Josh Lee :: Ghana
The research I did prior to coming to Ghana stated that the country has the potential of becoming the first developed African country. After two and a half weeks I can understand why so many authors would say this. I too see potential for growth and development but at the same time I see issues that must be addressed for that potential to be actualized.
The first issue can be seen everywhere in Ghana: pollution. All types of pollution can be found at extreme levels. The Harmattan winds from the Sahara desert already emits sand and dirt into the air during the Ghanaian winter so it does not help that the air is also filled with car exhaust and burning rubber and plastic. Though the air looks clear during the day it is hard to take a deep breath without smelling something unpleasant.
Littering is another pollution issue that must be addressed as well. Plastic is used in every way imaginable and can be found discarded in the streets and gutters behind buildings. It is impossible to ride my bike without running over a plastic bag or having one blow into me. There is no recycling system in Ghana either. Glass bottles are sold back to retailers but plastic bottles, cans and cardboard are all considered garbage and thrown away all the same. I am considering an advocacy project focused on introducing a recycling program showing the benefits of recycling in Tamale. It would be a complex project but the main elements would include education on recycling, recycling bins in high traffic areas on the streets and a recycling plant in Tamale.
Sanitation is another problem. The smell of human waste is present in every back alley and gutter I have come across. There are not enough public toilets or running water to serve the towns and cities. This is an obvious health hazard and makes the town less attractive.
Another type of pollution that is overlooked is the level of noise pollution in Ghana. Even Tamale, located in the lesser populated Northern region, has a fair amount of it. Regardless of the time of day, some activity is creating massive amount of noise. It is large trucks blowing their horn in the early morning, the market filled with cars, music and people yelling from dawn till dusk, and open aired night clubs blaring music late into the night.
Growing up in such a “green city” like Seattle has made me ignorant to how bad pollution, in all its forms, can be in other parts of the world. Things like garbage cans, recycling bins and weekly garbage pick up are not standard everywhere. I have come to truly appreciate how hard the city of Seattle and its citizens try to keep the city clean.
My internship so far has been a great. At first, I was worried in the beginning because I was given a weeks worth of reading to catch me up to speed on current projects. I thought the administrators did not know what to do with me and gave me reading material to buy them some time to think of a task for me. It turns out they had me read so much so I could choose what project I wanted to join. I was overwhelmed with the offer and had to think about it for two days.
I have decided to join the education department in their “phase out” research to see how effective the Take Home Ration (THR) project has been. In an effort to get more girls in villages to attend school consistently, CRS/Ghana set up the THR program in 2004 to provide food rations to girls who had an eighty percent monthly attendance record or better. The amount of take home rations would cover the opportunity cost for parents who needed their girls to work in the field or baby sit their siblings for them to earn enough money to support the family. The program is set to phase out September 2008 so research and evaluations must begin now. I will be interviewing school girls, parents and teachers from schools where the program is phasing out, has already phased out and from schools that never had the program before. Their responses plus the attendance records of all these schools should present enough information to see how effective this program was and if another program like should be planned if enough funding is provided in the future. I am just finishing writing my interview questions and am set out to go to the field next week. I am extremely excited.
Everyone in the office is so nice to me. Kate, the Quality Program Director, has already talked to me several times and helped me cope with the culture shock I have been going through. Kate is a Spokane native and is the only non-African person in the office other than me. She has been living in Africa for the last five years and can relate to many of my experiences of culture shock and being lonely.
Adama is my main boss. She is the manager for the Food For Education (FFE) program. She recommended that I sit and read the annual reports since it was a simple task that would allow me to adjust to everything else around me. Last week, she called a meeting so I could meet everyone else in the education department. Everyone in the department was willing to help me in my research and some of them will be a part of the team I will be traveling with.
Besides my internship, life in Ghana has been a challenge. I did not know living alone and trying to make new friends would be such a challenge. I have managed to meet other NGO workers from Canada but they have already started going out to the field and do not have as much free time as me. I have met many locals but they are also not free to hang out all the time.
Something that has started to get to me is how everyone here is fascinated that I am Asian. Everywhere I go I am greeted with various names and am stopped to be questioned. At first I did not think much of it and was more than willing to stop and introduce myself but now it has become a hassle. It is hard to stop and be friendly every single day when all I want to do is go to the market to buy snacks or go out to eat. People are always coming up to me and asking where I am from and what I am doing here. I understand that it is not every day an Asian is in Tamale and that some people want to say hello and welcome me but it has been two weeks already and I would like to go out without being such an attraction. I hope the locals’ curiosity subsides and they just let me go on my business with little hassle.
My internship has been fun and I am excited to be a part of CRS/Ghana. My only hope is that my daily life outside of work can be just as fun.