Wednesday, 13 March 2013



Adventures are fun and exciting. Doing something new, leaving my comfort zone and pushing myself harder than I have ever done, all very exciting. All this has helped me to have an amazing experience for the past 2 months. But what do you when weariness sets in and all the zeal is gone? I only have 3 weeks left at my placement on Pediatorkope Island but I am already beginning to feel worn out and tired. I am alarmed to realize that I am beginning to wish my placement was already over.
For the past 2 weeks I have been away from the island attending a mandated midterm meeting in Accra. It was really nice to see everyone again after 5 weeks of placement. And even though the journey was possibly harder for those in Tamale, Bolga and far off regions from Accra, it was really nice to see everyone and to listen to all the stories and experiences. Some crazy, unbelievable and some funny as hell.

I spent the other week in a village called Akyeremateng in the Eastern region of Ghana. I was collecting data on the solar project that the NGO I am working with intends to implement soon.  This meant that I got to spend an entire week with Alex who is also interning with Empower Playgrounds, the NGO I work with in this village. It was really nice to have somebody to talk to and do stuff with for a while…FINALLY!! Alex’s village is just like mine, there is no internet, no electricity, no running water, delightful pit latrines for pooping and no phone service. I was completely cut off. This village is just a 5 minute trotro ride from BOTI Falls. It is found in a valley surrounded by hills and the only way to get to the village is by trekking up and down a hill. (I call it a mountain) I honestly don’t know how Alex does it all the time but it is a crazy trek for about 20-25 minutes, it I am so sure it took me 45 minutes to an hour to do it each time. The ground in the village is all steep and but I was able to survive all those treks up and down the hills surrounded by forest and beautifully clear skies at night…Such beauty.
I was able to collect data in the entire village with the help of the teacher Nicholas. He was really awesome!! At my village, data collection takes 30-45 minutes on the average but Nicholas did such a great job that the average time it took to do the interviews at Akyeremateng village was between 20-30 minutes. Most of the people understood the questions easily and this made the process really quick.

Being back has been a roller coaster for me with many highs and lows and I guess after being away for 2 weeks doing other things, it has been harder to fall back into my regular routine and schedule of things. Alex is here at my village spending a week with me now as well. I was really happy to be back, to see familiar faces and to hear that community members, teacher and everyone had been constantly asking and trying to find out when and if I would be back. I guess more people know of my presence than I initially thought. Going to the school, the kids were so excited to see me – more excited than I can say. They run all the way to throw themselves at me before I even got to the classroom. My presence had definitely been missed. I was of course really happy, happy to realize that I hadn’t forgotten any names or faces that I was back once again. I also found out that they had learned the song I was trying to teach them (This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine). Even though it wasn’t perfectly sung, they sang it with so much enthusiasm and I was proud to know that I had helped teach something they wouldn’t forget. I am happy as well as sad and I hope to finish my placement on a high mote.
I was hoping that a little change in scenery for 2 weeks would pump me up to finish this race with all the adrenaline I’ve got but I have realized that I am rather running low and the things I used to do  effortlessly now require effort to finish. I hope not to end up dragging my feet for the next 3 weeks. For this,I needed to figure a way to be less burned out and to complain less about the things that cause me discomfort. I came up with this solution that seemed to help a great deal. Now, every time I feel weary and burned out I carry out this exercise.


Every time I feel weary, I am going to make a list of the things that I am weary about and also the things that I am thankful for. Each day and each exercise will be different but I hope to appreciate the rest of my time here and the many good things that I enjoy on the island. Try it if you ever need a boost.

·         The heat which makes it hard to sleep at night
·         Bat invasion in my room today
·         The food which I receive from my host family
·         All the many bugs
·         Doing the same things over and over again
·         No electricity to finish my report and final presentation

·         Occasional breeze that brings me relief from the heat
·         Constant  laughter of the kids in my class and the ability to teach and to be taught by them everyday
·         The people who do things for me without me asking
·         The quiet and calm I enjoy each day
·         Living with a wonderful host family
·         Delicious coconuts which I get to eat for free all the time
·         For bicycles rides to the river
·         The ability to use and manage time and resource wisely. Priorities first always

I have realized that just writing it out makes me feel better about everything and makes me appreciate more things in my life.


