School Computer Center

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Saturday, August 28, 2010

Computer Center is Open!

We've been working like crazy since my last post and finally the Sissala West Schools Computer Center is open! In the past 6 weeks I (with the help of many of my Ghanaian friends) have bought and transported 16 desktop computers the length of the country, had a ceiling installed, replaced 8 windows, painted the entire classroom and ceiling, bought and transported 6 huge wooden tables and 15 chairs, had an electrician wire the building for power, had the electricity company come and connect power to the building, had a podium built, had a tailor make a projection screen, installed all of the above plus accessories, painted and erected sign boards, developed a job description for and hired an ICT teacher/computer center attendant as well as a night watchman, formed a management board, elected board leadership, passed a board constitution, and spoken at the District Assembly meeting to introduce the center to the public. It has been a quite chaotic and exhausting time but I have loved every moment of it knowing how happy it is going to make these communities and how much so many people will benefit from our efforts.

As promised, I have posted pictures of the process of creating the computer center. They are now appearing as a slide show at the top of this page, but if you would like to see larger images or download them yourself you can just click on the pictures and it should bring you here: http://picasaweb.google.com/luckadamp/SchoolComputerCenter?feat=directlink . I hope you enjoy these pictures and I'll do my best to post some more when I am able.

The person we have hired to operate the computer center is my good friend from Gwollu, Mubaric (or Mystic). He's a great young guy about my age who has completed senior high school but not yet gone on to university. He is extremely knowledgeable about computers (both hardware and software) and he has experience teaching as he was formerly volunteering as an art teacher at the primary school in Gwollu. I will be traveling for the next couple of weeks, so while I am away he will be completing some more software installations on the computers and allowing people to come in and see the center and use the computers free of charge (school is out of session now and will not begin again until mid September). I have purchased all the necessary equipment to connect all of the computers at the center to the internet, but with all the other things going on we did not get time to erect the poles and antennas yet. We will do this as soon as I get back and establish hours of operation for the many local schools and the general public. During school hours, we will develop a schedule so that students from the various schools will cycle into the center in groups of 15 throughout the school day. We will also have operating hours for the general public after school hours and on weekends when community members can use the computers and internet for a fee as well as students for a discounted fee. Mubaric is also developing a syllabus for a computer skills course to be offered to the public at various times and levels (Level 1,2,3, etc. with a certificate to be earned upon completion of each level). All of this will keep Mubaric very busy, but I will be helping him nearly every day until I leave in November and we are also trying to hire an assistant through the National Youth Employment Program, which would help a lot especially once I leave. The whole community seems very excited to have such a great new facility and it excites me to know that the person we have hired to run the place is also very motivated and committed to making the center run effectively.

Tomorrow I will be bringing 3 junior high school girls from Gwollu to a one-week Girls Leadership Camp that some of my Peace Corps colleagues and I have planned. The camp will take place near Wechiau, another town in the Upper West Region. We will be staying in a small village with no electricity or running water along the river where there is a hippo sanctuary. I know my girls are really excited to go and the camp should be a lot of fun! When the camp ends, I'll send my girls back to Gwollu on a bus, but I will have to continue further south to attend our Peace Corps Close of Service Conference. Our conference is in Elmina at a really nice resort (Coconut Grove) on the beach! I'll be there for 3-4 days with the other 40 members of my group who are all also preparing to leave in November (some even earlier). We'll be going over some administrative stuff about finishing up Peace Corps service I know, but I think it is also a chance to celebrate with your group one last time all together. From there I'll go to Accra to buy a few extra things for the computer center and see my 2 best PC buds, Dan and Marcus, leave for good! They have new volunteers that are here to replace them already, so because of the timing they get to finish their service early... and go to the 200th anniversary of Octoberfest without me! Once I leave Gwollu, Peace Corps will not be sending another volunteer here. Although now that we have this computer center, I have been pushing for them to send an ICT teacher to help out. From Accra, I'll rush back to Gwollu to get the computer center on track (and online) just as school is starting.

