During our time here in Ghana, I’ve enjoyed taking on the role of team scribe…and my favorite thing is making lists : ) Since so much of my documentation thus far has been in list forms (Shopping lists, spending lists, to-do lists, done lists ect) I figured I would make an entry of lists:

To Do:

-Compile list of daily costs and monthly expenses for Snakofa inorder to make a comprehensive and uptodate list for fundraising and donations

-Discuss a reasonable Teacher’s Salary (they are currently getting paid less than Ghana’s minimum wage because of lack of funding) so that we can include this amount in our donation and fundraising goal

-Finish fixing the office so that the NGO rep. can come and we can move forward on recieving NGO status

-Figure out volunteer expenses inorder to work on the volunteer inofrmation packet and volunteer program structure and  costs

-Finish forms and contracts and hold meetings about how to use them and sigining of contracts between the Oberlin volunteers and the Sankofa staff so we will all be on the same page and aware of one another’s tasks and goals.

-Go over budget and account information and practices with David and Sankofa staff so it will be easier to keep track of fundraising and basic needs so money can be used effectively and saved when possible for the bigger future goal of a larger school

~It is a tall order for less than a week, but we are seven eager and ambitious people and ready to take it on!

10 Things I have learned in the Village:

-Everyone is always fine! Whenever you ask someone how they are, they always say that they are fine… and we as well are always fine when we respond to someone’s inquiry

-If you are 20 minutes late, you are still 20 minutes early….makes it very difficult to schedule meetings…how am I ever going to get to class ontime

-Anything and everything must be carried on your head. I must say, we’ve all taken this challenge on and are getting better by the day…it’s still alittle embarrassing to have a kid half your size come up and take this heavy bucket of water off of your head which you’re struggling with and see them run back to your house with it perfectly balanced on their head…impressive to say the least!

-Bowl movements determine the type of day you’re having.

-No matter how much you clean, there will always be more dust

-Cockroaches are fearless…unless you spray them with raid, and then they just get pissed and fly and fall on your head

-Villages are NOT quiet places

-Anytime is a good time for Church and Worship…especially late at night or EARLY in the morning…and Sunday worship is very extensive and a full body work out

-Hand-washing clothes is also a full body workout and VERY time consuming

-A little goes a long way. I mean this in every sense of the word.Minor things like saying hi to someone or giving a kid a high five or inviting someone for a coke mean so much more to people here. An amount of money that seems insignificant in the US can feed someone or give a child water for a day. Kids play with anything and everything, and are so excited just to see us give them a smile. People have so little here by American standards and yet they have so much more of a community and a united spirit than I have seen in the states and I’m going to miss it. There is an appreciation here and a desire to learn from one another that I have not seen before. There is an appreciation for things and people’s company that is also new to me and it has grown on me…it will be hard for me to leave this place, this way of life, and the people of Egufao who have welcomed us with open arms and taken us into their families.

10 Things I will Miss:

-Children on our porch

-Going to the shop to get a coke in a glass bottle

-Reading at night at the center with the kids

-Taking trotros and taxis

-Our little house

-Eating together on our porch

-The breeze when it’s so freaking hot and you just get so excited to feel some air!

-Talking to people that I pass and being asked How I am, and Strangers being so friendly and looking out for me

-High-fives and snaps

-Goats everywhere and Pineapples on the street corner

Most of all I’m going to miss these kids and just being around them. They are so funny and energetic and inspring and appreciative…I hope I can figure out how to tell them how much they have taught me!

Lots of love from Ghana, enjoy the inauguration for us! We’ll be home soon

xoxo

Liz/Elizabeth/Buggy

Advertisements

Hello all,

As you all know our departure date is nearing and we still have some work to do. At the moment we are attempting to sure up all of the loose ends and focus on the immediate needs of Sankofa.  We are also leaving plans so that David, his staff, other volunteers and all of us can continue the work on the larger projects. We have a lot of work to do but it all seems manageable. We want to leave Sankofa heading in the right direction.

Besides that we are all in pretty good health.  Besides soreness from the 80 pound, 10 ft. long pieces of wood that Christina, Sara, and I had to carry 20 minutes back to the orphanage we are all good physical condition.

I am looking forward to the African Footprint dance and drumming lessons and Kakum National Park, but am disappointed I will miss the playoffs and the inauguration.

Hope all is well in the states or where ever you are reading this.

