Earlier this year I made a list of all of the things I could do if I had more time (read: if I wasn’t involved in EWB). It was quite the extensive list, and I was somewhat impressed by my ability to come up with a multitude of different exciting options for whenever I had some time to spare. Always daydreaming about more time to do more. And now I’m in Ghana, thinking about Karaga and farmers and people and development 24/7. And there are plenty of dreams here, too.
I’m here because these people are real people. My director, Dr. Saviour, he lives with ambition and purpose. He has a vision for his office that will make it effective and useful for the farming communities it serves. He lives a very comfortable lifestyle, far above those that he works with. He’s a family man, and is incredibly proud of his older daughter and son, but above all believes his youngest daughter is the smartest of all.
His youngest daughter, Sada, is smart and shy and is great company. In spending time with her for 2 days, we are now comfortable and she literally sticks to me. Her favourite artist in Don Williams, who seems to be some kind of American country star. She laughs and calls for her Mommy in the same demanding yet plaintive way I once did as a ten-year-old.
The other ten-year-olds I’ve met are alternately shy or exuberant. When they ask me how I am, I reply “I’m fine, how are you?” and they often are surprised that their calls have been answered. They run along the side of the main roads running through town.
Along the main road, I have met a tailor by the name of Talhatu. She speaks excellent English, and has been a seamstress for over 20 years. She has a daughter that rolls around on the floor laughing when I tickle her. She has a good sense of style. She does not hesitate to answer all of my questions about her fabric and styles and life.
My life is also shared with Arimiyaw, whose name I’m still forgetting. He’s a marketing student at the Tamale Polytechnic, and is worried about finding a job when he finishes his degree. Sounds like SFU to me. He runs the juice shop, which I go to every day, partly for the juice, mostly for the conversation. He answers my questions about food and the movements of the town, and I answer questions about the size of Canada, the geography and political system and schooling there. Is it hard to get scholarships in Canada? Yes, yet I still encourage him to apply. He is smart, and kind, and has taught me much already. I’ll miss him when he goes back to school in a few weeks. He acts as a buffer system, and helps to translate the several marriage requests I get one day I am there. He offers to entertain me after I’ve walked in the pouring rain for an hour, and shows me a ridiculous and dramatic Dagban movie that is a short step away from Nigerian movies and North American reality TV. People everywhere seem to want to watch the same thing.
I’m watching my colleagues, and they are in one similar to those I’ve worked with before, but different as individuals are.
Mr. Abanga is charismatic, and happy to talk, and excitable. He is tall and has a wife in Tamale whom he visits on weekends.
Mr. Allasin Doublechest is called so because he used to be a big-time runner. He is quiet and kind and bows easily to authority, is very shy of conflict and will take the path of least resistance.
Abdulai is a person with intensity and dreams for his 4 children. He asks me about the medicine system in Canada and how he can help his oldest son apply, because the Ghanaian system does not support that many students. He listens to me talk of my younger brother, how he is going to go into engineering, and asks about environmental engineering at UBC. He has a deep appreciation for simple and beautiful words, and asks where he can get a copy of the book I am reading. He is philosophical and soft in his heart.
These are just a few of the people I have spent small time with here in Ghana. These people are intelligent, multifaceted, far from perfect, and full of potential to change their lives and those around them. And they are TRYING. This I stress, because I am thinking of the multitude of people where I’m from that don’t really try. I want to work for the people that want to work for themselves, and you can find those anywhere, but there is a concentration here, here on this hopeless, dark continent, there is light and thirst for a better life, a life with a modicum of security, opportunity for education, safety from hunger and malnutrition.
As a volunteer for Engineers Without Borders Canada, but moreso as an emotionally invested employee of the Government of Ghana, Ministry of Food and Agriculture, my work is for and with these people that try.
My work is for Swoli, the son of the Assemblyman (local elected official) in Komoayeli, who is a farmer as his father was, but is no less the soft-spoken intelligent young man because of it.
These people are not merely observing life as it goes by, they are trying to reach their dreams. These real people are what remind me of my ability to try.