I think that is about all for now. A BIG THANK YOU, again, to all who have donated to the computer center project! I am especially impressed by the students and faculties of Rick Marcotte Central School in South Burlington, Underhill Central School, and Smilie Elementary School in Bolton, who together, as I have previously mentioned, raised about $3000 for this project. The children of this part of Ghana will be benefiting from and enjoying the center you have all helped to create for many many years to come!

p.s.- I'm now booked to CRUISE home with some friends from Barcelona on November 28th to Puerto Rico December 12th! Anyone wanna meet me in Puerto Rico and hang out for a bit before Christmas? Let me know.... see everyone in December!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Computer Lab Funding is In!

We have successfully raised the $5,600+ necessary to make the computer lab project for Gwollu schools a reality! THANK YOU to all groups and individuals that donated! I am in Accra now and have spent the past few days shopping around for all of the computer lab equipment. I have purchased 16 desktop computers, a beautiful brand new projector, a laser printer, and many other accessories. Carpenters in Tumu are already working on all of the tables and chairs for the lab, the building has been wired for electricity, and the rest of the renovations and installations will be started when I get home later this week and completed very soon!

I've already got the 'before' pictures of the building taken and will soon be taking more pictures to document the process as we continue to build, renovate, and install all of the equipment. We have already created the Management Board for the lab and should be passing its constitution and hiring a staff person to run the facility next week. We may be able to have the ribbon cutting/grand opening/open house by the first week of August! I don't have a ton of time (or many more details) at the moment, but I will surely be in touch with those of you who donated and will do my best to keep up with the blog posts as we continue working on this exciting project!

Also, my parents came to Ghana to visit for 2 weeks this month and it was absolutely amazing! They were troopers to 'rough it' a bit and make it all the way to my village for 4 days, which they both agreed was their favorite part of the trip! It was so great to see them and I think they were glad to see my community and the work I'm doing. They were able to visit the schools and the site where the computer lab will be and take pictures and videos to bring back and share with the elementary schools in Vermont (South Burlington, Underhill, and Bolton) that donated so much to the project.

This computer lab project should keep me very busy for the next few months and then I will be finishing up my service here in November... it seems so close!

Stay tuned for updates...

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Burlington Free Press Article

If you haven't seen the article about the computer lab project in the Burlington Free Press (April 14th), check it out online:

http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/article/20100414/NEWS02/100413019/Vermont-students-raise-money-for-Ghana-school

If you are reading this blog for the first time as a result of the Free Press article, welcome! My most recent posts have more information about the Gwollu Computer Lab project and how you can contribute. Also, feel free to read the other posts about my experiences here in Ghana and enjoy the pictures. If you have any questions or want to know more about anything just email me and I'll be happy to respond.

Also, a huge THANK YOU to the students at Rick Marcotte Central School in South Burlington, VT and Underhill Central School in Underhill, VT who have already raised a combined $2,000 to support the students in Gwollu (see article)! I am so impressed at your generosity; it certainly means a lot to the students and teachers here!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Project Update: Please Donate Now!

Please use the following link to donate to our School Computer Lab project in Gwollu:

http://www.peacecorps.gov/index.cfm?shell=resources.donors.contribute.projDetail&projdesc=641-294&

Sorry, for now you'll have to copy and paste the text above (when I try to make a link on blogspot it is not showing up at all).

For more information about the project, please read my previous post (below) or email me for the complete proposal. If the link above does not work for you, you can go to www.peacecorps.gov/donate and find my project (it is project # 641-294).

Thanks for your support!

On another note, I went to the paragliding festival last weekend and had a blast! I did an amazing tandem paragliding jump with a guy from Colorado (www.flytim.com), there were all sorts of Peace Corps Volunteers and other fun people there, we had a great place to stay on the mountain for the weekend, and there were all sorts of fun activities going on for the festival. I took some video with my new camera (even while in the air!), but the files are too big to upload here. I'll try to get pictures from my friends when I see them at the end of the month and put some up.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Help Me Help Gwollu: Donate to the Gwollu Schools Computer Lab Project!

