Friday, June 24, 2011

Challenging Heights...growing familiar with the once unfamiliar

So we finally made it to Winneba Monday and have been busy collaborating with Challenging Heights ever since. Challenging Heights is our main partner and also the organization that donated the land to us. Their organization's primary goal is to stop and prevent child trafficking in the fishing industry. Winneba is a major source town for children to be trafficked from. Challenging Heights is purposely centered here to take at-risk children off the streets and placing them in school for a reduced price.

On Wednesday we were finally able to speak with the Director of Challenging Heights, James Annan. The meeting went extremely well and he filled in some large gaps we had in our plan. His ideas and areas of need matched our plans almost perfectly. It was such a relief to have the majority of our questions finally answered. To top it all off, James had been donated more land land right next to the primary school of Challenging Heights and he offered up the area for a program like ours. We are very excited to see what collaborations we can create with this partnership!

After volunteering with Challenging Heights last year, it is such a strange sensation to come back with a whole different purpose. Reflecting back, I realize that Challenging Heights is the entire reason I was stirred to return to Ghana in the first place. They were the ones who brought me to Lake Volta to witness child slavery with my own eyes. After this experience, I swore I would return to Ghana to fight this injustice or at least raise awareness of it in the states. I feel so blessed to have the resources and connections to share with this school and provide help in some way. I had my doubts at the beginning of this journey, but things keep lining up in ways we never expected. I believe God has His hand on us and I feel so blessed to be able to collaborate with such amazing people. Thankyou for your prayers! It's definitely helping:)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Those stupid backpacks...

So we woke up early this morning to stuff all of the 75+ lb bags on our backs and drag our bodies onto the streets to find a taxi. Most of the bags were full of school supplies, so we kept remind ourselves that we would get rid of them...eventually. I'm pretty sure every Ghanaian that passed us on the road must have had an internal laugh attack at our appearance: two single obroonis with hauling five bags bigger than themselves along the road. Did I forget to mention we did this all the way through New York City as well during our layover?? Never visiting downtown before, we thought it would be a great idea to take the subway into the city and get something to eat during our few hour layover. So here we are these two young girls (joined with a friend) just dragging these huge camping bags (one strapped on the front and one on the back) through downtown New York desperately trying to find the closest restaurant. NEVER AGAIN!! School supplies can just be shipped...

Anyhow, onto the important stuff.:) We got to attend a class in a business school called Hopeline this morning. We observed a simple business class that took place at the pre-professional level. It was the 6th week of a 12 week course and we were able to be thrown into the middle of it. There was about 30 Ghanaians or so attending and a few faculty members teaching off of a very young curriculum (created in 2007). Afterward, we were able to interview Tina (an intern teacher from Partners Worldwide in GR) and the director of the school called Hopeline. The director had an awesome success story of how she began her NGO just a few years ago and how it has expanded so rapidly. She really highlighted on connections and just putting yourself out there. She said if you are willing to put your heart and hardwork into a cause, then other people will follow. That gave us hope because of how new and successful her school had become in such a short time.

Later, Tina invited us to stay with her for the night. She is house-sitting for the regional director of West Africa for Partners Worldwide and it was such a blessing to have a real shower, air conditioning, and wifi!!(three things I did not expect to see for a long time! Especially wifi:P)
Tonight, we met up with a few girls from Aban, a women's empowerment organization that has just begun in Accra. Two girls out of the United States, Callie and Becca, studied abroad here last year and both held a passion for women's rights. Before long, they had partnered up with a few local NGOs and began a huge campaign of raising money for their own organization. They take young, single mothers off of the streets and give them individual attention to give them hope for a future. They have several developing classes and are currently in the works of expanding their program even further. We met up with Becca and an intern Allison tonight at a local jazz club and had an amazing conversation about our hopes for the future and methods to go about that. Tomorrow we meet up with them again and possible the Minister of Health. But as much of Ghanaian time goes. We won't know until morning for sure:) Goodnight.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

We made it!

After two days, three layovers, and 20-some hours of flying, we finally made it to Ghana last night! Somehow, the flights went extremely smooth this time. After last year's episode, I was slighty terrifed to fly that far. It was also probably the best people-watching journey I've ever had. Going from Washington D.C. to New York to London to Ghana, I don't think I've ever seen so many different ethnicities in one day!

On the way from London to Ghana, we met a doctor who is working at an Ivory Coast refugee camp for six months. She had extremely interesting stories of her experiences in other parts of Africa. Jess and I hope to visit her camps at some point during our trip. Today we picked up the living essentials and are ready to start some research tomorrow:) We meet with Hopeline which is a business-planning program branched from Partners in Health (from GR, MI) in the morning. We are going to be attending a few classes there and meeting with the representative from the U.S. Can't wait to get started!

Also, we are keeping a group blog at that will probably be our main one from now on. I'll update here occassionally though:)