Ghana Together works with our Ghanaian friends of Western Heritage Home, a Ghanaian-registered and managed non-profit, to improve social, educational, and health conditions in Axim, Ghana. Together we accomplish projects, connect WHH to resourceful individuals and organizations, and create sustainable programs. We make a real difference to real people in a local, grassroots effort. Our website at tells our story.

Jan 27, 2012

From Afia Village to Axim Beach Hotel---some thoughts

From Afia Village to Axim Beach Hotel---some thoughts. Some of this is quite personal, because many of my “readers” are very familiar with the places and people and may enjoy an update.

Accra seems to be one big construction site. One huge new-to-me building is painted entirely in multi-colored Kente cloth design. The new multi-lane highway heading north is finished on the north bound lane somewhat beyond Accra but when the south bound lane ends, everyone just travels both directions on the north bound, now a “three-lane-but-no-lane-marking road.” Yikes!
Tuesday am we headed west. Just outside Accra they are building a modern overpass---suffice it to say this is about the worst traffic nightmare imaginable, with voluminous clouds of thick red dust and no detours. People told me Accra was built for 400,000 people and now several people told me it has 4,000,000---can that be?

But, James, Mozova (his employee) and I left that behind and the tropical environment emerged with village after village along the road and people selling every imaginable product under small roadside stands with canopies. After a while, James mentioned it was almost 4:00 pm, and then began the search for a “roadside  cafĂ©” with a reasonably-sized TV so we could watch Ghana play in a World Cup qualifying match. We finally found one that was really quite small, but the best available, so everything stopped and I sat and watched the game with about 30 men, several being police or military men with machine guns slung casually on the back of their chairs. And Ghana won! So all was well.
Gas here is subsidized and costs about $4.00 per gallon. Ghana has oil now, and there is a lot of controversy about the government’s policy to end the subsidies in the near future---I was told it may be well above $5 US/gal. This is a country where the average per capita GDP is about $1000-$1200/year. People feel they should benefit from their country’s resources. We followed two huge Caterpillar earthmovers on the road---going to the gold mines west of Axim---another new economic development. It’s a little wild with oil, natural gas, gold...but how will this all translate into a better life for the ordinary folks?

Finally we reached James’ home in Takoradi. How fun to see Godwin whom James has taken into his home. He seemed relaxed, happy, at home. He whispered to me his best friend is Emmanuel, and he likes school. The family is amazed at his intelligence and proud of him. He asked if I could get his OLPC for him. Luckily I had one with me that I had taken back home to repair. He loves it and is very skilled. James’ house is secure so it won’t be stolen. Since Little James has one, the two boys will teach each other.

And how fun to see their 3-year old deaf daughter again! She is remarkable, too, fitting in well, outgoing, attending an ordinary nursery school while Mom takes baby sister Heidi to work in the Jamkay shop. I have given them three books I bought in Mt Vernon for early teaching of sign language. I hope they work at it.

And Elfriede will be 18 in May! She is excited about “getting enfranchised.” It took me a bit to understand she was talking about voting in the upcoming Ghanaian Presidential election! She is the leader of a Civil Society Club in her high school. They investigate problems in their community and compete with other high schools on presentations. They did a project on a Takoradi slum—they didn’t win this time, but they are sure they’ll win next time. The “national winners” get to make their presentations on TV! Her grades are excellent she says. They are also studying all the speeches made by candidates, etc. She read my Ashesi brochure and got excited about possibly going there to become an engineer.
Many of the day-to-day frustrations of family life remain for this middle-class family. The electricity was steady this time because it’s the “dry season”, but piped water is still not available most or maybe any of the time, although they live in a settled part of the city. They carry water in on headpans from a nearby spigot, which itself only runs at certain times. Imagine running such a household with no running water!

Anastasia dropped in. She has moved on from Quicken software for bookkeeping and now uses Quickbooks and keeps the books for a medical clinic! YES! She also set up a patient record system for the clinic. Then Barbara came round. She is taking courses to become an internet/network/ administrative systems specialist! YES! She took me to her home. I met her lovely Mom and siblings. THEN, Ariana called me! She has twin boys, 10 months old. She is home with them, doesn’t get much sleep, but sounded completely happy. She is thinking about starting a little bookkeeping business in her home when they get a bit older.” Yes, I am really proud of these young women and love that I maybe gave them a little boost with a practical skill!

Then further west to Axim, where the jungle really sets in. The huge rubber plantation some of you are familiar with has been TOTALLY bulldozed. It’s amazing. A Qatar company is cutting down all the trees, grinding them up into sawdust on the spot which flows into a container which is driven by truck to Takoradi port instantly. Meanwhile, new rubber trees are planted right behind the bulldozer. The trees are sixty years old and no longer produce rubber so they’re replanting the entire thing.

Finally we arrived in Axim. The Axim Beach Hotel is more elaborate than ever---Jonas seems to expand the place by the day. I’m in a very small little room, but nicely appointed with water, shower, fan---a new volunteer quarter in a sort of court---brand new. It was good to have a really nice meal tonight, looking at the sunset over the Atlantic, and a shower! Mercy has invited me to stay with her and also Bentil’s niece has offered to stay with me at WHH, so I’ll probably be leaving here soon. Bentil and I walked downtown and had lunch at Friends. It was nice to be greeted by folks along the way.
So tomorrow I start working with folks here, looking back, looking forward, celebrating what has worked and working together to fix what needs fixing...trying to learn as much as I can. Thanks for reading. Oh, and yesterday was my birthday, but it sort of passed without remark. I’m just very happy to be alive and able to carry on. No photos this time...couldn't get it together. Next time. Love to you all, Maryanne from Axim, Ghana