Next week I will be able to post a direct link to donate to my project (I hope), but for now please wait until I post that link or check here (search for "Luck" or click "donate to volunteer projects" and search for projects in Ghana to see if they have put up the information: www.peacecorps.gov/donate

Hello again everyone! It has been awhile since I have updated the blog (as usual, sorry), but I have been hard at work getting a proposal ready to create a computer lab for the schools in Gwollu. There is a description of the project at the link above and an opportunity for you to donate safely, easily, and tax deductible-y online.

Here is a little bit about how the process works and some more details about the project:

I have applied to the Peace Corps Partnership Program for a total of $5,887.41 to help us create a computer lab in Gwollu to be used mostly by students and teachers, but also by the general public. The way the Peace Corps Partnership works is that it relies on a Peace Corps Volunteer’s (Me) family and friends (You!) to donate the complete amount requested before releasing the money to carry out the project. I was also able to submit names and addresses where they will send a copy of the complete proposal, so if I had your address there may be one on its way to your house (I submitted 77 addresses of individuals and organizations!). Of course, anyone else with an interest in supporting the project can donate as well.

So, I am humbly asking that you all donate to the best of your ability. For those who are students or in between jobs, if you could even spare $10 or $20 it would help us reach our goal. Whether you can donate a lot, a little, or nothing I would appreciate it if you share the link with your friends, family, coworkers, and neighbors to give them a chance to learn about the project and donate. A friend of mine here made a similar appeal to his family, who then decided to hold a garage sale and donate all proceeds to his project… they raised over $2,000 in one garage sale! Thanks for the idea, Vainer Family!

After living in this community for 15 months I can honestly attest to this project’s worthiness and its potential to make a huge impact for the students, teachers, and residents of Gwollu. I will be here until November or December to see the project through to completion, train a staff member to operate it, and help to train teachers, students, and administrators on how to effectively utilize the facility. We will also set up a 5-member Management Board consisting of Ghana Education Service staff, District Assembly staff, the District Information Officer, an adult community member, and a student to oversee and manage the lab, which will make the project sustainable in my absence. This is truly a unique opportunity to donate to a project that you have a strong connection to, that you can see the results of (I will provide pictures and blog updates, I promise!), and that will take ZERO money for “administrative costs” or anything of the sort.

I thank you all in advance for your support… I know that whether you throw in $10, $1,000, or just share the project with your peers, you will have done the best you can to help the students in this seriously disadvantaged and underdeveloped part of the world. Remember, I can’t receive any funds until the complete budgeted amount is donated, so when (or if) I can begin and complete the project depends on everyone’s ability to pitch in! Also, the information at the link is just a short, 250-word summary of the project. If you would like more information, or the complete proposal (with detailed budget and more information about implementation and sustainability), I would be happy to email it to you. Just send me an email and let me know. Many of you (those for whom I had addresses) should be receiving the complete proposal in the mail.

World Map Project, etc…

Aside from getting the computer lab proposal ready I have also done a few other things worth mentioning since I last wrote.

Six other volunteers from the Upper West Region and I painted a huge world map on the wall of a library in a volunteer’s community. We had a lot of fun drawing and painting the map over 3 days and it came out great! The volunteer whose site we were at had done the project already at her school, so that made things a bit easier. The first day we just drew a huge grid on the wall, of which I forget the dimensions but it created many hundreds of squares. Then we each took portions of the grid and hand drew the entire world map with pencils following the World Map Project guidebook. Finally we painted and labeled all of the individual countries and bodies of water. It was quite a task, but there were a lot of us to do it (plus a few little Ghanaian kid helpers) and I was amazed at how awesome the final product looked. I hope to complete the project some time in Gwollu if I can save up enough money for the paint and supplies. I may try to do it with some teachers and students on one of the walls of our computer lab to be!