Thursday, 7 February 2013


Sometimes we wonder if we can make a difference no matter where we may find ourselves, and if we could turn cloudy days into sunny ones or decide to whether we can or not. Every day I am reminded that this opportunity is passing and that I may never get it again, that decisions which take me a long time to make may take away the waiting opportunity. I learnt that challenge makes me stronger and wiser and each time I choose to keep moving forward, another thrill, another exciting adventure, another heart full of courage comes my way. I’ve learned that the word impossible doesn’t exist and now when I find myself saying it, I feel like a fool because nothing really is impossible. Everything is possible once there is a sincere, willing heart, one that gives all of its self, the best it can. For usually, our best is the possibility.

There are days when I get tired of the heat and everything seems to exhaust me. When the constant chatter of my kindergartners seems to be a nuisance and when I have so much to do that I can’t seem to figure out what and where to start. Most mornings I lie awake in my bed, unwilling to get up, especially so on days when the nights have been really warm. Some days turn out good in the end and others help me to learn a lot more about myself and the things around me. But I am glad that one thing that never leaves is the peace I always feel. It’s always there even on days where I am tired and stressed out and when I feel I don’t have the strength to do anything, not even smile.
Today I watched as my little kids learned new sentences. I saw how excited they got when they were asked to repeat it and how they giggled and laughed at the affirmation that they received from the teacher. I watched them and realized how easy it is to laugh at the simple things we have.

I have just started with my research project on the island, the main reason why I came to live on the island. I am collecting data for a big solar project that Empower Playgrounds INC, the organization I work with wants to start. I am therefore collecting data on the entire island, a really daunting task but I hope to finish it before I leave…nothing is impossible. This project involves me going to all the households on the island and interviewing them. This island is the biggest of the 5 islands and there are 22 villages on it. Most of them are far apart and involve a lot of trekking to and fro. Some of them I have been told are inaccessible and would require me going in a canoe or boat. This is what I have been doing and will be doing until my 12 weeks are done.( I am already in my 4th week) I have been given an IPAD for the data collection –awesome!! I know. I am using an app called the IFORM to collect the data. It’s pretty fast actually and very techy. No papers, no stress or missing data, the IPAD has internet which enables me to send the form immediately I am done filling it out.  It’s got GPS and a really cool Google mapping system so I am able to see where I am and so can everyone with assess to the form. There are about 40 questions which I ask and since I don’t speak the language which is Dangme, I usually need a translator. The teachers in the school have been helping me out by going with me to the villages however they can’t always go with me since they have to teach. I still don’t have any one permanent that is helping me out with that but I am grateful that when I call on them they come and fill in for me. Going to the villages has helped me to know other parts of the island and to see more of it. its been really stressful and tiring asking questions over and over again but I am enjoying all the new things I am seeing and doing and learning and I am really grateful to have this opportunity to be a part of something that will be a blessing to others.

I move from house to house collecting information about how much they spend and earn, how much they spend on fuel for power and whether they are employed or not and if they will be able to make payments monthly. So far I have been to 3 villages so 19 more to go. Most of the people have been lamenting that so many people have been to their houses to ask them about the same things and to bring them electricity but nothing has come out of it and nothing has been seen. I sincerely don’t know what to say to them in times like these because I dont know when the solar project will be started on the island by EPI.  Most of the people here have no jobs and majority of the people here are self-employed and poor.  Moving from house to house collecting data and listening to the stories community members tell me seems to sink my heart each day. When I ask people how much they make, they snort and say it is impossible to calculate one lady told me, “This is a basket of palm nuts I am cleaning up and preparing to sell. Whatever I get, that is what I am going to use to feed myself and my family. I have no income, I have nothing. When I ask about how many people live in a house they always have to do a head count which takes forever. I don’t know about you but I know the number of people that live in my house and I can tell you even if I am half asleep. The men would ask their wives to do the counting and usually they are the ones who don’t know how many children live in the house. Someone told me once that in some communities in Ghana, fathers don’t count the number of children in the house because it’s the number of things you own, animals, houses, farms etc that are counted and not human beings. Human beings are not to be counted like animal (I have no opinion on this matter; you tell me what you think).

