Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Communities and Credit Unions....

During our visit to the Wli Waterfalls we met Alfred.  He was our tour guide to the falls - he is also a farmer in the village at Wli.  Alfred was extremely knowledgeable and spoke very well.  During the trip up to the falls he spoke with our two Ghanaian CUA (Credit Union Association) drivers, George and Raymond.  Both George and Raymond are VERY passionate about the credit union and how it can help Ghanaians save for their futures and build their businesses.

As we quickly walked back down from the waterfalls (on our way to take Fintan to emergency), Alfred asked me several time to Please come back and share the credit union message with his village.  Alfred could have arranged to learn how the credit union could just help him, but he understands the power of working together as a community.  That was a reality check for me.  So many times in our society we take an opportunity to maximize it for our own gains.  I did not see that in Ghana.

This next video shares a small portion of the time Fintan and I spent speaking with the village (actually Raymond and Alfred spoke the most, but Fintan and I tried!).  When we arrived on Monday, somewhat unannounced - they rang the community meeting bell, swept the floor, arranged the benches and set us up at a head table.  We were Welcome!

Maybe turn your volume up for this video and close the door so you can hear Alfred speaking.

Monday, 28 January 2013

Crazy Couple of Days

It's been a couple of days since I have posted a video.  I can honestly say it has been CRAZY - crazy good, crazy bad, crazy scarey, crazy emotional.  We went to the Wli waterfalls,which were awe inspiring. Unfortunately Fintan, my fellow coach from Ireland fell on the rocks and cut his hand really bad.  We had to take him to emergency....hmmmm.
That was pretty much all of yesterday - though the cool thing was our waterfalls guide, Alfred, was very interested in learning more about the credit union.  He is a farmer and a tour guide.  He wants to save for his daughter's education and borrow to help finish building his house out of the cement blocks he had made. His current house was made of clay.  We said we would come back and speak to his village about the credit union in the hopes they would build a savings group.  I will post tomorrow the pics and videos we have from our visit to Alfred's village today.  While we were there we met with some of the village people and spoke to them and took questions about the credit union.  Then Alfred took us on a tour of his palm nut, rice, pineapple and casova farm - WOW.
Until then here is the video from the past two days!

Saturday, 26 January 2013

True Hard Work

Not too much time to blog, just wanted to say things are going very well.  Redeember Credit Union was wonderful to work with and they were very welcoming.  "You are Welcome" as the Ghanains say when they greet us.  We are just getting ready to meet with the Board to share our report with them.

Here's my next short video from January 25, 2013True Hard Work

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Videos/Images from January 24, 2013

We are blessed....

I hope that's not a surprise.  Today was incredible.  We were up early to finish our report for the credit union.  Ultimate Credit Union was formed in 2000 by 200 teachers who wanted to save together so they could afford to further their education.  They also knew they wanted to save so they could build homes for themselves.  The Chairperson, who is a retired school teacher, has just told me that without the credit union he would not have been able to build his house.  It took 4 years (2003 to 2007) and 4 loans to finish building his home.  Ultimate CU in Akatski has 5 chair persons including a female treasurer.  They were amazing to work with and very advanced in their business.  They have 677 members and operate on a computer system with a small network and printer receipts for member transactions.  Their board is younger and very committed to educating their community on membership benefits.

After presenting to the board and manager, they took us to Keta and to the place where slavery was born.  The Danes built a castle on the shore of the Atlantic.  Here they kept the slaves prisoners and sold them to the people who came over by boat.  The castle is called Fort Prizentien - look it up, well worth the education. 

The slave castle brought back many of the same emotions I felt when I first learned about slavery and about the holocaust.  Disgust in the narrow minded people who were filled with hate for those they viewed as different and less than equals.  Admiration for those who were brave and stood up, in the face of death, for change.  Those people who died fighting for freedom - freedom.  It is those people who have made this world a better place.  I shed tears today for those who were lost and for those left to remember and share their stories.

Take time tonight to remember how blessed we are. It cannot be said enough, Canada is a wonderful place to call home and something we should never take for granted.