Earlier this month I went down to our office in Kumasi to do some paperwork and budgeting for the computer lab project and I was able to meet up with a few friends and have a fun time in the city. My friends were headed to Accra and since I still needed to price out some more equipment for the lab I joined them. We ended up being in Accra (the capital) for Ghana Independence Day and got to see a really cool concert on the street. That night we also tried to go to a nice nightclub, but I couldn’t get in because I was wearing shorts… even in the city I wasn’t thinking that we might go somewhere with a dress code! Not to worry, though, I was able to buy a VERY tight pair of used jeans from a man on a nearby street corner, who had been using them as his pillow. After I amazed myself, my friends, and a few other onlookers by actually getting them on (and buttoned!), we got right into the club. It was pretty difficult to dance in my new tight denim pants, but apparently they looked better than my khaki shorts and the rest of the night was a blast.

Last Wednesday we had some events in town for World TB (Tuberculosis) Day. Although the TB vaccine is available to newborns, infants, and adults in Ghana, a large proportion of the population is unvaccinated and at risk for contracting TB. Also, although diagnosis and treatment of TB is 100% free and very effective when done correctly, many (I think most in our area) cases go undiagnosed, which, sadly, eventually leads to death. Yesterday, the school children had a parade with banners about how to prevent and treat TB and we held a durbar (community event/meeting) at the school with health talks about TB. The events were on a smaller scale than our World AIDS Day events, but I think we got the basic message across to the students pretty well: if anyone experiences a cough for 2 weeks they need to go get tested for TB and if they are positive they need to take ALL medications given to them for the COMPLETE duration recommended by the health center!

During Easter weekend (this weekend) I will be traveling down to the Eastern Region to go to a paragliding festival! The festival is in a town with these awesome mountain/rock/cliff looking things that seem to just rise out of nowhere; it’s a really beautiful area (check it out at www.ghanaparagliding.com). I fully intend on doing a tandem paragliding “jump,” so if all goes as planned I should have some good pictures/stories to share next time I write! At the end of April, we also have a conference for all Peace Corps volunteers. My group didn’t attend the conference last year, but it included a talent show and Peace Corps Prom, which will surely be repeated this year… can’t wait!

The hottest time of the year where I live is almost over… it should start to rain for the first time in months sometime in April and cool things down a little bit. Lately it has been just been dead heat (I put a digital thermometer in the sun one day and it got up to 124 degrees). Everything is so dusty during this season… I’ll sweep, dust, and clean everything in my house and by the next day its all covered in dust/dirt again!

I think that’s all I’ve got for now. I imagine the weather must be getting really nice at home now too; I’ve heard there has been some good late season skiing in VT and I am sure the baseball tailgates at Clemson have already begun… I am jealous but I hope next year I may finally experience 4 seasons once again!

Monday, January 25, 2010

It's a Party in the U.S.A.!

Or at least it was...

So I am back in Ghana now after an AMAZING month in the U.S. My month at home was filled with family, friends, cold, snow, travel, American food and drinks, and some (okay, a lot of) relaxing couch time. My first meal in the states was a burger and fries at Wendy’s and a big glass of Sam Adams at the JFK Airport (everyone has been asking me that question). I got into VT at 10:30 that evening and was greeted by a Parks and Rec. staff party at my brother’s new house. The next day was chicken fajitas at the Luck family household and it was all gravy from there… I went to the Luck family Christmas party, my cousins and their families (babies!) came into town for Christmas weekend, I went snowboarding after we got 30+ inches of snow in a couple days, saw Avatar in 3D at the movie theater, went to Mohegan Sun Casino (saw Naughty By Nature and DJ Skribble!) for new years eve, visited Clemson for a fun, wild long weekend, presented about my Gwollu school to my mom’s school, went up to Montreal for a night, and had so many great days, nights, meals, drinks, and just overall wonderful times with my family and friends while at home. THANK YOU to everyone who made my time at home so special and fun. It was my only month out of 27 that I was able to be in America so I tried to do as much and see as many people as possible, but even so I wasn’t able to see or even talk to everyone so if that includes you I apologize.

