth the two hour tro-tro bus ride. As for leaving soon, I am going to miss all the friends I have made here dearly. I would definitely like to come back and see how things have progressed and changed here in the next few years - the soccer wins, oil discoveries, and growing economy are surely going to shape this place in ways I'm not sure I'm even ready to envision.

More later,