I will post some pictures soon.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Off to Ultimate Credit Union in Akatsi (A-kat-chi)

January 23, 2013
Having a hard time accessing wifi - which is OK, just makes those few moments I can spend online that much more enjoyable.  The trip to Akatsi was pretty interesting.  There are really no signs that tell you which villages are which way and there were quite a few roundabouts heading out of town. The traffic was insane, many times we rushed ahead to just line up in the next traffic jam.  We may have required a few U-Turns along the way.
Akatsi is wonderful and our hotel √íVolta Paradise Hotel√ď is great, even with all the little lizards running around (including the one in my room I slept with last night). 
We were able to visit Ultimate Credit Union yesterday and meet Jeffrey the Manager. The credit union owns their building and rents a portion of the space to a flower shop.  They are in the process of building the second floor and will rent that space out too. Today we will spend the day with Jeffrey and meet the board this afternoon.
Ultimate is close to a public school; a group of girls stopped as they were leaving school to dance and sing - amazing.
Gotta run, just finishing my coffee, omelette and bread, then heading out with Raymond to see Jeffrey and his team.
The pics I have attached include a shot of the lizard and of the Akatsi market - which was larger than you can imagine, selling EVERYTHING - toothpaste and toothbrushes from a moving wheelbarrel, dried fish, clothes, material, cell phones, spices, eggs, chickens, goats, nuts, fruits, vegetables, jewelery, shoes, purses, belts, rice, seeds.....

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

January 21,2013 Training in CUA Training Centre

Here is a quick video of our first day in Accra.  We spent the day training with Credit Union Association of Ghana field staff.  It was Jan 21 not Jan 20 like the video says - I lost a day:)

Saturday, 19 January 2013

HURRY Up... and Wait

Well, another day has passed and I am still in Toronto.   I slept in, went to the gym, got ready, packed AGAIN, checked out and went for brunch.  I had my Timmies, FaceTimed with the family, rushed to check-in for our 11:30pm flight at 3:45pm (?not sure why) and then waited for supper. 

Not a bad day I suppose - short of the Irishman who phoned me at 7:00am to see if we would be meeting up in London to catch the flight to Accra.  Unfortunately - No.  Both Irish coaches made it out of London today and are already in Accra, Ghana....waiting for us!  

The delay in our flight has provided the coaches time to visit and meet new people.  I just can’t believe the number of folks I have met who have been to Africa, pleasure and volunteering.  My server, Angel in the hotel restaurant - just came back in November from his vacation in Africa.  He truly loved Africa and was amazed by its beauty.  Right before I left Winnipeg I met 2 people who have been volunteering in Africa for 15+ years; plus they shared the story of their other friend in Winnipeg who has opened 7 libraries in the greater Accra region in Ghana.

The stories are very consistent - working with people from Africa has been a successful means of improving their communities.  It’s not always volunteering in Africa either.  The Canadian Cooperative Association offers a Women’s Mentorship Program where female leaders from overseas financial co-operatives come to Canada to learn and observe within our environment.  So far over 160 women have gone through the program.  The link below takes you to more information about this program:

Well gotta go and rush to our gate, where we will no doubt spend time waiting to (hopefully) board our plan and head to London.  Snow has not been our friend on this trip :)

Friday, 18 January 2013

Where am I?

Where am I?
I'm not sure - I think it’s Toronto - but there has been a lot of talk that we may be in an alternate universe.

To catch you up - we finished classroom training today.  This training was humbling, enlightening, educational and important.  My key learnings:
  • CCA and partner organizations do some amazing things to eliminate poverty around the world - more than I could have imagined.  They can’t reach their goals without support (financial and volunteer)
  • The challenges women face to free themselves from poverty - is immense.  There are still so many women in this world that live in fear.  So many that have experienced sexual harassment, so many that have to battle through negativity and bullying - let alone find the means to feed their families.  More must be done to eliminate this.
The time spent learning from my fellow coaches, has been equally as interesting.  We are stuck in Toronto for the night, as some snow fell at Heathrow which cancelled our flight.  Disappointing as we will be one less day in Africa - but most enjoyable as these fellow coaches I am traveling with are critical pieces to this “life changing experience”.  Tonight at dinner the coaches shared some of their travel stories; backpacking in places all over the world, walking through the Amazon, bamboo rafting with complete strangers, flying upside down in an acrobat plane, piloting their own planes or volunteering all alone with no guidance or training in Cambodia.  

