Sunday, November 25, 2012

Work. Or Something Like It

Now that I'm more than a year into my service, I've been spending a lot of time thinking of projects: projects I have wanted to do but have not picked up any traction, projects I am currently doing and hope will work out, and projects I hope to do in this second year.  Although I'm an Ag volunteer, the two main projects I'm doing at the moment have nothing to do with my Ag sector.  That's fine with me- I have lots of Ag ideas, but if no one steps up and is willing to do work, then I won't bother.  I've been wanting to do a composting project, a tree nursery project, work with the shea women and a bunch of other things, but nothing has come of it.  What I've experienced is that mostly the people want money for things, but they are not going to actually work on a project with me and put in their own time and energy.  I have a wealth of knowledge and ideas and energy, I do not have a wealth of cedi notes, so they can take it or leave it.
The projects I'm doing fall into the other two sectors that are here in Ghana- the library for Kong-Gorug Primary (Education) and the borehole for Go-nseung (Health/Water Sanitation).  Last year I helped at the primary a little bit and got to know the students and headmaster.  I was already having books sent from home to start a library there, but then a Northern Ghana book project came up and I jumped into that.  There is a group of about 10 of us up here that are collectively getting funds for a huge shipment of books coming from the U.S.  I am very excited!  The headmaster at the school has agreed to talk to the PTA to buy the wood and build bookshelves in one of the storage rooms at the school.  And he's in agreement that there should be a reading period during the day for the students, and he will encourage the start of a reading club.  I am happy about how things are looking for this, but until everything follows through I won't celebrate just yet.
The borehole project is a very different situation.  In my meetings with the subsection of Go-nseung, its clear that their number one priority is getting a borehole (and there number two priority is getting electricity, and then getting money to buy chemical fertilizer, so those aren't options for me), and they seem very willing to come up with funds to help pay for it.  But that's what's been difficult so far- finding a firm in the area that will give me a decent price.  I have a general idea of how much it should cost, but the quotes I've gotten are nearly double what it should be.  I do think its because I'm white that they're quoting so much, so then I just keep having to explain again and again the purpose of my service, that I don't have wads of cash coming out of my ears, and that in order for me to getting funding through Peace Corps, the community has to raise 25% of the cost.  So with a high quote, there's no way the community will come up with that money anytime soon.
My time to get this borehole project is quickly going away.  Boreholes are drilled in the dry season, and since I'll be gone by the start of next dry season, time is the big factor in all this.  I am making lots of contacts, so if nothing else, my assemblyman/counterpart can follow up my work when I leave.  So for the time being I'll do what I can, shop around, talk to people, make contacts, and go from there.
But I cannot leave out the most important part of my job- cultural exchange.  Sometimes its hard to remind myself of this when I see other people doing lots of projects, but I still know its an extremely essential part of the job.  I spend a good portion of my time in my house reading and writing, but when I'm not at home, I'm sitting at the pito base, chatting with all the men, or I'm cooking with my counterpart's wife, or I'm sitting in the shade on market day talking to Alice and playing with Bernadine.  Life in the Upper East is good.

Hopefully more updates on the library will come soon!

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