"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

Thursday, June 28, 2012


This is my final post! I am currently typing this in the US. Right now everyone is home except for Jeseth, who will be travelling for a few weeks. She will return to Patriensa in mid-July to assess the status of the business and to bring home some Food and Drug Board-approved sachets. Right now our team is working on a few reports to pass on to our corporate partners and to any PUC teams who may work in the community in the future. Soon our work on this project will be complete and we will go our separate ways.

It’s been more than a month since we arrived in Ghana, and I still can’t believe we accomplished as much on the ground as we did. It’s been more than nine months since the team started the project, and looking back, we’ve come a long way since then. I’ve actually only been on the team since January and I’ve invested a lot time and emotions on this project, but I can only imagine how the other team members feel. And even more so for the community who’ve been waiting years to see this project to reach completion.

This whole project has been very fulfilling to me. From an engineering stand point, it has been a valuable experience. None of my 130+ class hours have really prepared me for this trip. It was surreal to find myself haggling with a mason who could barely speak English over a cement slab. Or wandering through the busiest market in the second largest city in Ghana trying to find parts that I didn’t even know the American name for. They don’t really offer courses for those kinds of skills at a university. I think the most gratifying moment was seeing the finished tank stand, which was one of my only responsibilities during the design portion of the class. I had spent several late nights designing and redesigning the structure on software I had never used before, but it was a good feeling to see a tangible fruit of my labor. It was an even better feeling knowing that I had used what little skills I have to benefit a community.

Culturally speaking, this trip has been invaluable. I don’t have much experience traveling; not even within the US. I had a lot of misconceptions about Africa coming into this trip. One was that everyone was poor, starving, and unhappy. Although there are some countries in Africa where this may be partially true, in Ghana, this is not the case. Every child I saw had a smile on its face and a plump belly. Another thing I heard before the trip was that Africa was too dangerous to travel to. Although there are several nations still facing war, genocide, and child slavery, Ghana and many other African nations, are very peaceful, and have less crime and violence than many western countries. As our driver George told me, “Ghanaians don’t fight with guns; we only fight with our words.” Furthermore, this trip has forced me to appreciate the luxuries we enjoy here in the US. More importantly, I’ve realized how unnecessary those luxuries are in order to live a fulfilling, joyous life.

Overall, I consider our stay in Ghana a success. Not only were we able to enrich our academic and cultural awareness, but we were able to help out a community that needed support. The two semesters of planning and engineering we invested were worth the pay off. Also, I have confidence that Patriensa Pure Foundation is in good hands. Between the community, the board of directors, UT faculty, and future student teams, I feel that this foundation will continue to benefit Patriensa and UT for many years to come.

That’s all for now. After I update the old posts with pictures, this blog will probably be inactive unless a new team takes over.

Thanks for all the support,

Matt, Kristina, Jeseth, Kim, and Caroline

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