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.
Tim and Mary