Back in Ghana

I’ve been back for about 6 days and have been slowly making my way to Gwollu. I will get on a bus at about 1:30 this afternoon to make the last 4 hours of the journey and I will finally be in my Ghanaian home tonight. I am so excited to see my dog, my friends, and everyone in town! It will be great to unpack these two big bags that I have been lugging the length of the country for the past 6 days and settle into my own house and bed.
Although I loved my time at home over the holidays, there are plenty of people and things about Ghana that I miss. I’m excited to return to Gwollu after a refreshing break with a renewed sense of purpose and I’m ready to work through (and around) some problems that have stood in the way of my effectiveness over the past 15 months. Speaking of months, I have only about 10-11 left to complete my service… I am due to complete my service sometime in November of this year. With a few conferences and events upcoming, and a big project at the school in Gwollu (details to come) to keep me busy this time will surely go by very fast.

Pennies for Gwollu

While I was at home, I was able to share part of my Peace Corps experience with the students at Rick Marcotte Central Elementary School in South Burlington, VT, where my mom works. I shared pictures, video, and information about Gwollu L/A Primary School, where I do some work with the students and teachers. The students, their families, and the faculty at my mom’s school are raising money all year to be sent to help me complete a project at the school in Gwollu. They have dubbed the fundraising effort “Pennies for Gwollu” and the kids have already brought in over $500 in change (and some bigger donations by staff)! I think the kids and teachers in VT were very interested and moved by the differences in their opportunities and facilities at school versus those of the children in Gwollu. I have begun talks with the Education Director, teachers, and students in Gwollu to identify what an appropriate use of the funds would be and will iron out the details in the next few months. What I would like to do is get the local government to also contribute towards a project that would create a computer lab and library facility for the schools in and around Gwollu, which I could then furnish with appropriate equipment using the donations from the U.S. Whatever the final project proposal looks like, I will likely write a proposal for additional funds, which would then be posted online for anyone to donate to (I’ve written about the details of the Peace Corps Partnership Program in a previous post, and will give the necessary details again when I complete the application). I’ll be trying to put this all together in the next few months, but pricing things out for a proposal and getting local people to commit to a certain contribution will certainly take some time. Once I have all the pieces together (who is contributing what and when, and how each source will come together to finish the project before I leave) I’ll let you know what the plan is.

My presentation at the school also yielded some immediate support from home to the students of Gwollu. A local Girl Scouts troupe has done a book drive and got a local company to pay to ship books to the school. Also, an individual and a classroom at my mom’s school are both working to send over some art supplies and the same class is writing letters to my students in Gwollu. Thanks for your support! On my part, I can promise that any funds or supplies sent will be spent/used judiciously and I am always happy to provide pictures/videos (got a great new video camera for Christmas… but keep in mind the slow internet here makes it hard to get pictures/video uploaded to share) to show the impact you have helped make!

That’s all for now… thanks again to everyone who made my time at home so wonderful. Whether I got to tell you individually or not, it was so great to spend time with each and every one of you… if you could only know how much I miss you all when I am so far away!

-Adam

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Still Alive!

Yes, I am still alive! I know most of you are not rushing to this site every day to check for an update from me, but for those who have enjoyed hearing about my adventures, I sincerely apologize for the lack of communication. When I decided to start a blog during my time in Ghana I never thought so many people (friends, family, and many people whom I have never met) would be reading it and wanting to hear more. So, with that said, here is what has been going on for the past few months…

Brad and Gil Visit Ghana

My brother and best friend visited me in Ghana for the last two weeks of August and we had an amazing time! It was so great to see them after so long and spend a couple weeks traveling around Ghana. Although all of the sights were new for them (neither had been to Africa before), almost all of the fun places we went were new for me as well. It was so cool to experience all of the beautiful and fun things here in Ghana that I had not had the time or money to do before.

