Apparently hissing at others to get their attention isn’t rude, it’s useful. It’s still hard for me to recognize it as not being rude (it’s the cultural norm), but it certainly is effective at grabbing peoples’ attention.
I have to say- this week has absolutely flown by! Maybe it’s all the new volunteers here in the hills or the excitement of upcoming plans for the weekend, but I truly feel as though I blinked and here we are already celebrating Valentine’s Day. Valentine’s Day has also arrived in Ghana- although not literally, because it’s a Hallmark holiday in America rather than an internationally recognized day of significance. Nonetheless, I feel as though it’s Valentine’s Day here too because packages from both my mom and Oma arrived this week, spoiling me with many forms of chocolate and loofahs galore! I’ve never felt so clean during my entire stay in Ghana- I think loofahs are highly underrated, if I do say so myself.
Last weekend at Kokrobite was one for the books. We found the “white volunteer in Ghana” Mecca and made countless new friends, for no reason other than it being nice to talk about common experiences with complete strangers. We laid on the beach, ate our weight in fresh fruit and attended the hotel’s reggae night.
Work this week seemed to move much more quickly with important things to either do or discuss at each of the four villages, rather than just showing up and hopefully collecting their weekly installments. Next week we will see both of our new villages begin repaying their loans, either in 15 or 7.50 cedi increments. We spent this Wednesday and Thursday tweaking practices and expectations of the two existing loan groups, and also had the opportunity to discuss why we found these changes to be important. I have high hopes for those villages (Kwamoso and Akokoa), after a stellar turnout in attendance this week combined with a renewed determination to be trusted and respected by Projects Abroad.
Each Wednesday, Projects Abroad staff likes to organize some sort of social gathering for volunteers in which they can both collect feedback about our experience and provide us with afternoon entertainment. Instead of the quiz, this Wednesday they invited all of us to meet at the Akokoa village and play in a soccer match against some school children. The opposing team was stacked full of 8-11 year old boys who were nimble, aggressive and insanely talented. We went easy on them in the beginning because of our assumption that it would look silly to see adults so focused on beating children at sports. Our attitude quickly shifted once the score became 4-0 (us being the 0) and we kicked it into high gear, but I’m pretty sure we still lost. I haven’t had that much fun playing games in a long time, and it was amazing to see children get so excited for an organized afternoon event. It has been quite rewarding and reassuring to see the different kinds of work Projects Abroad is doing here in Ghana, with the help of our volunteer fees- building new classrooms to expand their schools, buying school children cleats so they can join the soccer team or musical instruments so they can become part of an afternoon program, creating loans for the women of the Microfinance groups, providing classroom necessities that otherwise wouldn’t be available (due to a lack of funds). Participating in the soccer match took all of us volunteers out of the day-to-day routine that we can easily become stuck in, and challenged us to see the bigger picture of what is being accomplished in Ghana.
I would encourage anyone looking for ways to help others- whether financially, by donating used goods, through letters of support or prayer, or other means- to consider researching and contacting an organization like Projects Abroad. There are so many NGOs and non-profits doing development work around the world that simply isn’t possible without the help of volunteers and people who donate resources. It’s days like the soccer match when you realize every little thing helps (one volunteer from England brought rugby jerseys to donate to the soccer team and the kids were ecstatic).
There are plenty of days here where we feel as though we’re not doing enough, or even doing anything at all; and then there are weeks like this, where those worries are dissolved and our hopes that we’re doing something important, no matter how small, are affirmed.