The Ghana Tree

My journey to Ghana. An account of what I see, learn, feel, and experience. My Story and the Stories I come across.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Selminga Goodbye: Changes

As I prepare to change my focus here in Ghana I am starting to reflect on some of the changes that I have (hopefully) made. I have been hired by an agriculture firm to set up and run a soybean out growers program.  I will be moving four hours south to Techiman and will be working closely with over 600 small farmers. I am very excited about this opportunity and am looking forward to exploring another angle of international development.

I will still be visiting Tamale and checking up on the projects that I have worked on. Of all the experiences that I have had here the ones that I am most proud of are the ones that are focused on the young girls who are often last in line to receive help.

The first one is Zenab, the young girl who I took to the hospital for a snake bite. Every time I am in her village her family comes and thanks me and last time I was there they gave me a big bag of rice and told me that she was about to be married—I hope he is a nice guy.

Senatu  is the young girl that I provided a scholarship for senior high school to. She just finished up her orientation and when I dropped off her new textbooks she was once again all smiles and reported that she was enjoying her time at school. I am especially excited about providing Senatu with this opportunity because she is from the village where the argument over the land/school took place. The root of this problem was Dawuda who is currently the only educated person in the community and seemed to abuse that responsibility and relish in being “better” than everyone else.  So hopefully she will become a strong leader in her community.

The group of girls that I will be checking in on the most is the girls who are going to vocational school. We are still trying to get everything organized. Currently the biggest obstacle with this project is finding places for the girls to stay and raising funds to cover living expenses while they are living with relatives or in the case of one girl covering her expenses at GIGDEV. Most of the girls have relatives close to the school but the parents are worried about the tension that might be created within the family—the solution to this problem is providing the girls with food money each month so she isn’t a burden on the relative. It is a two year program so hopefully I can be here when they graduate.

I will also miss Tamale itself. From its laid back and frustrating provincial feel and attitude to its colorful but annoying Mosques it has become a sort of home for me. It’s over abundance of bicycles and school children on them remain one of my favorite sights around town. I also no longer look on these images with the simple amazement of a passing traveler but feel like I am now a resident and can understand the deeper meanings and beauty behind them, also on the flip side I now have a clearer picture of the tragedy behind much of what I see. I feel like I am better able to guess at what lays beneath the surface. Even though I am only moving four hours south, Techiman is significantly different from Tamale. It is in a different environmental zone, it has a much smaller Muslim population, and continues to be a busy market and crossroads town for all of West Africa which it has been for centuries.  

As I once again experience new things I will try and share them with you. I am looking forward to spending time in new villages, exploring a new market—largest food market in Ghana—and finding new places to eat and hang out—I will miss my bread and eggs lady, my regular rice and chicken “fast food” restaurant, my fried plantain lady, and the lady I buy eggplants from where I think I am the only one that buys eggplants and she always tries to get me to buy more and in the end just gives me a few extra anyways.

I will also no longer be called a Selminga but will instead have Ubruni shouted at me by children.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Dressmakers Part Two

My current project with RUSODEF is identifying girls who are interested in vocational training and then providing them with the necessary supplies. So far 5 girls have been found and the registration process has started at GIGDEV—the vocational school that they will be attending. This is a very strong program that focuses on giving the girls a well rounded education with the end goal, after two years of study, of the girls being able to open up a sewing shop and be a strong community and women’s leader.  Each girl will be provided with a sewing machine, bicycle, and all the basic materials they will need. A fund will also be set up to cover room and board type costs, the girls will either be staying at GIGDEV or with a relative in Tamale.

The girls are all between the ages of 18 and 20. They have either never attended school or dropped out after Primary 1 or 2. Several of them have travelled down to Accra to find work in the markets and returned after running out of food and money or after being injured. Being given an opportunity like this will truly change these girls’ lives. There are lots of small sewing shops set up by groups of girls around Tamale and they always appear to be the happiest places in town, and I love walking by them and seeing the girls using their old fashioned sewing machines. If the girls were not given this opportunity they would probably remain in their village and continue the very hard life they are currently living. A daily repeat of fetching water, cleaning, taking care of children, cooking, and doing farm work all in an extremely tough environment with very few items we would view as necessities.

The cost for these girls to attend is approximately $250 for two years. This covers fees and uniforms at GIGDEV, sewing machine and supplies, a bicycle, and some of the room and board costs. If you are interested in helping these girls out any donation is appreciated and will truly make a different in a young and deserving life. Many of you who read this blog have already offered donations and support and that has been greatly appreciated and most of that money will be going towards this project. So if you have read and enjoyed this blog please think about donating. You can contact me for more details at

Girls sewing at GIGDEV