December 29, 2008

Volunteering in Ghana - from a volunteer's perspective

Having volunteered and worked in Ghana for the past 2.5 years, and having met many volunteers burnt by corrupt and inept NGOs, I felt it was about time to acknowledge those that are genuine, don’t use volunteer funds for dishonest means, are doing a great service in the field in which they work, and give volunteers the best opportunities to make a difference.

G-lish Foundation in Ghana

G-lish Foundation was founded by myself and my Ghanaian partner in 2010 and welcomes you to volunteer in Africa.

A little bit more about us:

G-lish Foundation is a registered NGO in Ghana, West Africa, that works to create lasting social, economic and environmental change in impoverished rural communities in Ghana. The three “e”s underpin our approach: environment, economics, and equity—a sustainable approach for current and future generations. 
We are governed by an accomplished board and managed by our Ghanaian and Australian co-founders. We won a SEED Initiative Award in 2010 in recognition for our efforts in social entrepreneurship. The Award included a rigorous application process explained in ourvolunteer in Africa brochure.

Hand in Hand – Nkoranza

Hand in Hand is a Dutch-run NGO based in Nkoranza in the Brong Ahafo region. It is primarily an orphanage for children and young people with mental and physical handicaps.

Hand in Hand provides a rare opportunity for orphans and those ostracized young people with mental disabilities to live and grow up in a safe, caring and open-minded environment. It is envisaged that those living at the site will live their for their entire lives, unless their village agrees to take them back.

Volunteers work with the managers to take care of the children, educate the public, and are involved in the day-to-day running of the project. An income generating workshop was set up when I visited. Many of the Downs Syndrome teenagers participate in the workshop and produced some of the most impressive beaded necklaces I have seen anywhere in Ghana.
I visited this site a couple of years ago when I was a volunteer with Global Mamas and was overwhelmed by the genuine compassion and kindness that staff and volunteers displayed. Most carers in orphanages physically abuse their charges or, at best, have no physical contact with them. Hand in Hand is, thankfully, a model that could be emulated at other institutions in Ghana.
3 hours north of Kumasi on a trotro. The closest large town is Techiman, a stopover on the journey between Kumasi and Tamale. If you go to Kumasi, don’t miss Kejetia market, the largest (and scariest – but be brave) open air market in West Africa.

Village Exchange International - Ho
VEI is based in Ho, the capital of the Volta Region. I first heard of VEG last year when they began discussions to partner with Global Mamas (the organisation that I work for) in 2007.
Established by a French national living in Ghana, it is one of the most well-organised, open, and inspiring NGOs I have come across.

VEI'sprojects are focused in three different areas:
Poverty alleviation strategies including microcredit schemes and small-entreprise development
Reproductive and sexual health programs
Research including quantitative and qualitative research methods applied to women's and health issues

The staff are great and they attract a high quality caliber of volunteer.

If you do choose to volunteer here, you’re blessed with some of Ghana’s most beautiful landscapes and cultural heritage a short bus ride away. Wli waterfalls, the largest waterfall in West Africa (according to the Bradt Guide) sits on the border between Ghana and Togo in the stunning village of Wli. Best time to visit is May – September during the rainy season when the Volta is lush and green. You’re also close to Kpetwe, an Ewe weaving village about 10 minutes outside of Ho.

Prices are average - lower than I-to-I and other volunteer "factories".

December 19, 2008

The Run-Off: Election 2008

We have a new site where you can read all articles from This is Ghana in a much more organised fashion. Read The Run-Off: Election 2008 there.

It's TAKE 2 in the campaign for "peaceful elections" and by far the most creative effort I have witnessed is this couple of performers I spotted during my lunch break today.

Showing their true colours: "Peaceful election" campaigning Ghana style. NPP - left, NDC – right So, none of the presidential candidates won more than 50% of the vote in the December 7 election: the NPP won over 49% and the NDC just over 47%. Personally, I'd be a little peeved if I were the NPP candidate. Nevertheless, The Constitution is The Constitution and until there is a referendum to change it, when no candidate receives 50% + 1 vote, an election between the top 2 candidates must be reheld to decide the President.

December 28 is D-Day. That means 3 more weeks of campaigning-related traffic jams if you're unfortunate enough to be traveling in Accra and 3 more weeks of campaigning masked as preaching at 4 a.m. in the morning if you live in a constituency worth battling for - which we do - Elmina. It adds a little je ne sais quois to the roosters' dawn music making, really.

The boxes on the head, by the way, are for small change. This is one way that people with few work prospects can raise a few pennies to eat for the day - and show that even serious messages can raise a smile, especially in Ghana.

