Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A look at the second week in Ghana for GLOBASE participants

Guest post by Catherine Wendt
First-year MBA, Consumer Marketing Academy

Sunday, March 11th started our second week in Ghana. It was a free day and we all took a leisurely morning, not having to be up and ready to go by 6 or 7AM as some groups had been the past week.  About half of our group went to the local crafts market  and spent about an hour wandering around and haggling for the best deal. After, a group of roughly 15 people walked over to the nearby football (soccer) stadium. The match between Accra and Tema wasn’t much to watch, except for the theatrics occasionally performed by one overly dramatic player, but it was still an experience.
One of the Boats on the Volta River

The next morning, the journey to Ada (on the coast, east of Accra) took about 2 hours. Once we reached Ada, we enjoyed a delicious Ghanaian meal while basking in the breeze and sun on the cabanas at our launching point. After lunch, we piled into two long wooden boats and set off down river to where the river meets the ocean. We passed idyllic strands of palm trees and fishing villages which left everyone in awe.
We disembarked on a thin strip of sandy beach with river on one side and ocean on the other, all very excited to go play in the ocean, walk along the beach, and collect shells from the thousands strewn about the shore. The trip to Ada was a much needed break from the heat and an opportunity to just relax. Many of us ended up a little pinker than we would have liked, but it was well worth it.

On Tuesday, we headed out of Accra, west to beautiful Cape Coast, with two very anticipated stops along the way: Challenging Heights and Hovde House.
One of the group’s clients, James Kofi Annan, was a former child slave who escaped and went on to finish his education. He found his calling in starting a non-profit organization dedicated to helping keep children from being trafficked into slavery and to rescue those already in those atrocious situations. These children from at-risk families and many of those who have been rehabilitated after years of slavery attend Challenging Heights school. Like the children at New Horizons, they were overjoyed to see us and we couldn’t stop grinning as well. If they saw you had a camera, they wanted to hold it and to take pictures of themselves, their friends, and would jump into the scene to be in any picture being taken. And of course, with modern digital photography capabilities, they knew they could immediately look at the picture and therefore would scramble back over and ask you to show the picture. It was overwhelming, yes, but in a wonderful way. They were so genuinely happy to see us, just to play and interact with us. They asked us every question they could think of and climbed all over us. Recess was so much fun, but exhausting, to say the least. After recess, the children returned to their classrooms and we were split up to go help with the different classes.

Kelley team with Hovde House team after our game
After a ceremonial handshake and handing over books and supplies we brought with us as donations, we got back on the bus, went for lunch, and then set off to the Hovde House. The Hovde House was about an hour from Challenging Heights and set up in the mountains (maybe just very large hills) away from the coast. This facility works in conjunction with Challenging Heights and is the location where children are brought to be treated for maladies of all sorts and emotional trauma when they are rescued from slavery. We had been asked earlier if we would like to play a game of soccer here with the children—our response was yes, of course we wanted to! And then they came out in full uniforms, cleats, and chanting. We knew we didn’t stand a chance. The game, however, wasn’t as bad as expected and highly entertaining. It ended up with them winning in a final shoot out and everyone leaving in high spirits. After, we drove back to dinner and then on to our new rooms at the Coconut Grove Beach Resort.
Baskets of fish being processed
Wednesday morning, in daylight, Cape Coast was stunningly beautiful. There were rocks in the ocean which makes it so you can’t swim, but you can still walk along the beach and a little bit into the water. Later that morning, we all piled into our bus for a short drive to a local fishing village. At the fishing village, a local man took us around and told us about how the fish are caught, washed, and then processed. We were shown the giant stacks of racks where the fish are laid out and smoked and how the different types of fish are prepared. He explained that it is the women who prepare and smoke the fish once the men bring in the catch. Bringing in the catch involves many men, and sometimes even whole villages because the nets are hundreds of feet across and weighted by lead weights and can take several hours to pull in.

From here we continued on to visit one of the many former slave castles in Ghana. The structure itself was originally built for the gold industry and trade. It wasn’t until a couple hundred years later that it gained its purpose for which it is known for today: the Slave Trade.

The building and area itself was beautiful and picturesque, despite the atrocities that happened there. Our guide led us down into the dungeons to see how the slaves were kept. The details are far too gruesome to write, but the experience of getting to see and hear that history firsthand is one that will never be forgotten.

Me on the canopy walk at Kakum
Thursday morning we set out on a journey to Kakum National Park, about an hour away.
At Kakum, a tour guide led us on a hike up a hill to the canopy walk which was made up of seven separate suspended bridges where you were walking on connected wooden boards held up by a metal frame and netting up to about chest height. Being hundreds of feet in the air and feeling the bridges shake as everyone walked on them was not for the faint of heart.
That night, at a final closing dinner, we were delighted to have children from a local school come put on a show of cultural drumming and dancing. They were extremely impressive and even taught us some dances. It was a lot of fun and a great way to end an amazing trip.

Friday morning we set off on our journey back to Accra to head to the airport to make the bittersweet trip back to Bloomington.
I know I speak for all of the GLOBASE Ghana participants when I say that we had an amazing, unforgettable trip in which we made many new friends, made an impact through our consulting projects, and created memories that will never be forgotten. The experience changed our lives forever.

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