They flew into Accra, Ghana’s capital city, and we spent a night there before starting the long journey (they agreed to brave the public transportation) to Gwollu, where I live. I chose a hotel that was, in my mind, extremely fancy only to find out quickly after their arrival how much my standards have changed over the past year (I have been in Ghana since September 29, 2008… passed my 1 year mark last month!). The things that impressed me so much, clean bed sheets, a hot water shower, a TV (20” color with 6 channels! It even had CNN, but there was no sound), air conditioning, and the fact that we were on the 4th floor of a building, didn’t seem to excite Brad and Gil so much. But we enjoyed our night in Accra anyway and headed north the next day. It takes a few days to reach Gwollu from Accra… total travel time is about 18-20 hours actually on a bus, and I usually have to change busses/vans 3 or 4 times on the way. The first leg of the trip was okay, we were packed pretty tightly into a van but we at least splurged enough to go in an air-conditioned vehicle. The next long leg was 7 hours from Kumasi to Wa and we found another air-conditioned van that would make the trip as soon as it filled. After waiting for a little bit for other passengers, Brad and Gil thought out loud about what they were in for… “How many people sit in each row of this thing?” “Three.” “And we have to sit in it for seven hours on bad roads?” “Yep…” Anyway, after deliberating the idea for a couple minutes, Brad and Gil decided to buy tickets for all 14 seats on the van so that it would leave immediately and we could each have a row of seats to ourselves to lay down! It was a bit ridiculous (I am a little embarrassed telling other volunteers about it) but amazingly comfortable compared to what I usually deal with so if that was what they wanted I was certainly not going to protest.

We spent a couple of days in Gwollu and the guys got to meet my friends and co-workers and experience a bit of what life in Gwollu is like. We arrived on market day, which happens in the middle of town every 6 days, so they got to see the town at its busiest. In Gwollu we also drank pito, which is a locally brewed beer (basically) made from millet and tried some other local foods. We also played volleyball both evenings they were here (I play almost every day with the same group of guys) and that was really fun… the Gwollu guys really enjoyed it and thought it was funny to have three big, white guys on the court. I was a little worried their skills wouldn’t be up to par with the athletic Ghanaians, but they were really good… they each had a few good spikes, which drew cheers from all around.
From Gwollu we headed south and over the next 10 days we saw the cities of Bolgatanga, Tamale, Kumasi, Elmina, and Takoradi and went to Mole National Park, Kintampo Waterfalls, Cape Coast Castle, Kakum National Park, and Busua Beach. It was a little exhausting to see so much in just 2 weeks, but I am definitely glad we pushed ourselves to include so much and I think the other guys are too. Oh yeah, and after meeting my best friend in Gwollu, Kardiri, Brad and Gil decided it would be nice to invite him along, so he joined us for the whole rest of the trip! It was really nice of the guys to invite Kardiri (and pay for him); he also had never experienced so many of the awesome things in his own country that we were able to see on our trip.

Mole National Park was amazing! The night we arrived we went around the park in a truck and saw a bunch of things, but we saw even more (and closer up) the next morning going around on foot with an armed park ranger (his name was Jeeves, great guy). We were able to get very close to huge elephants, baboons, monkeys, antelope, warthogs, and all sorts of birds. We stayed at Mole Motel, which is the only accommodation within the park grounds and it was really nice. The rooms had a/c, a TV, and a stocked fridge (mini-bar!) and from a veranda outside our rooms we could look over the whole park and see a big watering hole where the animals came to drink (we even saw some elephants swimming/bathing in it). There was also a pool there (also overlooking the watering hole) and great food. After breakfast on our second day there a monkey came right up to where we were eating next to the pool and stole a piece of toast right out of a little kid’s hand. We found it hilarious; the kid was not so amused. The monkey then jumped on our table, we had moved a couple feet away by then, and drank the rest of our juice and stole all of the sugar cubes and milk that came with our coffee. It was awesome.

It was great to see Cape Coast Castle and especially cool because President Obama and his family had just been there the month before us. The tour was full of historical (also appalling and sad at times) information about the slave trade. It’s one thing to hear or read about how slaves were crammed in dark, windowless dungeons by the hundreds and kept there for so long before being crammed into equally rough conditions and shipped to a life of forced servitude and it is a whole other thing to stand in the rooms where it actually took place.
At Kakum National Park, we went on the Canopy Walk, which is a series of long wood/rope bridges very high up in the trees of the rain forest. It was really scary, but also a lot of fun. There weren’t animals to see, like at Mole, but just being so high up and looking down at the rain forest was awesome.
We spent our last few days at Busua Beach Resort in the Western Region of Ghana. The place was sooooo nice! The beach was very clean and great for swimming and our rooms were right on it. After going to all corners of the country in such a short time (we made it to 9 of Ghana’s 10 regions) it was great to have a few days to rest and relax on the beach with great food and nice accommodations.
Email me if you want a link to the pictures from the trip. Also, if anyone else wants to come visit, you are welcome any time!

