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Akwaaba! (you are welcome)

First Impressions of Ghana and an introduction to Senchi Ferry

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View Volunteer Trip to Ghana on BryanG's travel map.

Billboard in Makola Market, Accra, Ghana

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Now, that triumph must be won once more, and it must be won by you. And I am particularly speaking to the young people. ...
You have the power to hold your leaders accountable, and to build institutions that serve the people. You can serve in your communities, and harness your energy and education to create new wealth and build new connections to the world. You can conquer disease, end conflicts, and make change from the bottom up. You can do that. Yes you can. Because in this moment, history is on the move.

- President Barak Obama, July 10, 2009, Accra, Ghana

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I arrived in Accra on the 4th of July after an 11 hour flight from JFK. I stepped off the plane into oppressive equatorial humidity and local jubilation at the prospect of Obama's visit the following week.

Although I was not in the Capital during the Presidential visit - I was about two hours away in a small community called Senchi Ferry on the Volta River - everywhere I went Ghanaians were buzzing. When people found out that I was an American they would perk up beyond their normal friendliness and tell me how happy they were that Obama was visiting Ghana and how important Ghana's friendship with the United States was. How refreshing!

Once, while I was wandering through Kumasi - Ghana's second largest city - I was surrounded by a crowd of children. When they found out I was from the United States, they started singing a locally popular song about Obama - see here for the studio version: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L85YF0pyPH0

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Even my students, many of which had never seen the Atlantic Ocean (90 kilometers away) knew all about Obama

Conscious, one of the students in my class, shows off his Obama chocolate candy


But wait, why was I there? As many of you know, I was laid-off from my job in May and I received a modest severance. That and some savings gave me a little breathing room and I decided to explore volunteer opportunities in Sub-Saharan Africa. A friend told me about Global Volunteers (http://www.globalvolunteers.org/) which had a program in Ghana in July. After ruminating on the idea for a day or two, I decided to make the trip. I spent much of June networking and sending out resumes, and on July 3rd, headed off to Ghana - first to the capital, Accra, then on to a small community called Senchi-Ferry.


Downtown Senchi-Ferry one evening


Global Volunteers runs year round projects around the world, and their work in Senchi-Ferry is focused on education, construction and medical services. Our team of 19 taught in local schools, helped in building a community library, and worked in area medical clinics. We were from all over the United States (and one Canadian) and some of our group had been on numerous Global Volunteer teams before. (Jeanne was up to 17 I believe!)

Shalom and Jeanne after an afternoon tutoring session


After an initial orientation session with our local leader Benjamin, we were formally introduced to the community chiefs and the next day we got to work. My job was to serve in one of the local schools - Senchi Methodist - where I taught sixth grade for three weeks (more on this later).

I organized my blog entries into this first one 1) an introduction and look at the community, 2) more detail about the school where I worked, and then 3) my explorations around Ghana - mostly in markets!


One caveat - all of my blog entries are my own photos, observations and thoughts - they do not necessarily represent the opinions of Global Volunteers or any of my team-mates.

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My students from Senchi-Ferry Methodist School and I

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Me with the local Chiefs of Senchi-Ferry at our going away party at the end of our visit



Ghana is a country of about 22 million people and is roughly the size of Oregon. Its neighbors are Togo, Benin and Nigeria to the east, The Ivory Coast to the west, and Burkina Faso to the north. It is a peaceful and stable country that was the first West African nation to achieve independence from England in 1957. Although seen as an African success story in recent years, Ghana is poor with a per-capita GDP of $2,480 in 2007 compared with $41,890 per head in the United States. 57% of Ghana's adult population is literate, and life expectancy is 60 years. For comparison, the literacy rate in the United States is 99.8% and life expectancy is 79 years.



A few gentlemen in the community grab a lamb for me to photograph - yum!


I was told that the conditions in Senchi-Ferry were average to slightly below average for Ghana, and that most of the residents were employed in subsistence farming as the primary source of their livelihood. They raise corn and cassava, gather snails and fruit in the jungle and raise goats and chickens around their homes. There is piped water in the community, and some homes have electricity, but very few. The school where I worked has no electricity, running water, or even walls - the classrooms were open to the outside.

Animals wander freely in Senchi, sometimes into class, but apparently at night they always go home - like house-cats. Some residents find work selling things at the market in nearly Akosombo, and some also work in local banana and pineapple plantations (owned by foreign interests and produced for export).


Goats and chickens everywhere!

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Corn growing near Senchi

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Even though most Ghanaians are of modest means, I found the people to be friendly, welcoming, and overwhelmingly generous. It was truly eye-opening to meet people with so little, yet so intent on sharing what they did have with me.


A woman in Senchi prepares Banku - a white yam that is a local staple

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We all walked from our guest house to our various work-sites each morning and passed through the community. I tried to learn as much of the local language (Twi) as I could. Even though almost all Ghanaians speak English, a little local language goes a long way and I was able to make many friends!


Desmond greets me on my way back to the guest house where we stayed

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The Banana Plantation

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Organic Bananas protected from bugs with blue plastic

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The Pineapple Plantation

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Many structures in Senchi was constructed of earth bricks - this is a kitchen



A commercial building being built in a traditional manner - earth bricks

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Another view of a local street

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A home we visited one afternoon

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A girl in Senchi selling her catch - a plate full of big snails!

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Close up of local snails

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The Eye Clinic in Senchi

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Our team, accompanied by many of our students, pay a visit to a local home

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One of my student's courtyard (Caleb) - main house, apartment, kitchen

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Caleb helps his grandmother make Fu Fu - a mash of yam, plantain and/or corn - that is a local staple

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Caleb cleans the kitchen

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Caleb poses proudly in front of his wash-room

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Two neighborhood kids play on the only piece of equipment at the school

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There were lizards everywhere in Senchi - this one was at least 10 inches long

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Another, small orange guy

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Emily, Benjamin and Samuel at the Library - one of the projects our team helped with

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Some local guys play checkers in the community common

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This guy was relaxing on a sand pile and I told him to hold up his cutlass and look tough...

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The main road in Senchi leads down to the Volta River, where there used to be a ferry about 40 years ago

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Down at the river's edge, a small Tilapia farm

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Down by the river, a burned out church awaits rebuilding - it has been waiting for decades

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Anne, Benjamin and Shirley pose after one of our afternoon tutoring sessions

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A couple of friends pose on their porch. I asked them what was for dinner and took a closer look.

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Now, before you freak out, know that many residents of Senchi would find our love of Pork distasteful - many consider pigs unclean. In Ghana, many rodents are a delicacy

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The local diet is consists mostly of corn, yam, plantains, and a little meat. This treat was captured earlier that day over by the Banana Plantation

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Moses, Caleb and Alfred take a break during our regular afternoon tutoring sessions

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I hope you enjoyed your haphazard tour of Senchi-Ferry, next time I will share more about my teaching in Senchi-Ferry!

Posted by BryanG 13:45 Archived in Ghana Tagged volunteer

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