"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." -Margaret Mead

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Oh what a week!

To even begin to process all that has happened this week is not humanly possibly in the amount of time I have to write this blog. The essence of this recon trip was to gather information and develop relationships. We have collected more information about the project than expected. We learned so much about the culture, history, and livelihood for the Ghanian people we encountered. Most importantly, we built a solid foundation of trust, honesty, and committment with our partners that will surely be the building blocks for a successful project.

When we return to the states, we will post blogs about the different stages and connections from the week. We have so much to share about the willingness of the team and the contributions of the community. Until then, I will leave you with a thought.

Last night we were able to step out with our UT friends Lindsay and Erika with a group of Ghania friends. As we sat around a table, listening to music, enjoy cool beverages, and spending time getting to know one another, I became fascintated by the dancing....

At the front of the outside bar area was a band. They wore traditional gard of yellow cloth and sang with smiles in each note. The people around us joined in singing the words spoken in a native tongue. The beats of the drum beckoned for you to dance. There is a movement to the way of life here that is similar to the dance. A community of dancers joining in on a great time. I will explain more soon!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Tuesday Blog Post

Yesterday morning we drove 4 hours from Accra to Patriensa. The greeting we received by the Conticini, Queen Mother, and Chief's council was humbling. Tim and I feel very assured in the success of this project after walking in the village, seeing the water pump that was installed last year, the potential location of the sachet production building, and much discussion with Pastor Kofi, Nana Yaw Kwakye, and the Conticini. We were able to measure the parameters of the land that will be utilized for the proposed building, determine where we can T into the current well piping, and the pipe length that will be necessary to run from that T to the proposed buliding. We also visited some sawmills to determine what sawdust and lumber is available.

Today we traveled to Kumasi. We were able to visit a sachet water production company. We were shown how the machines work and get a visual idea of the building requirements and layout necessary for such a project. We also visited the store where the machines and necessary equipment (pumps, filters) are sold.

We can't wait to give more updates after we meet with Nana Yaw Kwakye and Pastor Kofi in the morning and have a social with KNUST students in the afternoon!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Sunday in Ghana

Today we woke up feeling rested and excited.  It was our first day in Accra.  What an incredible new adventure we are on together.  Mary and I (Tim) had breakfast in the hotel cafe alone.  We sipped on our single brew hot tea and listened to the music and dancing of the church service above us in the gathering hall.  As we enjoyed the hospitality of our Ghanian hosts and a delicious meal, we talked about this program.  We discussed our personal expectations and our lingering worries of the implementation.  We are not doubting the success, just analyzing how to get everything done in our short time here to make the next few months go smoothly.  I enjoyed hearing Mary talk about what she thought of our program and experience.

The schools of engineering (Mary's background) and social work (my background) come from different frameworks of thought.  We bring very diverse and unique perspectives to this shared experience, but recognize the amazing opportunity the UT Program for Underserved Communities (PUC) offers to students.  Beyond the educational learning from project management, the greater social lesson is founded in community empowerment.  Pastor Kofi, the Presbyterian minister who is one of our partners in Patriensa, talked with Mary and I today about his community.  He talked about their challenges but also emphasized their potential. He is such a kind man.  You can recognize from his word that his is passionate about helping the people of his community.

We went to Trashy Bags to meet with Stuart Gold.  Trashy Bags is helping to address a societal issue of plastic pollution from litter by repurposing and recycling used sachet waste.  A sachet is a small plastic pouch that holds individual servings of water, juice, ice cream, etc... We were able to hear about the exciting work this organization has been doing in Ghana and the plans for expanding the impact throughout Ghana and to other areas with similar issues.  When beginning our process of planning for the sachet packaging project, we learned of the threat to the environment of these bags.  Dr. Dorie Gilbert, UT Social Work professor who has been working in Ghana for 12 years, had advised us of the amounts of litter scattered across the landscape.  We made an intentional decision as a group to make sure we had a recycling and repurposing portion of this project.  After our meeting today, it seems we will effectively be able to facilitate the creation of a micro-finance opportunity for a group in the village that will employ 10-15 people and create sustainable revenue for the community. The main product they will be creating is called a SMART bag.  It is similar to a shopping bag you would take to the grocery store with you.  It folds up and zips closed for storage and ease of carry.  This bag is made of 70 sachet bags sewn together.  What sticks in my mind from our meeting was that those 70 bags represent 70 different stories from the people who consumed the water and yet are now together for a single purpose to create a bag that provides a new product and helps eliminate litter.

What an amazing day.  We are resting for a moment now.  I am sitting here in a quiet room listening to the sounds of the city.  There is an light breeze blowing and the air is warm and thick.  In the distance I can hear children playing and traffic buzzing up and down the nearest streets.  As I reflect on this moment I am still in awe that we are here.  Although the hardest of the work is before us, the most rewarding lies there as well.  Dr. Gilbert told us that in Ghana, especially when working on international projects like this one, the journey does not fully begin until they are able to see us and make a connection.  Mary and I are being humbled by what we see and inspired by who we meet.  Tonight we will be dining with Dr. Osei Darkwa who the President of a local university and a community leader in development for Patriensa.

There will be so much more ahead, but thank you all for your kind thoughts and well wishes as we are on this journey together.  As we are more remote throughout the week our updates may not be as frequent, but we look forward to sharing new experiences with you along the way.

Til then,
Tim and Mary

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The time has finally arrived!

Mary and I (Tim) are all packed and ready to go.  We are greatly anticipating meeting our Ghanian partners and meeting the wonderful people of Patriensa.  There is so much planned for the upcoming week, but Mary and I are so anxious to being.  Stay tuned for updates, pictures, and videos!

Until we get to Ghana!