 Most of stories are a little depressing and people here spend a lot of money on food, buying kerosene for kerosene lamps and batteries for torchlights since there is no power. Most basic things are luxuries here and whenever I ask people about how many fridges and computers they have, I feel really silly. Who would be having a fridge and a computer in a village with no electricity? I wonder why this is even on my interview list. Being here has opened my eyes to so many things. Life can be simpler and meaningful if we let it; it can be beautiful small but still filled with contentment if we let it be. It can be peaceful and calm if we let it. So many times we forget about this, live through life like passing moments and like tides on the sea, going and coming, never staying and never bringing or leaving anything meaningful. Why don’t we purpose in our hearts to live life in service of others, to let go of all the comforts and to leave home in search of something bigger than ourselves. Sometimes all it takes is a little dreaming, a little wanting, a little giving of our selves. Do something different but something worthwhile, something that will bring some joy where there hasn’t been any. Live a life building schools, libraries, hospitals for villages with none so that kids can go to school, can read and can be healthy. Why don’t we leave that same pattern of life that everyone follows, that does not fulfill, and do something that will change a little corner of our world? If today you have an opportunity to do this don’t say no. if you don’t have an opportunity create one, find some satisfaction if you can, but don’t sit still doing something you know brings you no joy and makes no impact. There is so much you and I can do for the people of this world. We may not have much but we have feet to move and hands to work.

I’ve been trying to figure out what I really want to do with my life, what I want to achieve. Living on an island without running water, electricity, WC’s, and comforts have made the picture clearer than it could have ever been. It took a village without electricity, far from home to make me see clearer. I still don’t have a big picture but I have lots of little clear pieces and I hope to fit them together soon. There is so much more to life, to living, to being. If you can choose to do something crazy, then being a receptionist, waiter, teller, and cashier won’t be enough and you’d always need more and want more. So today if you have an opportunity, don’t miss the sunrise, for opportunities are like sunrises, if you wait too long, you can miss them. Life is waiting to happen; you just have to take a step of Faith.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

A Pocket Full of Passion

 I just got back from Accra after having spent this weekend with some of my friends. A nice break is always good. I realized that I hadnt really missed much in Accra. Coming back to the island I brought back with me is a pocket full of passion. Passion for doing something I love, getting something I want – joyful passion I call it. I have been soo busy this past two weeks trying to fit in, to get adjusted and to finally say, well this is home!! How could I have forgotten good old passion? Coming back from Accra yesterday gave me a renewed sense of that and for the first time since I arrived two weeks ago, I felt the flicker in my eyes and the anxiousness that comes with wanting  to live every bit of this passing moment instead of enduring it. This past week has been great!! I am officially an islander now. If you call me a stranger I’ll tell you I’m from here. If you call me an acquaintance I’ll tell you I’m a friend. Some days have been hard, when trying to control a bunch of 30 kids in one class does not seem to work and the only option is to use a cane but I still refuse to do so. Kids screaming, complaining, fighting, running around and not paying attention – this is a typical characteristic of a day that’s not going too well but the ones that hit hard on my heart are days when the kids don’t do class work because they have no books, can’t afford to buy pencils or have no 50 pesewas lunch money to pay for the lunch that is served at the school. There are some days where I seem to lose my patience with myself and with the children because they either don’t make any efforts at learning or just really need help in grasping what is being taught. On days like this I am ashamed of myself because I can do better, be more patient and be more understanding. Most times all they really need is a little bit of attention from me. But no one learns everything in a day and as time comes and goes, learning and experience brings maturity.

