05 April 2014

Guest Blogger: Ole Becker the Wusuta Volunteer

Ole was kind enough to write up a blog post for me on his experience volunteering at Wusuta Royal Academy! Ole was placed there from the German GIZ for an entire year so I felt that he would have much more experience and knowledge to share with us about what it's like to volunteer for Father Isaac in Wusuta Royal Academy. But in actual fact, what Ole wrote up began with the opposite. Even though Ole has an entire year of experience, what he tries to get across in his story is that no foreigner, not even him, will ever be able to accurately and fully share the store of a Ghanaian village, school, or student. Because only a Ghanaian who has grown up in such circumstances truly understands what it is like. I appreciate that Ole recognizes this as many foreign volunteers often feel entitled and knowledgeable due to their experiences. More importantly, Ole tries to break down any stereotypes or preconceived notions that Canadian readers may have about Ghana by offering an account of their daily lives in a relatable way, proving that we are all really the same. He gives real names and real experiences to real students, which often gets lost in the perceptions created by media and charities that try to over generalize the big issues in order to spark extreme reactions. I think Ole proves how its important to keep a realistic and empathetic understanding when it comes to experiencing other cultures.

Ole (left) at his desk in the head office.

I am not able to inform you about schools in Africa. I am not able to write about the schools in Ghana and I'm not even able to tell you the story of Wusuta Royal Academy. But I can tell you some single stories I experienced in the year I lived in Wusuta. Those single stories will give you an idea of the school and the students. But this idea you have will always be unfinished. It will not even be close to reality and my stories will compete with the ideas you may have about Ghana. So keep in mind that neither you nor me really know how things are going.
In my imagination all Canadian Kids have to walk to school using snow shoes. Otherwise they will get stuck in the massive amount of snow that is falling all the year through. They have to be careful, sometimes a bear will follow them, when they walk through the deep pine forests to reach civilization. This is the single story I know about school in Canada, therefore it must be true for all the students.
People know one single story about the whole continent of Africa. The people are suffering from hunger, sickness and disease. But still they are happy.
Let me tell you about some problems some children have. What can be a problem for a young student, attending the Royal Academy? Martin and Abigail from class 3 want to become great soccer players, but the older boys are always playing on the field. That means they have to play on the side. Christian from the 5th grade always wants to make the best jokes and today he is just not able to come up with a good one. His classmate Florence is frustrated because the break was too short to eat all the food her mother gave her for school. Joshua is sad, because he and his friends just lost a game of soccer against some boys out of class 6. Ernestine wants to write a good mark in the upcoming class test, because her mother promised to give her a surprise. Derick has to do his Homework in the afternoon, that means he will not be able to meet his friends and John wasn't able to figure out a way to convince his father to allow him to watch a movie with friends in the evening. Nicholas from the 8th grade really wants to impress Veronica, but she is not caring about him. Patricia is going to the 9th grade and is studying really hard because she will write her final exams soon and she wants her parents to be proud of her. Divine tried to read his new book, but the teacher forbid it during his lesson. Michael has similar problems: Cell phones are not allowed in the classroom, not in Ghana, not in Germany and probably not in Canada. And I know a story about a school principal who is working all day long to provide the students a good learning environment. Education is the key to success this is true all over the world. Of course there are other stories about a lack of learning materials, inefficient education systems, an improvable health system, but they have been told too often, they have become a small placeholder for the whole reality.
- Ole Becker

Ole also notes:
In the presidential Election in 2012 the president received between 50.70% of the votes. The opposition went to Court. After 9 months the court declared the vote valid. No insider deals and complains before and no anger after the decision was announced. Of course: Ghana is a democracy not like the so-called “oldest democracy of the world”, the year 2000 sends its greetings.

27 February 2014

Conscious Condoms for Safer Sex

The condom aisle is a battlefield. Trojan vs Magnum screaming masculine sex. Branding is everything and this kind perpetuates stigmas that make it difficult for women to engage in safe sex. Plus this is done in an unsustainable and unethical way. Meanwhile many people around the world have trouble finding access to condoms.

