22 May Back in Sandema
Our last update was from Kumasi. Much has happened since then. First of all, the entire group is pretty much Ghanaian by now. Finger snaps and “Chaalay” are sounds we produce on a regular basis. The road here has been long – and barely paved – so hopefully we don’t miss too many details.
We stayed in Kumasi for four nights, where the group got used to live in Ghana in the more lay-back setting of artisans and street husslers that cover the city. I suppose “lay-back” is a relative term, because Kumasi is also the city that houses the Kajetia market, where the group was left to their own devices to find a whole slew of things in the Kumasi Scavenger Hunt, and then to find their way back home. Guest Judge Mark – HCC alumnus and current SS student – along with myself and Kelly judged the event. We had some super creative results, from Charlie toothpaste – big ups to Anna Marie Gierach on that one – to Kentei cloth, to stories of learning about Ghanaian politics from an incumbent senator.
Also in Kumasi we met with KAWDA (Kaleo Area Women Development Association, http://sites.google.com/site/kawdaghana/), where Kelly presented the money she had fundraised over the past year which will allow them to fulfill one of their targets and provide their organization with the means to purchase a small vehicle to help transport their partners and to open up a source of revenue. They were extremely grateful, and made a presentation of Kentei cloth and certificate of appreciation to Kelly and, by proxy, Annabelle Pellerin. They also prepared a delicious meal for us, and took us around their property and gave us some insight into their operations.
We left Kumasi on Monday morning, and, after a 9 hour wait at the bus station, made the long journey north to Tamale. We stayed there one night, and had a meeting with Joseph Awini, the Area Manager for operations in the Northern Sector for Sinapi Aba Trust (www.sinapiaba.com), the largest microfinance institution in Ghana. He gave us a presentation about the principles of microfinance, and how Sinapi Aba has been using it to financially empower people, specifically in northern Ghana. He also revealed to us that Sinapi Aba is looking into starting a feasibility study for expanding their operations to Sandema (their office in Bolgatanga currently only operates as far as Navrongo). This was very exciting news, and we look forward to helping out and being kept posted on any movements on this front.
We then left Tamale that afternoon, and arrived in Sandema late that evening. We were greeted at the station by Misbah-ul Haque (of G-Roots), Joe Abobte (of Horizons Children’s Centre), and the entire lot of boys from the Horizons Children’s Centre who helped us get our bags to our home for the next month. It’s a pretty sweet pad (though we’ve recently encountered some plumbing issues which will be worked on) located about a 5 minute walk outside of town. We used the next day, Wednesday, to adjust into life in Sandema and to greet old friends and make new ones. On Thursday, we made our way to the Tono Dam, operated by ICOUR (http://mysite.verizon.net/vze827ph/tono.htm), located just outside of Navrongo. We were given a presentation about dry-season farming and irrigation, and then taken on a tour of the dam. All this information will help inform our own research for the G-Roots project.
That evening we made our way to the Horizons Children’s Centre, where we were oh so warmly welcomed by all the boys. The night was full of singing, dancing, and laughter. The OG Team held our own, with Ben Van Dieten jammin’ on guitar, as we performed our own song for them to express our excitement for the month ahead.
On Friday, a few of us met with the faculty at the Agriculture Department of the Bolgatanga Polytechnical Institute. The meeting took place on behalf of G-Roots as a means to establish a research partnership for Project Builsa (http://g-roots.ca/?page_id=9). They were extremely receptive, and we will be moving forward with them by establishing a Memorandum of Understanding between the two parties and working together to determine how best we can help each other.
We’ve been quite lucky with the weather here, since the North is known for its drier climate and harsher heat, but we’ve been welcome with cool breezes and overcast skies (though it’s gotten warmer today). We’ve been exploring the town and soaking up the language and culture. Everybody is super excited to get started on their personal projects soon! We’ll have more updates on those as they come.
Today is market day in Sandema (it happens every third day), so we’ve got to hit the town and stock up on some fresh goods. We’ll have more to say soon. Small time.
Ku nye maga.
Taha and the OGWAD Team
P.S. Internet in Sandema is back up. Special thanks to Yaw for giving us a shout as soon as he learned of this. Also, I just got Mama Hanna’s phone number (thanks to Brigitte Bilodeau of OGWAD 2010), so the hunt is still on. More updates on that as they come.