I’m writing this on June 27th 2013, which is our last day in Takoradi. Last Friday, we had what turned out to be my favourite event of the trip so far. First, May, Fred and I led a P.E activity at the YMCA Vocational Training Institute (VTI), which was ridiculously fun. I got recruited into a soccer game (which my team won, no thanks to me) and then into an impromptu dance circle. After we were all Azonto-ed out (Azonto is one of our favourite Ghanaian dances), we all took a break. Then, the students did a clean-up activity at the campus that went spendidly. They removed more than forty bags of trash from the informal dumping site behind the campus, dug the mud out of the drainage ditch in front of the school, and filled in the potholes in the school driveway with cement. May and I both worked with them, and we were so impressed by how dedicated they were to their work.
Over the course of the last week, we have worked closely with the new volunteers, Kayla and Stephanie. We have helped them utilize our research on young entrepreneurs to inform their workshops directed towards entrepreneurs. Kayla and Stephanie have recently graduated from the Richard Ivey School of Business and since May and I had done most of the baseline research on entrepreneurs earlier in our program, we were able to act as crucial sources in the development of their workshop. Working with them has been immensely gratifying because we can see our work having an impact on future projects and on people. Also, since much of development work is based around a model of slow progressive growth that has a gradual but permanent impact. We were lucky enough to see some of the impact of our work right before our eyes. On the other hand, it was a bit of a tease for us because we only saw the beginning of their work. I know I would have loved to continue working in Takoradi to see how Stephanie and Kayla’s work develops in the coming weeks.
It has been fascinating for me to work with Stephanie and Kayla and to guide them around Takoradi, because it illustrated to me how much I’ve learned and changed in the last five weeks. As we led them around Takoradi, I couldn’t help but notice the intimidated look in their eyes I had when I first arrived here. Takoradi is a wonderful city, but it is also loud, confusing, colorful, and very very different from any North American city I’ve been to. Honestly, when I first arrived here I was not sure how I could adapt to these differences. Watching Stephanie and Kayla, I realized how comfortable I had become in Takoradi. My ability to become comfortable and feel truly at home in Takoradi was mainly made possible by the incredible people there. Both May and I were welcomed so warmly by everyone here, and I feel I have made some of the kindest, most caring friends I will ever have. Our co-workers at the YMCA VTI made our work both possible and highly enjoyable, and more importantly, provided us with a sense of community. One man particularly, Nana Perperah Antwi, who worked directly with us for each of the projects war incredibly welcoming and a large part of why I felt so comfortable here. Watching the YMCA staff work with Stephanie and Kayla has been made poignant for me by the knowledge that I was going to leave Takoradi today. Introducing those two to Takoradi demonstrated to me how deeply entrenched we had become in our community and routine.
Also, one of the highlights of our final week in the community was bringing lunch to the YMCA VTI students at their external testing site to thank them for being fantastic participants in the workshops and for their hard work during the garbage clean-up exercise. May had the brilliant idea of providing lunch for the students and Nana’s mother kindly offered to make the food. The students were so happy.
Now, May and I are caught in the interesting position of neither staying nor leaving properly, because we are leaving our community to go to Koforidua, but we’re not leaving the country yet. And as I watched Kayla and Stephanie adapt to a new unfamiliar environment over the last week, I realized that I was beginning to feel the same nervous anticipation I felt before I left for Ghana. I had the somewhat paradoxical experience of feeling settled in what was a completely unfamiliar place and nervous about the unfamiliar in my future. Now, as we go to Koforidua, I feel I am experiencing culture shock again, but it is interesting how truly comfortable I am in Ghana. It is also odd to suddenly experience the unfamiliar again among the only recently familiar. Still, I expect and hope that Koforidua will be just as open and welcoming as Takoradi. Onward to Koforidua!
-Alec Lynch, Youth Ambassador, Ghana 2013