-Patrick

Ever morning here, I wake up and brush my teeth. Everyone else in the village gets up really early. By 5:30 or earlier. I’m not surprised since the church services they have every morning are SO loud. Of course I’ve learned to sleep through it. Now I can even sometimes do it without my ipod. So when the children next door see me awake, they point to their legs and I beckon for them to come up on the porch for me to look at them. So far these children have been “stepping on knives” from what I understand. Yesterday though, a boy came and I looked at his leg and then I told him to hold his pants leg up so I could bandage up a small gash covered in flies and I noticed another gash and another. He was beaten with a stick and there are huge gashes all over his leg. He came back again today so I could change his bandages. I’m no doctor but it was oozing pus and still bleeding. I’m really disturbed. Many of these children are covered in scars. As I was bandaging up the same children this morning more and more kept coming to me. A 14 year old girl came with a gash on her ankle from dropping a pot last week. It was turning purple at the edges and some of their wounds are so filthy I can’t even find the actual cut because the blood and dirt and flies cover up the area too much for me to see. One of the children cut his toe I can’t get all the dirt out but I try to clean it and bandage it up. I don’t think he has his own sandals. I told him he had to wear his sandals to keep dirt out of the bandage and I saw him later wearing some that were too small. As much as I want to go home, I feel like I could do more good here. It’s painful but for the first time I feel led to help children like these. Before we leave, we are going to give the teachers at the school lessons in first aid. I find that comforting.

Monica

My taxi in to Cape Coast this morning had a small inflated PanAmerican Boeing 747 hanging from the rearview mirror.  I was a little startled to see it and realized that in just five days I would be climbing onto an airplane just like that and returning home.  I am partly relieved that the trip is coming to an end.  It has been exhausting and challenging at every turn.  At the same time, I am really sad to be leaving and already nostalgic about our experiences here and the connections we’ve made with people in Eguafo, particularly with the children.  A few nights ago, I was walking towards the bathroom, completely worn out and ready for some time alone when Ernestina, one of the girls who sleeps at Sankofa Center, called my name.  “Maame Serwaa?”  I was a little more tired, just hearing my name and wondering what she needed from me.  “Maame Serwaa, let’s go learn,” she said.  My frustration and tiredness dissolved instantly.  How could I say no?

The children at Sankofa Center, and many other children we’ve interacted with are truly delightful, resilient and happy.  I do believe that they have a chance to make it, to move up in the world, and to succeed in school.  All seven of us are feeling quite spent, but continue to ask ourselves how else we can give.  A little goes such a long way here, and with children in general.  One evening of reading books or a little special attention means a lot to all of us.

On Thursday morning, we will head back to Accra, where we will fly out of on Friday morning.  In our last five days in Eguafo, we hope to finish setting up the office and forms that we have been working on the past few weeks, and document Sankofa’s monthly operating costs in a detailed way so that we can begin to fundraise at home for the most pressing needs: food, water, and teacher’s salaries.  We will continue our afterschool activities and evening reading time with the children.

In addition to these things, I hope that we, David, and the people in Eguafo will be able to create a sense of closure for our time here.  I hope that on Friday when we board our flight for New York, it will be with the sense that collaboratively, our group, David, the teachers, the board of directors, and the children have accomplished something tangible and made connections that will not disappear when we return home.  I believe that we can do this, and that there is no better week than this upcoming week to seek such a collaboration.  From Ghana, we wish you the most joyful Martin Luther King Day and Inauguration Day!

Today after coming home from meeting with the chainsaw man who will be cutting the wood for the desks in the school, I noticed the children next door outside banging on pots and cans. They were singing and dancing and then Regina told them to close their eyes. They all closed their eyes, even the youngest, Mary who is 3. They were holding a church service. The pots and pans are the  drums the men play during the songs in church and then in between songs, they sit and pray and listen to the preacher. I took out my video camera as subtly as I could. Forgive me. They noticed after awhile and had to come watch everything I filmed. At least I captured them at play for a little while.

I saw two other kids with a bamboo stick that they were balancing on a tiny set of wheels. One was at the front of the stick steering the wheels and one was holding a steering wheel at the other end of the stick.

Sometimes I feel bad that these children don’t have the toys I had to play with, but when I watch them, they’re having just as much fun if not more with what they have.

Monica

Although I volunteered at Sankofa Mbofra Fie this past summer, I had never actually lived in Eguafo.  It has been immensely challenging to be so immersed in village life, to see the struggles and the material poverty of our friends and neighbors 24-7.  As sobered as I was by my first experience in Ghana, I have continued to struggle with my understandings of development, needs, wants, and cultural relativism.  What do you do when the people you are trying to help assess their needs differently than you do?  How do you help in tangible ways when the problems are rooted in such intangible inequalities?

As everyone else has said, we have been constantly re-evaluating our work and our goals, trying to leave behind something meaningful both in terms of infrastructure and in terms of some kind of physical improvement to the facilities.  It has been challenging to set up a large, nice desk and cabinet unit in David’s office, something we deemed necessary to the progress and more organized functioning of the organization, while the kindergarten students at the school don’t have school desks at all.  How do we explain to people who have no furniture at all that David needs to have various things that they don’t have in order for the project to move forward?  Do we need to explain this?  Have we fallen short on something if we are unable to justify our work and our choices to the community we are trying to serve?  Of course, many of the people we are working with do understand what we are doing and are supportive of our work.  But I have a nagging self-consciousness about everything we’re doing.  What do people think of us?  How do they assess our generosity?  Do they appreciate, understand, or agree with what we’re doing?

