“Akwaaba Ghana!” greets you in large green letters over the customs checkpoint as you enter the airport in Accra from the tarmac and has since been said innumerable times to me since arriving about a week ago in this amazingly welcoming country. We got in fairly late and were greeted by Orion, one of the co-founders of GB Ghana and my past water brigade leader in Honduras in 2009, and Alan, an old friend of Orion’s who’s here working on the land GB has purchased for the future compound. We made the long drive west towards Cape Coast stopping near Anomabo at Weda Lodge where they host brigaders.
The next day I jumped right into brigading joining Allen (Gula), the other co-founder of GB Ghana, on the Microfinance Brigade from Oxford in the community of Ekumfi Egyankwa. Having no experience with the MF model used in GB, the week was spent trying to get a grasp of how the brigade works and the nature of the community’s relationships with GB and the student groups (which were impressive to be sure). I was immensely impressed by the level of the community’s involvement In a 10-day brigade the Oxford group picked up where brigades from London School of Economics and University College London left off working with the community development fund leaders to establish a viable system of savings and loans processes as well as a children’s savings program. They conducted house-to-house visits and worked with the leaders to conduct the first round of loan applications from community members and decide on the best 6 to fund. The process overall was much less straightforward or simple as one would think, but the students and bank committee members came to a great understanding and agreement over the next steps for the bank by the end of the week.
So now that the students have left, we’re in a brief transitional phase as an organization as we move into a new house in a couple weeks and as Solomiya and I adjust to our roles here. The GB Ghana staff is amazing, there are only seven of us full time (4 from the U.S. and 3 Ghanaians) and we’ll all be living together once the house has been sorted out. Every day here has been entirely different from the last, from days in the community to visits to Cape Coast and long staff meetings. At this very moment I’m sitting by the pool at the Accra Holiday Inn of all places. Long story short, we were on our way to Accra to drop off Kim, our data informatics wizard from the GB Honduras team, when we came across another white guy with a suitcase and asked him if he needed a lift. He hopped in and it turned out he was a worker for USAID in Ghana while working on a conflict resolution project in Cote’d’Ivoire and was heading back to the U.S. embassy in Accra and offered to let us use the high-speed internet at the hotel. Let’s call this a glimpse into the fancy side of international work…
More updates later, for now some photos of the beautiful people of Egyankwa