Tuesday, July 8, 2014

4th of July

Happy 4th of July from Ghana!! While we didn’t get to watch fireworks
streaking through the sky, we still got to bask in the Ghanaian
culture---sitting in a stuffy room with the power out, eating rice and
beans. ☺ We have finalized our class schedule for the rest of our time
here; we are teaching phase 3 in Amonom and Abomosu. The class in
Amonom is unique in that the five students we are teaching have
created an almost co-op group of palm oil sellers. They paid off their
first loan within 6 months! We couldn’t be more excited to have a
group of dedicated, hardworking students to work with.

The Abomosu class is much larger, nearly twenty students. We almost
canceled the class because they didn’t appear to be taking it
seriously.  We let our students pick the day and time they are taught,
so there is no excuse for lateness. The Abomosu students showed up 90
minutes late!! The class is only 120 total! Douglas came down hard on
them and we’re sure that won’t happen again. The students have
apologized and we’ll be teaching them later this afternoon.

It’s an exciting period of time here in Abomosu. The NGO here, World
Joy, has raised enough money to create a beautiful learning center in
Abomosu, which we hope to be able to leverage in the future. Stephen
Sr. has just secured enough funds to start construction on a large
mill for the community, which he will rent out for a small fee. As
we’ve watched tourists and volunteers come and go, it’s been exciting
to brainstorm ways that SEED will continue to be able to mold and
adapt into what will bring this region the most economic success. More
ideas to follow… ;)

Friday, July 4, 2014

A Post of Pictures

Here are some pictures from the interns and their semester thus far


Greetings! A lot has happened in Ghana this week. Most importantly (at
least what the locals will tell you) is that Ghana’s football team has
been eliminated from the World Cup. Ghana had a pretty good shot at
advancing, which would mean the USA would be eliminated instead, but
they lost their chance during the game with Portugal. We were in Cape
Coast during the game, so we got to watch it with about 100+ locals on
a giant screen on the beach. It will come as no surprise that the week
before and after the game, we told people we were from Canada. ☺

This was the week that we dropped off our dear Andi and picked up the
amazing Alex Daines. Because we already had to go to Accra, we decided
to have this be our week off and do a bit of traveling in the Accra
area. The previous interns have all commented on how great Cape Coast
and Kakum are, so we decided to do both of these. The weather was good
while we were in Kakum and we got to do the canopy walk! Basically,
it’s a labyrinth of rope bridges suspended between trees that you walk
across. The highest point is 120 feet. It wasn’t as scary as we were
expecting, but there was always that moment of fear when you first
step onto it.

After Kakum, we made our way to Cape Coast to watch the Ghana game and
to explore the slave castles. Those were incredible! It’s one thing to
learn about slavery from a textbook; it’s another thing entirely to
walk through the dungeons where the slaves were kept for months while
they awaited the next slave ship that would take them to the Americas.
The male slave holding room was 12 by 30 feet and would hold 200-250
slaves for upwards of 3 months. The only source of air for these rooms
would be a small hole (1 square foot) which was in the upper corner of
the far wall. Talk about a humbling experience.

From Cape Coast, we headed to the airport, picked up Alex ,dropped
Andi off and tried to head back to Abomosu. Unfortunately- Ghana’s
government has defaulted on its payments to the oil companies, so the
oil companies have decided to stop supplying Ghana with oil until the
government pays them. Gas stations have all shut down—the lines to get
gas have started to wrap around for miles and miles just for the hope
that when gas comes, they’ll be able to get some. Diesel is still in
supply, so we were still able to make it back home to Abomosu.

This afternoon, we will fund Sankubenase and later this week we will
start teaching another phase 3 class. We are all happy, healthy, and
excited for the USA v. Belgium game this afternoon. GO USA!!!

Thursday, June 26, 2014


When you see this word what do you think of?  Is it a bunch of padded gargantuan men tossing a lemon shaped brown ball back and forth?  The rest of the world thinks of a handful of people kicking a round ball up and down a field attempting to kick it into a goal.  This is what everyone is talking and thinking here in Ghana now the world cup has begun.  Everything is revolving around when Ghana is playing their next match.  It has gotten as serious as the power being out for days in order make sure there is enough energy saved to power the entire country during the matches in which Ghana is playing. 
Four years ago the World Cup was hosted in South Africa and Ghana and the United States played each other.  In this match the Ghanaians defeated the United States as they had four years in the previous world cup.  Ghanaians are very superstitious about the number three and everyone would state the same thing “if the Ghanains won for the third time then they would be able to beat the US forever, but they were more likely to lose.”  However, when the match got closer Ghanaian pride took over and everyone was predicting for the US to lose.  When asking our class for predictions of the score it was not uncommon to hear “Ghana – 4, US – 0” 
As it turns out Ghana is a very fast team but the US had great defense and were able to pull out with a win and a score of 2-1.  We were all a bit weary of backlash due to the unfavorable loss, but everyone has been very cordial.  A common phrase used is “we are all one” and that can been seen in their sportsman like behavior.
An interesting cultural side note we realized through the World Cup is of continent pride.  Nowhere else in this world does this take place.  No Europeans ever talk about being Europe but as from their specific country.  This can also be seen from Asians and from all the many countries in North and South America.  While speaking many languages and having different backgrounds there is a common link of being from Africa.  Africans support Africans not based on country or language.  We are also commonly asked, “Have you ever been to Africa before?”  They view the continent as a whole, and local advertisements flaunt there are five teams from Africa playing in the world cup and everyone should support all of them. 
It has been a once in a lifetime experience to be able to see this side of Ghana.  It is exciting and we will all be cheering for Ghana as they play their next match against Portugal later this week.  It looks like they will need a crazy chain of events to advance on but we are still proud to be here and supporting the Black Stars.  