Don't fret, there is an answer! I came across a page by PolicyMic that brought to my attention there are three condom companies who seek to do something about these issues! (Check this link for more info)

It is a brilliant answer at that! Everything I love about a company.
1. Buy one give one
This is a smart concept that capitalizes off of doing good and giving donations through consumers who would be purchasing particular products anyways. If you need to buy 60 dollar shoes or 1 dollar condoms anyways, why not give one to someone in need while you're at it? The problem with this model, as many have criticized the popular TOMS for, is that giving donations is not sustainable. I mean, if you give a child a pair of shoes then s/he can walk for a couple months. But if you give a parent a job to make shoes then s/he can afford shoes for their child to walk for a lifetime. Cue....
2. Ethical production
The problem with the Buy one give one model is solved by these companies because they actually produce their products in the developing communities, which is important to actually produce economic sustainability within developing communities instead of just giving them donations.
3. Collaboration with other NGOs
These companies also contribute to social sustainability further by collaborating with other NGOs who are already working hard to deal with social issues like healthcare, female empowerment, and safe sex awareness.

Below is an informative video of the company that I liked the most. 

29 October 2013


I am pleased to announce that I will be featuring some GUEST BLOG POSTS from fellow volunteers at Wusuta and possibly some other visitors of Ghana! This way readers interested in volunteering at Wusuta or visiting in Ghana will get some other first hand accounts of people's experiences there!


17 October 2013

Finding my place

Looking back on all of the different places I've been. Faces I've seen. Knowing they're all still out there somewhere. Far away from the place I'm in now. Are they places that actually still exist? or are they just all old memories of a different life? So much has changed.
How do I remember all of those places? How do I carry them with me? How do I sift through all of the different places and manage to appreciate the place I'm in now? How do I know if there's a particular place that I'm meant to be in? Which place is it? And when? What if I go back to a place and it has changed? How do I let go of the old to make way for the new? How do I remain the same person in each and every place?
How can I find myself by getting lost half way around the world in a strange place? But lose myself coming home to such a familiar place? Must I go back to that place in order to find myself again?

These are the questions that distract me from managing to live my life now.

14 October 2013

Be Thankful

In the midst of being thankful for my big, adventurous and happy life I am also trying to take the time to be thankful for things that might otherwise be taken for granted. I can't help but think back to the time in Ghana when my friends and I started listing off all of the big and small things we were thankful for. Like food, drinkable water, electricity, internet, mosquito nets, hospitals, chocolate, education, new friends, the kindness of strangers and so much more.  We could not stop ourselves and the list went on for a long while. But the truth is, I am thankful for life itself. My life has been amazing, even with the hardships that I have faced I know that it is more than I deserve.

 I am thankful for the amazing year that life has thrown me  and all of the lovely people who have stuck by my side through all of the good and bad. I have witnessed unconditional love from my family and friends and with it I have learned anything is possible, even when it comes to going after your own dreams and happiness. Without that support my actions and decisions would have been a lot harder to make and be a lot more meaningless.

Most importantly I am thankful for the endless opportunities that I have here in Canada. The first example is sometimes I think "wow... how amazing is it that I have access to credit and can take out a student loan, just so that I can move out and be close to school? I can shape my life however I want? I can't believe how lucky I am!". Another example is how I visited a health clinic here in Calgary. I simply walked in and said I needed help, they took me in right away no questions asked, there were multiple nurses and doctors there to help, the office was clean, quiet and organized, they openly discussed my problem and their solution, but most amazingly I walked in and out free of charge. You might think, a typical visit to any health clinic in Canada right? Well when I compare this experience to my hospital experience in Ghana, I am overwhelmed with gratitude at how lucky I am to have such an amazing system. Not that the hospital in Ghana was remotely bad to say the least, it is just different than what I am used to and probably has less resources. Lastly, of course I have to be above all grateful for my education and job opportunities that are present in my life. These two things are really all anyone in the world needs to get there life moving in a positive direction and many people lack as much opportunity and choice that I have.