After a few days bogged down with these thoughts, and with frustrations about how we can realisitically ensure that the suggestions we make are implemented, I am pulling myself back up to excited  in the continuous cycle of frustration and excitement.  We must keep moving forward, moving forward, and help however we can.  To get caught up in frustration is ultimately unproductive, and in order to give at all, we all must continue to hope. The struggle is to balance that hope with realism, frustration with excitement, and our own cultural understandings with the culture we have encountered in Eguafo.

-Sarah/Maame Serwaa

This is the opening to the chapter about Ghana in the Lonely Planet guide to West Africa. This being my first time in the region, I have no idea how community interaction in Ghana compares or contrasts with that of neighboring countries, but the public aspects of life here are strikingly and at times uncomfortably different from the autonomy of life that I am used to in the States. As Yolanda mentioned, whenever we are home, our porch is swarming with children and the women who help cook for us stream in and out of “our” kitchen at all hours of the day. People are always around outside in the village–a quick walk to the toilet necessitates waving and greeting each person we see, usually in response to incessant cries of “Obruni! Obruni!” from children, a term which means “white person” or “foreigner.” It has been challenging to come home after a long day in the heat and never be able to be truly alone in the space that we have designated our own.

A good way that we’ve found to express that we need our space is to acknowledge the cultural disparities–we explain that in our culture, we each need time to be alone and by ourselves, just as in Ghanaian village culture, people are always around one another. If someone from Eguafo came to the States, for example, s/he would find it hard to be alone all the time, just as we find it hard to be constantly social. Adults understand this, and it feels like yet another aspect of this cultural exchange that we have undertaken. With children, it’s easier just to say, “We need to be alone. Will you come back later? In half an hour?” After a little nudging, they are usually compliant–and I think after two weeks of living in their village, we’ve become less interesting anyway.

Another striking thing about village life is the constant noise. Each morning we are awoken around five by haunting singing from the small Church of Christ congregration that meets in a bamboo structure literally in our backyard. People pray and sing throughout the day; last week, huge speakers were set up right in the heart of town (where the road leading to bigger cities intersects with the only other real street in Eguafo), and someone was preaching and singing over them for the entire town to hear. There are songs for selling things, pop and Christian music blasting out of different speakers, taxis rattling through town at top speed and the braying and barking of all the animals who roam freely between each little concrete house–dogs, cats, ducks, chickens, and adorable baby goats. Once in the night we were awakened by yells of “Jesus…Jesus…Jesus…Christ!” and another time by  shouts that sounded like a fight; the rooster crows begin around 3:30 or 4 am. And then the singing begins again.

Unaccustomed to such incessant heat, noise, and social interaction, we are often exhausted! This weekend, though, we were able to do some more touristy things that provided somewhat of a break. On Friday, we visited Cape Coast Castle with two of the boys, Edwin and Seth. More aptly called a “castle-dungeon,” it functioned as a prison for captured slaves in the early 19th century before they were loaded on to ships to be transported across the Atlantic, while the old colonial government was housed above grounded. It’s shocking and sobering to visit these cramped dungeons that housed between three and five hundred people for months while their captors waited for the biggest ships to arrive. Where we are, along the Gold Coast, there are  several similar castle-dungeons; today we’ll visit the one at Elmina and bring the two other boys at the Center, Mark and Samuel.

On Saturday, we went to a seamstress bearing beautiful batiked and kente fabric for her to sew into garments and placemats. And on Sunday–following attending a church service–we relaxed on a gorgeous and nearly deserted beach at Brenu.

This week it’s been back to work. Liz and I exercised some muscle power putting together two bookshelves without real intstructions, using an Allen wrench and a rock as a hammer. One will go in the volunteer house, while the other now houses the growing library of donated books in the center (thanks donors!). When longer-term structural and fundraising goals can seem far-off, I find it helpful to focus on concrete, tangible activity. The center and the office we are helping create for David are looking great and functional.

As a group, we’ve decided not to travel next weekend. I’m a little disappointed because I was hoping to see a little more of the country during my month of living here, but it feels like there is still  so much to do in Eguafo that to sit in a hot tro-tro for five hours, only to rush back the next day to pick up where I left off, isn’t the most appealing. So instead, we’ll try to see some more of the Central Region and hopefully take a dancing and drumming lesson. I suppose it just means that someday I’ll have to come back to Ghana again.

– Rebecca