In Twi, Medasi means thank you.
As I soak up my last African Friday (for now), I can’t help but feel like my time here has come full circle. I’m feeling a lot of peace as this Sunday approaches and I prepare to move to Germany for the semester. Yesterday I said goodbye to our 4th village, Akokoa Yensi Center- our last village of the week, and the first one I ever visited upon arrival. While there have been many road blocks along the way, and while progress is slow, I am feeling satisfied with the work I was able to participate in and the small contributions I could make. Yesterday during our last 20 minutes in Akokoa, after our loan meeting and malaria workshop ended, a local staff member and I had a one-on-one meeting with an older woman named Adwoa (Ad-jo-wa). Adwoa finished repaying her second loan yesterday, which she used to add to the capital of her cassava dough business. During the one-on-one, we asked her questions such as “What do you plan do do with the money of your next loan?”, “How have you been setting aside money for yourself, so you don’t grow to be dependent on Projects Abroad?”, etc. She confided that her business is going strong as usual, but that she has a hard time saving because her costs of production are high. I suggested that whenever volunteers are around, she save money on labor by using us to do her farm harvesting and cassava peeling- cutting her costs of production almost in half. While this business practice isn’t sustainable in the long run, she will be able to save money in the short run, build up both her capital and savings, and be able to afford labor down the road when she is bearing all the costs once again. Many of the days this week were chaotic, but this small moment trumped it all. Every Projects Abroad volunteer and staff member alike share the common goal of wanting to help improve the lives of others, and this small moment provided the perfect opportunity to do just that. I am excited to stay in touch with Christiana, the other Microfinance volunteer (staying for 5 more weeks) to hear about the physical labor she is able to do for Adwoa and the money Adwoa is able to set aside and save.
I’ve spent some time this week thinking about what I could write in this post, and how to clarify all I’ve experienced and learned. But the truth is, I don’t think I’m removed enough yet to do that. While it will be a huge adjustment, I am relieved to have 5 months in Germany to reflect on the impact this experience has had on me, and to eventually share it with you all at my Lumos convocation this coming fall. For now, I am sure of a few lessons learned. For instance, I now am confident enough ask for what I want and to stand up for myself when others try to take advantage of me. We’ve all experienced people trying to take advantage of our weaknesses, and I certainly experienced that many times in Ghana because of a language barrier and the color of my skin. I leave here confident that it is always better to ask for what you want than to assume others will intuitively know. I’m also learning that my future might not lie in grassroots Microfinance work, but rather (possibly) in large scale financial inclusion or international development through public policy/ governance.
Ultimately, I end my time here on a happy note. I will never fully be able to express my gratitude to the Lumos foundation for allowing me this opportunity of a lifetime. I have experienced tremendous joy, sorrow, confidence, humility, and endless sweat. I know my life is and will be forever changed because of what I’ve seen and felt these last two months. I am thankful to leave on such good terms, confident that I will be back to Africa in the near future and of the friendships formed here- no matter how long distance. I am excited to spend my last days enjoying a quiet weekend with good company, and am looking forward to my new adventure in Germany beginning this Monday. All that being said, I will leave you with two quotes that I find equally beautiful and inspiring- I hope they encourage you to travel, or at least make you smile. I will also leave you with a handy German phrase- bis bald!
“If you wish to travel far and fast, travel light. Take off your envies, jealousies, unforgiveness, selfishness and fears.” – Glenn Clark
“Dare to be strong and courageous. That is the road. Venture anything. Be brave enough to dare to be loved.” From the book Winesburg, OH