People of the world need to have equal capabilities and opportunities to make free decisions in life if there is ever to be true equality. Clearly... another "too-big" dream of mine.
Obviously there is also too much to be thankful for this thanksgiving! And I will go on using my gratitude to stay happy in my life so that I may spread happiness in the lives of others. Above all I am most grateful for continuously finding new meanings of grace as it has become the word which defines my life. I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving and hope that you all take the time to also be thankful for the things that you would otherwise take for granted.

21 September 2013

Development Perceptions

Well I am back at school and trying to get back into the swing of things, which let's face it, a busy summer has anything but improved my procrastination abilities.  But one day as I sat outside on campus on a beautiful sunny day, my friend began to interrogate me with questions to try and get me thinking about my honours thesis topic. She asked me "What were you expecting going to Ghana and how did your view change afterwards?" This really got me thinking.

Before going to Ghana I had this clear vision, or assumption rather, that everyone in Ghana actually knew what development studies was, because they live it and learn it. I was excited about this opportunity to finally be able to talk to people about development because not many people in Canada understand or care what it is. But what I found out when I was in Ghana, was that it was actually much harder to talk to people about development than I had thought. I came into it expecting that their knowledge would be very similar to mine, but of course this was not true and communication was rather difficult. I realized that they were totally aware of the development situations within their communities and in Ghana, but this was simply because they have grown up living it. Their surroundings and ways of living were completely normal to them of course, but coming from a privileged part of the world I saw everything differently and all I could see was ways things could be improved. Like housing quality, or home appliances or school tools for example. So when I would ask people "What do you need?" or "How do you think thins could be better?" I had a clear vision of these answers in my mind based on what I was used to in Canada. These presumptions didn't match the answers that the people would give me. They would simply say things like money or jobs, things that would simply improve their security of living so that they continue in their way of life. This did not necessarily mean requiring a change in the WAY they lived, which is what I was picturing. Then I realized maybe some of the things that I was picturing, these people had never been exposed to before so they didn't even exactly know how things could be different, and even if they did it probably wasn't necessary to their lives.

So after Ghana I learned that no matter what the living conditions are (and trust me, from the places I experienced, their living conditions are entirely liveable compared to some parts of the world), people will continue on in their everyday lives without much concern for such things because it is simply the way they live and that's all there is to it. They are going to go on surviving in day to day life no matter what Government, NGO, or volunteer comes in from the West trying to change their lives. This leaves me with somewhat of a moral dilemma... Who am I to come in and try to help them? Who says they are asking for help? Why is this necessary if they are going to keep on keeping on? How are we to compare living conditions of Bungalows in Calgary to the Compounds in Wusuta? If both groups of people are content in life then why does it matter? To me it would seem that the Ghanaians even have a happier outlook on life than Canadians. Where does this leave me and the dreams I'm trying to achieve?

I guess this comes down to one underlaying fact that both groups are somehow aware of the fact that one group is more privileged than the other. The truth is that getting to experience Ghanaian culture and living has left me undeniably grateful for the way I live in Canada. I am grateful for my quality of education, quality of living, quality of health care and above all the endless opportunities that I have at my fingertips here. If one place can offer me all of that and another can't, then I suppose something must be missing somewhere mustn't it? This is not to say that Ghana must be made to be like Canada, but they sure do deserve a lot more than what the global system has dealt them. The same goes for the rest of the world. I suppose this comes back around to the reason I went into development in the first place, it is inhumane that so few people live in exuberance while so many suffer, and it is not right that developed countries prosper at the expense of the rest of the world. This leads me to conclude that the privilege that fate has shown me and the grace that god has given me must be shared and it is up to me to find the most sustainable and culturally appropriate way to do that. And hopefully I can instil that same desire within others along the way.

18 September 2013

Wusuta Royal Academy Website Unveiled!

Emily, Shauna and myself have been hard at work developing a website for Wusuta Royal Academy so that all of our information and fundraising efforts may be in one convenient location for those who are interested! It is a big work in progress and we still have lot's of fundraising plans to include but the website is officially ready for use so please check it out!


As well, here is our Go Fund Me donation page if you would like to help out Wusuta Royal Academy.


Let it grow.

Caring is the first step.