Another week down


Another week has flown by in Ghana! We have one week left before our
phase 1 and phase 2 students finish their course and find out if they
are funded. Luckily for us, most of the students in our classes have
great businesses already, so the weeding out has already occurred.
Regardless of if the students are funded, it’s been humbling to see
how grateful they are for the things that we’re teaching them. John, a
cocoa farmer in Akwadum said this week, “When I learned about this
class, I only wanted to do it if I was guaranteed a loan. Once I
started coming to the classes, I realized how much I didn’t know about
business and how much I need to know in order to run good business.
Even if I don’t get a loan, I know I will be more successful because
of the things you have taught me.” Talk about having great students!

        This week we got to give our phase 3 students their loans! Excitement
was definitely in the air as they signed their loan agreements and
were given their money. The pods we have selected are strong and we
have full faith that they will be able to pay back the loan and
receive the rebate at the end. Pictures will be coming shortly! ☺ On a
more casual note, we went up to Mole National Park for the day and saw
elephants!! We were really lucky and got to see a father elephant and
his young son at the watering hole giving themselves a bath.
Apparently there are lions in the park, but our guide said he hasn’t
seen one for 3 years. Our guide said that poaching is a major problem,
which is why the amount of wildlife they see is decreasing. We will be
heading to Accra to drop off Andi and pick up Alex at the end of this
week, which means we’ll be able to send pictures!

Tell next time,

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Week 5

Things are going well teaching new students and funding new loans as
well as collecting on past ones.  Inspired by the movie Blood Diamond,
a common phrase amongst travelers is “This is Africa” and then is
abbreviated to be “TIA.”  The phase helps describe all of the beauty
as well as the struggles of the culture.  Below are
moments when this phrase is the only way to describe our feelings of
the experience we have been able to partake of while interning with
the SEED program.
•       Women carrying babies on their back using a few yards of fabric – TIA
•       Power being out for days at a time – TIA
•       Unending buckets of rain – TIA
•       The beauty of the jungle landscape – TIA
•       Almost stepping on a 7 foot black spitting cobra – TIA
•       Hitting your head driving from bouncing on the terrible roads – TIA
•       The unending call of “obruni” being yelled as we walk down the street – TIA
•       Drinking water out of plastic bags – TIA
•       Fruit more delicious and fresh then was ever imaginable - TIA
•       The children always wanted to wave or hold our hands – TIA
•       Incessant roosters crowing at 3 am – TIA
•       Drenched in the sweat in the heat of the day – TIA
•       Most meetings starting hours after its scheduled time – TIA
•       Seeing wild baboons while hiking the mountains running along the
Togo Ghana border – TIA
•       Being charged the “obruni” price – TIA
•       Paying boys less than $1 to push our taxi through a flooded road – TIA
•       The smell of cocoa drying, sometimes smell like chocolate and other
times it smells terrible and rotten – TIA
•       No water heater – TIA
Despite all the frustrating moments when our cultures collide, there
are hundreds positive instances to make up for any inconveniences.
The goal of our time spent here is to change and improve the living
circumstances of the people, but all in all we can see the changes in
ourselves with every passing day.

Week Four

We survived our first month in Ghana! This week has been kind of a
lull week due to the fact that we’re finishing up the last phase 3
class in Senkubenase and we’re still waiting to start teaching phase 1
and phase 2 in the other villages. Because it’s been a bit slow, we’ve
had lots of time to refigure the databases we use and to figure out
more effective ways to work with our loan collectors and pod leaders.
There have been a couple times that there was a discrepancy as to
whether the pod leader was withholding some of the money he collects
or whether it was the loan collector. So, we’ve created a new system
where the pod leader has to give the loan recipient a receipt when
they collect their monthly payment. The pod leader takes the
signatures and the money to the loan collector. The loan collector
counts the money and then signs on the pod leader’s sheet. If there is
any sort of discrepancy between any of the parties, we’ll now be able
to track it to its source. The power has been out for several days,
but we hope to have those printed and out for distribution by Monday
for June collections.

Another momentous feat we’ve been working on is the database. Douglas,
the head collector, is fairly new to Excel and thought he should use
“save as” every time he put new information into the database. As you
can imagine, there would be 5 or 6 documents that all were “the
database” but no one knew which one was the most up-to-date. We taught
him how to “save” his changes in the same document and things have
been working out great. We’re trying to create an Excel program that
would allow us to run statistical analyses to figure out which
villages do the best, if there is an ideal age for students, what
businesses are most likely to be able to pay back on time, etc. Each
of us here has an area of expertise and so it has been fun to see how
individually we can create value for the larger scope.

On a non-SEED related topic, Stephen Sr. bought us puppies!!! We have
two little puppies that we’ve named Old Dan and Little Ann. When we
found out they were brother and sister, we couldn't resist naming them
after the dogs in Where The Red Fern Grows. We’ll upload pictures when
we get to Accra next.

Till next week,
(Wayne, Wendy, Andi, and Carter)