HIV/AIDS Work

Over the past couple of months I have begun doing a lot of HIV/AIDS prevention work in my district. A friend of mine in town, Sibiri, just finished with his degree from the University of Development Studies in Wa and has started a local non-governmental organization in Gwollu called Rural Indigenous Development Centre (RIDEC). Last month Sibiri and I went to a weeklong HIV/AIDS training program in Kumasi that was put on by the Peace Corps and we took back a lot of great information, materials, and ideas for projects. Among other projects, Sibiri’s group got funding from the Ghana AIDS Commission to conduct a yearlong project in our district. I have been working with RIDEC a lot to help plan and carry out their activities. We have been going to the very rural parts of our district to identify community peer educators and conduct trainings for them to learn about HIV/AIDS and how they can prevent it in their villages. Our program also involves HIV testing and counseling, condom distribution, creating HIV/AIDS Awareness Clubs in all of the district’s schools, holding large events (durbars) to increase awareness, and providing support for those living with HIV/AIDS. So far we’ve been really successful with getting people from all over the district informed and involved and the project will be great for me because it will keep me busy throughout the next year. I’ll keep you updated on our progress… we are now planning a big soccer tournament event in Gwollu for World AIDS Day on December 1st.

Work Troubles

Part of the reason that I haven’t updated my blog in so long was that my future in Gwollu was a bit uncertain over the past month. Due to things mostly beyond my control, life in Ghana has been pretty frustrating and stressful over the past month. I’ll do my best to explain what’s up but some details are just boring and others may not be appropriate for such a public forum. The good news is that everything seems to be fine now and I am back in Gwollu happy and working.

What happened, on a very basic level, was that in August a traditional leader in Gwollu decided to dissolve the tourism committee that I had been doing all of my work with for 9 months. This came as a complete surprise to me and all other people involved (voluntarily) in tourism development in Gwollu. Since then, many members of the community have been trying to work out their differences with the certain traditional leader, but not much progress has been made. The result, for me, has been that there is currently no organized group for me to support. Since I am here to support community-based tourism, not a private enterprise, it has had a great effect on the work that I was actually sent here to do. Since this happened, I had been talking with my Associate Director at the Peace Corps and trying to be patient and neutral (traditional leaders, no matter their actions, are held in high regard in Ghanaian culture, so the issue is something I shouldn’t really be involved with as a visitor to the district/country) as the community worked out their problems and found the best way forward. After sharing my disappointment with the traditional leader about his decision and my desire to create a more representative body to manage tourism in Gwollu, he took the problem a step further. After this traditional leader called the Peace Corps to talk about the problem, Peace Corps decided that maybe Gwollu wasn’t the best (or safest) place for me to be. Bummer! I was already in Accra at the time for a meeting, so PC had me stay there until we could work out a solution. It was difficult to be in Accra for over a week feeling like I had no home. My directors were talking to me about places I may move to (in other regions of the country) if things in Gwollu didn’t work out. After being here for a year I finally feel settled, know my local language well, and have friends in a place and all of a sudden it seemed I was going to have to start all over somewhere else.