As I listen to their worldly experience and knowledge of so many cultures and exotic places, I wonder if maybe I am in the wrong place. “Hmm”  I think (yes quietly) to myself “what did I do when I was young that  even remotely relates to these experiences?”  I took the bus to Flin Flon alone for each spring break between 12-15 (kind of dangerous) I lived in North Western Ontario for a summer with my husband (there were wild animals) and I went on an awesome road trip with girlfriends through New Orleans and Florida with a stopover in Graceland (we came really close to gators).  In my 30’s I made it to Mexico, Jamaica and Dubai - though not really relatable to the backpacking trips “in search of authenticity”.  Makes me kind of wonder how I fit in....

Well, I guess we can’t do it all and besides the amazing British Airways agent Ruth (who rescued our luggage) thinks I am a “World Traveler” - says so on the coupon she gave me for my hotel stay in Toronto.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

How can u leave your family for so long?

It was interesting to hear the responses from people when they learned I was going to Africa for 13 days and would be away from my family for 26 days - “Wow, that’s a long time to be away, how is everyone going to manage?”

It wasn’t easy to leave, I am going to miss some significant moments in the lives of my kids.   However, I deeply believe continuing to develop who I am (what I know and what I have experienced) will improve my ability to positively influence who my kids will grow up to be.  Through my volunteer efforts in Ghana I hope my children will learn the following: 
  • Be brave and do things that scare you. Face the challenges and accept the opportunities put before you.  Life is so short and we just don’t know what tomorrow holds for us.  I recently lost a dear friend and was inspired to take on this challenge by her commitment to promote immigrant opportunities in Manitoba.  She worked in the Province of Manitoba and she never hesitated to travel the world to share the benefits available here in Winnipeg and greater Manitoba.
  • Serve and help others, it will positively change your life and the lives you touch.  I am guilty of contributing to the “have” and “immediate satisfaction” culture that my kids live in now.  We have volunteered at Winnipeg Harvest with our kids and have tried to expose them to the realities of poverty but it is such a difficult concept for them truly understand and appreciate how blessed their lives are in comparison to so many other children.
  • Learn to appreciate other cultures.  Through your ability to be inclusive and encourage diversity, you will gain the respect of people and make some true friends.  Thankfully this has been the norm for my kids growing up.  They know nothing less than a culturally diverse classroom and circle of friends.  Their natural acceptance of others and their beliefs is incredible and will significantly change the future of our world.
  • Independence is important.  There will be times when you need to be confident in yourself and will step away from the crowd to do what you believe is right.  This is most important for my daughter.  We raise our kids that everyone should be treated equal and to expect nothing less in how people treat you.  My daughter is the only girl on her 8A1 hockey team and she socializes and engages extremely well with the boys.  I want her to take those skills and share them with other girls, continuing to develop women to be equals around the world.
I know I am gone for what can be perceived as a long time and have concerns and fears about how my adventure will unfold.  However, the stories and experiences I have taken from others who have already been to Africa confirm for me that it will all be worth it!

And to my family - if you are reading my blog (which u should be), I love you and will miss you.  Take care of each other.  I will be home before you know it!

Monday, 14 January 2013

Ready to Build a Better World (bbw)

Through the Canadian Cooperative Association Coaching Program, I am heading to Ghana, Africa January 18, 2013.  I will visit 3 credit unions in 13 days along with my soon to be best friend Fintan, from a credit union in Ireland.  Check out the link below - it provides more information about the CCA coaching program.

I have heard so many good things about this experience from mutliple previous coaches.  Many of these past participants are part of the National Young Leaders Committee, which is where I first heard about the opportunity.  Life changing experience I am told - can't wait to get going!

My adventure begins January 16th - first stop Ottawa - for some training….

The Credit Unions I will be visiting:
I am going to the Volta Chapter:
Akatsi – Ultimate Credit Union
Aflao – Redeemer CU
Hohoe – Universe CU and are located here: