How Is It Midnight?

2-2-10

It’s midnight. I’m not sure how it got to be so late or how exactly the past five hours just flew by, but it really is midnight. This morning I began work at the VPWA microfinance office. Justine and I took a tro-tro to Amasaman from Pokuose (that’s probably not the right spelling), where we live. Before this, however, we stopped in at one of the shopkeeper’s stalls to pick up her loan payment. VPWA has an agreement with a few of the women to pick their payments up since the cost for transport to the loan office would be too high for them.

When we got to Amasaman we walked down a few streets lined with vendors. There are shoe sellers, vegetable sellers, and full-scale stores that have a bit of everything. The loan office is in the Area Council Building towards the center of town. Ben, the employed worker, was already there, so Justine counted the cashbox and took her station at the computer. In the afternoon, four women came to the office to collect their loans. The set-up of this microfinance scheme is to dispense loans to groups of four women, who will consequently be responsible for ensuring on-time payments. There is a group leader who communicates with each woman to make sure she pays on-time, and if she doesn’t, the rest of the group must pay for her. This creates social pressure to keep on time with payments, ensuring repayment for the organization.

The women were very excited to receive their loans. Each got 100 Cedis (appx. $71) and left with official documents and a notebook in which to keep a record of all of their expenditures and income. The main problem that we are currently facing is constant reminders for the women to pay, and getting them to use the notebook and record their transactions. Many of the women are Muslim and know only Arabic, and the majority of the rest have only learned Twi. This has led to the development of an English education program that I will take on to teach loan recipients basic English for business purposes. It is still in the beginning phases so there needs to be an established time and place for meetings, and a developed curriculum.

I also suggested today to start a Read to Succeed program in a local junior high school. One project being conducted by Justine is to provide a library with electricity to five of the poorest performing schools in the area and entice them to do well on their exams by offering a prize to the highest performing school. The Read to Succeed program would branch off from this to entice individual children to read. It would require children to read and summarize a set amount of books in a certain period of time. The ‘winner’ would get a prize at the end.

All in all today was a very productive day. I hope it continues in this fashion since Hayford has big ambition for expanding the NGO to cover many of Ghana’s needs. This evening Hayford, Katherine, and I spent the night talking about our lives outside of the NGO, but also discussed many of the issues that Ghanaians face. The shortage of food, potable water, books, health care, and education are all hot topics. It finally feels as though I am here for a purpose.

I am also currently watching a newt/lizard crawl across my bedroom floor…this will get old quickly.

Ghanaian Travel Tip #41: According to a volunteer, newts will not bother you so do not fear them. They are identifiable by round pads on their feet.

Ghanaian Travel Tip #42: Don’t listen to what volunteers say, all reptiles are creepy. The 6-inch variety is considered a ‘baby’ here.

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2 Responses to “How Is It Midnight?”

  1. Dad Says:

    Hi Christina

    Sounds like you are doing exactly what you wanted to do, I am happy for you.

    It’s almost midnight here as well.

    Love You
    Dad

  2. Mom Says:

    Better you than me with the newt/lizard situation. I am glad you gan finally see the glimmer of light on the horizon. Money and the english language… who would have thought you would luck out and be involved and helping people in two areas you both enjoy and are experienced in. I have another suggestion. I keep doing this, but as you know we brainstorm well together, so I figure you dont mind. If there was a quarterly incentive given to the women who pay on time every time or pay the loan back early, it might get rid of a lot of the hounding that has to be done to get them to pay. A large anual incentive could also be offered for payment, bookkeeping and all the other requirements of the program to the woman who does the most accurate and timely work. I dont know what they would cherish, but it seems that food items and school for their children seem important to them so you might be able to figure some way to make that work in some way for incentive.

    I am confident you will do well in this setting, and before you know it you will be able to see the fruit of your labor, so chin up.

    When life gives you lemons make lemon bars.

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