Anyway, I have been back in Gwollu now since October 9th and it seems I will be able to stay here (I hope!). Things actually may work out to be better now because of all of this. Today (October 20th) is my first day in my new office! I am still living in Gwollu in the same place (with Snoop, who is great by the way), but my job description has been broadened and I have been given an office at the District Assembly (which is the local government body). The District Chief Executive and Presiding Member of Parliament for our district worked very hard to convince the Peace Corps that I should return to Gwollu and they have helped to redefine my role here a bit so that I can be more effective. My office is in the District Assembly Administration Block in Gwollu (just a short bike ride across town from my house… Snoop runs behind my bike and then guards it while I am in the office) so I am right down the hall from all the other district government and development workers. I’ll have to see how much this really changes things as time goes on… I certainly do not have a 9 to 5 job now (although I did use the term “lunch break” for the first time in Ghana today). I can come and go from the office as I need (so I can still spend plenty of time interacting with the community), but it will be nice to have a place to work close to the big wigs and with facilities (I can have use of a vehicle and driver if I need it to visit other communities for work and I can use the printer!) I will be supporting tourism development still, but now within the whole district. We will be forming a new district-wide tourism committee at the assembly that I will work closely with and we are still trying to work through the problems with who is in charge of tourism management in Gwollu. I hope those issues will be solved soon, because currently visitors to Gwollu are not be properly received and there is no body in place to effectively collect or account for any fees paid by tourists.
So, that’s what is going on with my work for now… I’ll keep you updated if there are any new developments!

Halloween/Thanksgiving/HOME!

Halloween is coming up soon and I’ll go get together with some other Peace Corps Volunteers for a party. I am still thinking about what to dress up as but for now I am only sure that it will involve a pretty serious haircut and facial hair trim. I haven’t cut my hair since probably July, so it is as long as it has been in Ghana and just waiting to be cut into a mullet, a mohawk, or both! I also haven’t trimmed my beard in about a month, so I am sure I can incorporate some sort of funny arrangement there too. Right now the leading candidates for my costume are redneck or rock star, neither of which should require much work. The markets here always have huge piles of clothes for so cheap… Ghanaians call them “dead obroni (white man)” clothes. Anyway, there are some great finds in these piles, it’s like the best (or worst) of salvation army and garage sales combined, especially if shopping for Halloween costumes. I’ll do my costume shopping at the Wa market on my way to the party and try to get a picture of us in our costumes up next time I post; I am sure there will be some very creative outfits.

No plans for Thanksgiving yet but I am sure we will do something. Shortly after Thanksgiving though, I will be HOME FOR A MONTH! I am so excited to come home to see family and friends for a whole month, December 18 to January 18. I will also get to visit CLEMSON from January 6-10 (thanks to Aunt Sandy for the plane ticket), which will be great. December 18th might seem like a long way away, but time seems to go by fast here and I have already been thinking for quite a while about all of the things I want to do while I am home. I will have so many people to see, fun things to do, and delicious things to eat! Anyway, if you will be in VT any time while I am home be sure to email me or something so I can see you… also Clemson people should consider the weekend of January 8-10 a mandatory reunion weekend, no excuses (most of you can drive there in a few hours, I am coming all the way from Africa for a weekend!). I will try to get my U.S. cell phone working again for the month I am home with the same number I used to have so that people can get a hold of me.

Until Next Time…

Well, again I apologize for not posting for so long but this one should give you enough of me for a little bit. I hope all is well at home with everybody and I am excited to see so many of you very soon!

p.s.- while I was gone for a few weeks an extended family of mice took residence in my kitchen and house! My friend Mashoud and I killed 12 of them the other day and I have killed a few more since. I had a massive cleaning day a few days ago and duct taped up all the places where I thought they were getting in… I think I’ve won the battle, but we’ll see if they return!

p.p.s.-wrote this last week and travelled to Tumu just to post it only to learn that the internet place was closed and has been for awhile. I am in Wa now, which is where it seems like I will have to come for internet access now... the roads have gotten so much worse over the rainy season and some busses/vans have stopped running so it now takes me about 5 hours to reach Wa (if I can get means!).

p.p.p.s- Hippo Attack! My friend, another Peace Corps Volunteer in the Upper West, was attacked by a hippo in his village this morning! A hippo came into his village (they are 10k away from the river) so he and many others went to see it and take pictures and after it went behind a bush he saw everyone running and he fell down and got hit by the hippo! He didn't even realize he was hurt until he went to bathe and saw blood... there was a big chunk of his butt missing! Anyway, I visited him in the hospital today and he is doing fine... they have stitched him up and given him medicine and he will go to the hospital in Tamale tomorrow to get it checked out there. Thankfully he will be fine, but what a horrible, scary experience!