Akwaaba and hello from Ghana! More specifically, hello from Mamfe- Akuapem Hills. I can’t believe I’ve been here for almost a week already! Before I try to put this last week into words, I would like to advise anyone following my travels that I am terrible at thinking of titles. I always have been, and it’s something I’m learning to accept. So from here on out, instead of writing something poetic to capture your attention, I will instead write a discovery I’ve made throughout the week. My first discovery? Chacos are a gift from God! Not only do you need them for hiking to the rural villages, but you can wear them in the shower, as house slippers, to kill bugs, or do really anything else! (If anyone knows of any other uses please email me ASAP) Other discoveries? Most meals are some form of starch. On any given day there is a good chance I will eat bread for breakfast, rice for lunch and noodles for dinner. I’ve never been so thankful to eat fruits and vegetables (when I find them) in my whole life.
With that all out of my brain and here for you to make sense of, I want to share about my week! I think the biggest shock I’ve had here (besides the spicy food) is that I haven’t had any freak out moments (yet). Everything has been smooth sailing. People here are extremely helpful and kind, even when they don’t know what you’re saying because you don’t speak Twi. People here don’t want to cause you harm or take advantage of you monetarily. I did a lot of mental preparation before departing the US, which has made things like no running water, a bucket of water to bathe myself with, and little to no electricity all things that are okay with me. While it would be nice to get to wash my hands every once in a while, or have a light on while out at a restaurant, they are all things I prepared for. My very fashionable headlamp has already come in quite handy and I’ve only been here for 6 days.
Another factor that has made this transition easier is the wonderful volunteers I’m surrounded by, and the local employees of Projects Abroad. I live with four other volunteers from all over the world, but there is something extremely unifying about being surrounded by strangers with the same interests as you (volunteering and travel). They have quickly become family, and I am so happy to have this shared experience with them. In fact, I’m leaving in an hour for Cape Coast with four other volunteers- three of whom I met yesterday!
As for the work I’m doing here, it’s better than I ever would have imagined. Because Ghana is a developing country, it lacks a lot of corporate structure that complicates business in the US. Here, if a woman wants to sell fish, she goes to buy fish at the coast and then stands in the street and sells it. There’s no frivolous paperwork; people only need to want to make money badly enough to go and do it. It’s quite inspiring, and helps me to jump right into getting women loans for their businesses without any previous experience. I have so much freedom in this project to bring business and lifestyle ideas to women in villages, who quite literally live in mud huts and do hard physical labor while their children run around naked.
This week I have visited two different rural villages (Akokoa and Kwamoso) where we have group of women that have taken out loans with Projects Abroad. On my first day, I simply went to meet some of the women and introduce myself. I was also able to see where they live, should I need to come to their houses to talk or collect money. The next two days I got to dive head first into the project, attending and doing paperwork at each village’s meeting. The groups of loan beneficiaries in each village meet one day a week to make their 15 cedi per person repayment (approximately $4.50). They also have the option to save 2-5 cedi per week with us. Essentially that mean that we can operate as their savings accounts, taking their extra money each week and holding it for them until they complete their loan repayment. Once they complete their loan repayment, we return their saved money and the have extra money to put into their businesses or send their children to school. It’s a really simple and effective system.
Our game plan for this year is to have a beneficiary group in four different villages, meaning that while I am here we will be establishing two new groups in two new villages. We will be visiting each village one day of the week and then writing a weekly report to summarize what happened throughout the week every Friday.
I have actually just returned from the weekly report and now must pack for Cape Coast! Happy Friday everyone and please feel free to contact me on Facebook or WhatsApp if you want more information!
Pictures below are of Akokoa villages. The root vegetable pictured is called Cassava, and has many uses here in Ghana. The pictures at the end are of the “botanical gardens” here in Akuapem, and my sweet Italian friend Francesca posing with arguably the biggest tree (ever) (in my opinion).