I feel it is appropriate that I introduce you to my host, Walisu Al Hassan. When you first meet him it is impossible for a smile not to come to your face because there is such a big one on his. He is a slight man, a fact he put to forgetting to eat because he is working too hard. His speech is constantly interrupted by laughter—his stated goal in life is to make others happy.
When you talk to him, and get past the jokes, you find that he is an extremely hard working young man of 27 and an old soul. His father died when he was young and from what I understand his mother first went into a long period of mourning and then moved away leaving the children—5 boys to be taken care of by an uncle. While this uncle tried he could not support the additional children and it fell to Walisu and his older brother to care for the younger brothers—he says this is how he learned how to live hungry. Walisu was a shoe shine boy and cleaned houses to put himself and his brothers through school—he is now always hiring neighborhood boys and girls to do odd jobs for him such as doing laundry of fetching water and washing the dishes. An act I suspect is not simply out of laziness; for one because Walisu does not have a lot of money, often going without a salary because he wants to dedicate everything to the rural communities.
He is completely dedicated to improving the lives of rural women and children and works tirelessly to do so. This process started with his degrees in Tourism and Rural Development, as well as a few other studies—he also states that one of his favorite things to do is go to school and learn and he is trying to find a way to return to school for an advanced degree either here in Ghana or maybe even in America. He has also worked as a teacher and this in combination with his desire to make people happy results in him breaking into songs or dances with school children wherever we go. He also worked for the Ghana Board of Tourism and was stationed at the Tamale airport assisting confused tourists.
To my benefit one of the other ways he likes to make people happy is by cooking and almost every night he makes another delicious local dish for me to enjoy. I am really enjoying my time with Walisu and am learning a lot both about Ghana, Tamale, and development.
Walisu giving my class a tour last April