This past week something bizarre happened. A 5 year old Kindergartner was sent to the hospital at night. What happened? She had been stabbed by her father on the head. He came over to their hut to threaten his wife who he does not live with anymore. She is a single parent as he does not take care of any of his kids. The wife tried to escape and unfortunately this little girl was also in the room. He stabbed her instead and afterwards, without any remorse slashed her cheeks as well. He was of course arrested and put behind bars but from what I am hearing he has probably been released. I still cannot comprehend how a father can do this to his own daughter? How this really beautiful kid is now scarred physically and emotionally and how she is going to grow up with scars on her face? I saw her at school a few days later; she had bandages all over her face. All the other kids were staring at her. She says no words and when you speak to her she only nods. She is a really strong kid and I hope that she will do fine. According to the other teachers, she was seen dancing at church days later and no one could make her sit down, she refused. What an amazing spirit she has J

The island is a great place to live. I like it more with each passing is very big and full of kids. There are kids everywhere. Most of the families have at least 5 kids or more according to my observations. They never tire of screaming MADAM- MADAM every time they see me. I gave my KG’ers a treat this past week by showing them the Lion King animated movie. Imagine a class full of 50+ small faces looking intently on a tiny laptop screen with the look of surprise on their faces. I am unsure of whether they have seen a laptop before, it is probably unlikely judging from their reactions but it was a good movie hour of silence and some chaos when some kids kept standing instead of sitting in order to see more. They did not understand the language but they intently followed the story with their curious eyes. Tomorrow I will be showing them another animated movie and again every Wednesday of the week. This promises to be fun. I have been doing lot of creative things with the kids and I have realized that they enjoy doing new things. They are always so excited to do something new. We have been painting and drawing using most of the school supplies I brought (colours, crayons A4 sheets) because most of the kids don’t have any. You should see their enthusiasm, it’s absolutely amazing. Kids are amazing!!!

On the lighter side.......

This is what one of my kids drew today. We were learning about the parts of the body and we taught them about the lungs for air and the heart that beats in our chest. We asked them to draw  the human body and this is what one of the kids drew….LOVEABLE!!

Monday, 21 January 2013


This past week has been a long one for me.  For me, it’s been the most challenging week of my year yet. On Monday I was dropped off on an unknown Island, cut off from the rest of the main Ada land. Days before coming, I was restless, finally realizing that I was about to embark on a crazy adventure. I was restless because I couldn't back out and wouldn't be able to anticipate my reactions to things, and interactions with people and the environment. I have been here for 8 days and have endured the really warm nights in a mosquito net. I have no choice since the insects here bite with a menacing vengeance, and the thatched roof does little to ease my current sufferings from the heat.

The first two days were particularly hard. I felt very isolated and lonely with no one to talk to. My host family is great but even the constant chatter of the host kids did nothing to soothe me. I had forgotten that I needed to allow myself to get acquainted with my new experience. I was still two days behind in time, wanting to take a nice long shower in the morning instead of an untreated bucket shower from the river, wanting to wake up and do whatever I wanted with my day, turning on the fan all day in my room and most of all using power whenever and however I wanted. These past few days have taught me differently and no matter how much I would want to cry during those days, I have finally learned to appreciate simplicity, orderliness and chaos side by side; loneliness and friendly chatter from a person I just met and most importantly, contentment. At night I sit outside with nothing to do because it is dark everywhere, then I watch the stars up in the sky and soak up the moonlight. Nothing beats being able to do that every night in all the calm and cool breeze all around me.

I live with a host family in a compound with two mud house which have thatched straw roofs. There is spacing between the roof and the wall which means insects can come in and out whenever they please. I have my own room, something I am very grateful for. Almost everything is done for me by my host family.  My house is a 2 minute walk to the beach but most of the riverbank is covered with a tree which means less beach space. There are several communities here on the island (I never seem to remember the names. Mine is called Kpetupanya. The main occupation here is oyster mining and fishing. There are oyster shells everywhere, heaps and heaps of them and they are also used for paths and walk ways. I tried some this past week but still getting used to it. My host family kids take me around the island. I have seen about 80% of it, hopefully by the end of this week I will be able to see all of it.