Entertaining kids and taxi drivers and everyone else along the Kingsway Area today.

December 8, 2008

Post election update

We have a new site where you can read all articles from This is Ghana in a much more organised fashion. Read Post election update there.

Post election update:

Sunday: The main street of Osu was a ghost town – hardly a soul to be seen; I guess the usual hustlers were standing in a queue somewhere, waiting their turn to vote – a happy thought.
Most importantly, voting was peaceful. Even in Bawku (read about Bawku in posts below), a traditional "hotspot", there was not a hint of violence.

It’s now Monday morning. The results are coming in! It is extremely close between the two main parties – a few thousand votes (over one million each have been counted) separated the presidential candidates at the last update.

The country is holding its collected breath. It will be at least midnight before a winner is announced. More updates to come.

Tuesday: Still no clear winner - conflicting numbers in the counting.
Peaceful though - business as usual. Good.

Election photos

We have a new site where you can read all articles from This is Ghana in a much more organised fashion. Read Election photos there.

Supporter dancing at an NDC rally on Thursday in Cape Coast.

A spot of fridge moving during the NPP Rally

Election Fever in Ghana

We have a new site where you can read all articles from This is Ghana in a much more organised fashion. Read Election Fever in Ghana there.

A one year old baby boy was dancing on his mother’s back beside me in a taxi this morning as if he was celebrating the pending third consecutive handover from one democratically elected official to the next along with his fellow citizens throughout the country.

The atmosphere throughout Ghana is as jubilant as the post-Ghana victory celebrations against Nigeria in the Africa Cup, only now it is two days before the legislative and presidential elections.
Masses of party supporters are taking to the streets in their respective party colours – red/green for the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and red/blue for the New Patriotic Party (NPP) – and celebrating the way Ghanaians celebrate: dancing en masse along the streets, stopping traffic in every direction.

I see a twenty-something woman dressed in tight jeans and an NPP t-shirt heading to an NPP rally in Accra dancing on the side of the main highway by herself, head down, lost in a private reverie while the crowds stream by.

Other supporters are hanging out of buses, honking car horns and hitting bells with sticks as they dance along the streets.

While the t-shirts are not emblazoned with “Ghana” in red, green and gold, as they were during the football, the fact that individuals can freely rally and demonstrate their support for their party of choice in whatever colours they like, without fear of arrest or intimidation amounts to the same thing: “Ghana - we are free and fair!”

Ghanaians don’t grumble about having to go out and vote. They are climbing aboard lorry buses and traveling one, two or ten hundred kilometers to ink their index finger and cast votes, even if it means waiting in line from midnight the night before, which some will. They don’t take it for granted.

As the most peaceful nation on the continent, and the most stable nation in the West African region, that Sunday’s election progresses without serious violence is crucial not only for the continuous improvement of Ghana’s international standing, and for the well being of its citizens, but also to remain the anchor of regional stability. Ghana is a beacon of hope for West Africa and, indeed, the rest of the continent.

Campaigns urging “Peace” and “Peaceful elections” flooded television, radio and print media as early as August and have continued daily since.

Today, Friday 5th of December is National Farmer’s Day, a public holiday celebrating the contribution that farmers make to the country, and many Christians have attended church services that will not be held on Sunday – election day. I asked a well-dressed church-goer on Friday morning where she was headed and she said, “To church, to pray for peaceful elections…”
I asked one Muslim gentleman what he was doing today and he responded, “Praying to Almighty Allah to deliver all Ghanaians through a peaceful election…we are peace-loving people…”
The peace-loving tag is appropriate, but I asked him if he thought partisan tensions might erupt

in the old hot-spots like Tamale or Bawku in the north. “Of course,” he responded, “we may see some fighting in these places, some trouble will surely pass, but as for the entire country, it will not happen…” What he means is that there is likely to be pockets of fighting or scuffles, but the nation as a whole will remain calm.

The Presidential voting requires the Presidential candidate to win 50% +1 vote, however the two leading parties’ candidates – the incumbent NPP and the opposition NDC – are too close in the polls to call. Expert analysts suggest a “run-off” election is likely on 28th December. That is, they predict that neither of the leading parties will attain the required 50% +1 vote as dictated by the Constitution so the two leading parties will go to the polls again to determine the winner.

Ghana’s stability, or, if viewed another way, potential vulnerability will be put to the test if the result requires a run-off – tension between to the two rival parties will be high. We can only hope that the tolerance and acceptance between different religions is shown between political supporters of the two main rival parties.

If so, the tag “peace loving” will be truly valid and Ghana will remain the star of Africa.

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