Marka in Ghana

Friday, April 28, 2006

Last minute shopping

The last couple days have been pretty hectic, with packing and moving, trying to run around and get last minute things I need, and trying to read as much as I can about Ghana and Dagbani (the local language of Tamale) before I go. When I was at the dollar store, picking up small gifts for my host family, a specific aisle really hit me hard. I hit up the kids summer toy aisle, hoping to find some mini hockey sticks to bring over, because I have heard they are popular, well received gift to get the kids of my family. And that's when I came across the water toys. Water balloons, water guns, pool toys, those fabric balls that you can dunk and water and then throw like a water balloon, and sprinklers. All of these toys would be completely ludicrous to bring overseas. I can't imagine what it would be like to try and explain to a child that in Canada, we fill up toy guns with perfectly clean water and then squirt each other with it, when they might have walked several hours to get the few litres of water that their family needs for day's cooking. How do you explain the concept of a pool? The average African consumes 15-30 litres of water per day, the average Canadian uses 343 litres/day. That's a ten-fold difference! I guess it just reinforces the idea in my head that a lot here as to change in Canada for change to occur overseas.

It's definitely interesting packing, I find myself questioning everything I am bringing already. I am very conscious to how what I bring overseas will be viewed, and I am scared of reinforcing the stereotypes that I am aiming to break down. For example, when bringing over pictures of Canada, I am trying to bring as many negative (pollution, homelessness) as well as positive and interesting (snowboarding, Christmas, Halloween, friends and family) but I am scared that the positive will be viewed as bragging of wealth, and cause a greater distance between the people who I am trying to become closer with by sharing the differences of our cultures. I hope I do not become too overly critical of every step I make overseas, in fear that I will do more harm than good, but I have hopes that I will relax and be able to take appropriate risks the longer that I am there and the more I get to know my environment.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

My Placement

So here is the low down on what I know so far of my placement!

I will be working in Tamale, Ghana with a local NGO called Opportunities Industrialization Centres International (OIC), whose mission is to improve the lives of disadvantaged people through training and sustainable organizational development in Africa, Poland, and the Philippines through networking and linking diverse business people to collaborate and learn from each other. They focus on self help, instition building, capacity building, partnership and social enterprises. More information on their philosophies and different projects can be found at

I will be working alongside Kyle Baptista, from Windsor University and Krista Minor, of the University of Waterloo (who is our long term OV arriving in July) on a large, holistic project that covers 9 districts in the Northern region in all possible sectors: agriculture, water and sanitation, HIV/AIDS, micro-entreprise development, etc. Specifically, Kyle will be working on micro-entreprise development and general agric development, Kristy on micro-irrigation promotion (over 300 treadle pumps), and everything regarding agric (micro-credit, post harvest technologies, marketing, etc.) and I will be working on sanitation and hygiene promotion. The objective on the project is holistic community development. They help the communities identify their challenges and opportunities, help them organize and help finance their initiatives.

The focus of my water and sanitation activities is to increase food utilization by promoting interventions which help households maintain potable water sources and sanitation, and by assuring households have access to safe water.
This is done through (1) construction of wells and installation of pumps, and (2) organization and training of community water and sanitation (WATSAN) committees. OICI provides selected communities with machine-drilled borehole wells with technology appropriate hand pumps. Communities are selected based principles of the national water and sanitation sector policy and strategy.

WATSAN committees are trained in hygiene education, particularly water borne diseases (e.g. guinea worm, diarrhea, etc.); cloth filters and training are provided to residents in guinea worm endemic communities; two hand pump caretakers are identified and trained in each community with facilities provided by either OICI ; and basic tools are provided to the trained hand pump caretakers. Disease prevention and organization management topics discussed during training sessions include: guinea worm prevention and treatment, pump site cleanliness, water storage and treatment, environmental cleanliness, safe excreta disposal methods, construction of drainage and soak pits, committee organization and meeting procedures, and basic bookkeeping to track fees and operation expenses.

It feels like such a huge project, but I am so excited to dive in and start my learning!