Election day in Ghana!

Hohoe Travel Blog

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Today was election day and we decided to stay away from town.  There are two political parties here much like in the US with similar situations.  The current reigning party has been in power for 8 years and the president can not run again so there is much excitement on which party will take the power.  In the Volta region, where I’m working, the party is the NDC and in the Ashanti area, it’s the NPP.  From what I’m hearing the NPP is very corrupt and there is actually some fear of whether or not there will be violence if the NDC wins so that the NPP takes power again.  It’s also difficult because the voting is all done by hand and counted by hand.  The only way they know if you’ve voted is if you still have the ink on your pinky finger after you’ve given your fingerprint for the party of choice so as you can see, it’s very easy to stamp a few more fingerprints of your own over and over again to fudge some votes.

Ghanaians are not known to be violent and many opinions are that everything will be fine if the NDC takes over while some others say they’re unsure.  Already there was a group of men found carrying a coffin that was full of ballots voting for the NPP candidate.  We asked how they would’ve gotten them and they said the NPP is so corrupt that government officials probably distributed them.  There were thousands of ballots pre-stamped with fingerprints voting for the NPP here in the Volta region where the NDC is the strongest in the whole country.  

I’m staying at a friend Sarah’s place where she’s volunteering at an orphanage called Ryvanz-mia Orphanage.  I met her through Shital, the coordinator for our Medical Brigades program.  Even at the house, one of the workers came running from the stadium to tell Mama (the house mother who takes care of the 14 orphans here) that the NDC had won the Volta region.  She was out of breathe, laughing hysterically and raising her hands in the air yelling jibberish Ewe.  We kind of think she’s a little strange anyways so it wasn’t until she yelled in English that the NDC had won the Volta region that we stopped thinking she was acting like a crazy lady.  I heard a story of some volunteers going into town and coming back because there were so many people and I’m not sure if I overheard whether there were stories of mild violence or not.  Either way, we decided to go to the internet café and play with the kids all day in addition to doing the much needed laundry.  My poor clothes have acquired so much dirt over the last week even if I didn’t wear them due to all the dirt roads!

I’ve decided to take a different course of action with the money raised before I came.  I initially wanted to build some self composting toilest at the school I work at in Accra and where my first love of Ghana is (250 school kids NOT a man haha) but have decided that I’m going to use that money to help some of the schools in these rural villages.  While the school in Accra still needs help and I still have every intention of building them new toilets, we have yet to find a professional in the field to ensure that the self composting toilets are built properly so that when the waste is disposed of, it’s completely safe and non toxic.  I have no idea how long this will take, whether it’s one week, one month or even a year (I pray it only takes like a month), but in the meantime I don’t want to see that money just sitting there.  Sarah is here for another two months and Seth Koffie, the teacher who has been the biggest help from the school in Accra over the last year, are willing to supervise or assist in any projects I might need help with.  One of the schools was able to give me an estimate on how much material would be needed to finish their primary school block and it adds up to around $800-$900.  Some of the schools have absolutely no furniture as well and the students bring stools from their homes.  One of the JSS schools is being told by the government to shut down for the large cracks it has in the walls but if they shut down there is no JSS for the students to attend.  I think the money raised at this moment in time could much better assist these schools currently still made of clay and when we find the professional for the toilets, I can always raise more money.  I also think the impact would be much greater in these areas because these schools have nothing.  At least the school in Accra is fairly well equipped and doing well.  Bless them, I adore each and every one of them, but the need is most definitely greater here.  How to help everybody…that’s always the issue isn’t it?

I’m hoping by tomorrow to figure out what villages to assist and then maybe I’ll bring along Sarah on Wednesday to inform the village or villages that are chosen.  This way they can be introduced to her so they know who they are working with and we can also capture it on film, hang out with the children at the school first maybe, speak with some of the teachers, and then inform them of what we intend to do?  I’ll probably also hire a carpenter to bring with us so he can give us a proper assessment of the costs associated.

It’s so exciting to see these villages.  Quite literally, $5,000 could turn a village upside down here.  You could build an entire school for under $5,000!  It may not be well stocked but you’d have built a whole school.  I can’t even put into words how rewarding this experience is and I can only say that I wish I had more time.  REALLY getting to know the people in these villages is the most rewarding thing I could ask for.  These people are so kind and I’ve been given gifts of oranges, cocoa yam, water, fanta and a piece of kente cloth just for visiting their villages.  I haven’t even done anything yet and told them it may never happen that we are simply doing research and they still rejoiced.  It’s absolutely breathtakingly beautiful how simple and kind people can be.  I know I mention it all the time but honestly, it’s the most simplistic form of life taken by granted in more ways than I could probably ever count in a lifetime.  These people make 15 dollars per month and though they struggle, they don’t complain and simply live.  They love being farmers and the community they live in and are proud of it!  

Staying at this orphanage has been amazing too.  I just love being around kids and I haven’t gotten personal time with kids since I’ve been here, more just in passing.  Today we just hung out with all the kids here (age 4-15), played games, watched Cars, washed our clothes (they love to help out and there were like 4 kids helping me wash my clothes by hand!), and just physical attention…they love to cuddle.  They love to sit on your lap.  They love holding your hand.  This orphanage is managed and run very well too.  The children have many responsibilities but loads of free time to play.  Every child has a mosquito net (something I have yet to see in ANY home in Ghana except for one in a village) in addition to some pretty nice volunteer quarters, all equipped with large mosquito nets.  The volunteers have really put in effort into making the place warm and friendly with some awesome paintings of animals, the alphabet, etc.  Right now Sarah and Morgan are working on a playroom for the kids before they leave in addition to finishing their eating quarters and additional kitchen.  The playroom has an amazing tree painted on it with their names on each leaf and a ton of blank leaves for all the children to come.  They really do act as a family and I don’t see the sadness in any of their eyes that you would expect from an “orphanage.”  They are just kids being kids.  Mama has so much support from the community and volunteers is absolutely wonderful.  She also runs a women’s sewing co-op from one of the rooms where a fellow Ghanaian moved to Canada and sells their items in Canada to help support the orphanage and the income of the local business women.  She is a true pioneer and always happy.  Her work is amazing and will affect so many children.

I talked to Kate today on the phone and miss her so much!  Ghana and her….they just go together!  The experiences we had last year were so amazing and the work I’m doing this year is wonderful but the volunteers I’ve met on the way have not been nearly as friendly and eager to meet other “obrunis” as last year.  And Kate and I, we just understood each other without words and would often bust up laughing without having said anything and just get it.  We could look at each other and think each other’s thoughts most of the time and the encounters we stumbled across were absolutely ridiculous.  She’s living in South Africa with her boyfriend she met in South America while traveling the world last year.  She returned to South Africa after her travels to live, eventually went back to London to work for two months straight, and has been back in South Africa and now leaves with her boyfriend tomorrow to India for two months!  I envy that girl!  I think she’s been to over 50 countries now literally all over the globe?  I think she’s been to every continent except Antartica.  How awesome is that?!  You go girl!

Anywho, I’m off to bed.  Off to more villages tomorrow.  It was a relaxing but yet exhausting day, having one child after another jump onto your lap.  Can we all stop to thank the world for beautiful, smiling, black babies with no cares in the world except for saying hi to the “yavou” or “obruni” occasionally passing by?  I do every day I’m here.
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photo by: RachaelKing