For the past week, I have been interning at the Pediatorkope Basic School on the island. It also serves some of the other islands that do not have schools. I help out as a Teacher’s Assistant in the kindergarten class. My class has a lot of children and most of the class activities are conducted in Ga- Adangme which is the prominent local language here. I don’t understand Adangme as I only speak Twi. This makes interaction very hard for me because the children know little or no English and most children in class 1 and 2 still can’t speak English.  It’s taken me a while to get adjusted with the school and the children. I remember most of their names now and can tell them apart. Now the kids know me as “Madam” or “Teacher”. I wish I was J . Most of them are very slow and have difficulty grasping basic concepts, even ABCD’s; they still can’t write it out. The teacher I work with is great and we get along really well. I hope when I start the research part of my internship in a few weeks, I will be able to have time to still help out at the school.

School starts at 7.30am and closes at 1.50pm, and then I walk home with the children, down by the beach so I can see the calm water moving quietly along the river bank before I get home. No traffic, no congestion, no pollution, just lots of slow and reflective time.  I know my way around now and even though I am still regarded as a stranger, I am getting to know the community more and more. And the coconuts, simply delicious, I have never had such delicious coconuts before in my life. I told my host kids that I am not eating anymore coconuts. They asked me why? I told them that if you eat too many coconuts you will grow fat. They seem to think that it was the most ridiculous and funniest thing ever. I got a good laugh at my expense; even my host mother seemed to think it was ridiculous and joined in as well….OH!! The simple things!!

Things I have learned this past week
1.      People are welcomed here with coconuts, not coffee or Tea
2.      Everybody knows everybody (I get interrogated every time I leave the house: who are you, where you are from; what are you doing here. The questions never end).
3.      Electricity and running water is a privilege here
4.      If you have an opportunity to do something positively different, never say no.
5.      There is always a smile waiting to be shared somewhere around you.  Share it back

On the lighter side…
One guy was shaving another grown man’s armpit at the beach, as I was taking a canoe back to the Island from Big Ada on Saturday afternoon. He seemed very excited and fascinated about having it done with a razor. He kept giggling - am guessing that this was his first time. He had both shaved, and then he touched it and smiled… (TIGO). THIS IS GHANA OH!!

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

The Beginning


You have not lived until you have done something for someone who cannot repay you...

Going to live on an island without electricity and running water for 3 months is a big challenge. Beginning from January, I will be interning for 3 months with Empower Playgrounds on an Island in Ada known as Pediatokope Last week I had the chance you go visit the Island and to meet my host family. You know how its great when you tell people the amazing thing you will be doing and everyone is happy and excited for you, then you finally get to visualize what it is going to be and you realize that you are scared to the bone because its right in front of you and it is as real as it gets. No running water, no electricity which means NO Fans No TV No internet. Life is back to the basics when we had time to think and create and spend time with people without running off to see the next TV show or to Skype with friends living a million miles away. WHAT HAVE I GOTTEN MY SELF INTO...

As scary and crazy as it seems I know this is going to be an amazing adventure. In any case, I've got nothing to lose. A few months without all these basics wont kill me, It only promises to make me a stronger person. To leave my comfort zone for the first time in my life and to think about others more that i think about myself. Life does not get any better than this I tell you and I hope in the end I will appreciate this awesome opportunity to be a blessing. But most of all, I hope to leave something that will help better the lives of the people who live on the island especially the children and to leave something behind that transcends anything this growing material world has to offer.

In view of this, I have started a small donation drive at the hostel I live in and hopefully, I will have enough basic supplies for all the children and for some of the families I will be working with. I am hoping to start an after school programme so books and supplies would be great. Thanks to Najwa Yasmeen Webster for donating most of her stuff to me before leaving Ghana. I will keep you posted when the items are distributed.

These are pictures of the Island :)

Life does not get any better than this...