Sunday, 19 July 2009

the rural villages

After two weeks volunteering in Ghana I have been assigned a really interesting range of tasks by my NGO [Centre for initiative against human trafficking CIAHT ]
I have visited rural villages the NGO works with. Compared to urban Tamale [the main city in the north where we live]its a different world. The villages are my cliche picture of Africa, mud huts and thatch triangle roofs. When we arrive at a village we must greet the chief , sometimes bring a live animal as a gift. [ not the normal greeting if i visit someone in Leicester].

CIAHT knows that a lot of children have been trafficked from the village so works to address the root of the problem ,poverty.[see previous blog for what trafficking is] .A Shea butter farming schemes was set up to give the village a livelihood. We were in the village to see how the scheme was going.The results were'nt good. Snakes biting them as they farmed it, the market was to far away to sell it the list ran on. It was my job after returning to the office to write up a report on the day, CIAHT will work with them to overcome the problems.

It makes you realize a development project is a successful because of the detail. An example we were told was the well meaning UN gave thousands of mosquito nets to Ghana.The problem was they were red,which in Ghana means death so no one would use them. We are all seeing the difficulty of translating well meaning intentions into successful results rather than often doing more damage.

The next day I went with an NGO from Holland and my NGO to another rural village. We were there to review a school feeding program . The community was taught farming skills,they then made food which was sold to the school for the lunches. The hungry children got lunch and the unemployed parents got a job! I liked seeing how my NGO was working with bigger organization. My NGO based in Ghana, were working with the village community with money from Holland. It seemed like a good model.

The village reaction to me was a bit overwhelming. I made little children cry as they were so scared ,by this white person! Every pair of eyes fixed on my white skin I could feel them scanning my every detail. Children would brush my arm as if to see if the white came of on their hand,like a paint.

I also got some really uncomfortable questions. One older lady with colorful clothes and a baby wrapped on her thin back asked me why it was I was rich and they were poor? I didn't really have anything to say. Another women without malice or venom asked if I pitied them. I wasn't really sure if they wanted my pity or not,so I told the truth. Their economic situation did make me feel very sad for them. I was also true i was in awe of their warmth, hospitality,constant jokes and laughter in spite of their poverty. I loved their colorful clothes and their community and deep spirituality. I realized after, it made have been a bit offensive. 'Sorry your so poor you cant afford food and your children are in slavery guys ,but by the way, I love your dress!' I'm still thinking about it am not sure. They seemed so amazingly happy and free. I have no idea whether this is human natures response to suffering, I have no idea what they really feel before they go to bed at night but they seemed so happy. They seemed much happier that the average person in Britain. Maybe the whole rich in other ways thing is a true cliche.Maybe not maybe you can never be truly happy in poverty. I have no idea.

On they way back from the village in the land rover, the brown dirt roads were like an awaful roller coaster. All the Ghanaians in my NGO were quite chilled, fine ,relaxed. I closed my eyes in discomfort thinking of never again taking the miracle that is smooth tarmac from granted. A minute later to the amazement of my colleges, I was retching by the roadside, my breakfast decorating the road. Being in Ghana sometimes makes us all feel very weak, the Ghanaians seem so tough in comparison. From the village to the road,being in Ghana I have definitely left my comfort zone.


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