Notes from the field in Ghana

On the road in Ghana, October 2012

On the road in Ghana, October 2012

Oct 31, 2012, Toronto, ON—Do you remember your first visit to a new continent? I can still recall my first visit to Africa, seeing the red earth and green banana plantations and vast blue sky of Uganda spreading out before me and thinking – ‘Yeowza – it really is as beautiful as I expected it to be!’

Laura Nadeau, CFTC’s Communications & Governance Officer, is now on her first ever visit to Africa – to northern Ghana in West Africa, to be precise – where she is doing an independent volunteer program during her ‘vacation.’ How great is that?!!

Laura joined Canadian Feed The Children about two years ago here at CFTC’s HQ in Toronto. During that time, she has gained knowledge of the impact CFTC is making in the field indirectly, through the detailed reports, photos and video submitted by our partners and staff. Laura combs through these with enthusiasm every month to bring the stories of the children and communities we work with to life – but to date, we’ve not been able to send her to see things first-hand as part of her role.

Laura with Augustine

Augustine N-Yokun, Program Officer, and Laura in CFTC’s humble offices in Tamale, Northern Ghana.

For anyone who has an interest in the world and in global development, seeing what happens “on the ground” is invaluable.  There is no substitute for it – and it can be absolutely a life-altering experience.  So it was with huge enthusiasm that I signed Laura’s request to take vacation time to volunteer to work in a local school.  And it was with special pride that we managed to tack a few extra days on to her visit so that she could spend them meeting CFTC’s partners and country staff, and learning more directly about the work they do … while she was “in the neighbourhood”!

She’s just finished her two weeks of volunteer work and in the next few days will spend time with Chrys Anab, our Country Representative in Ghana, and Augustine N-Yokun, our Program Officer, familiarizing herself with the work we support through our partners RAINS and TradeAID.  I know she is going to bring great insights on her return to the staff here, as well as to our donor and public audiences. Not to mention even more enthusiasm!

Below is a short excerpt from a recent email ~

As for me, I am loving Ghana. The people are so incredibly friendly. I am teaching a primary class of 24 girls, and I have finally learned all of their names. Luckily, there are quite a few Asanas and Azaras!

After writing for the past couple years about the impact education can have on children, it is amazing to see the real benefits in person – and what a difference notebooks, pencils, textbooks and a uniform make! The students are all so proud of their uniforms, and they often tell me their favourite part of the day is coming to school.

I take attendance each morning and if a girl is away for more than four days, a teacher from the school goes to visit the family to see what is wrong. If the child is being kept at home to do chores, the teacher sits and talks to the parents about the importance of sending the child to school. Often, the children are sick with malaria and so the teacher takes them to the hospital.

Our Country Representatives have shared stories of sponsored children like this before, but it feels so much more powerful to be seeing it in person. It’s only been one week, but it still feels like it has already been such an incredible experience.

I am still getting used to the heat, and I have tried quite a few local dishes – most of them delicious (although I am still getting used to swallowing the dough-like Fufu and Banku whole!) Living with a host family has been an amazing way to be completely immersed in the culture, and I’ve even picked up a few Dagbani words – mostly greetings. They have different greetings for morning (dasiba), afternoon (anterre) and evening (aninwula). Not sure about spelling, but that is how they sound at least!

Tomorrow, we’ll have a post directly from Laura who has made her way safely to Tamale, Northern Ghana to connect up with Chrys and Augustine.

Join us again for more.  Remember that first visit you ever made … and smile.

~Debra